Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities to visit, particularly at Christmas time. I had been to the Christmas market before, but hadn't been in a few years, so when my mum found cheap flights form FlyBe, we decided we would go to Edinburgh for the day and get some Christmas shopping and to visit the Christmas market.
Because of the central location of the market, it is easy to get to. There are good public transport links, the Princes Street market is across the road from Waverley Station, and the airport buses also disembark there. There are also good bus links to the area. There is some limited parking available close by, but it is recommended you use public transport if you are attending the market. The St Andrew Square location is a short walk away from Princes Street, and is easy to locate due to the location of The Star Flyer.
The market is open from 10am to 10pm daily and it is free to walk around. The market is spread over two locations St Andrew Square and East Princes Street Gardens, although we only really walked around the Princes Street location. It is open every day except Christmas Day and is open until the 5th January.
Some of the attractions at the Christmas Market include:
The Star Flyer - this is a slightly scary looking ride, which reminded me of an extreme version of the chairoplanes rides that I loved as a child. It is a 60m high ride, which spins you around giving panoramic views of the city and beyond, but I wasn't brave enough to go on the ride! It is located at St Andrew Square and the ride lasts for approximately 3 - 4 minutes. It costs £7.50 for both adults and children over 1m tall.
The Big Wheel which contains 36 enclosed pods. We had considered going on the big wheel, but at a cost of £8 each, we decided against it. I am sure that at night it is lovely, but as we were there during the day, we decided to skip it.
An Ice Rink, which is located in Princes Street Gardens. It costs £8.50 per person for aprox 45 minutes skating. Hire of skates is included in that price, and Penguins for balance can be hired at an additional cost of £3 each.
The Christmas Tree maze and Santa's grotto. We didn't actually see these, as they are located further down the gardens than the stalls were. There is also a Santa Train which takes you around the maze, but again, we didn't see that. It costs £4 for a ride on the Santa train, same for the maze (though children under 4 can go free). It costs £5 per child to see Santa, though adults can go free, and this also includes the admission to the Christmas tree maze.
As with most Christmas markets, there are a food stalls, although I was slightly disappointed with the lack of variety of the stalls. There were a few German sausage stalls, a few crepe stalls and a few others, but most seemed to be serving similar foods. There were also some stalls selling craft items and decorations, though most didn't have an overly Christmas theme.
We were there early in the day, which I was glad of, as I found the layout slightly claustrophobic. Walkways between stalls seemed narrow, and the placement of attractions such as the big wheel and the ice skating rink dotted around randomly seemed to interrupt the flow somewhat. I'd imagine that when it got very busy in the market, it could be hard to navigate.
Prices are average for a Christmas Market, with food costing around £4 per item and drinks were a similar price. We didn't eat anything as nothing caught my eye. I was looking for doughnuts or churros but I didn't see any.
If you are in Edinburgh, I would recommend a wander around the market, particularly if, like me, you are there fairly early afternoon when it's not too busy. I don't think it's worth planning a trip to Edinburgh solely to visit the market, but if you are there for some Christmas shopping anyway, you may as well have a look around and sample some of the European delights. If you have children, I'm sure they would love it, but it could be an expensive day out, and I thought that because the Santa's grotto and maze were located down a hill, some people seemed to be struggling with buggies.
Check out https://edinburghschristmas.com/ for further information
Edinburgh, like many other cities up and down the UK hosts a continental market during the festive season, the city boasts two main markets with unique characters and they make an enjoyable trip for some unusual treats. The markets open in late November and are opened by the Lord Provost signaling a start to the festive period and they trade until Christmas Eve opening daily from 10am to 10pm.
The German market comprises around 30 small wooden huts on The Mound Precinct next to the National Gallery of Scotland. It sells a mixture of German food and drinks, sweets, wooden toys, Christmas decorations and ornamental goods.
The stalls are all manned by German men and women and I had always thought that the Germans were a rather humourless bunch but I'm delighted that this stereotype was shattered. The stallholders were all happy to chat with the customers and free samples were handed out in a very generous manner. There were two incidents which stood out in my mind; one vendor roared with laughter when my daughter tried to buy a pretzel by speaking in very clumsy German and spent ages talking to her and the vendor of a stall selling sweets and cakes gave the kids so many free bits of cake and chocolate that they could barely carry them all.
