News Story

We’re fast approaching the end of 2023. Where did the time go?! It’s finally time to embrace the festive decorations, pop on an extra layer and soak up the merry atmosphere.

Here’s our (bumper) list of December recommendations for you to explore. With a range of cultural events and festive fun, we hope you’ll find the ideal event to wrap up a year of spectacular music, dance and theatre.

Sunday Classics: Symphony Orchestra of India at Usher Hall

A man with shoulder length black curly hair is sitting in from of his tabla - an Indian drum. He is wearing a tunic and is smiling
© Jim McGuire

Join the Symphony Orchestra of India on their UK tour as they perform orchestral classics from Strauss and Stravinsky. In our festival spirit of internationalism, this is a fantastic opportunity to hear one of the greatest musicians in Indian classical music tradition. Tabla player Zakir Hussain and his trio perform his Triple Concert, a work commissioned especially for this tour. The concert is conducted by Alpesh Chauhan who is also the associate conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

The Symphony Orchestra of India will perform at Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Sunday 3 December. Usher Hall is wheelchair accessible. Further accessibility information is available on their website.

Nicola Benedetti plays the Beethoven Violin concerto: Scottish Chamber Orchestra

© Lightpress Design

Our very own Festival Director Nicola Benedetti performs the majestic Beethoven Violin Concerto. Co-directed by Nicola Benedetti and Benjamin Marquise Gilmore, this performance runs for three days in Perth, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. This concert also features Mozart’s Symphony No. 34, a thrilling journey from stately pomp to opera-style exuberance. The evening begins with the firey Strum, a 'rhythmic workout for the orchestra'. Written by New York composer Jessie Montgomery, this piece was also performed in our 2021 Festival by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets for Benedetti's Beethoven are almost sold out in Edinburgh so grab them whilst you can!

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra will perform 13 December in Perth, 14 December in Edinburgh and 15 December in Glasgow. Accessibility information is available on the venue websites.

Edinburgh’s Winter Festival

It is night time and there are bustling Christmas markets which are lit up below. A ferris wheel is illuminated on the skyline
© Robin Mair

Situated across Edinburgh’s historic city centre lies the Winter Festival. A bustling festive experience for all: classic funfair rides, traditional Christmas Markets, as well as a wide range of live events and delicious food and drink.

Did you catch our Opening Festival Fanfare in Princes Street Gardens this August? This large scale performance brought us all together through music and community. So, wrap up warm (we’re thinking thermals and woolly hats) and join in the festivities at Princes Street Gardens.

Edinburgh’s Winter Festival runs until January, with Christmas, Hogmanay and Winter Festival events. Accessible entrances, sensory backpacks and essential companion tickets are available. Further accessibility information is available on their website.

Concerts by Candlelight: Scottish Ensemble

A group of string players are standing on stage. They are backlit by glowing candles. The audience sits in front of them in darkness
© Courtesy of Scottish Ensemble

Amidst the slight chaos of the glittery festive season, Scottish Ensembles’ annual Concerts by Candlelight tour offers moments of stillness and contemplation. Scottish Ensemble performed at our central venue The Hub this festival. Their performance was described as “insight and tenderness combined with beauty and quirkiness”. Missed them in August? Experience them perform illuminated by the warm glow of candlelight this December, in awe-inspiring churches and cathedrals across Scotland; this is music to warm your soul in the depths of winter.

Catch Concerts by Candlelight in: Aberdeen 7 December, Inverness 8 December, Dundee 9 December, Perth 11 December, Edinburgh 12 December, Glasgow 13 December. Accessibility information is available on the venue websites.

The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan

A man dressed in a gold and black long coat is standing on stage with his eyes and mouth wide. He has a hook instead of his left hand and a large feathered hat on his head. In the background, people dressed as pirates dance. There is a Skull and crossbones on a ships sail behind them.
© Douglas Robertson

Pantomime! What’s not to love? With special effects, amazing sets, costumes and ‘barrel-loads of laughter’ this is family-friendly festive fun. Peter Pan is performing at Festival Theatre, one of the main International Festival venues in August.

