Guides / Guide

Things to do in Scotland this Christmas

Our top picks of events happening in cities throughout the country.

With its rugged landscapes and dramatic coastlines, Scotland is amazing at any time of year ­– and its cities are full of character too.

There’s Edinburgh with its age-old castle and enchanting Royal Mile, as well as its fabulous theatre scene and the Fringe. Home to some of the UK’s best live music venues, Glasgow is always buzzing with energy while history comes alive in the ancient capital of Perth. Plus, from Aberdeen and Inverness to towns in the Highlands, you’ll discover culture and arts, festivals, outdoor adventure and much more.

No matter where you choose to spend your time, Scottish cities boast an exciting mix of entertainment each month – and here’s just a small selection of what’s on offer in December.


Spotlight on: Festive fun

Christmas in Scotland is a magical time of year. Celebrations and all types of seasonal delights fill the month of December. Expect things to ramp up as the big day approaches, with cities across the country boasting light trails, pantos, choral concerts, ice skating and much more!

As December opens entertainer extraordinaire John Barrowman will be celebrating the most “fabulous” time of the year at Glasgow’s SEC Armadillo on 1 December with a brand new Christmas show.

Don’t miss Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas Live in Concert when it returns to life during a special arena show at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow on 2 December as part of the film’s 25th anniversary celebrations. Danny Elfman and other original cast members will be there to perform alongside the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

The beloved after-dark experience Christmas at the Botanics is now open at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden and will run until 17 December. A winter wonderland like no other, explore paths and treetops shimmering with lights and colourful projections.

Of course, there’s nothing more magical than skating under the stars at M&D’s on Ice. Open until 5 January, the rink is located in Motherwell at M&D’s – Scotland’s Theme Park where you’ll also be able to enjoy a Bavarian bar, festive street eats and shopping at a Christmas market.

Funbox’s new show Christmas in Toy Town is now playing and someone is up to “snow” good! Bring your little ’uns to watch it at Rothes Hall in Glenrothes on 1 December, Elgin Town Hall on 7 December, Town Hall Johnstone on 8 December, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 14 – 15 December, Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh on 21 – 24 December, The Town House in Hamilton on 27 December, Stirling Albert Halls on 28 December, Perth Concert Hall on 30 December and Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline on 31 December.

Love Actually has become a Christmas tradition. See the film while a live orchestra plays its iconic score at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 3 December and Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on 15 December.

Matt Goss is touring the UK with A Vegas Christmas. You can have a night to remember that includes a glass of fizz and four-course dinner when he stops at Hilton Glasgow on 4 December and Hilton Doubletree in Aberdeen on 12 December.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved tale (which also inspired Frozen), you’ve got to check out Scottish Ballet’s glittering new production of The Snow Queen at Festival Theatre Edinburgh on 7 – 8, 11 – 15, 18 – 23 and 27 – 29 December.

Based on the hit Will Ferrell movie, Elf: A Christmas Spectacular is coming to The SSE Hydro in Glasgow on 14 – 15 December. This unique musical production features a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree that audiences get to decorate!

 

It’s panto season! Don’t miss A Play, A Pie & A Pint at Glasgow’s Oran Mor with Dixie Whittington: The Homecoming. Running until 28 December, the story of penniless Dixie and her cat Fleabag trying to get home to Granny’s for Christmas will have you in stitches.

Plus, the beloved panto Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is returning to Glasgow’s SEC Armadillo from 14 – 31 December. Gary: Tank Commander is back to lead the cast, with Two Doors Down actress Doon Mackichan joining him as the Wicked Queen.

Hop aboard a magical carpet and fly to Alhambra Theatre from 11 – 28 December to enjoy a whole new world at Aladdin because the panto is back, oh yes it is!

The Overtones are out on the road this month with their annual Christmas tour, stopping at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 12 December.

Celebrate the festive season with merry music courtesy of Ace of Base, Vengaboys, Whigfield, Haddaway, 2 Limited, Snap! and many more at We Love the 90’s Christmas Show at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow on 19 December.

Dust off your platforms, put on your flares and take a chance on an unforgettable Christmas party with ABBAMANIA! on 19 December at Ironworks in Inverness.

Now in its 13th year, Phil Cunningham is once again calling his musical pals together and re-opening his Christmas Songbook at Perth Concert Hall on 20 December.

NOW That’s What I Call Christmas Live will indulge you with a feast of massive seasonal hits at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 20 December and Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on 21 December.

Expect a cracker of a show from Christmas Spectacular at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 23 December with West End vocalists, an orchestra, the Jingle Belle Dancers and a snow-filled finale.

After Christmas, don’t despair because there’s still plenty of fun to be had. The Steamie will be back, bigger and better than ever with more songs and laughs. Scotland’s most loved play and the ultimate way to celebrate Hogmanay performs in Glasgow at The SSE Hydro from 27 – 31 December.

 

And speaking of Hogmanay, on 31 December head to West Princes Street Gardens for Edinburgh Hogmanay, a huge party featuring Mark Ronson, Rudimental (DJ) and Mungo’s Hi Fi.

Find loads more festive fun in Scotland and all around the UK in our Winter Guide and get the skinny on New Year’s Eve parties so you can rock in the biggest night of the year with our Clubs Nights Guide.


Other things to do

Music, comedy and thrilling sport also fill December in Scotland.

Our round-up of some of the month’s best events starts out on 1 December with Bastille promoting their third album Doom Days at Aberdeen Music Hall and Giggs, one of the UK’s fastest-rising rappers, headlining Glasgow’s SWG3 .

At O2 Academy Glasgow, pop sensation Melanie Martinez will appear as part of her K-12 tour on 4 December, while The Wonder Stuff will play The Eight Legged Groove Machine and HUP there two days later on 6 December.

