Scotland is renowned across the world for its wonderful festive celebrations and 2023 is set to be bigger and more sparkly than ever.
From traditional markets to heart-warming family events, Scotland’s cities are delivering a big dose of festive cheer and magic this winter.
A trip to Edinburgh by train is sure to get you in the festive spirit as the city is transformed into a winter wonderland. A couple of things you won’t want to miss …
Don your Santa hat and head for one of the most magical events in the capital – Edinburgh’s Christmas. Running for seven weeks from Friday, 17 November 2023 until Saturday, 6 January 2024, the city centre becomes the ultimate winter wonderland for all ages. Take your time wandering around the traditional markets, soar above the city on fairground rides, glide around the ice rink and book a ticket for a spectacular live show. Find out everything you need to plan the ultimate Christmas day out in Edinburgh here .
Christmas at the Botanics
When darkness falls, Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens will once again be transformed into a magical, sparkling wonderland filled with twinkling lights and projections. It’s a new trail for 2023 so even if you’ve visited before you’re in for another treat as you explore these magical gardens. The event runs on selected evenings from Thursday, 16 November until Saturday, 30 December and there is limited capacity for each time slot so it’s advised that you book in advance via the Christmas at the Botanics website .
Getting there: Add PlusBus to your ticket for the easiest way to get from the city centre to the Botanics. Or if you fancy a walk, it takes approximately 30 minutes to walk from Waverley.
Aberdeen is set to sparkle as it celebrates Christmas 2023 with new additions to festivities in the city alongside the traditional favourites.
Aberdeen Christmas Village
The magic of Christmas descends on the city when the Christmas Village opens on Thursday, 16 November on Broad Street. Open until Sunday, 31 December, there is plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere, whizz around the ice rink, indulge in fabulous food and drink and enjoy a spin on the festive fairground. New for 2023, you’ll find the ‘Village Square’ located in the heart of the Christmas Village. This is the place to indulge in fantastic European Street Food with friends and family. To plan the perfect Christmas outing to Aberdeen’s Christmas Village, visit their dedicated website here .
On Sunday, 19 November the city will be lit up as the Christmas Light Switch on Parade starts at 5:15pm. Santas on scooters will lead the way, followed by the Charlie House Santa Fun Run on Union Street before the main parade starts at 5:30pm from Castle Gate. The Christmas tree, gifted by Aberdeen’s twin city of Stavanger in Norway, will also be lit.
For more Christmas gift ideas, and to support local charity, Charlie House, take a visit to Curated in the Quad . This market, housed within Marischal College Quadrangle, takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Friday, 17 November until Christmas. Both the Christmas Village and Marischal College are a 10-minute walk from Aberdeen station.
To truly get into the festive spirit, head along to Duthie Park on Saturday, 16 December for some carol singing accompanied by the Bon Accord Silver Band at 11am, 12:15pm and 3pm. It’s free to attend but a donation to the local foodbank would be much appreciated. You can find out more information about this here .
Getting there: It takes less than ten minutes to walk to the Christmas Village from Aberdeen train station. Duthie Park is around a 25-minute walk from the station.
The capital of the Highlands is set to shine this November and December with festive events.
Christmas at Eden Court
Nestled next to the River Ness, Eden Court plays host to artisan Christmas markets from Exclusively Highland on selected dates in November and December. There will be a fantastic selection of Christmas gifts including food, arts, textiles and candles among many other things. The markets take place on 17, 18 and 19 November, and 1,2,3 December. Find out more about the markets here.
Getting there: Eden Court is a lovely 15-minute walk from Inverness train station through the town and along the banks of the River Ness.
A visit to Glasgow this festive season is sure to give you all the warm and fuzzy feelings – there’s so much going on!
St Enoch Square invites you to soak up the festive atmosphere from Friday, 10 November when Glasgow’s Winterfest kick starts. The Christmas Light switch on takes place on 19 November and is a ticketed event. If you're lucky enough to have got your hands on some tickets we hope you have a fabulous time seeing George Square fill with light.
Once the lights are lit, George Square will transform into a winter wonderland, welcoming visitors from Saturday, 25 November to enjoy a glide around the ice rink, a warming drink in the Festival Bar, fairground rides and a silent disco – perfect for warming up on the colder nights. New for 2023 there will also be a Community Hub in the square showcasing local artists and talent including dancers, singers and musicians.
