Edinburgh’s winter festivals combine Christmas and Hogmanay from November to January. It’s one of the best times for visiting the city as you can pick and choose from many events and things to do.
Edinburgh Christmas Market is one of the most popular events, and in this guide, I list the confirmed dates for 2023 with opening times and locations.
Edinburgh Christmas Market 2023
The Christmas markets in Edinburgh are undoubtedly an end of year highlight. You’ll find classic mulled wine, roasting chestnuts, festive lights, live music, ice skating, rides, and Santa Stories; there is something for everyone to enjoy.
The markets have traditional Christmas treats, interesting gifts and stocking fillers, and unique souvenirs that are perfect for those looking to do some shopping.
But there’s more to these markets than just shopping and eating. In addition to the Christmas stalls, there are several other activities to experience across the city centre.
- East Princes Street Gardens – The traditional European Christmas market with 70 stalls. You’ll also find the Big Wheel, Starflyer and Helter Skelter in this location.
- West Princes Street Gardens – This is the family children’s market where you’ll find funfair rides and family-friendly attractions. Opening dates are from the 18th November.
- George Street – The location of the Scottish Christmas Fair, the Ice Rink and vintage funfair rides. George Street opens on the 18th November.
- St Andrew Square – This is where you’ll find Santa and the Santa’s Stories group sessions.
Access to the Christmas market is free, and you DO NOT require a ticket.
Tickets are required for:
- The Big Wheel
- Ice Rink
- Santa’s Stories
You can book tickets for these rides and attractions at the event on the day or online at the official website. No ticket is required to enter.
Click here to book attractions. Note that ticket purchases are cashless.
Ice skating is always one of the most popular attractions; you can hire skates if you don’t have your own.
If you’re interested in any of these attractions, booking in advance is best to avoid disappointment.
Dates and Opening Times
Edinburgh Christmas Market dates: 17th November 2023 to 6th January 2024.
Location: East Princes Street Gardens in the Mound Precinct and along George Street in New Town.
Opening times: 10am to 10pm.
Christmas Eve: 10am to 8pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Boxing Day: 12pm to 8pm.
New Year’s Eve: 10am to 6pm.
New Year’s Day: 12pm to 8pm.
Christmas lights: Yes, from 17th November 2023.
Tickets: Tickets are only required for rides and attractions. Purchase online in advance or at the event.
Payment: Ticket purchases are cashless.
Ice rink: Yes. Take your own skates or get them at the rink at George Street.
Big Wheel: Book tickets online or at the event at East Princes Street.
Santa: Yes. Santa Stories require ticket online or at the event at St Andrew Square.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, plenty of options.
Gluten free: Yes, but limited.
Pet-friendly: It’s advised to keep dogs at home.
Parking: Please take public transport to help limit congestion.
Recommended tour: Take Edinburgh’s most popular tour, a ghost tour of Edinburgh’s vaults.
Travel tip: Hogmanay is a 3-day event that includes Party at the Bells and the Torchlight Procession for which you must book tickets in advance. Book Hogmanay tickets here.
Reason to visit: Special events, food, loads of drinks, the Christmas Tree Maze and reindeer carousel.
Where to stay: Market Street Hotel is highy-rated hotel located in the Mound Precinct.
Where to Stay
Edinburgh Castle overlooks both the Old Town and the New Town and the area where the Mound Precinct intersects. This central area is where you’ll most likely want to stay to be near the main sights and attractions.
I suggest staying at Market Street Hotel as it’s a 6-minute walk to both East Princes Street Gardens and George Street.
You might also like to stay in one of Edinburgh’s cool neighbourhoods like Stockbridge, Dean Village or even Leith on the waterfront.
If you’d prefer to stay elsewhere, my guide to hotels near Edinburgh Christmas Market lists several well-located hotels covering all budgets.
Recommended Walking Tours
A city tour of Edinburgh is an excellent way to see the city if you’re a first-time visitor, as it gives you an overview of all the highlights.
You could also take this ghost tour of Edinburgh’s vaults, one of the most popular things to do in Edinburgh.
If you’d prefer a regular walking tour, this Old Town history tour is the way to go.
Alternatively, you could consider a food tour to learn about the local Scottish culture through their cuisine. Most of Edinburgh’s food tours are alcohol-based, but I prefer this tour, which is all about the food.
Extend you Christmas holiday this year by adding another destination to your trip. This Christmas markets 2023 UK guide could help you choose where to go. Discover things to do and the best ways to experience British food, history and culture.
If you’d like to stay in the region, this list of Scotland Christmas Markets has plenty of places to go.
Xmas in Edinburgh
Haggis: The traditional Scottish dish with sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs mixed with onions, oatmeal, and spices, served with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes).
Cranachan: A Scottish dessert made with whipped cream, honey, toasted oatmeal, raspberries, and a dash of whisky, a sweet and indulgent treat.
