Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019: Market stalls, Fairground fun & Festive foodie feasts at this cool Winter Festival

Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 – the sparkling spectacle of Princes Street Gardens

“Life is not measured

by the number of breaths we take,

but by the places and moments

that take our breath away”

So begins Patricia Schultz’ travel book, “1,000 Places to See Before you Die.” Not surprisingly Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is one of those 1,000 breathtaking places across our planet.

Hogmanay, (New Year’s Eve) in Scotland’s Capital is part of the Winter Festivals season which kicks off in mid November, a perfect time to visit for Festive entertainment, a foodie feast, music and culture for all ages.

As a lifelong Edinburgh resident, I’ve experienced the classic, cool Christmas and New Year celebrations over the decades, and often think I should become jaded by the annual arrival of Christmas Trees, glittering fairy lights and the Funfair taking over Princes Street Gardens.

But no. Whenever the Big Wheel starts turning beside the Scott Monument, with the scent of mulled wine wafting in the air, I am thrown into the magical mood as Edinburgh begins to sparkle.

Forth 1 Big Wheel and Gluhwein @ Christmas Market, Princes Street Gardens

Created and staged by Underbelly, the Live Entertainment Company, since 2013,  Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 was launched on Light Up Night with a family friendly gathering on the Royal Mile, with a stunning flying visit by Father Christmas on his sleigh.

Father Christmas flies along the Royal Mile on Light Up Night

The lights on the Christmas Tree (a gift from the people of Hordaland, Norway)  at the top of the Mound were switched on and the countdown to 25th December and New Year celebrations had begun.

The annual Christmas Tree, a present from Hordaland, Norway lights up the Mound

Edinburgh’s Christmas was open every day, except Christmas Day, from 10am to 10pm, from 16th November 2019 until Saturday 4th January, 2020.

The Star Flyer – 60 metres high beside the towering Scott Monument

In East Princes Street Gardens presents a wonderful Carnival of Fairground rides such as the Star Flyer, whizzing up to a rather scary 60 metres or take an exciting whirl on the Forth 1 Big Wheel. These sky-high Rides are located on either side of the iconic Scott Monument – so you can take an energetic trek up the spiral staircase of 288 steps inside the tower to a height of 200 feet 6 inches (61.11 metres) for panoramic views over the city.

The wee ones will have fun on the Carousel and Santa Train, then play hide and seek in the maze of Christmas Trees: 25p from the price of each ticket for the Santa Land Maze supports the Greenspace Trust Tree Time, a local initiative, to fund the planting of new trees in Edinburgh.

The pedestrianised Castle Street was home to Santa’s Grotto, while parents can slide down the adult-sized Helter Skelter before time for hot chocolate or mulled wine.

Helter Skelter Bar on Castle Street

A colourful programme too of free events such as the Scottish Norwegian Advent Concert at St. Giles Cathedral, the Nativity concert on the Mound and Carol singers around town.  It’s the time of year for Good Deeds, with free tickets and donations provided to local charities, community & youth groups, schools and Food Banks through fund-raising Carol concerts and events over Edinburgh’s Christmas.

As many visitors have posted on social media, a disappointing omission at Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 was the Ice Rink which has always enticed a happy crowd, day and night.

The Skating Rink, St. Andrew Square enjoyed during previous Christmas Festivals.

Skating is the essence of a traditional, romantic Christmas.  Ice Rinks are a major seasonal attraction across the UK –  London, Swansea, York et al –  and, of course, at Rockefeller Centre, New York City, as witnessed in many Festive, feel-good movies.  Let’s hope we can don our skating boots again to add the ICE-ing on the cake at Christmas 2020.

Christmas Shopping – a mountain of Hats of every style at the Christmas Market

Browse around the traditional Market of wooden chalets – bigger than ever in 2019 with 163 stalls – for gifts, jewellery, craftwork, chocolates, French cheese, gloves, socks, hats, Loch Ness Leather, a family Highland business showcasing handmade products. Authentic Monster leather!?

Loch Ness Leather goods

A fine taste of British and European food and drink: Gluhwein, Greek Grill House, Salmon roasting over an open fire, Yorkshire Puddings, Rekorderlig Cider Lodge serving hot & cold cider cocktails and Swedish food.

…..Aelder Elderberry Liqueur, Fox Hat Argentinian barbecue, Alanda’s fish and chips, Caravan of Courage Vegan Fast Food.  (Just not sure about pink, sugary Candy Floss stalls!)

A hungry queue for Sausages (Polish and German varieties)

Alanda’s Lobster and Chips – the posh takeaway

After a good walk around, you could head over to The Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar to warm up and sample a dram or two, whisky cocktails and hot toddies.

The cosy, comfortable Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar for whisky galore

Christmas entertainment too around the city theatres: The smash hit musical, The Lion King at the Playhouse (running until 29th March), the fabulous 5 star Pantomime, Goldlocks and the Three Bears at the King’s Theatre (until 19th January), The Christmas Carol at the Lyceum and Scottish Ballet staged the premiere of The Snow Queen at the Festival Theatre.

In previous years, the Spiegeltent popped up for the Festival season in St. Andrew’s Square or Festival Square: Storytellling and shows for Kids, and Limbo, a spectacular dare-devil Acrobatic extravaganza – such a special ambience in the vintage Spiegeltent, a Big Top Circus had come to town.  (Please bring it back!).

Visit Edinburgh during the Festive season for a truly enchanting time in the crisp, cool winter air – and it might snow! Inspirational shopping for unique gifts, cashmere and tweed, cosy cafes, quaint old pubs, hearty food, gourmet restaurants, whisky galore, ghost tours, Harry Potter, art galleries, museums, City of Literature walks, explore the Royal Mile from Castle to Palace, climb Arthur’s Seat – as well as the Festival fun for all ages.

The ever popular Harry Potter Walking Trail – part of Edinburgh’s hidden magic

The extended Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens on various levels, with improved accessibility for all, has been a sparkling success.

A total of 2,631,154 people passed through Edinburgh’s Christmas, 4.85% more than 2018.  Just under 650,000 tickets were sold for the special Festive events, attractions and Fairground rides.  There was an impressive 23.9% rise in the number of Edinburgh Residents with an EH postcode, taking the advantage of a 20% discount.

And this is what visitors thought about their experience of Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019:

It’s simply the best Christmas Market and even tops Bryant Park in NYC ! Please bring back the ice rink, that’s a huge attraction and not quite the same without it

Couldn’t believe how big it was. Plenty of stalls to browse and Carnival rides for the kids. Loads to eat and drink.  Definitely worth a visit

A fantastic place to visit and in my view it’s the best Christmas Market in the UK.

 Why not plan to visit Edinburgh’s magical Winter Festivals in 2020.?

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About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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