Christmas is not Christmas without a trip to the markets, a steaming cup of mulled wine in one hand and a candy apple in the other. Markets are some of my favourite place to shop for locally made presents, try delicious food from street vendors and indulge in some sugary sweet hot drinks. Read on for some of the best winter festivals and Christmas markets in Scotland in winter 2021.

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Coming from Austria, Christmas markets abroad have always had quite a high standard to live up to. After all, we have over 20 official markets in my home city Vienna and all have slightly different experiences, eateries and highlights to offer. It is hard to beat and to be entirely honest, when I moved here, the Christmas markets in Edinburgh and Glasgow did not overwhelm me. 

Luckily, these days, the Christmas markets in Scotland have transformed into magical places with twinkle lights, awesome food and great handmade presents. The markets and winter festivals around the country spread all the festive vibes and I love immersing myself in the Christmas buzz.

From Edinburgh and Glasgow to Stirling, Aberdeen, Inverness and Oban – all major cities in Scotland have their own Christmas festivities, markets and events and you might even find a market at a castle or two! Read on to find out where to go for Christmas vibes this winter.

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Christmas in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Christmas Market 2021

East Princes Street Gardens: 20 Nov 2021 – 4 Jan 2022

Edinburgh’s Christmas is a collection of markets and events that take place around the city throughout the festive season. The biggest Christmas market in East Princes Street Gardens opens in late November and runs for about 6 weeks, closing after the first few days in January.

There are stands selling all sorts of bespoke items from around Scotland and abroad that make wonderful gifts, as well as lots of tasty food and drink, including hot chocolate or gluhwein to warm you up since winter in Edinburgh, can be chilly!

Throughout the Christmas market, you’ll find rides and attractions for children and adults alike. There’s a Christmas tree maze, an ice-skating rink on George Street, bumper cars and Waltzers and a Big Wheel with great views. Kids can even meet Santa at Santa’s Grotto. Tickets for these attractions must be bought in advance.

On 28 November there is a free Nativity Carol Concert on St Andrew Square (3 pm).

Whether you intend to do your Christmas shopping, grab a bite to eat or drink, or simply want to browse and soak up the festive atmosphere, you won’t be disappointed at the Edinburgh Christmas market.

– Sonja from Migrating Miss

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Edinburgh Christmas Market

Vegan Christmas market in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Vegan Festival: 28 Nov 2021

Considering a cruelty-free festive season? The Edinburgh Vegan Festival is back with a festive twist, bursting with ideas for a kinder Christmas. 

Pop along to Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith on 28 November and you’ll find lots of stalls to explore with vegan street food, ethical gift ideas – and lots of free samples to sip and nibble! There will also be talks and demos from inspiring vegan businesses and organisations. Whether you are vegan or just curious, this is a brilliant day out for everyone. 

Make a weekend of it and stay in the heart of the city at Eden Locke. Their on-site coffee shop, 127, has lots of vegan options and is perfect for a light breakfast to start your day (just remember to leave plenty of room for all those samples at the Christmas Market)!

Find out more about Edinburgh Vegan Christmas Market and more vegan-friendly events in Scotland’s Capital at Vegan Edinburgh

– Emma from Vegan Edinburgh

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Other Edinburgh winter events

Edinburgh is pretty happening all year round but there are two times in the year which really put Scotland’s capital on the map – the Fringe in August and Christmas.

Edinburgh at Christmas kicks off in late November symbolised by the erection of the Princess Street Garden market but this is not where the festivities end. In addition to the market, Edinburgh plays host to a whole series of events during winter including an ice-skating rink, a Christmas tree maze and more.

You may enjoy a festive stroll through Christmas at the Botanics, a twinkling light installation at the Botanic Gardens. It’s open from 25 Nov 2021 – 2 Jan 2022 and tickets much be booked online in advance.

So far, there are no plans for an official Christmas Lights switch-on in Edinburgh, but there are many places where you can see beautiful Christmas lights throughout the festive period. Some great locations for festive lights are: George Street, the Royal Mile, Rose Street, The Dome, Victoria Street and more.

Pantomimes are a big Scotland tradition. Expect slapstick comedy, kids high on sugar and parents getting involved with the ‘he’s behind you’ banter. Check out the theatres to see which celebs are taking part this year.