Mince pies: Bite-sized pies filled with dried fruits and spices, often served warm with a dollop of whipped cream or brandy butter.
Shortbread: The classic buttery and crumbly Scottish biscuit made with sugar, flour, and butter, often served as a snack or with tea.
Food and Drink Stalls
Hot toddy: A warm and soothing drink made with whisky, honey and lemon, often served in a glass mug, a Scottish classic perfect for sipping while chatting with friends.
Irn-Bru fudge: It’s a sweet and creamy fudge infused with the unique flavour of Scottish Irn-Bru.
Scottish tablet: A type of traditional Scottish confectionery that’s similar to fudge but with a harder and crumbly texture.
German-style bratwurst: A grilled sausage served on a fresh bread roll, often topped with onions and mustard, a classic market street food.
Crepes: French-style pancakes filled with sweet or savoury toppings, such as Nutella, bananas or ham and cheese. They’re made to order at the markets.
Churros: A delicious Spanish snack that’s popular across Europe.
Roasted chestnuts: A classic winter snack, roasted chestnuts are sold in paper cones.
Mulled wine: Hot red wine infused with cinnamon, cloves, and citrus peel is a popular German specialty.
What to Buy
Tartan accessories: Scotland is famous for its tartan patterns, and you can find a range of tartan scarves, hats, gloves, and bags at the market. These make great souvenirs or gifts for friends and family, even if they’re a bit of a cliché gift.
Whisky and gin: Scotland is also known for its spirits, and you can find a variety of locally produced bottles at the market.
Edinburgh Gin baubles: A unique gift, these Christmas baubles are filled with Edinburgh Gin and come in flavours that include rhubarb and ginger, pomegranate and rose, and classic gin.
Scottish knitwear: Another traditional Scottish item, you can find cosy knitwear at some stalls, including jumpers, cardigans, and hats.
Edinburgh in Winter
Edinburgh is a fantastic city to visit during the colder months. The crisp air, festive atmosphere, and abundant activities make it an ideal destination for a winter getaway.
Here are some more details on some of the top things to do in Edinburgh in winter:
Edinburgh Castle is a must-visit attraction all year round, and winter is no exception. The castle has stunning city views, and you can explore its history with a skip-the-line tour. This is by far the most famous sight in the city.
Ice skating at the George Street ice rink is a popular winter activity. Festive decorations surround the rink, and special events are often held there, such as ice discos.
The Christmas Tree Maze at West Princes Street Gardens is a fun and festive activity for all ages. Navigate through the maze and take in the pretty decorations along the way.
Santa’s Grotto is also located at West Princes Street Gardens and is perfect for families with young children. Meet Santa and his elves and take a few photos.
The Festive Light Trail is a unique way to explore. The trail runs throughout the city and features unique light displays and installations.
Winter Village at Edinburgh Zoo also has some exciting winter-specific events, including its own Christmas market, ice rink, Santa’s Grotto and Breakfast with the Clauses. Book online before you go. Dates: 1st December to 7th January 2024.
Finally, the Royal Botanic Garden is a beautiful escape from the city and a great way to connect with nature. The garden is a living museum of plants, and special events are often held, such as a Christmas at the Botanics. Dates: 16th November to 30th December 2023.
Visit Scotland, the tourist office’s official website has information regarding events, where to go and the best ways to experience Edinburgh at Christmas and attend Hogmanay.
Here’s how you can tread lightly during your visit.
Eco-friendly Stays: Hotels in Edinburgh often provide information on their sustainability practices. Book a place that is powered by renewable energy sources like wind power, which is relatively common in Scotland.
Minimising Food Waste: The Christmas markets in Edinburgh are a feast for the senses. Instead of overbuying, try sharing portions. Many stalls provide small-sized servings, making it easy to sample various dishes without wasting food.
Mindful Spending: Be selective with what you buy. Prioritise items that are both local and made from sustainable materials.
Plant-based Options: Edinburgh has an increasing number of vegan and vegetarian eateries which generally have a lower environmental impact.
Sustainable Transport: Edinburgh has an extensive and efficient public transport network that includes buses and trams. Given that many Christmas events happen around the city centre, walking is also an excellent option.
By incorporating these suggestions, your Christmas visit to Edinburgh can be both fun and sustainable.
The Christmas market in Edinburgh is free to enter, and tickets are not required.
Tickets for the Edinburgh Christmas Market rides and attractions can be purchased online in advance or directly at the event. Tickets are not required for entrance to the market.
A new organiser has taken over the management of the Edinburgh Christmas Market in 2023. Unique Assembly is now running all the Christmas and Hogmanay events.
Edinburgh Christmas Market attracted over 2.5 million visitors last year, making for a busy event.
If you have visited Edinburgh in winter or want to leave a review of the Edinburgh Xmas Market, please comment below. This helps others interested in visiting and trying to plan their holiday.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Edinburgh, Scotland. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.