This is our very first December in Edinburgh, and we’ve been looking forward to it all year. It’s always fun to experience the holidays in a new culture. Locals have been talking up the Christmas markets (usually followed by an expectation-managing “But I’m sure it’s nothing like what you had in Germany.”). Christmas goodies started appearing on shop shelves as early as October, making us wonder what new and exciting things we’d get to eat this season. Figgy pudding, perhaps?
Coming from Munich, one of the best Christmas-market cities in the world, our expectations for Edinburgh were low. This city has so many other things going for it, it really has no need to compete in this arena. As it turns out, we were pleasantly surprised by Edinburgh’s Christmas markets. The glühwein is drinkable, the mood is festive. We haven’t found any amazing things to eat there yet, but research is ongoing.
Sunset comes at around 3:30pm in Edinburgh these days, so it’s nice to have the twinkling lights of the markets to brighten up the mood in the city center. (I have never been so excited for the winter solstice as I was this year – bring on the longer days.) The markets are along Princes Street, on the Mound, and at St. Andrew’s Square. There’s an ice skating rink and a couple rides. The big ferris wheel and tall swingy ride are regularly closed due to inclement weather, but they seem to attract plenty of riders when they’re not.
Our main negative comment on the Edinburgh Christmas market has to do with the uniformity of the offerings. It’s disappointing that most of the Christmas market huts are run by larger concerns, rather than being independent vendors. It’s lame to find the exact same offerings at each drink stand, for example. Searching out the very best glühwein hut (a time-honored Christmas tradition) is pointless when they are all serving the exact same thing.
Edinburgh’s Christmas markets started the last weekend in November and continue until January 5th. I like this late closing date compared to Germany, where most markets end on Christmas Eve. What better way to fill the week between Christmas and New Year than with more Christmas marketing?
If you’re looking to plan a Christmas-market-centered trip next winter, I’d still point you firmly in the direction of Germany, but if you happen to be bouncing around the UK in December, you could do worse than a visit to Edinburgh.