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Edinburgh Christmas Market – a guide for visiting in 2023

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Published by Finn Hayden 

There are so many Christmas markets held across Europe at this time of year, but Edinburgh Christmas Market is consistently listed as one of the best to attend. Not only is it always full of great stalls and attractions, but it's also based in a beautiful city which feels like it was made for Christmas time. We wanted to highlight this market and provide a guide specifically for anyone visiting the 2023 Edinburgh Christmas Market, so we paid the market a visit to see what was happening there this year and what is different from last year.  Let's get into the guide:

Where is the market located?

The market is always located in East Princes St Gardens, right in the centre of the city. If you're trying to reach the market from elsewhere in Edinburgh, you've got a few options - firstly, walking is always a good way to get around the city, and by foot is often the quickest way to reach the centre of town during the busy Christmas period when traffic is heavy. If you're travelling from further afield and you need to take public transport, the trams stop just along from the market and are especially useful for anyone coming from the airport.

FireShot Capture 1815 - East Princes Street Gardens - Google Maps - www.google.com

You'll find some other festivities at the Western end of Princes St (pictured), including a few food stalls and some smaller fairground rides which are ideal for young children who want to get involved in the fun but can't ride the Ferris wheel.

To access this part of the Christmas fun, you're probably better to walk along Princes St rather than walk through the gardens as it'll be much quicker!

On a clear night, the views are quite hauntingly beautiful. The contrast of the festivities with gothic historical buildings peering out from the trees is quite something.

If you start here, it is easy to walk on the path towards the main part of the Christmas Market on the eastern end of Princes street across from Waverley Train Station.

Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens Christmas Market
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This map found on the Eastern side of the ice rink on George St is quite helpful to look at if you're not sure where to head:

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How do you get into the market in 2023?

For any other year that we've been to the market, the entrance has always been in the same place - right next to the Scottish National Gallery on Princes St. But for 2023, even though the big entrance is in this usual place (pictured on the right), we were actually instructed to walk a different entrance down Princes St all the way to Waverley Bridge.
This shouldn't take you any more than 5 minutes, but be prepared for very busy streets as there are bus stops along this road too, and you might well encounter a large queue when you reach Waverley Bridge as the market is always busy.
Edinburgh Christmas Market
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What is there to see and do at the Edinburgh Christmas Market for 2023?

There is a lot to see and do at the Edinburgh Christmas market and around the rest of the city during Christmas, here are some of the highlights:

Visit the stalls

This year you've got more than 80 stalls to explore at the Christmas Market, so there is plenty to see and do. Despite being based in Scotland, the Christmas market in Edinburgh is always mostly made up of German-inspired stalls.
This means there is always plenty of booze and meat, which is great for some people but not everybody's cup of tea! Luckily there were a few vegan and vegetarian options too, including pretzels (which were delicious) and Lebkuchen which is a classic biscuit. The mulled wine is always our go-to - it's expensive (we paid £6 for a small cup), but very warming and tastes lovely.
Otherwise, you can find everything from jewellery to art and handmade Christmas cards which make for ideal gifts. Other food and drink you'll find include hot chocolate and whisky.
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See the Castle Lights Show

Over the Christmas period, Edinburgh castle has organised a light show that seems to entertain tourists and adds to the festive mood.
Not only is the castle illuminated with bright beams of coloured light, but animations of crowns, kings, swords and icons are cast across the face of the castle.
If you're near the castle, it is worth a look.
Edinburgh Castle Lights

Ride the Helter Skelter

The Helter Skelter forms part of the smaller section of the Christmas Market, and as you can see from the image it has a lovely old-school feel to it which is really photogenic (especially at night). A ticket for this will cost you £3 which is a little bit steep, but we do find that kids are generally very happy with the experience and if it keeps the young ones happy for 15 minutes, it's worth it!
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Ride the Ferris Wheel

For those of you who don't mind heights and want to enjoy amazing views of the city, the Ferris Wheel (officially called the Forth One Big Wheel) is a must-do. As well as the views, a recording is played in each pod as you ride, describing everything you can see out the window. The Ferris Wheel is open every day between 10am and 10pm, and ticket prices start at £10 per person.
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Ride the swing ride

Alongside the usual Ferris Wheel at Edinburgh's Christmas Market, another swing ride has been added for 2023. As you can see from the picture we took, this ride is actually taller than the Scotti Monument, and we've never seen anything quite as daring as this ride at the Edinburgh Christmas Market. It looks like loads of fun but it's pretty fast, very high, and definitely one for the daredevils!
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Visit some of the other parts of the city

One of the great things about Christmas in Edinburgh is that most of the city centre gets involved in the festive fun. For 2023, a visit to St Andrew Square Gardens is highly recommended if you're looking for some really impressive Christmas lights - not only are there plenty of lights and decorations throughout the gardens, but as you can see from the picture Melville monument is also lit up which is very impressive to see up close. Other nice parts of the city centre to visit during the Christmas period include George St and the Royal Mile.

