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 2019.
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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.
Christmas in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Christmas Market
Princes Street Gardens: 16 November 2019 – 4 January 2020
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 mid-November and runs for 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! You can also pop into the two-storey Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar for whisky cocktails and hot toddies.
Throughout the Christmas market, you’ll find rides and attractions for children and adults alike. There’s the traditional carousel, candy cane bungees, bumper cars, and a Santa train, as well as the 60-metre high star flyer for the thrill-seekers.
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
Vegan Christmas market in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Vegan Festival: 10 November 2019
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 BT Murrayfield on 10 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
Other Edinburgh Christmas 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 mid-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 the Christmas Lights switch on, Silent Light disco, traditional pantos and the biggest party of the year, Hogmanay.
The Christmas Lights switch on starts at Light Night on George Street [17 November 2019]. Choirs warm up the crowds before the official light button is pushed and the celebratory fireworks fill the night sky. George Street stays lit (boom boom) for the whole of Christmas. You can wander through light tunnels, join in the Silent Light Disco then nip into The Dome for a cocktail to see their epic tree.
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 places after Christmas and it lasts for three days! Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party starts with the Torch Light Procession which is a parade led by pipers and accompanied by fire. The next day is the big NYE celebration which takes over the whole city including Princess Street Gardens. On New Year’s Day, brave souls 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.
– Gemma from Two Scots Abroad
Christmas in Glasgow
Glasgow Christmas Markets
St Enoch Square: 9 November – 22 December 2019
George Square: 24 November – 29 December 2019
Glasgow Loves Christmas is a season of markets and events spreading festive vibes around the city of Glasgow. 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.
There are many other independent Christmas markets happening at venues all over town, such as The Briggait, Sloans Lane, the Botanic Garden and the Royal Exchange Square. You can find all the dates here. One of my favourite independent market series, Super Market Glasgow, also runs Christmas markets in different venues every Sunday from mid-November to the weekend before Christmas.
Vegan Christmas markets in Glasgow
My Big Fat Vegan Christmas: 16 November 2019
Glasgow Vegan Winter Festival: 23-24 November 2019
Vegan Connections Christmas: 14 December 2019
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 three different vegan markets this November and December!
My Big Fat Vegan Market begins the season with its special Christmas market at The Briggait. You will not only find vegan treats but also lots of vegan stocking fillers. General admission is £4.
The 2-day Glasgow Vegan Winter Festival at Trades Hall will feature 50 stalls each day, cookery demos, talks, interactive workshops, yoga and children’s activities. You see, it’s more than just an excuse to go shopping – it’s an allrounder. General admission is £3 per day.
Finally, the third vegan Christmas event is the annual Vegan Connections market held at The Briggait. The market will have 35 stalls with food and gifts and will also raise funds for the Glasgow Winter Night Shelter. General admission is £4.
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 [17 November 2019] 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.
Some of the best festive entertainment is offered at the Royal Concert Hall. Christmas at the Concert Hall includes a series of events from orchestra performances, film soundtracks, big bands and family-friendly shows.
Almost like taking the pantomimes from the theatres to the street, the Style Mile Carnival [24 November 2019] is an annual procession with festive characters come to life. There is live music, street performers and lots of favourite Christmas characters to meet and greet.
If you’d rather participate in a fancy-dress Christmas event yourself, why not join Glasgow’s Santa Dash [8 December 2019]? Every year, thousands of people dress up as Santa and run a 5K track around the city centre raising money for charity. Tickets are extremely popular, so it’s best to get yours before they’re gone!
Christmas around Scotland
Stirling Christmas Market
24 November 2019
The historic city of Stirling is hosting a unique Christmas market on Sunday, 24 November. 2019 Four local women got together earlier this year to set up the event that will bring festive cheer to the city.
Local creative 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. Workshops will also be available throughout the day, from gingerbread for children, wreath making and calligraphy.