The biggest event actually takes place after Christmas and it lasts for three days: Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

The Hogmanay festival starts with the Torch Light Procession on 30 December, which is a parade led by pipers and accompanied by fire. The next day is the big NYE celebration, the massive ‘Party at the Bells’ at Princess Street Gardens.

On New Year’s Day, brave souls usually take to the Forth at South Queensferry for a Loony Dook in the freezing cold waters to raise funds for charity. A fresh start to the new year. However, it is not clear yet whether this event will happen officially on 1 Jan 2022.

– Gemma from Two Scots Abroad

Street of Light Edinburgh in the dark with crowds

Christmas in Glasgow

Glasgow Christmas Markets

St Enoch Square: 21 Nov – 23 Dec 2021

Glasgow Loves Christmas is a season of markets and events spreading festive vibes around the city of Glasgow. Usually, there are two traditional Christmas markets in town with stalls selling locally crafted products and designs, local foods and treats, freshly prepared food and of course all the mulled wine. The market at St Enoch Square is great for shopping and a drink, while the one on George Square always wins me over with its Helter Skelter and the vintage carousel.

2021 Update: Please note that there won’t be a Christmas market on George Square this year – only the market at St Enoch Square will go ahead.

There are many other independent Christmas markets happening at venues all over town, such as:

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Glasgow Christmas market

Vegan Christmas markets in Glasgow

Vegan Market at Drygate: 21 Nov 2021

If vegan-friendly Christmas presents are your jam – whether to indulge in vegan Christmas foods or to pick up cruelty-free presents for the vegans in your life, look no further than Glasgow’s vegan festivals and markets this winter.

The Glasgow Vegan Market will take place at Drygate on Sunday 21 November 2021.

Vegan Connections Christmas Market in Glasgow
Photo via Vegan Connections

Other Glasgow Christmas events

Apart from Christmas markets, Glasgow Loves Christmas includes a range of special events and activities throughout the season. It all kicks off with the grand Christmas lights switch-on [2020 Dates tbc] which turns George Square into a festive winter wonderland. Every year the city comes up with a different design which can be an intense subject of debate among locals. The lights are on throughout the season to light up the Christmas market below.

One of the most popular events is Beatson’s annual charity event: Santa Dash. This year, the event is happening virtually. You can sign up and participate between 11 and 18 December 2021 by running, walking or cycling 5K wherever you are based. There will also be a fancy-dress competition!

Almost like taking the pantomimes from the theatres to the street, the Style Mile Festival Fun on 28 November 2021 is a smaller version of the usual Christmas Carnival. All-day you can see live music, street performers and lots of favourite Christmas characters around the city centre.

While there is no official Christmas Light switch-on event this year, you can see the lights of Glasgow Illuminated from 1 December 2021 to 2 January 2022, for example at Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, St Enoch Centre and City Chambers of George Square.

On 1 December 2021 at 6 pm, there is an event with a choir at George Square for the Blessing of the Crib.

Santa dash in Glasgow
Photo via Glasgow Loves Christmas

Christmas around Scotland

Stirling Christmas Market

20-21 Nov 2011

The historic city of Stirling is hosting a unique Christmas market at Albert Halls on 20 – 21 November 2021.

Over 60 local small businesses will host stalls all day long. You’ll be able to purchase crafted gifts ahead of Christmas, from jewellery to candles, as well as food and drinks. You’ll even get a complimentary festive mocktail and mince pie upon arrival.

The event will really highlight the talent of the region and Scottish craft and allow everyone to support local artists and businesses.

The admission cost is £6 per person, with half going to the Strathcarron hospice. The market will be on from 10 am until 5 pm at the Albert Halls. Only a 5-minute walk from the train station, it would make for a perfect day trip to the ‘Brooch of Scotland’.

If you want to make it a day trip, Stirling has a host of options for all budgets. Nearby, you could enjoy the local hospitality at the Victoria Square Guest House.

– Camila from Adventitious Violet (a Stirling local)

You might also like: 13 Unusual Things to do in Stirling

Stirling in winter

Oban Winter Festival

19 – 28 Nov 2021

Oban is one of my favourite seaside towns in Scotland and hosts an array of different events, concerts and festivals throughout the year. 

