Christmas activities in Edinburgh and Glasgow

Christmas activities in Edinburgh and Glasgow

A round up of the best markets, concerts, light displays and sports events across the festive period

When does the Christmas season start for you? Is it a week before the 25th December, when you frantically check websites to see who’s still offering last-minute gift deliveries? Or is it OK to start drinking mulled wine as soon as Hallowe’en decorations come down from the shops? In Glasgow, the festive season officially kicks off this year – as always – with the Christmas Lights (Thu 15 Nov) being switched on in George Square. This annual light fantastic is followed three days later by the Glasgow Style Mile's Christmas Parade (Sun 18 Nov) on Buchanan Street, before the much-loved Glasgow on Ice (from Sat 24 Nov) is unveiled under the twinkly lights of George Square. A snowball’s throw away, a piping glühwein can be sipped at St Enoch Square’s Traditional Christmas Market (from Sun 18 Nov), with almost 30 stalls of Christmas ornaments, toys and candles, and the obligatory bratwurst samples and heart-shaped gingerbread on sale.

Across in Auld Reekie, the festive fun is unleashed with Light Night (Thu 29 Nov) as Edinburgh is lit up in all its picturesque glory, and the Edinburgh Wheel, carousel and markets open their doors for their annual six-week stint. Follow the lights to the German Christmas Market (until Sun 6 Jan) in Princes Street Gardens or get your skates on for the return of the ice rink.

Back in Glasgow and beyond the ice rinks and markets, culture vultures can check out what’s ‘behind yoooou’ with the plethora of pantomimes; while music lovers need look no further than the BBC SSO: Christmas at the Movies (Sun 23 Dec) at City Halls, for a concert celebrating Oscar-worthy sound scores. There's a bumper selection of talent at both the Glasgow Royal Concert Halls and Edinburgh's Usher Hall, with classical offerings from Katherine Jenkins, Lesley Garrett, the RSNO and more.

At the SECC, the Irn-Bru Carnival (from Fri 21 Dec) is back in all its whirl of waltzers, crash of dodgems and stomach churning glory. Look out, too, for the return of the Santa Dash (Sat 1 Dec) at Milngavie’s Mugdock Park, where young and old alike can walk or run anything from 1–5km for charity. Flashing red noses and Santa suits at the ready!

Back in Edinburgh, for first-class festive frolics, head to The Stand comedy club for their Christmas Special (Mon 10–Sat 15 Dec). Across town at the Queen’s Hall, indulge in the ultimate Christmas anthem (classically speaking) with Baroque’s mesmerising Christmas Oratorio (Fri 14 Dec). The Saturday before Christmas, there's a night of festive songs from some of Scotland’s finest singer-songwriter talent, all in the name of charity at the annual Christmas Songwriters’ Club (Sat 22 Dec, now moved up from Leith Dockers Club to Queen's Hall). This year's bill will feature fresh, specially created works from Adam Stafford, Withered Hand, Alan Bissett, Jesus Baby, Machine Room and others.

Those looking for fun in the great outdoors can enjoy the Christmas Panda Breakfast at Edinburgh Zoo (Sat 1–Sat 22 Dec), or take part in the Edinburgh Christmas 5k Fun Run (Sun 2 Dec) at Inverleith Park.