Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and is known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture.
One of the city nicknames is the Festival City, as Edinburgh is renowned for the Festival Fringe (the world’s largest arts festival) and the Hogmanay year-end celebration, recognized for being one of the most famous New Year’s Eve events in the world.
The city is beautifully decorated with lights, with various Christmas markets and events that take place in December, transforming Edinburgh in a winter wonderland.
The article aims to cover the main landmarks and photography spots (of course not exhaustive), with the additional enhancement of the Christmas spirit 😊
For an introduction of the city wonders, it is probably good to start with one of the sports offering stunning sunset panoramic views of the city: Calton Hill.
Calton Hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of Edinburgh’s most prominent landmarks,
Many visitors and locals gather to watch the sun go down and enhancing the beautiful city…
Dugald Stewart neoclassical monument is dedicated to the Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart.
You can find as well on the hill Nelson’s Monument, the National Monument and the City Observatory but most tourists (and photographers) will keep their attention on the permanently changing light over Edinburgh skyline 😂
Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year, which is celebrated with various customs and traditions. It is a significant event in Scotland, marked by lively festivities and a warm spirit of celebration.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebration is one of the most famous New Year’s Eve events in the world. It typically includes several days of festivities, concerts, and events leading up to the big night.
On December 29th or 30th, a torchlight procession takes place through the streets of Edinburgh as a key element of the city’s annual Hogmanay celebrations.
The procession involves thousands of people carrying torches through the streets of Edinburgh, creating a spectacular and visually stunning display.
While the Torchlight Procession is a breathtaking spectacle, it doesn’t have a specific historical or cultural meaning deeply rooted in Scottish tradition. However, the procession has quickly become a beloved and iconic part of the city’s New Year’s celebrations.
The procession serves as a symbolic and festive prelude to the New Year, bringing thousands of people together.
The main Christmas Market in Edinburgh is held in East Princes Street & Gardens, offering a picturesque setting with Edinburgh Old Town in the background.
There are 3 or 4 markets and funfairs downtown, including one around Scott Monument, offering great photography opportunities.
The market and funfair in George Street is very nice as well…
The market and surrounding areas are often beautifully decorated with festive lights, creating a magical atmosphere in the heart of Edinburgh.
Street Party and Fireworks
The city center hosts a massive street party on Princes Street with live music, DJs, and a festive atmosphere. Attendees can enjoy concerts, fireworks, and various entertainment options.
A major outdoor concert is held in Princes Street Gardens, featuring popular musicians and bands. The concert culminates with spectacular fireworks display at midnight.
The concert is in the Gardens below. The best view over the fireworks is however in my opinion from Princess street above, even if the castle quickly disappear under the smoke 😂
The prominent public park located in the heart of the city is separating the historic Old Town from the New Town. The gardens are divided into two parts: the East and the West Princes Street Gardens. West Princes Street Gardens offer beautiful green spaces, various monuments, and stunning views of Edinburgh Castle.
The Ross Fountain is an iconic landmark located in West Princes Street Gardens.
It is as well beautiful in summer (picture from a different trip a few years ago)
The fountain is a cast-iron structure with intricate detailing and was originally installed in 1872 (and refurbished recently).
It adds to the overall charm of the gardens and offers a picturesque setting against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. The Christmas lights in the trees are completing the winter wonderland effect 🤩.
East Princess Street Gardens
The East side is as well a pure fairytale with its views over the new town, the fun fair and Scott monument.
The lights in the trees are really a photographer dream during twilight
There are as well nice views over the colorful Museum of the Mound (housed in the head office of the Bank of Scotland iconic building)
The Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic monument dedicated to the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It is one of the most iconic landmarks in Edinburgh.
The Monument is in the city center of Edinburgh, near Princes Street and Waverley Station. It is approximately 200 feet (61 meters) tall, making it the largest monument to a writer in the world.
Of course, again, the Christmas funfair helps enhancing further the monument…
The Vennel is a narrow, historic lane that runs along the southern side of the Grassmarket area, offering stunning views of the castle and the Old Town. Visitors can climb The Vennel to reach a viewpoint that provides a unique perspective of Edinburgh Castle.
NB: as the sun is not in the right position in winter for that picture, this is an image from a summer trip a few years ago 😢
Edinburgh Castle historic fortress perched atop Castle Rock is one of the most iconic landmarks in the country and a symbol of Scotland’s rich history. The castle is located at the western end of the Royal Mile
The history of Edinburgh Castle dates back over a thousand years (The site has been occupied since at least the Iron Age. Obviously, across the different spots described in this article, the caste is often on the picture 😂
Johnston Terrasse is one of the many places offering a great perspective over it.
The Royal Mile is one of the most famous and historic streets in Edinburgh. It runs through the heart of the Old Town, connecting Edinburgh Castle at the top of Castlehill with the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom of the Canongate.
Many of the landmarks among that street are described in other sections above and below but here are a few more specific photo spots. On the top part (castle side), there are a couple of small closes (transversal narrow streets) that provide nice views over the new city, like the image below from Advocate close.
The people story museum is in the Canongate section of the Royal Mile. Beyond the museum itself, the sign is a popular photography spot on the Royal Mile.