My favourite stalls sold gorgeous stained glass candle holders in unusual patterns so I bought a couple as a gift to myself. There was a wide range of beeswax candles and soaps, hand carved crystal decorations, jewellery and metal work as well as the wooden toys. The prices seemed fair for what were quality items and you can pick up some unusual gifts here.
There are several stalls selling food and drink here. I'm afraid I can't remember the German names for anything so I shall do my best to describe what I saw in English. There were numerous sausages for sale; unfortunately there were no English descriptions of what the sausage was like so I plumped for a pink one and the four year old for one like a hot dog. My pink sausage tasted remarkably like a Mattersons pork sausage so I was unimpressed by its ordinariness but the little one ate her hot dog happily. My daughter was very impressed by her huge baked pretzel and now wants to find a recipe to make them at home. Other food choices included a stall selling various hot chocolates, potato pancakes with apple sauce, various fried potato dishes, grilled meats and beers. Prices were very reasonable for the food and drink and many stalls also sold food to take away and cook at home and a range of beers.
The Highland market is located next door to the German market in East Princes Street Gardens and I was not impressed by the offerings here at all, anyone who has been to a farmers market in a Scottish town or city will recognise the format of overpriced food and crafts. The stallholders are a reserved bunch and will bleat on about how their produce is organic and locally produced in a manner that makes you want to reach for the turkey twizlers. They had the usual range of jams, oatcakes, meats, honey and cheeses at a price which will make your eyes water.
The craft stalls offer a range of Scottish made goods like jewellery or hand crafted wooden items or soaps. The biggest rip off has got to be the lavender bags, lavender grows like a weed and picking a few sprigs and sticking it in a fabric pocket and charging £3 for the resulting product is just ridiculous.
The food and drink here was the usual £5 for an Aberdeen Angus burger, £3 for a coffee in a paper cup but they did have things like hot toddies for sale.
There is also a small French market outside the St James centre. The huts just seem to take up space on a busy walkway with metal barriers providing a tiny walkway. There were only two stalls open when we visited one selling olives and another dried fruits.
The markets are ideally situated in the city centre a stone throw away from Waverley station and within a few minutes walk from the bus station. The backdrop of the Winter Wonderland with its ice rink and Edinburgh Castle make it a stunning place to visit. It is even better after dark, the place seems to come alive then and the Christmas lights are beautiful making it a truly magical experience.
Edinburgh is a brilliant city to visit during the festive period with a wide range of events in the festive calendar. The German market combines charm, fantastic goods for sale and a party like atmosphere so is a must see for any visitor to the city.
Around this time of year, Mrs P and myself have been known to visit one of the Christmas markets in Germany. So, it's nice that a German Christmas market has gone to the trouble of paying us a return visit.
Well, to be fair, they haven't gone to all that effort solely on our behalf, that would just be ridiculous. But the fact of the matter is, Edinburgh plays host to its very own, authentic GCM thereby saving us the expense of a flight to the continent. It could be said that we are also spared the time-consuming journey, but not by anyone who has ever tried to drive into, and park in, central Edinburgh - it's only marginally quicker than making your way to Frankfurt!
Of course, you could always let the train take the strain, and arrive in the city in what is probably the best way, climbing up to Princes St from the subterranean, Waverley Station.
Imagine if you will, climbing the steps from a cold and draughty railway terminus and making your way through the glitter and sparkle of the Princes Mall to emerge, bleary-eyed on the thoroughfare called Waverley bridge.
What do you see?
To your left rise the medieval skyscrapers of the Old Town winding their rickety way up towards the High Street; to your right lies Princes St. - a wide boulevard housing most, if not all, of the major chain stores. It's impossible to miss the gothic facade of Jenners, the world's oldest independent department store, but you might, because your eye could be distracted by another imposing gothic building - The Scott Monument - the huge tower dedicated to the author which dominates the south side of Princes St.
