Why Edinburgh and its markets are hard to beat this Christmas

As a self-confessed Scrooge, it’s some feat to make me feel festive.

Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 2:51 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 12:48 pm

But Edinburgh has enough Christmas magic to melt the most hardened of Ebenezers. Here’s why the city has got Christmas wrapped up:

Shopping

Scotland’s capital gives some of Europe’s more long-running Christmas markets a run for their money when it’s taken over for six weeks of yuletide magic, running this year until January 4, 2020.

East Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh are transformed for Christmas.

Wrap up warm and sip on mulled wine as you wander the stalls at East Princes Street Gardens, selling everything from sheepskin slippers and hand-made pottery plates to quirky Christmas decorations and nutcracker statues big and small.

Follow the waft of waffles and bratwurst to the food stalls to keep you going in between all the shopping or take a break at the fairylight-covered Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar for a mulled wine or hot cider.

As if that wasn’t enough to keep you entertained, there’s a host of dazzling, whizzing rides for little ones – and big kids at heart.

The Star Flyer, which spins 60 metres above the heart of Edinburgh is not for the faint-heated, but there’s also plenty of tamer attractions.

The Star Flyer is one of the many rides that forms part of the market on East Princes Street Gardens.

Enjoy the more leisurely pace of The Forth 1 Big Wheel, a landmark of the city’s skyline over Christmas, as its enclosed pods give you a bird’s eye view of the city while a soundtrack provides some fun facts.

You can also get lost in the Christmas Tree Maze which is perfect for Santa’s little helpers who’ll relish the challenge of finding their way to the Elves’ workshop.

*Entry to the Christmas market is free, but there’s differing costs for the rides. Tickets available here.

Entertainment

Crawford Logan plays Ebenezer Scrooge in An Edinburgh Christmas Carol.

Take a Dickensian classic, mix in some Edinburgh folklore, sprinkle with snow and you’ve got the recipe for a truly magical night at the theatre in An Edinburgh Christmas Carol.

Fans of this most festive of Dickens novels won’t be disappointed in this staging, adapted and directed by Tony Cownie, which stays true to the story’s beautifully melancholic soul while also injecting it with a dose of Scottish gallows humour, which works so well you almost forget the added elements aren’t from the pen of Dickens himself.

Instead of London’s foggy streets, the scene is set in a snowy Edinburgh as our curmudgeonly hero Ebenezer Scrooge undergoes one of literature’s greatest Christmas miracles – despite the fact Christmas wasn’t actually celebrated in Scotland in Victorian times.

With its nip in the air and its Old Town’s gothic architecture, Scotland’s capital, with the imposing castle looming in the background, proves a perfect change of location for this atmospheric afternoon of storytelling.

Greyfriar's Bobby features in an Edinburgh Christmas Carol at The Lyceum, Edinburgh.

Crawford Logan is an excellent Ebenezer as he transforms from a man plagued by misery to one who discovers a renewed zest for life after being visited by the Scottish version of the Dickens’ trio of ghouls: the ghosts of Christmas Lang Syne, Nouadays and Ayont.

Costumes are festively magical, without being panto-esque, with Eva Traynor shimmering in a green gown as Lang Syne and Steven McNicoll lugging what realistically appears to be clunking chains as Nouadays.

Aside from Logan, actors play multiple roles with Nicola Roy, and her perfect comic timing, standing out in particular playing Mrs Bigchin, Belle, Rose and snarly housekeeper Mrs Busybody who provides some real laugh out loud moments.

Lovable Tiny Tim and added character, Edinburgh’s most beloved hound Greyfriars Bobby, meanwhile, are played by puppets.

He may not have appeared in Dickens’ text, but Greyfriars Bobby, manipulated by Saskia Ashdown and Edie Edmundson who share the role, almost steals the show as the fiercely loyal terrier evades the capture of the dog-catcher and runs rings around the butcher.

It’s all heart-warming stuff and as the cast belt out Auld Lang Syne and snow sprinkles down onto the audience for the rousing finale you can’t help but be filled with the spirit of Christmas yourself.

Grab a hot toddy at the Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar

*An Edinburgh Christmas Carol, The Lyceum, Edinburgh, until January 4, 2020. Tickets here.

Food

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the markets for an evening meal in one of Edinburgh’s many restaurants. A melting pot of flavours from all corners of the globe are available to sate your appetite, but if you fancy feasting on a true taste of Scotland, head to Wedgewood The Restaurant on the Royal Mile.

It’s fitting that a restaurant on the city’s most historic street should so passionately fly the flag for Scottish produce. If you’re really hungry make sure to try the Wee Tour of Scotland tasting menu (£55), which features some of the finest Scotland’s larder has to offer: Skye lobster, Sound of Kilbrannan scallops, Mull of Kintyre cheddar, Peterhead cod and more.

An a la carte menu is also available and the Inverness-shire venison (£27.95) was a real revelation. I’ve never had haggis with venison before, but the denser Scottish staple was a perfect balance with the buttery pink venison.

Accommodation

Huge Nutcrackers flank the doorway of Apex in Waterloo Place as it provides a comfortable escape from the Christmas crowds. For those travelling to the Scottish Capital by train, it’s a stone’s throw from Waverley Station. Built in 1819, it was the first purpose-built hotel in Edinburgh and it still retains its Georgian features while incorporating Scandi-style interiors in the rooms. It has the added bonus of a swish lounge and bar for drinks and a pool and spa for a refresh.

Enjoying a hot cider at the market
You can pick up Christmas gifts from all over the world at the markets.