The Tolbooth Tavern is a pub located on the Royal Mile. It is situated in a building with a rich history, as the name “tolbooth” traditionally refers to a municipal building that served as a courthouse, jail, or meeting place.
The Tolbooth Kirk remains one of the most characteristic buildings of Edinburgh, with its silhouette visible from all around the Old Town (view below from Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery).
Its spire is the highest point in Edinburgh, standing at 72m high.
The Highland Tolbooth Kirk was formerly a Church of Scotland as is now renamed The Hub. You can find it at the intersection of Lawnmarket and Castle Hill, near the top of the Royal Mile.
Circus Lane is a charming and picturesque street located in the Stockbridge neighborhood of Edinburgh, just north of the city center.
Circus Lane is a popular location for photographers due to its picturesque setting, historic architecture and the narrow cobblestone street.
The lane is characterized by its well-preserved mews houses, many of which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The houses are typically adorned with colorful doors, window boxes, and ivy-covered facades, contributing to the area’s aesthetic appeal.
I strongly advocate to visit for morning twilight as it will be empty of tourists and ideal for photography, especially after a bit of rain 🤩 -not difficult to get rain in Edinburgh in winter, wait 20 minutes😂-
Nearby Circus Lane, have a look to the small and cute house on Circus Pl in the Stockbridge neighborhood, apparently a famous Instagram spot 🤨. Nice indeed.
Victoria Street is a vibrant and colorful street located in the historic Old Town of Edinburgh
That Street is connecting George IV Bridge to the Grassmarket area. It runs parallel to the more famous Royal Mile.
Victoria Street is renowned for its vibrant and colorful storefronts. The buildings are painted in a variety of hues, giving the street a lively and cheerful appearance.
The street is home to a diverse range of shops and boutiques where visitors can find everything from traditional Scottish products to fashion, gifts, and artisanal goods.
Victoria Street is often associated with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The colorful and winding nature of the street is said to have inspired the Diagon Alley. there are several Harry Potter-themed shops along the street.
St Giles’ Cathedral
A short walking distance from Victoria Street, St Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is one of the most significant religious and historic landmarks in the city of Edinburgh.
The original church on this site dates back to the 12th century, but the present structure mostly dates from the 14th and 15th centuries. It has undergone various renovations and modifications over the centuries.
St Giles’ Cathedral is an excellent example of medieval Gothic architecture. Its crown steeple, added in the 15th century, is a distinctive feature of the Edinburgh skyline.
The cathedral features beautiful stained-glass windows, impressive stone carvings, and a renowned Thistle Chapel, which is the home of the Order of the Thistle, one of Scotland’s chivalric orders.
Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery
Greyfriars Kirkyard is a historic cemetery located in the heart of Edinburgh. It is situated adjacent to Greyfriars Kirk (church) and is known for its rich history, intricate tombstones, and associations with notable individuals.
The cemetery offers as well beautiful views over the old town skyline.
The grave of Greyfriars Bobby, a loyal Skye Terrier who famously guarded his owner’s grave for 14 years in the 19th century, is also located in the cemetery.
Dean Village is a picturesque and historic neighborhood located northwest of the city center, along the Water of Leith.
Dean Village has a rich history dating back to the 12th century when it was the site of watermills used for milling grain. Over the centuries, it evolved into a bustling industrial area with mills and factories powered by the Water of Leith.
The village is known for its well-preserved architecture, featuring a mix of historic stone buildings, some of which were originally mills and workers’ housing. The area has a charming and quaint atmosphere, with cobbled streets and a tranquil riverside setting.
While retaining its historic charm, Dean Village is now a residential area with a mix of old and new housing. The tranquil and scenic surroundings make it a desirable place to live.
Princes Street” in Edinburgh, it is one of the main thoroughfares in the city. It runs along the southern edge of the New Town in Edinburgh, parallel to the Old Town.
Princes Street is often a focal point for various events and festivals held in Edinburgh throughout the year.That includes the Christmas Market during the festive season.
Scottish National Gallery
Located on The Mound in the heart of Edinburgh, the Scottish National Gallery is the main gallery of the NGS (the 3 National Galleries of Scotland). It features an impressive collection of European paintings from the Renaissance to the early 20th century.
Museum of the Mound
The Museum on the Mound is housed in the head office of the Bank of Scotland, which also currently serves as the headquarters for Lloyds Banking Group. The building is probably one of Edinburgh’s most characteristic, along with Edinburgh Castle, especially because of its beautiful nighttime illumination.
George Street & St Andrew Square
George Street is running parallel to Princess Street.
That street is as well beautiful during Christmas and Year end Hogmanay festive season.
Some of the hotels or buildings are really worth a look … and a photo click 😊.
George street ends on St Andrew Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a beautifully landscaped garden at its center and the Melville Monument (A tall column topped with a statue of Henry Dundas, a prominent Scottish politician and statesman)
So here is my little photography takeaway from a short trip to Edinburgh. Obviously not exhaustive (I did not had time for example to explore properly the Palace of Holyrood house or the Arthur’s Seat / Salisbury Crags area) but I hope it is a good start to engage you visiting next year end…
Of course, a summer visit is a good idea as well for different images and experience …