Edinburgh on Christmas
December 14, 2017 11:13 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I will be stopping over in Edinburgh for one day, which happens to be Christmas. We're excited to see the city, but we don't celebrate Christmas, and we're concerned that everything will be closed. Any suggestions of things to do, and practical concerns of which we should be aware?

Some details:
We'll be arriving at around 9AM and leaving the next day at around 7AM.

We're not opposed to something Christmas-y if there's cultural interest and it's not too religious or lengthy.

We're not huge outdoors people but love wandering around cities and would be amenable to a more moderate hike (also aware that the weather probably won't lend itself to too much outdoors stuff).

All in all, we're pretty flexible and just looking for interesting things to see/do. What must we see? Will any eateries/shops/institutions/grocery stores be open?

posted by taltalim to Travel & Transportation around Edinburgh, Scotland (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you checked on Winter Festivals in Edinburgh?
posted by Carol Anne at 11:45 AM on December 14, 2017

You can eat your Christmas meal at The Scran & Scallie if they still have seats. £30 per person is an absolute bargain!
posted by DarlingBri at 11:52 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I used to live in Edinburgh and hosted my parents for Christmas about 4 years ago.
Everything will be shut on the 25th December
except for places doing Christmas meals, and most pubs and bars in the city centre will be open for at least for a few hours in the afternoon.

However, this means you get to explore this most beautiful city on foot when it is very, very quiet! Perhaps download a few self-guided walks for the Old Town and New Town and take a camera. I always loved exploring Greyfriar's Kirkyard (try spotting which gravestones inspired JK Rowling's character names), the winding cobbled alleys off the Royal Mile, walk up the castle to take in the view, and/or walk up Calton Hill and take in another view.

Practically - there is no public transport running, and the only shops open will be a few small corner shops. Taxis will be difficult to come by and charge a significant excess. No attractions will be open - except for Edinburgh Zoo!
posted by sarahdal at 12:21 PM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Edinburgh’s buses (Lothian) now run on the core routes on Christmas Day, so if you want to get a bit further afield in the city you can. But I’d just stay in the Old Town and enjoy getting to wander about sightseeing when it’s relatively empty, which is a pretty unusual sight by itself. Follow some self-guided walking tours, or get some good views from Salisbury Crags/Arthur’s Seat (if the weather’s kind) or Calton Hill.
posted by Catseye at 12:35 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

The good news is that Edinburgh is a truly captivating, ancient city that doesn't really require you to go *in* anywhere to most appreciate its finest qualities. I've been several times and honestly I spend most of my time just walking around (even in crappy weather). Peer down the closes on the Royal Mile, walk around the outside of the Castle, climb Calton Hill at sunset if it's a clear day (this latter activity never fails to bring me to actual tears), walk over to the New Town and stroll around the Georgian terraced houses. Attending a Christmas service at St. Giles Cathedral also would be lovely I think. St. Giles is the seat of the Scottish Presbyterian Church, so quite culturally appropriate.

This might be a little weird given that there are two of you (me and my husband would totally do this, but mileage may vary) but there are audio walking tours available as well.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:03 PM on December 14, 2017

As mentioned above, Lothian buses are running on Christmas Day. Far fewer than normal, but if there's somewhere you want to go you can probably get there (the 26 is running, and that goes to the zoo which as mentioned above is open on Christmas Day).

Where are you staying? There is loads to see in Edinburgh even when everything is closed, but this city is built on hills, so you want an itinerary that doesn't lead you to climbing the same hill three times. If the weather is anything less than awful, about half the city goes for a walk around Holyrood Park on Christmas afternoon, and the view from Salisbury Crags is great if it's not raining/snowing/foggy.

You'll want to work out food in advance - there are very few shops open, and many restaurants where you can usually just walk in want you to book in advance for Christmas meals. However, if you find yourself starving on the day, head for the mosque kitchen. Due to some some inter-kitchen strife a few years back, there are now two "mosque kitchen"s, in spitting distance of each other. I suspect both will be open on Christmas day, and both will do you something cheap and filling.
posted by Vortisaur at 2:37 PM on December 14, 2017

I once stayed in a B&B in England close to Christmas, and they were doing a full roast beef/ trimmings dinner for some guests, and I was invited to buy in. It was great food and great fun, so try to book a dinner. Your hotel or B&B should be able to assist.
posted by theora55 at 3:18 PM on December 14, 2017

When we visited, I got good use out of the Lothian buses mobile app, and the buses are wi-fi equipped, so it makes getting around a little more efficient because you can plan ahead (especially if only certain routes will be running that day) - helpful if you have a limited window of time.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:51 PM on December 14, 2017

Thank you all - this has been really helpful. We'll be staying at an AirBnB just northwest of The Meadows (?) which looks to be about a mile from Old Town. And wandering through a beautiful empty city sounds like just the thing.

Also, thanks for pointing out the Christmas dinners (a concept with which I'd been totally unfamiliar). We're vegetarian, but it looks like there are options for us at the Bread Street Brasserie and the Mumbai Mansion.

Looking forward!
posted by taltalim at 7:08 PM on December 14, 2017

One thing to add - I don't know what the weather is forecast to be on Christmas Day, but bring some footwear with good grips. If the weather continues like this there will be some pavements which are very much like ice rinks - some of the busiest areas for foot traffic will get gritted, but definitely not all of them.

(I have just had to slither home from the bus stop, so it's on my mind!)
posted by Vortisaur at 2:34 PM on December 15, 2017

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