The Oban Winter Festival has been hosted every year since 2011. The extensive programme has something to offer for everyone. Lots of performances and music shows, family fun, street parades, fire artists, crafts and pipers. There are exhibitions at local venues, special Christmas screenings at the Oban Phoenix Cinema and lots of markets with local foods and crafts.

There are several Christmas markets at the Oban Distillery Cask Room (20 and 27 Nov) and Corran Halls (20 Nov), as well as a Late-Night Shopping Event at local shops on 25 November. The festival closes with a Reindeer Parade from Corran Halls to Station Square and the Christmas Light switch-on at Station Square on 27 November.

Throughout the festival, local businesses and groups host a range of events and workshops. A perfect excuse for a trip to Oban!

You might also like: The best things to do in Oban

Lit up church at Oban Winter Festival
Photo via Oban Winter Festival

Perth Winter Events

Events throughout November and December 2021

Perth plays host to an array of winter events every year. First, check out Perth City’s Festive Weekends which will take place from 19 November to 18 December. Every weekend, there will be events, music, performances and more – like Silent Discos, Christmas Ghost Tours, falconry displays and ice sculptures.

On Saturday, 27 November join in for the popular Lantern & Nativity Parade from St Ninians Cathedral to St Johns Church. The parade is free to join, but you have to bring your own lantern.

Like Glasgow, Perth has an annual Santa run. This takes place on 4 December 2021 and covers 5 kilometres. Sign up here.

Perth Christmas Lights Switch On Party
Photo via Perth City Centre

Aberdeen Christmas Village

18 Nov – 31 Dec 2021

With the backdrop of the beautiful Marischal Collage, the Aberdeen Christmas Village is back after a hiatus in 2020 and is bringing the Christmas spirit to the Broad Street and Upperkirkgate area. 

The village includes festive fairground rides for the whole family, such as a Helter Skelter and Bungee Trampolines. There are food and drink stands serving Christmassy snacks and beverages and of course, also a traditional Christmas market during the weekends. There is also an open air ice rink at Marischal College.

The Christmas Market is called Curated in the Quad and takes place every weekend, Fri-Sun. It will feature a unique selection of local makers and designers bringing their crafts and products to the table. Every weekend, you will find different stalls, so no trip will ever be alike. You can check here to see updates on every week’s line-up.

Aberdeen Christmas Village
Photo via Aberdeen Inspired

Inverness Winter Events

While it is unlikely that there will be a big Christmas Lights Switch On in Inverness this year, there are a few other events happening throughout the festive period.

For Christmas markets head down to the Giant Christmas Fayre at Inverness Leisure on 21 November, the November and December craft markets at Wildwoodz just north of Inverness (19-21 Nov and 3-5 Dec) or the Christmas Fair at Culloden Battlefield (28 Nov).

Winter Wonderland at Whin Park
Photo via Winter Wonderland

Christmas Markets at Scottish Castles

Of course, no list of Scottish Christmas markets would be complete without talking about the markets and special events that take place at the castles around the country. Or can you imagine a more beautiful sight than a breathtaking castle clad in festive decorations and lit up with Christmas lights as the backdrop for a market with local crafts and designs?

An ever-growing number of castles in Scotland are playing hosts to Christmas markets and fairs. Here is an overview of events to look out for:

A unique event this year is Elf Academy at Brodie Castle near Inverness where kids can learn the art of being a Christmas Elf. (11-12 and 18-19 December 2021)

Decorated Christmas tree near the fireplace at Glamis Castle
Photo via Glamis Castle

Christmas is a magical time to visit Scotland! The lights, food and beautiful crafts at Christmas markets in Scotland definitely make up for the shorter days and there are tons of unique events to get into the festive spirit and rub shoulders with the locals. 

Are you ready to plan a trip to Scotland during Christmas time?

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2 thoughts on “Winter Festivals and Christmas Markets in Scotland (2021 Update)

  1. Sara says:

    Just found out I’ll finally be moving to Scotland to join my husband in St Andrews! So excited to experience some of these markets. THANKS for sharing!!

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