And when we say unmissable, we mean you should probably get round to seeing them at some point - helpfully, several of them carry on for weeks and months yet. If we had to urge you prioritise, we'd recommend Sven Werner's Station Stories (which only runs Wed-Sat), Jelly & Gin's Wolf & Watch on Thursday, eagleowl's 'Dune: The Musical' on Friday, John Cleese on Saturday. Oh, and Highlife at In Deep on Friday. Actually, schedule in 'Steamboat Bill Jr' as well. And... oh, we give up. Just sort your own diary out, yeah?
Things to do
An Evening with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Kenton Cool, Olly Hicks and Ben Fogle, The Hub, Mon Dec 8
The four adventurers gather to discuss their various careers and expeditions, with many a hair-raising tale thrown in, we'd wager.
Sven Werner: Station Stories, Wavereley Station, Wed Dec 10-Sat Dec 13
Enjoy a free Victoriana-style installation before or after your journey, as Theatre Cryptic’s Sven Werner – together with his team of costumed, in-character assistants – guide you through a world of magical miniatures to celebrate the Year of Homecoming 2014.
Summerhall Christmas Market, Summerhall, Sun Dec 14
Our favourite Edinburgh-based multi-arts venue invites some of the city’s finest independent makers and crafters to sell their wares alongside those tasteful Summerhall residents, Barney’s Beer and Pickering’s Gin.
Ian Rankin: The Beat Goes On, Blackwell’s, Thu Dec 11
Scotland's foremost proponent of tartan noir launches a new short story selection featuring his greatest creation, Inspector Rebus.
Edinburgh’s Christmas, City Centre, until Sun Jan 4
Three Christmas markets, an ice rink apiece in St Andrew Square and Princes Street and a fully operational Santa Land now complement the iconic Big Wheel at the capital's annual festive festival, with numerous shows and performances into the evening.
Game Masters, National Museum of Scotland, until Mon Apr 20
Giving the museum an atmosphere of arcade excitement, 'Game Masters' celebrates over 30 years of video gaming history, including the work of Peter Molyneux ('Minecraft'), Warren Spector ('Deus Ex'), Tim Schafer ('Grim Fandango') and Hideo Kojima ('Metal Gear Solid').
Theatre & Dance
The Devil Masters, Traverse Theatre, Sat Dec 6-Wed Dec 24
Surreal black comedy in which an upper-middle class couple - both working in the legal profession - enter into tense negotiations when an intruder breaks into their home.
Dune: The Musical, Pilrig St Paul’s Church, Fri Dec 12
Irregular Owl Movements (aka the electronica wing of post-folkies eagleowl) stage their first ever panto: a musical adaptation of David Lynch's space opera. There's also musical support from Prehistoric Friends and special guests. Probably not Sting though.
The BFG, Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat 3 Jan
The Lyceum’s Christmas show this year is a restaging of Roald Dahl’s gruesome fairytale concerning plucky orphans, man-eating giants and stinky snozzcumbers.
Scottish Ballet’s The Nutcracker, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Sat Dec 13-Sat Jan 3
A traditional Christmas highlight, 'The Nutcracker' (as choreographed by company founder Peter Darrell) is one of the biggest guns in the Scottish Ballet armoury. This year's edition features sets from Olivier Award-winning designer Lez Brotherston, as young Clara dreams her way through adventures with the Nutcracker Prince and the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Stick Man, St Andrew Square, until Sun Jan 4
Julia Donaldson’s story of a twiggy hero attempting to return home to the family tree is adapted for the stage by children’s theatre company Scamp (who previously proved their book adaptation chops with Michael Morpurgo's ‘Private Peaceful’).
Wicked, The Edinburgh Playhouse, until Sat Jan 10
The hit West End musical is finally on tour around the UK, letting Edinburgh’s theatre-goers in on the origin story of the Wicked Witch of the West.
Aladdin, King’s Theatre, until Sun Jan 18
In Edinburgh’s pantomime season, this is the grand daddy (or dame). Panto pros Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and the villainous Grant Stott (boo hiss!) are the ones rubbing the lamp this year, with 3D special effects now a standard part of the bargain.
Hardeep’s Charity Night for Food Banks, The Stand, Tue 9 Dec
Dylan Moran and Janey Godley join Hardeep Singh Kohli for a night of kind-spirited comedy, where the entry fee is a bag full of shopping for those less fortunate. Check out The Stand website for a suggested list of contents.
John Cleese: So Anyway, EICC, Sat Dec 13
The actor, writer and comedian launches his latest book with an autobiographical show covering everything from his childhood first performance to the world of Monty Python.
POP Maskulinity, Gayfield Creative Spaces, until Thu Dec 11
Free group show exploring the modern image of masculinity, curated by the Polish Contemporary Art Organisation.
