A 115ft long Chinese dragon is not something I ever thought we would be able to see at Edinburgh Zoo, which has been transformed into an awe-inspiring display of light and colour for their Giant Lanterns of China event.

So during our trip to Edinburgh we took a visit to this very special and unique event at Edinburgh Zoo with our children (Chloe 9 and Holly 6) and we are so glad we did.

This is our review of the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo.

The Giant Lanterns of China event opens shortly after the zoo closes at 4pm. We braved the cold snowy conditions and excitedly waited for our 4:30 time slot to enter the attraction that offers glowing lights and a slice of Chinese culture.

The light display of 20,000 LED lights has been made with over 16,000 metres of silk created by a highly talented team of Chinese artists from Sichaun province the birth place of Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas.

Lantern festivals have been dating back over 2000 years in China but this is the first time that such an event has been held at Edinburgh Zoo, in fact it’s the largest event of its kind in Scotland. The only similar event that we could think of that could rival this is the Festival of Light at Longleat, Somerset.

We set off through the impressive Chinese Lantern corridor with traditional red Chinese lanterns on our mile-long wintery trail that led us through three themes: China, Edinburgh Zoo and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) worldwide animal conservation work.

What captures your attention is just how impressive these beautiful creations are as you are surrounded by a rainbow of colour.

On our journey through this amazing spectacular of 450 lanterns we came across the re-creation of animals that you would find at the zoo such as flamingos, zebras, lions and it’s most famous resident the iconic giant panda in their natural habitat a bamboo forest.

The girls were transfixed by the lanterns as we wandered around the zoo and were constantly asking questions which showed that they were really enjoying their evening out. Sadly we didn’t see any of the actual animals as they were all inside keeping warm.

The displays were so impressive it was hard to believe that these magnificent creations were actually lanterns which really come to life in the darkness. Each lantern was full of symbolism and meaning and alongside each lantern were information boards featuring key facts which were suitable and engaging for all ages.

Sensible tip – Edinburgh Zoo is a built into a hillside, so it is strongly advised that you wear comfortable shoes.

There was something around each and every corner that our snow covered trail led us to, including the zoo’s famous penguin parade which has been recreated into a stunning lantern display.

Along over 200 large scale animal themed lanterns there was so much to see with detailed creations of flowers, insects and Chinese heritage symbols. The themed ambient background music throughout the event just added to the unique atmosphere.

During the evening were performances by Chinese acrobats which ran at hour intervals at the outdoor theatre. Our favourite act was the dramatic performance from the Face Changer, using illusion and dramatic costume in this enchanting performance.

We were all enthralled by the light creations and amongst the impressive displays were the captivating Temple of Heaven which dominated the darkened sky and a gigantic 19ft high and 115ft long Chinese dragon, guarding the zoo.

It was in this section of the event where we discovered our birth sign based on the Chinese Zodiac. This provided lots of laughs as we read the descriptions to see if they matched our personalities!

We finished off the evening at the Chinese marketplace, which the girls in particular loved browsing through the authentic hand-crafted Chinese gifts. Inspired from learning their animal sign from the Chinese zodiac they chose a handcrafted necklace containing their animal sign and their names expertly written on a single grain of rice.

We left as we entered through the Chinese lantern corridor with the lanterns swaying majestically in the wind.


If you are visiting Edinburgh this winter, then a visit to The Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo should definitely be on your to-do list. It was only by chance that we heard about the event, but are so glad we visited.  If you have been thinking about going to this event, don’t think any longer just book and visit – it is a magical experience.

The Giant Lanterns of China will light up Edinburgh Zoo for 50 nights until the 25th February.

Buy your tickets in advance online from the Edinburgh Zoo website. I would recommend booking for the 4:30 timeslot and go around the event when crowd levels are lower.

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1 Comment
  1. Much appreciated, especially the active involvement of the children in the review. Superb. We spent an evening , an extremely cold but dry one one, there with our grandchildren a few days before Christmas. It was indeed a memorable experience which enthralled us all form 4yrs to 75!
    Thank you for sharing your experience so competently

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