Winter in the City by Stephen Butchard

Winter is the absolute best time of year.

Okay, okay, let’s forget about the miserable weather and the inevitable onset of post-Christmas depression for a minute.

Whether you’re in Glasgow or Edinburgh, the festive period is packed with things to do, places to visit and enough shiny Christmas lights to melt a snowman, which is kind of sad when you think about it.

To make sure you don’t miss out, STEPHEN BUTCHARD has compiled a list of some of the best things to get up to in your city this winter.

Edinburgh

A) Hogmanay Street Party
Why not re-live your high school years by getting black-out drunk in the street surrounded by your closest friends this New Year?

Admittedly, that’s probably not how Edinburgh council pitch their annual street party, but at its core, the street party is all that and more.

The only festival to be included in Discovery Channel’s ‘Top 25 World Travel Experiences’, Hogmanay in the streets of Edinburgh is an unmissable experience, with a slew of live DJ sets and bands filling the streets of Edinburgh to ring in the new year with style.

While the line-up is still to be announced for this year, past acts have included Mark Ronson, Chvrches, The Vaccines, Friendly Fires, Glasvegas, Django Django, and the Coral, so musically, the night is in good hands. Party-lovers from all over the world have been flocking to Edinburgh’s street party for years thanks to the euphoric atmosphere the event manages to capture so well.

It’s an unmissable night, and one every resident of the city has to give a go.

www.edinburghshogmanay.org

B) Mary’s Milk Bar

What’s more festive than gorging on chocolate and passing into a sugar-induced coma?
Nothing, that’s right. And if there is something, we’re not sure we want to know.
That’s exactly what might happen if you visit Mary’s Milk Bar this Winter.

Whilst not hosting a winter event per se, Mary’s Milk Bar is absolutely the perfect place to go on a cold December afternoon, with an incredible range of chocolates, milkshakes, gelatos and other wintery treats being served throughout the period.

Mary’s is now famous for its mouth-watering range of sweet stuff, with new flavours being concocted every week. Our favourite is a dark chocolate and baked pear ice cream, as well as Mary’s weekly special sundaes. The cosy café is the perfect place to be as winter descends.

On top of this, Mary’s hand-made truffles could make for the perfect Christmas gift, thanks to their unusual, delicious fusion of flavours. Or you could just grab a bag for yourself!

http://www.marysmilkbar.com/

C) Ice Skating

I’m not the best ice skater – picture a sad penguin with heels on and you’re almost there – but the atmosphere of skating in Edinburgh is undeniable.

This year, St Andrews Square will have its own rink, joining the impressive Winter Wonderland rink on Princes Street, meaning I can embarrass myself in two of the city’s prettiest locations!

The ice rink on East Princes Street Gardens Terrace has long been a mainstay in Edinburgh’s winter calendar, but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful to skate beneath the Big Wheel with Edinburgh’s famous skyline as a backdrop (Yes, I did just say wonderful, and yes I have a girlfriend. Fight me.)

The St Andrews Square location has a lot to live up to, but its twinkly, charming aesthetic lends itself well to the gooey feel of Christmas.

Edinburgh’s outdoor Ice rinks always manage to capture that fuzzy feeling of Christmas when they finally arrive, making them a must-see whether you’re on the rink, or just laughing at the idiots falling over from the railings.

The ice rinks will be running from Nov 1 – Jan 4.

D) Summerhall

Formerly the Royal School for vetinary studies, Summerhall has been transformed into a hub of all things artsy, with exhibitions, gigs, dance classes and coffee hungry hipsters utilising the impressive space.

There’s also a swanky looking bar that brews its own gin. You’re already sold aren’t you?

Summerhall’s winter programme offers a diverse and exciting range of events happening throughout the period.
On December 5 and 6 the venue is hosting a beer festival, with their resident brewer Barney brewing on site throughout the weekend.

They will be joined by Williams Brothers and Fyne Ales as well as more to be announced.
It’s one of the more cultured ways of getting p****d we can think of this winter.

On December 14, Summerhall will also be hosting a Christmas market, featuring 45 stallholders selling a diverse range of gifts that could be perfect for friends with a quirkier style, or maybe as an early present for yourself.

Go on. You deserve it.

www.summerhall.co.uk/2014

E) The Stand Comedy Club

The Stand Comedy club is dark, stuffy and intimate – everything you expect from such a place – but above all, it’s just a damn funny place to have a night out.

One of the main small venues during the Fringe, the Stand is regarded as one of the best venues in the city.
It boasts an impressive list of up-and-coming regulars, with more recognisable names such as Frankie Boyle and Daniel Sloss popping in on occasion to tickle the funny bones of unsuspecting audience members.