This year, there is also a very nice 'Edinburgh' sign (pictured here) which is just crying out for a photo! You'll find it at The Mound heading up towards the Royal Mile.

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Have a shot on the ice rink & the carousel

Even if you're not hugely into ice skating, having a shot on the ice rink is highly recommended. First of all, the music is always fun and we love the mirror balls that they've added for 2023.  But also, there is a bar and there, and it's actually pretty reasonably priced. So if your partner or kids want to skate but you don't fancy it, you can grab a stool at the bar and watch them from a safe distance while you enjoy a drink. Lovely!

 

You'll find the ice rink at the Western end of George St. The entrance is a little bit odd, because it isn't very well signposted (we wanted to take a photo of a nice big entrance sign for this guide, but we couldn't find anything), so you could easily walk past it without realising it's there. The best thing to do is to look out for the staff working there, who were all wearing Lidl t-shirts when we went (the ice rink is sponsored by Lidl this year and is technically called 'Lidl on Ice').

 

Tickets start at £10 per person, and last entry is at 9pm.
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Santa Land

Santa Land forms part of the Christmas festivities for the younger kids in the West Princes Street Gardens - here you'll find a number of things to see and do, including rides suitable for smaller children and food stalls. But the real highlights in this part of Edinburgh's Christmas are the Santa's Grotto and the Christmas Tree Maze. When you visit Santa, you'll get a chance to speak to him (very exciting) or even listen to a story that he is telling. There are also crafting sessions held here at the Elf Workshop, which is lots of fun for young kids to get involved in. You need to book a set 25-minute time slot for this and there is a smalll charge.
 
The Christmas Tree Maze is also lots of fun - it's small but definitely quite tricky to navigate as the trees are lit up and quite tall. Adult supervision definitely needed for this!
 
As you can see from the image here, Santa Land is open until the 3rd of January 2023 and is open until 9pm every day of the week.
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What should you be aware of before visiting the Edinburgh Christmas Market?

The main thing to be aware of when visiting Edinburgh Christmas Market is that the city is very very busy. If you're planning to drive around the centre then you'll be hugely limited as to where you can park - as you can see from the image here, there are restrictions in many parts of Edinburgh (this was on George St).

 

We also mentioned the slightly different entrance for this year than what we were used to - this was a little annoying as we had to walk down the busy Princes St on a Saturday night, not the most relaxing experience! So if you're heading to the market on the bus or tram, try to get off around Waverley station (plenty of stops in that area).

 

Lastly, it is quite expensive for everything at the Edinburgh Christmas Market, but particularly food and drink. Remember that Edinburgh is full of amazing restaurants and bars where you can grab affordable delicious food, and you'll find many of them within walking distance of the market. Enjoy!
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Accessibility

Wheelchair users will be pleased to learn that much of the market is accessible - East Princes Street Gardens is fully accessible from both Princes Street and Waverley Bridge, although that area can be very busy at peak times and difficult for a wheelchair to navigate. There is an accessible toilet at the Mound precinct - if you ask a member of Edinburgh’s Christmas staff for the key they can help you. Sadly, rides such as the Ferriss Wheel cannot accommodate wheelchairs. There is pay and display parking for East Princes Street Gardens available on Frederick Street, Hanover Street, and Waterloo Place. This is free for Blue Badge holders with no time limit.

Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to visit this brilliant Christmas market. If you're looking to do other things in Edinburgh then you can check out our guide to the best pizza in Edinburgh. If you're looking for other great places to visit in Scotland then why not head to Fife and explore towns like Crail or St Andrews. If yur'e staying in Edinburgh, then Stirling is worth a day trip (the castle there might be even better than Edinburgh castle!). We've also got guides about The Kelpies, lovely beaches near Edinburgh, and if you're going further afield, Skye.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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