You’ll find everything you need to plan a truly magical Christmas in Glasgow here .
Irn Bru Carnival
If you love all the thrills of a funfair but don’t want to have to rely on the weather, then the Irn Bru Carnival is perfect. Taking place inside the SEC, it’s always guaranteed to be warm, dry and a whole lot of fun! It starts on Friday, 22 December and runs until Sunday, 14 January. There are autism-friendly sessions taking place on Sunday, 31 December between 11am-2pm, and on Tuesday, 9 January between 4pm and 9pm to ensure everyone can enjoy it.
Getting there: Trains run frequently from Glasgow Central Low Level to Exhibition Centre station, taking around four minutes. From there, it’s just a five-minute walk to the SEC via a covered walkway. Don’t forget, if you’re travelling with children, buy your Kids for a Quid ticket from the booking office or on the train. You can take up to four kids with each fare-paying adult for £1 return each.
Stirling is the place to be for an extra special Christmas shopping experience this year.
Christmas Shopping Fair
Stirling Castle’s popular Christmas shopping evening is back again to help make finding that perfect gift highly enjoyable. Taking place at 6pm on Tuesday, 5 December 2023 in the Great Hall, enjoy a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie as you browse the very best Scottish brands, crafts and fine foods. This delightful shopping evening is accompanied by a brass band making it a much more civilised affair than a rush around the shops on Christmas Eve!
Getting there: Stirling Castle is a fifteen-minute walk from the train station.
Dundee is set to shine this Christmas as Winterfest returns to Slessor Gardens.
Festive Design Market at the V&A
Seek out something special this Christmas at the Festive Design Market taking place in the V&A between Friday, 24 and Sunday, 26 November 2023. The market will be packed with high quality design from some of Scotland’s best independent designers and makers.
Dundee Christmas Market Winterfest
Once again, Dundee’s Slessor Gardens will be transformed into a magical Christmas wonderland for all the family to enjoy from Friday, 1 December. Lace up your skates for a spin on the illuminated ice rink, enjoy a ride on the Santa Express or enjoy the stunning views over the Tay from the Big Wheel. And afterwards, enjoy a wander around the stalls before enjoying a warming drink at the Bavarian bar. At the time of writing (early November) their website is under construction.
Getting there: Slessor Gardens is less than a five-minute walk from Dundee train station.
With new Christmas lights ready to sparkle over Dunfermline, Scotland’s newest city, will be filled with magic this winter.
Christmas light switch on and Santa Dash
Christmas arrives in Dunfermline on Sunday, 19 November as the new Christmas lights get switched on. The Rotary Club’s Santa Dash also takes place if you fancy donning a Santa suit and making the dash through the city to The Glen gates. For the Santas with extra energy, carry on going with three laps around Pittencrieff Park before finishing back at the gates. This family-friendly event is always great fun.
For something a bit more sedate, start your Christmas shopping with a visit to Dunfermline City’s Christmas Artisan Market on Sunday, 19 November between 12pm and 4pm in St Catherine’s Wynd, just next to Dunfermline Abbey. You’ll find lots of fantastic local businesses selling a variety of great quality jewellery, hats, food, drinks, arts, crafts … a bit of everything really!
Getting there: The centre of Dunfermline is a ten-minute walk from Dunfermline City station.
Perth sure knows how to throw a party to welcome Santa to town!
Christmas lights party
The Christmas season starts on Saturday, 2 December as the popular Christmas Lights Party returns. The city centre is filled with street entertainment, ice carvings and even a silent disco. Keep an eye out for Santa arriving – he’ll be taking up residency in his grotto in Horsecross Plaza.
Throughout December, weekends in Perth will be filled with lots of fun festivities including children’s fairground rides, entertainment and markets.
Getting there: All of the events take place in Perth city centre, which is a ten-minute walk from the train station.
Not had your fill of festivities yet?
Well, no Christmas is complete without a trip to the theatre and a few shouts of ‘they're behind you’.
With so many events taking place, why not make it into a mini-break to revel in the festive atmosphere? We’ve got some great offers with Mercure and Apex Hotels to offer ScotRail customer s a discount.