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 2023.

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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 2023

Princes Street Gardens: 18 Nov 2023 – 6 Jan 2024

Edinburgh’s Christmas is a collection of markets and events that take place around the city throughout the festive season. The main Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens opens in late November and runs for about 6 weeks, closing after the first few days in January. Note that this is the only Edinburgh Christmas market in 2023.

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 mulled wine to warm you up since winter in Edinburgh, can be chilly!

In addition to the Christmas market, you’ll find rides and attractions for children and adults alike. These include a covered ice-rink on George Street, a Big Wheel, Festive Family Funfair in West Princes Street Gardens, and some traditional rides.

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: TBC

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 [TBC] 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 16 Nov – 30 Dec 2023 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.

Other events at Edinburgh’s Christmas include a Santa Fun Run on 10 December 2023 (ticketed), a Scottish-Norwegian Christmas Concert at St Giles Cathedral on 20 November 2023 (free and unticketed) and the SCO Choir Christmas Concert at Greyfriar’s Kirk on 21 December 2023 (ticketed).

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 29 December, which is a parade led by pipers and accompanied by fire. On the 30th, there are a number of concerts and 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 2024.

– Gemma from Two Scots Abroad

Spending New Year's Eve, or Hogmanay in Edinburgh is one grand sparkling party - and makes for a good reason to visit Scotland in winter!

Christmas in Glasgow

Glasgow Christmas Markets

St Enoch Square: 10 November to 30 December 2023
George Square: 25 November 2023 – 7 January 2024

Glasgow Loves Christmas is a season of events and markets spreading festive vibes around the city of Glasgow.

There are two Christmas markets in Glasgow – one on St Enoch Square and another on George Square. Both have stalls selling locally crafted products and designs, local foods and treats, freshly prepared food and of course all the mulled wine.

At St Enoch Square you’ll also find a festive thrill ride, bungee trampolines and Santa’s snow globe. On George Square there is an ice rink, an observation wheel, several traditional festive rides and Christmas-themed entertainment.

There are also several 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: tbc

The Glasgow Vegan Market will take place at Drygate on … (tbc)

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.

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 on 19 November 2023 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 Santa Dash, a festive 5K run for charity, on 10 December 2023. Thousands of people participate every year!

Almost like taking the pantomimes from the theatres to the street, the Style Mile Carnival on 26 November 2023 brings live music, street performers and dancers to the streets around George Square and Buchanan Street. All-day you can hear music and see performances and lots of favourite Christmas characters around the city centre.

Other Glasgow Loves Christmas events this year include Christmas concerts at the RSNO, a festive market at the Riverside Museum on 2-3 December 2023 and Christmassy Monday Movie Nights at the Big Feed.

On 29 November 2023 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

Christmas markets in Stirling

25-26 November 2023

The historic city of Stirling is hosting a unique Christmas market at Albert Halls on 25-26 November 2023.

Small local businesses will host stalls all weekend 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 highlight the talent of the region and Scottish craft and allow everyone to support local artists and businesses.

The admission cost is £4 per person, with half going to the Strathcarron hospice. The market will be on from 10 am until 5 pm at the Albert Halls (10 am to 4 pm on Sunday). 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)

Other Christmas events in and around Stirling include:

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Stirling in winter

Oban Winter Festival

17 – 26 Nov 2023

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 two Christmas markets happening on 18 and 25 November at various locations around town: Oban Distillery, Corran Halls, Kayak Centre and Perle Hotel.

Throughout the festival, local businesses and groups host a range of events and workshops. Highlights include an illuminated night-time event at Glencruitten Woods (17-19 and 24-26 November), a Reindeer Parade and the Haggis & Whisky Festival on 26 November

A perfect excuse for a trip to Oban!

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

Perth Winter Events

Events throughout December 2023

Perth plays host to an array of winter events every year. First, check out Perth City’s Christmas Events which will take place from 2 December. Every weekend, there will be events, music, performances and more – like Silent Discos, Christmas Ghost Tours, falconry displays and ice sculptures.

The season begins with the Christmas Lights Party and the Christmas Mela Market on St Paul’s Square on 2 December.

Perth Creative Exchange are hosting a Winter Market & Open Studios on 2 and 3 December 2023.

The Christmas Cabin Trail on King Edward Street and the High Street is Perth’s version of a Christmas market – you’ll be able to pick up gifts and goodies from independent retailers and local, quality artisans. Running Saturdays and Sundays from 2 – 24 December.

On Saturday, 9 December 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 also takes place on 9 December 2023 and covers 5 kilometres to raise money for charity. Sign up here.

Perth Christmas Lights Switch On Party
Photo via Perth City Centre

Christmas Markets in Aberdeen

Aberdeen Christmas Village
17 Nov – 23 Dec 2023 (Friday-Sunday)

With the backdrop of the beautiful Marischal Collage, the Aberdeen Christmas Village is back 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.

Aberdeen Christmas Village
Photo via Aberdeen Inspired

collABZ makers markets
Every weekend from 23 November 2023

A collaborative makers market that takes place every weekend at The Trinity Centre. It’s a new market and there is not much information available yet, so check out their Facebook page.

Inverness Winter Events

Several events are happening in Inverness throughout the festive period.

For Christmas markets head down to the Inverness Creative Academy by Wasp Studio (24-26 November 2023), the Highland Craft Fair at Eden Court (17-19 November and 1-3 December 2023), and the Giant Christmas Fayre at Inverness Leisure (25 November 2023).

For a family-friendly Christmas day out, check out Winterwoodz (multiple dates throughout December).

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:

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

Other Christmas Markets in Scotland

Of course there are many arts and crafts markets during the festive period all over Scotland. It can be quite tricky to find out about these Scottish Christmas markets, but here are the ones I know are happening in 2023:

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 (2023 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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