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 £4 per person, with half going to the Strathcarron hospice. The market will be on from 10 am until 4 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 budget. Nearby, you could enjoy the local hospitality at the Victoria Square Guest House.
– Camila from Adventitious Violet (a Stirling local)
Oban Winter Festival
15-24 November 2019
+ St Andrews Day: 30 November 2019
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.
The festival is opened by the Winter Queen riding a unicorn and special events include ballet performances, craft workshops, whisky tastings and a Tartan Dash. And just when you thought it’s over, the festival continues on St Andrews Day with a packed programme of Haggis Hurling, Ceilidh dancing, a Family Hat Parade and a beautiful firework display above McCaigs Tower. A perfect excuse for a trip to Oban!
Perth Winter Festival
16 November – 4 January 2019
Perth Winter Festival spans 10 weeks from the middle of November until the Chinese New Year, but the centre of attention is without a doubt the festivities and events in the pre-Christmas period. As in other cities, the festival kicks off with the official Christmas Lights Switch On Party [16 November 2019], which sees the city of Perth light up in a festive manner. The programme is completed by three live music stages and a fireworks display.
Perth also has a Santa Run [7 December 2019] for charity and a St Andrews Day Festival [1 December 2019] with live music and dancing.
Throughout the season, the city hosts a series of Christmas markets that promise to offer something for everyone. First up is the Chocolate, Gin and Things Market [16-17 November 2019] where you can indulge in mouth-watering artisan chocolates and hand-picked craft gins from around the country. There are also craft stalls, but at this particular market, edible gifts are really centre-stage.
Other markets include the Christmas Design Market [23-24 November 2019] with 50+ independent makers and the Spirit of Scotland Market [30 November – 1 December 2019] with a particular focus on Scottish talent and design.
Two very special events during the Perth Winter Festival is the Lantern Parade on St Andrews Day [30 November 2019] and the Christmas Tree Festival [11-14 December 2019] which features a trail of decorated Christmas trees around the city centre.
Aberdeen Christmas Village
21 November – 31 December 2019
With the backdrop of the beautiful Marischal Collage, the Aberdeen Christmas Village is back for its third consecutive year and is bringing the Christmas spirit to the Broad Street area.
The village includes fairground rides and attractions 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.
The Christmas at the Quad Market features 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.
Inverness Winter Events
The Christmas Lights Switch On in Inverness [17 November 2019] is the starting point for a season of markets, festivities and treats in the city and surrounding villages.
In the run-up to Christmas, the Victorian Market, which is one of the top attractions in Inverness year-round, will not only be home to local shops and independent makers, it is also the hideout for cheeky Christmas elves. Elf on a Shelf is an annual elf hunt [29 November 2019] to find them all and maybe even win the Kiddies Christmas Hamper! You can sign up for the hunt on the day.
When they aren’t hiding in the city, the Christmas elves are bringing joy to Winter Wonderland at Whin Park [15-17 December 2019]. There are Christmassy displays, festive illuminations and a chance to visit Santa and his reindeer.
For Christmas shopping, head to Eden Court’s Christmas Fairs [15-17 November and 6-8 December 2019].
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:
- Blair Castle Christmas Fair: Perthshire Highlands, 1-3 November 2019
- Crathes Castle Christmas Fair: Aberdeenshire – Royal Deeside, 8-10 November 2019
- Brodie Castle Christmas Fair: Moray Coast, 23-24 November 2019
- Castle Fraser Christmas Fair: Aberdeenshire, 23-24 November 2019
- Fyvie Castle Christmas Festival: Aberdeenshire, 29 November – 1 December 2019
- Drum Castle Christmas Festival: Aberdeenshire – Royal Deeside, 7-8 December 2019
- Glamis Castle Christmas Market: Dundee & Angus, 13-15 December 2019
- Culzean Castle Victorian Christmas: Ayrshire, 7-8 and 14-15 December 2019
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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