Straight ahead, there's nothing much to report - save the neo-classical grandeur of the buildings housing the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy of Fine Arts - because the area between Princes St and the Old Town is given over to parkland.
That's right, slap bang in
the middle of Edinburgh is a park - East, and West, Princes St Gardens.
Oh, nearly forgot, towering above this elegant shopping boulevard, the maze of narrow closes, railway station and formal gardens and monuments, is a bloody great, sheer-faced, volcanic rock with a castle perched precariously atop.
Granted, it's not quite as dramatic as approaching New York on a cruise-liner, but we like to think it's not too bad.
Of course, that's what it normally looks like. But add a gi-normous Christmas tree (which is annually gifted by the people of Hordaland, Norway), the festive lights along Princes St and in the Gardens, the largest ferris Wheel in the UK spinning merrily next to the Scott Monument, fairgrounds and various other brightly-lit attractions, and it lends a certain magic to an otherwise 'drab' vista.
Almost everyone is familiar with Edinburgh's Hogmanay, a 4-day-long extravaganza of celebration, events, and general, all-round partying, but the Capital Christmas might not be quite so well-known. I'm here to change all that.
The season begins with a blaze of colour when, at 5.30pm on 27 November, the Festive Lights are switched on. This year, for the first time, the Lights, Edinburgh Wheel, Winter Wonderland and the Traditional German Christmas Market all opened simultaneously.
Also for first time this year, West Princes Street Gardens will be the scene of some festive frivolity. Santa and his reindeer will re-locate from the slightly warmer North Pole and squat in the Gardens from 12 to 21 December. As well a circus, just in case there's not enough to keep the kids amused.
It's a nice alternative to the hustle and bustle of the shops on Princes St., and a welcome diversion to take a wander through the Gardens at any time of the year, but with the attractions which make their home there at this time of year, it can be even better.
Next to the Wheel, and
around the base of the Scott Monument, is where you'll find the market. It isn't as large as the ones you'll find in Germany, but then it's not in Germany so that's besides the point. The stall-holders ARE German though, but any I spoke with had a good command of the English language - which is more than can be said for many of the locals!
There are stalls selling wooden toys, crystals, jewellery, crazy hats, model houses, knick-knacks and bric-a-brac and bits-n-bobs, confectionery and cakes, all sorts of Christmas decorations and in fact everything that you would expect to find at a Christmas market.
Food's not a problem either (as long as you like sausages!) with lots of different stalls offering a variety of traditional German fare (most of which I can hardly pronounce, let alone spell), including a plethora of outlets for that most German of German Christmas traditions, Glühwein. A warm mug of mulled wine is just the ticket on a miserably chilly December morning/evening...especially wi' a tottie wee dod o' shortbreid tae dunk.
Not to be outdone, part of the market is occupied by stalls selling merchandise with a more Scottish orientation - knitwear, crafts, and local foodstuffs, for example.
Where else can you buy organic haggis and sauerkraut at the same time?
The market is situated at street level in the upper gardens while down below, lies Winter Wonderland.
This consists of the UK's largest outdoor ice-rink and a fairground which is for the younger members of the family - no white-knuckle rides here. There's a bar/restaurant and stalls selling hot-dogs, crepes and goodness knows what else.
For me, an excursion to the Gardens is hardly a day-out. I'm not interested in the fairground, the ice-rink, or sitting on Santa's knee, but I do like German Christmas Markets, and it's a nice place just to stand around, sipping a Glühwein, munching a bratwürst, soak
ing up the atmosphere, and wondering where I can get my hands on a beer-stein suitably filled.
Opening hours, prices:
The Edinburgh Wheel
27 Nov until 4 Jan, 10am-10pm.
£2 for adults, £1.50 for children.
Traditional German Christmas Market
27 Nov until 24 Dec 10am-8pm
Robert Brothers Circus
12 Dec until 21 Dec, 10am-6pm.
27 Nov until 4 Jan, 10am-8pm (Thurs-Sat 10pm)
£6 (concessions available)
Thanks for reading