For as long as I can remember, Edinburgh’s Christmas has been something of a tradition in this city. Every year, during the month of December, the normally empty courtyard beside the Scottish National Gallery becomes a charming and whimsical European style market, with more craft stalls and rides expanding down to Waverley Station.
However, last year the Christmas events were taken over by Underbelly, and as a result the operation has “snowballed” (see what I did there?!) into a huge funfair/market/entertainment extravaganza that covers most of East Princes Street and St Andrews Square. If you’re planning on making a visit, put aside at least a couple of hours to enjoy everything there is on offer.
The market stalls
My favourite part of Edinburgh’s Christmas is the huge variety of market stalls, a perfect place to find some unique Christmas gifts. The merchants come from all over the world, however this year I spotted presence from some local businesses (such as Mimi’s Bakehouse) which makes me very happy indeed. 🙂
So what kind of gifts are you likely to find here? Well, for sentimental types you can get personalised Christmas decorations or toys for kids while you wait. Decorations are around £10, but it’s a small price to pay for something that will be treasured for years to come.
For foodies, there are lots of stalls to take your fancy. I always stock up on the flavoured ground coffee every year, with flavours including fudge, hazelnut, caramel, chocolate and more. You’ll know when you’re coming up close to that stall – your nose won’t let you miss it!
There’s also a few cheese stalls this year, which have some very interesting varieties available. I bought some sticky toffee cheese this time around, which sounds a bit odd but is actually really tasty!
We also have the traditional German style stalls, which sell cute little wooden toys, nutcrackers and carousels. Plus, with it being Scotland in the middle of winter, there’s lots of merchants selling cosy, scarves, hats and gloves – perfect if you are feeling the chill that day!
Food at Edinburgh’s Christmas
If the market stalls are my favourite part of Edinburgh’s Christmas – then the grub on offer comes a close second! A trip to the Christmas Market just wouldn’t be the same without a bratwurst in one hand and a glühwein in the other, all the while remembering to make room for a pudding of sugar donuts with a melted Nutella afterwards – delish!
There’s a huge range of comfort food available at Edinburgh’s Christmas, from savouries such as burgers, bratwurst and chips to sweet treats like crepes, donuts and waffles. There’s also lots of warming drinks to clutch on to as you go around the markets, from hot chocolate to glühwein and mulled cider. Some even come in a proper mug – just remember to return it afterwards!
The Star Flyer
Not for the faint hearted, the Flyer rides up 60 metres into the sky, making for awesome views – as long as you keep your eyes firmly on the horizon and don’t look down!
I’ve not been able to try the ride yet at time of writing, but I’m trying to persuade at least one of my friends to be brave enough and come on with me – I’m sure I’ll manage to twist someone’s arm before the season is out…
The Star Flyer costs £8 for a full price ticket – but remember you get a 20% discount if you live in an EH postcode.
The Big Wheel
If you want to see the stunning panoramic views but don’t fancy getting thrown over the rooftops, there is a slightly less daunting alternative right next door. The Big Wheel has always been the iconic cornerstone of Edinburgh’s Christmas, but last year it got a bit of an overhaul with a new location and new fancy pods (that are now fully enclosed and sheltered from the elements – thank heavens for that!).
The views are absolutely exceptional, and you get a wee bit of commentary too. Tickets are £9 for a full price entry but remember to take advantage of that 20% discount if you can!
Other rides and shows
The Star Flyer and Big Wheel are the two main rides at Edinburgh Christmas, however there are heaps more attractions to get your teeth into.
There are two ice skating rinks this year: one small one in Princes Street Gardens and, new for 2014, a large donut shaped one that takes up most of St Andrews Square. I’d love to have a go but unfortunately I’m not too steady on my feet!
For the little ones, there is a special area in Princes Street Gardens with lots of rides and attractions for kids, including Santa’s Grotto, the Christmas tree maze and the impressive looking ‘Ice Dragon’ – which I was quite tempted to go on myself!
The Spiegeltent makes a welcome return for the festive season in St Andrew’s Square, and will play host to lots of shows over the next few weeks – highlights include Briefs: The Second Coming and Stick Man – Live on Stage. I’m also eyeing up tickets for Hot Dub Time Machine – a surefire winner for the Christmas party season.
So if you’re wondering if Edinburgh is a good Christmas destination, the answer is a resounding yes. With all the rides and bright lights of Edinburgh’s Christmas as well as some cool independent shopping boutiques hidden in the backstreets, Edinburgh is the perfect location for a festive weekend.
You’ll find Edinburgh’s Christmas in East Princes Street Gardens and St Andrews Square, which are served by pretty much all city centre bus routes.