A Very Edinburgh Christmas Market

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Edinburgh’s Christmas Market (aka the Edinburgh Winter Festival) is a lot like any European Christmas market.

If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Except, not really.

In our experience, what sets one Christmas Market apart from another is its use of space, the way it infuses into a city, curling along its thoroughfares and taking over its plazas and squares or the way it sets itself apart, becoming a destination all its own.

(There’s also slightly different food, drink, and bric-a-brac, typically with localized flair, but it’s really the space that sells it.)

That’s what makes Edinburgh’s Christmas Market such a special one.

I’ve already gone weepy over my love for this city’s skyline, and the Edinburgh Christmas Market uses it to some of its most dramatic effect.

Edinburgh Christmas Market In Pictures

And now presenting Edinburgh’s Xmas Market in full color on a very dark and stormy night –

(Taken with a manual Samsung point-and-shoot that impressed the hell out of me, and I don’t know why I don’t still have.)

Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh decorated for the holidays. To the right, a small, temporary train tunnel is lighted bright blue with a small track running through it. Behind that, shrubbery decked out in white lights leads to the red houses of Santa's Village. Slightly elevated above that on the left is a line of red-topped vendor stalls and the large ferris wheel lighted in blue sits behind it. In the far distance, a striking building is lighted in light green and gold.
Princes Street Gardens toward Princes St.
White lights fill the shrubbery and blue and green lighted trees stand behind. Child-sized lighted buildings sit to the left, as behind the historic Bank of Scotland building with its gold-lit exterior and green dome rises on a hill above it.
Princes Street Gardens with the Bank of Scotland Building.
The distinctive outline of Old Town Edinburgh looms in the background over Santa Land in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens. From left to right, the green dome of the Bank of Scotland, a spire, and the battlements of a medieval building lead on to Edinburgh Castle. At the front left, a green-lit weeping willow dominates, while on the right, a brightly-lit slide with a ball on top dominates Santa's playland.
Old Town looms above Santa Land.
Red-roofed Christmas market stalls line the walkway through Princes Street Gardens. White-lit star decorations rise between them. People fill the walkway. Behind the stalls, the naked-branched trees are lighted in green as they stand against a dark sky.
Stalls in Princes Street Gardens

I don’t know how they strike you, but these pictures really do capture the magic for me.

The Old Town towering in a stormy sky above (Picture 3). Princes Street Gardens in its holiday finest (Pictures 1 & 2).

At ground level, of course, you’ll find all of your favorite Christmas market things. The last picture is just the path TO the market.

To the far right, you can see the start of the main part of the market, where the stalls and people are wedged in like cheap toys in a Christmas stocking.

(Well, not wedged in too much. We’ve experienced THAT at other Christmas markets. By comparison, Edinburgh’s market is actually pretty comfortable.)

So, there is plenty to see, eat, drink, and buy at the market in Edinburgh. But my favorite part of this market is just how striking its imagery is.

We’ve been to a number of Christmas markets in different parts of Europe now – right around a dozen now, I think? – and while many of them have been impressive, I can’t think of one that rivals Edinburgh in terms of sheer backdrop.

Just, honestly, why is it so lovely?

Edinburgh Christmas Market Dates

Edinburgh’s Christmas Market typically runs from the last weekend in November through the first few days of January.

Edinburgh Christmas Market Times

The times of the Edinburgh market vary slightly toward the end – around Christmas, Boxing Day & New Year’s – but, for most of the season, the main market (the one in Princes Street Gardens) runs from 10 am – 10 pm.

Edinburgh Christmas Market Locations

The bulk of Edinburgh’s Christmas Market is located in Princes Street Gardens, as shown in the pictures above.

But there’s and offshoot of the market on George Street and into St. Andrew Square.

Princes Street is where you’ll find the majority of the stalls and Santa hanging out.

George Street is where you’ll find the ice skating rink and some additional rides.

St. Andrew Square was home to all the holiday things in New Town when we were there, along with the Paradiso Spielgeltent where we saw the circus cabaret Scotch and Soda.

The smaller holiday set-up in St. Andrew Square. To the left, a tall old-school slide with a red and gold diamond pattern stands. Further back to the right, a carousel is lighted, and to the right stands the ice skating rink and look-over bridge built above it.
St. Andrew Square
The Paradiso Spielgeltent in St. Andrew Square. The "tent" is actually a solid-fronted structure, maroon and purple in color with a gold design in the center right above the open doorway into the venue. Murals fill the Paradiso front, and a list of the acts appearing in the tent is painted on the right side of the door.
Paradiso Spielgeltent

Does the Edinburgh Christmas Market cost anything?

Not just to enter it, no.

But there are plenty of things you can pay to do, including holiday performances (the Paradiso Spielgeltent still lives in St. Andrew Square during the holidays), ice skating, and rides.

Plus all the food and drink you’re bound to want to consume.

Christmas Around Edinburgh

To finish things off, here are a couple of random shots taken in Edinburgh during the holiday season.

The annual lighting of Market Street (Pretty sure it was Market Street. It was definitely a lighting.)

Edinburgh Cmas white light tree

And a restaurant we walked by that did Christmas up right.

Edinburgh Cmas decor

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