Catch The Libertines at gigs at Dundee Caird Hall on 6 December and Glasgow’s Barrowland on 7 – 8 December.

Dweezil Zappa is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his father’s daredevil album in his Hot Rats Live! Plus Other Hot Stuff 1969 show at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 9 December.

Head to The SSE Hydro in Glasgow on 11 December for the Let’s Rock the Winter Retro Tour headlined by ABC, Marc Almond, Tony Hadley and Nik Kershaw.

London indie rockers Scouting for Girls will take the stage at The Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow on 12 December.

 

This month you can also catch several of Scotland’s most loved native acts live.

See Snow Patrol on their Reworked Tour when they arrive for two nights at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on 2 – 3 December.

Glaswegian pop-rockers Hipsway are doing a series of dates this month with stops at PJ Molloys in Dunfermline on 12 December, Edinburgh’s Liquid Room on 13 December and St Luke’s in Glasgow on 18 – 20 December.

Hometown hero Gerry Cinnamon will play two huge shows in Glasgow at The SSE Hydro on 20 and 21 December.

Following his debut EP in October, Joesef is appearing in a special gig at Glasgow’s SWG3 on 23 December.

And don’t miss Tide Lines, who hail from the Highlands of Scotland, on 28 December at Ironworks in Inverness.

Anyone ready for some sport? As the month kicks off Glasgow Clan are sitting at the top of the Elite League. Come support them at intu Braehead Arena this month during six big games: Cardiff Devils on 7 December, Dundee Stars on 11 December, Guildford Flames on 14 December, Sheffield Steelers on 22 December, Belfast Giants on 28 December and Fife Flyers on 31 December.

Football fans, there’s action for you too! Watch Hibernian FC play Aberdeen FC on 7 December and Rangers FC on 21 December at Edinburgh’s Easter Road Stadium, while Hearts FC are set to face Livingston on 4 December, St Johnstone on 14 December and Aberdeen FC on 29 December at Edinburgh’s Tynecastle Stadium.

ICW has two big evenings set this month for wrestling buffs. See up-and-coming competitors during Gonzo at the Glasgow Pro Wrestling Asylum on 1 December, while professionals go at it in Fight Club at Glasgow Garage on 15 December.

 

Presenters Gary Lineker, Clare Balding and Gabby Logan will take to the stage to celebrate the year of sport during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony at P&J Live in Aberdeen on 15 December. The city of Aberdeen will also be hosting the inaugural BBC Festival of Sport on 13 – 14 December to let people try out different sports.

Prefer a night of belly laughs to sport? There’s a feast of stand-up gigs that will have you doubled over this month.

Gary Meikle, the Ibrow Guy, will be getting Surreal at Ayr Town Hall on 6 December. Jim Jefferies is bringing his Night Talker tour to The SSE Hydro in Glasgow on 12 December, while Scottish stand-up Daniel Sloss appears at Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline with his X show on 14 December.

And if you’re up for the most intense game of bingo ever played, be at O2 Academy Glasgow on 20 December for the worldwide sensation that is Bingo Loco.


Live music venues

Looking for a gig to see? From arenas and world-class concert halls to historic theatres and hole-in-the-wall bars, we’ve rounded up some of December’s music offerings as a starting point.

Stadium and arena shows:

Mid-sized venues with big atmosphere:

New music to have on your radar:

  • Wildwood Kin at The Caves, Edinburgh on 1 December and Stereo, Glasgow and 2 December
  • Clairo at Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow on 8 December
  • Cameron Barnes at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow on 20 December

Iconic attractions

Scotland is famous for many things – from historic castles and bagpipe playing, to spirits like whisky and the Loch Ness monster. Indeed there’s a lot of tradition not to be missed in December around this beautiful country.

Take in scenic views during a Blackness Castle and Three Bridges Cruise with Forth Boat Tours. Departing daily from Hawes Pier in South Queensferry, Blackness Castle has been featured in Outlander and Outlaw King, while the three Forth bridges are a jaw-dropping sight and engineering marvel from the water.

At M&D’s – Scotland’s Theme Park in Motherwell discover Amazonia. All ages will enjoy taking a walk on the wild side while exploring this indoor rainforest packed full of exotic animals – including monkeys, snakes, frogs, tarantulas, bats, kinkajou and more. There’s even a programme called Be a Keeper for the Day that lets you help feed and handle them.

 

Find out all about craft beer, gin and more at St Andrews Brewing Company. Brewery tours are offered on 6 – 7, 13 – 14, 20 – 21 and 27 December at the company’s taproom in St Andrews.

Dunfermline Children’s Gala Choir comes to Alhambra Theatre on 2 – 3 December for another heartwarming fundraiser. The musical extravaganza features kids from the local primary schools.

Skerryvore are a traditional quartet formed on the remote Scottish island of Tiree who have been featured in the Visit Scotland campaign. See them perform this month on 6 December at Ironworks in Inverness and 13 December at Stramash Live Music Bar in Edinburgh.

Known for having bagpipes with attitude, Red Hot Chilli Pipers bring their their infectious, feel-good music to Waterfront Wick in Caithness on 6 December, Pickaquoy Centre in Orkney on 7 Decmeber, Motherwell Concert Hall on 15 December, Ironworks in Inverness on 27 December, Ayr Town Hall on 28 December, Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries on 29 December and Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline on 30 December.

One of the premier folk clubs in the country, Glenfarg Folk Club appear every Monday – this month on 2, 9, 16 and 23 December – in Backstage at Green Hotel in Kinross where they offer a wide range of musical acts as well as showcase budding new performers.


You can do all this and more in Scotland this December. For full details, head to our Scottish Cities Guide.

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