In fact, we just announced one of our Festival Theatre performances for our 2024 festival. Clue: there will be more amazing sets and costumes (and music of course). But with August far away into the warmth of next year, visit the Festival Theatre in all her December festivities (pun definitely intended) and experience the magic of Peter Pan.

The Panto runs from 25 November–31 December at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh. Audio described, BSL interpreted and relaxed performances are available. More detailed accessibility information is available on their website.

Christmas at the Botanics

A family of four with two adults and two small children are silhouetted against a lit up house. The sky is starry above them.
© Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

A visit to the light trail at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a great way to spend a dark December evening. This festive activity also helps fund the Botanics' important conservation work! Discover huge seed heads floating high into the sky, a lawn of larger-than-life crocuses glowing in the dark, and sparkling tunnels of light. Grab some toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate from their street food vendors whilst wandering under the stars.

The trail has been designed for all ages to enjoy. They welcome all visitors whatever their specific access requirements. You can bring your own mobility scooter and mobility scooters and wheelchairs are also available for booking. More detailed accessibility information is available on their website.

Christmas at the Botanics runs until the 30 December at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

The Snow Queen: Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh

A women dressed entirely in white blue is stadning atop a podium which is lit with small blue lights. Her hands are above her head and her mouth is open wide. From her arms spread two shiney ice blue wings. She wears a blue crown on her head and a netted blue skirt. At the front of the image sits a small women who is hunched in fear. She has a blond braid on her shoulder.
© Jess Shurte

A brand-new adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen is on at the Lyceum Theatre throughout December. "Steeped in Scotland’s fantastical mythology"(The Herald), this tale follows the brave and brilliant Gerda, an Edinburgh lass, who will stop at nothing to rescue her best friend from the clutches of the ice queen. Adapted by Morna Young and directed by Cora Bissett, this is a "brilliantly inventive festive offering" (The Telegraph).

The Snow Queen is on until 1 January 2024. Captioned, audio described, touch tours, signed and relaxed performances are available. More information on accessibility performances detailed on their website.

Castle Of Light: Magic and Mystery

A huge green dragon is lit up through projections onto the side of a dark castle
© Edinburgh Castle Website

Witness Edinburgh Castle sparkle and glisten in brilliant colour. With tapestries of projections dancing across the walls, immersive illuminations and enchanting installations, this is a magical tour through the castle grounds.

According to festival folklore, Edinburgh Castle inspired the birth of the International Festival one starry-night in 1942. Edinburgh Castle was then lit up for the inaugural International Festival in 1947. You can read more about the history the of the festival on our website.

The Castle of Light runs until 3 January 2024. Access night is on 3 December, with time slots for BSL tours and autism accessible time slots

Celebrate in True Waldorf Style this Christmas

a white teapot is pouring black tea into a matching cup and saucer. In the background rests a 3-tiered serving platter with little christmas treats on it
© Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian

After a busy summer of hosting International Festival guests for special events in their grand surroundings, our partners at Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian have a range of timeless and traditional Christmas events this festive season.

Indulge in Festive Afternoon Tea in the historic Peacock Alley, delectable Christmas dining at Grazing by Mark Greenaway and Dean Banks at the Pompadour, or gift your loved ones an unforgettable experience to remember into the New Year. Welcome 2024 with a traditional Scottish Hogmanay Ball, including an incredible tasting menu, wine pairings and a celebratory champagne toast at midnight in the stunning surrounds of Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh’s Castle Suite.

Find out more information about the Waldorf Astoria's festivities.

Give the Gift of Festival Membership

Become a member of the Edinburgh International Festival

Looking for the perfect gift for that music, theatre, opera or dance lover? Give them early access to Carmen and Assembly Hall tickets, and the opportunity to sit in on a world-class orchestra’s rehearsal. From just £60, you can gift a Festival membership.

Our members receive priority booking for International Festival performances, an exclusive programme of members events, the Festival brochure mailed to their door, and much more. They also support in bringing the magic of the Festival to children and communities across Scotland, as part of our year round engagement programme.

For more information, head to our Membership page and click the ‘Buy as a gift’ option under your membership of choice.

What events did you enjoy this year 2023? What are you looking forward to next year? We’d love to hear about it! Share your cultural explorations with us on social media, you can find us at @edintfest