Generation: 25 Years of Contemporary Scottish Art, Scottish National Galleries, until Sun Jan 25
The nationwide Generation project, which celebrates the last quarter-century of Scottish visual art, rumbles on with exhibitions and installations at all three of Edinburgh’s National Galleries. We’re particularly impressed with the fantastic show at Modern Art One, which features works by Ross Sinclair, Graham Fagen, Douglas Gordon, Alison Watt and Charles Avery.
Chloe Dewe Mathews: Shot at Dawn, Stills Gallery, until Sun Jan 25
Catch this evocative photography exhibition, which captures landscapes of WWI execution sites in the modern day, before it heads down south to the Tate.
RSA Open, Royal Scottish Academy, until Tue Jan 20
It’s time again for the Royal Scottish Academy’s always essential Open exhibition, bringing together contemporary artists from across Scotland and beyond.
Christopher Orr: The Beguiled Eye, Talbot Rice Gallery, until Sat Feb 14
There's a contrast of style and content in this exhibition, as Orr uses the artistic grammar of the Old Masters to depict anachronistic scenes from 1950s postcards and National Geographic magazines, overlaying the whole with a sinister, spectral element.
Gap in the Air: A Festival of Sonic Art, Talbot Rice Gallery, until Sat Feb 14
Making fantastic use of William Playfair’s domed Georgian Gallery design, this series showcases sonic art in one of the city’s most acoustically-inclined galleries. The season kicks of with Disinformation’s sine wave installation ‘The Analysis of Beauty’.
Stan Douglas, Fruitmarket Gallery, until Sun Feb 15
Exhibition of the Canadian artist's noirish film, video and photography works that explore the junction between history and memory.
BP Portrait Award, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, until Sun Apr 12
Prestigious international portraiture exhibition, showcasing selected entries in addition Thomas Ganter’s winning painting of a homeless German windscreen washer.
Tony Conrad: Invented Acoustical Tools, Inverleith House, until Sun Jan 18
Marking his debut solo appearance in the UK, this exhibition brings together several of the American artist’s musical instruments, as well as screening his 1966 film ‘The Flicker’. With a performance by Luke Fowler and Lee Patterson on Sun Dec 14.
Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse: Ponte City, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, until Sun Apr 26
The titular 54-storey residential block in Johannesburg, South Africa was originally built as an upmarket living space for white residents in the 1970s. Post-apartheid, and following a failed renovation, the crumbling monolith is now home to a large number of immigrants from neighbouring African nations this documentary photography exhibition opens a window into their lives.
Music & Nightlife
Juice, Sneaky Pete’s, Thu Dec 4 & Thu Dec 11
Sneaky's resident guest-snaring extravaganza celebrates part two of its birthday celebrations with Dutch house maestro Tom Trago.
In Deep, Sneaky Pete’s, Fri Dec 12
It's a globe-straddling world dance night at In Deep this Friday, with Highlife's Auntie Flo and Esa on the decks.
Vasquez, Sneaky Pete’s, Fri Dec 12
Intelligent, polyrhythmic riffola from the Edinburgh three-piece, with support from fellow travellers Alpha Male Tea Party, Cleft and Britney.
The Sculpture Party, ECA, Fri Dec 12
Annual bash thrown by the ECA's Sculpture Department, this year featuring No Globe, Night of the Jaguar, Tigerbeat, Hi and Saberhägen, Telfort, Dan Juice, Zzzap, Percy Main Social Club and DJ Yves.
Hot Dub Time Machine, St Andrew Square, Wed Dec 10-Wed Dec 17
DJ Tom Loud returns to the site of previous Fringe successes with his decades-spanning, crowd pleasing, audio-visual disco party.
Kid Canaveral’s Christmas Baubles, Portobello Town Hall, Sat Dec 13
The Edinburgh indie-pop quartet host their fifth annual festive fling, this year featuring Paws, Sweet Baboo, The Pictish Trail, Hector Bizerk, Randolph's Leap, Syneasthete, The Spook School and Ibibio Sound Machine, not forgetting Kid Canaveral themselves.
Watch & Wolf: Gremlins, Scottish National Gallery, Thu Dec 11
Edinburgh food adventurers Jelly & Gin add a new dimension to the world of film-watching, by serving up food you eat along with the characters on-screen. On Thursday it’s Gremlins – we reckon you should expect popcorn, gingerbread men and a suspicious-looking smoothie.
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, from Fri Dec 12
Whether or not you feel Peter Jackson was justified in splitting 'The Hobbit' into three movies, you can't argue with the director's skill at bringing the world of Middle Earth to life. Relish what's likely to be his final sojourn there (until someone pitches him 'The Silmarillion'). [cameo hosting trilogy on thurs]
Steamboat Bill Jr, Royal Botanic Gardens, Fri Dec 12
Buster Keaton's famous silent comedy - the one where he survives a house collapse by standing under a conveniently placed window - gets the live re-score treatment at the Botanics from musicians Jane Gardner (piano), Roddy Long (violin) and Hazel Morrison (percussion).