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A Festive Weekend in Edinburgh

Jenna Maxwell

Contributor

As one of the oldest cities in Europe and with a stunning medieval castle dominating the skyline, it's easy to see why Edinburgh is on many people's travel bucket list. But there really is no better time to visit than winter. The already beautiful city looks even more picture-perfect when lit up, while visitors can also enjoy vibrant winter markets, delicious food and drink and luxurious afternoon teas. With the lights, sights and smells of winter in the air, the city turns into a romantic haven for loved-up couples. Here’s our list of the most beautiful places to stay, sumptuous places to eat and all the festive fun you can handle. The only thing we can’t guarantee is the snow.

The Markets

There is nothing quite like exploring the stalls and exhibits at a bustling winter market, arm in arm with your significant other, sipping hot chocolate or mulled wine as you go.

With several on offer in Scotland’s capital, you’ll be spoilt for choice on a winter break. At the Scottish Market on George Street, you can enjoy some delicious food and purchase traditional crafts, the European Market in the Mound Precinct has more unique gifts, exotic food (you MUST try the Bratkartoffeln) and warming mulled wine. Meanwhile, the Children’s Market in Princess Street Gardens is the best place to shop for any little ones.

After enjoying the stalls, you can then enjoy the best views in the city and the most romantic ride in town on the Forth One Big Wheel. Named after the local radio station that sponsors it, the big wheel sits in the heart of the city and offers panoramic views as it helps to illuminate the skyline. And never fear about the cold, the wheel features cosy covered pods so you can snuggle up while admiring the views.

And for those a little braver, you can spin around on the 60-metre high Star Flyer which is basically dozens of spinning benches. The star flyer is as tall as the neighbouring Scott Monument - probably not one to try when full of mince pies.

Winter festival in old town Edinburgh

Photographer: F11photo

Afternoon Tea

After a day or so of munching mince pies and sipping mulled wine at the markets, you may be keen for a warmer experience indoors. Luckily, many of Edinburgh's restaurants and bars look just as beautiful inside as they do from the street.

Without a doubt, the Dome on George Street has the most impressive decorations in the city. A tourist attraction in their own right, the decorations are so popular that they are revealed in October and guests can enjoy deluxe afternoon teas among the pine trees and twinkly lights. The menu includes delicate finger sandwiches, scones and sweet pastries and guests can try out nine varieties of loose-leaf teas from traditional Scottish to rare blends and herbal infusions. All served, of course, in bespoke fine bone china.

Another great option is The Balmoral Hotel. An Edinburgh landmark almost as famous as the castle itself, the magnificent building is revealed as you ascend the steps at Waverly Train Station. It’s welcomed many a famous face over the years including Elizabeth Taylor, Paul and Linda McCartney and was even the place where JK Rowling penned her last Harry Potter novel. Afternoon tea is served in Palm Court where diners can gaze at the sky under the sparkling glass dome. Tea can be served with or without champagne and guests can enjoy classic sandwiches, fresh cakes and pastries and homemade scones. Yum!

The Dome in Edinburgh, Scotland

Photographer: Arcady

Where to Eat

Although small for a capital city, Edinburgh is home to four Michelin-starred restaurants and is renowned for its fine food scene. The Kitchin, one of the city’s A-list restaurants, reflects chef and owner Tom Kitchin’s passion for locally-sourced Scottish produce influenced by French cooking techniques. The restaurant is one of two of the Michelin-starred eateries located in Leith in the North of the city. The other is Restaurant Martin Wishart that combines a calm and welcoming ambiance with modern French cuisine using fresh, seasonal ingredients from Scotland.

Number One is the place to go if you’re looking for a romantic meal. The opulent décor and contemporary art create a luxurious experience. The food offered is Scottish cuisine mixed with an international flair.

Edinburgh is also home to Paul Kitching’s 21212. The fourth Michelin-starred restaurant is quirky and upscale and changes every week. The name refers to the number of choices available on the menu – two first courses, a one-second course, two mains, one cheese course and two desserts. Luckily, you don’t have to eat the full menu!

The Kitchin in Edinburgh, Scotland

thekitchin.com

Shopping

Edinburgh is a fantastic place for luxury shopping, with the pedestrianised Multrees Walk often having its own mini winter shopping events. Known as Edinburgh’s most stylish destination, Multrees Walk is home to Harvey Nichols, Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, BOSS and Burberry. The street is just a stone’s throw from the markets and attractions in the centre of town.

For more of a Scottish experience, you can’t beat the Royal Mile. This historic thoroughfare in the Old Town is packed full of museums, restaurants and shops. With a palace at one end and a castle at the other, you’ll want to walk the whole way.

The shops on the Royal Mile are full of cashmere, Tweed and tartan and there are plenty of Scottish specialist food and drink too. There are lovely independent shops and stalls dotted around the Mile, while the adjoining closes - including the spook-facular Mary King's Close -are just waiting to be explored.

Multrees Walk in Edinburgh, scotland

Photographer: Lou armor

Where to Drink

Edinburgh is famous for its nightlife and has some unmissable bars with mixologists creating delicious warming, wintery drinks.

With Anchor Man himself, Will Farrell, recently stopping by, The Blackbird in Leven Street should not be missed. You can easily spot the restaurant and bar by the bright orange bicycle perched above the door and the quirkiness doesn’t end there. The bar is famed for its delicious, seasonal drinks and exceptional beer garden. Once you sink into one of their deep Chesterfield sofas, you won’t want to leave.

For the scenesters, it must be one of Edinburgh’s latest additions, The Ivy at the Square. The Ivy has been a firm fixture and celebrity favourite in London since 1917 and 100 years later in 2017 it came to Edinburgh. The Ivy at the Square is in the prestigious St Andrew’s Square and is the perfect spot for drinks. You can sample the exclusive Ivy Collection Champagne and it’s close enough to the designer stores of Multrees Walk to have a well-earned tipple after carrying all those bags.

If you want a quick nip while at the markets, The Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar provides a warm retreat from the busy stalls. The cosy two-floored bar offers a range of whisky cocktails and hot toddies

The Ivy in Edinburgh, Scotland

theivyedinburgh.com

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