The Stand’s Christmas shows look tempting, with the club’s usually high standard of acts delivering laughs throughout the month, with the added bonus of a Christmas Dinner thrown into the ticket price.

The club will then be hosting Hootfest, a New Year show that promises to end the year with giggle fits, laughing snorts and those silly red-face silent laughs.

Be warned though – The Stand’s specials tend to get packed, so arrive in plenty of time if you want a seat. Just don’t sit at the front. You WILL be picked on.

The Stand’s Christmas Special will run from December 15-20. Hootfest will run from Dec 27-31.

www.thestand.co.uk
Glasgow

A) Glasgow Xmas Market and Ice Rink

Glasgow’s Christmas Market is nothing new, but then again, nothing quite gets us into the Christmas spirit than gorging on baked goods and buying last minute handmade gifts for our parents.

The Market takes place in St Enoch Square from the 16th to the 23rd December, and will feature 50 adorable stalls.
Last year’s event showcased gifts ranging from scarfs, jewellery, cheese, chutney and churros. THINK OF THE CHURROS, PEOPLE.

Glasgow on Ice will be returning to George Square from November 27 – December 31, giving the public the chance to watch me falling on my a**e multiple times and in various combinations.

But I’m willing to put up with the pain considering how unabashedly cheery the whole event makes the city feel.

B) Hillhead Bookclub

Hillhead Bookclub is one of the downright coolest bars in the city.

Sitting snugly off Byres Road in the West End, the Bookclub ups its quirky aesthetic to the max, with cutesy vintage décor, ping pong tables and punch bowls served inside of gramophones.

This Christmas, Bookclub is embracing its eccentricity fully, with a turkey-free Christmas dinner menu, complete with a rather relieved looking turkey on the front cover.

The three-course Christmas lunch is priced at £20, making it a tempting offer for those wanting to try something different and embrace their inner quirky icon over the festive period.

The Bookclub will be serving craft beer, mulled wine, gramophone cocktails and delicious strawberry gin mojitos, so you’re spoiled for choice if you’re looking for a totally hip way to fuel your alcoholism.

www.hillheadbookclub.com

C) Oran Mor

Do you like Panto? Oh yes you d-…Look, just play along, okay? *sigh*… Oh yes you do!

Well, it doesn’t really matter; Oran Mor’s Christmas Panto isn’t that sort of panto anyway. It’s a cultured, adult panto of sorts.

The former cathedral is home to the now-famous ‘A Play, a Pie and a pint’, which gives audience members the chance to experience intimate performances of plays from some of the country’s best playrights, as well as newcomers to the trade.

This December, A Play, a Pie and a Pint will be performing The Emporer’s New Clothes, a wonderful festive retelling of the beloved fairytale, perhaps making it the best time for newbies to give the programme a shot.

It’s a really interesting alternative to the usual theatre trip, and the price isn’t too crummy either. (Ha.)

The Emperor’s new clothes will be showing from December 1-20.

www.oran-mor.co.uk

D)  The Arches

My mate Chester is a DJ. He’s a good looking DJ too. I’m perplexed as to why he hasn’t gotten a girlfriend over all the time he’s been in Glasgow, or why he just doesn’t seem interested in girls, or guys for that matter.

When asked about his romantic situation, he drunkely explained: “Maaate, there’s just too much good dance music. Why bother with girls?”

There are indeed loads of good clubs in Glasgow, but none quite as consistently brilliant as the Arches.

Particular highlights for this month include hotly-tipped house act Apollonia, Pressure’s Xmas Party featuring a three hour set from Sven Vath, and GBX New Year’s Eve party, which promises to end the year with a pretty spectacular rave.

www.thearches.co.uk/clubs

E) Nice ‘n Sleazy

Nice and Sleazy is one of the best bars on Sauchiehall street’s bustling strip, with tones of great tunes, cheap drink promos and a wonderfully sleazy atmosphere making the venue a regular stop for students across the city.

Calling Sleazy’s basement intimate would be an understatement; it’s claustrophobic when busy, but this raucous aesthetic fits the venue perfectly and makes for wonderfully sweaty and energetic gigging.

Sleazy’s are home to some of the city’s best gig bookers who focus on bringing their audience an eclectic array of talent, offering the stage to some of the boldest new acts around. The venue’s free Christmas showcase ‘Merry Christmas Ya Sleazy Animals’ is no exception.

The night features performances from Mountains Under Oceans, Seraph Sin, and Megalomatic, three sonically diverse rising acts that are all promising in their own right. We don’t blame you if you haven’t heard of them, but don’t worry, you’ll feel pretty cool if you pretend you do. It’s a free gig, so why miss out?

The gig takes place on the 19th. Get your grunge attire ready.