If you love to visit a Christmas market during the holiday season, then we always suggest a trip to Edinburgh to see one of the greatest markets in Europe that’s been around for over 16 years. Scotland's capital attracts tourists all year round for its wonderful architecture, history, people and food. And every year this beautiful city finishes its year with an amazing selection of Christmas markets just before the famous New Year’s Eve celebrations begin. While most UK cities' Christmas markets have packed up and gone home by Christmas Eve, Edinburgh does things a little differently, with its stalls open right through the festive period and only closing their shutters after Hogmanay, on the 3rd of January.
You'll find a treasure trove of gifts, amazing foods and memorable experiences when you travel to Edinburgh and explore the festive market. Better still, it's really easy to get there from wherever you are in the UK, thanks to Avanti West Coast's regular services. With Waverley Station situated right in the heart of town, and the main market area being just a few minutes away on Princes Street, George Street and in Princes Street Gardens, you're sure to have a fine time in the city.
And of course, a trip to Edinburgh doesn't just have to be about the Christmas markets. Why not stay for a longer trip and visit all those places you've longed to see, like Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood, the Royal Mile, Grassmarket, Arthur's Seat and all the museums and galleries hosting unbelievable exhibits from around the world.
How to get to Edinburgh Christmas Market by train
Edinburgh is the northernmost point of the West Coast Mainline, which runs all the way down to London with stops at Manchester, Birmingham and many other cities. We also branch off to Holyhead in Anglesey, passing along the North Wales Coast. In short, wherever you are in mainland UK, you can hop on a train and roll into Waverley train station and be browsing the market stalls in no time.
Where is Edinburgh Christmas market?
The Edinburgh Christmas market location occupies three main parts of the city: East Princes Street Gardens, Princes Street itself and George Street. The plaza outside the Scottish Royal Academy gets turned into a maze of continental cabins, and the scene is repeated up in George Street.
If you know this city, you'll be aware of how close these locations are to Waverley Station – in fact, if they were any closer, the locomotives wouldn't be able to get along the rails and passengers would be able to lean out of the window and grab a waffle! It's no exaggeration to say you simply step out of the main concourse of the station, and there you are, right in the heart of festive Edinburgh.
What to do at the Edinburgh Christmas Market
The first thing you notice when you observe the market on Princes Street will probably be the rides. There are all the fairground rides you'd expect, from the gentle kiddie rides like helter-skelters to some quite hair-raising thrills that go as high and fast as you can take it. But as you get closer, Christmas comes into focus, with the stalls selling traditional European wares, be they foods, drinks, toys, decorations, gifts or clothes. It's the perfect place to kick start your Christmas in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
There does seem to be a slight difference between these products and those in George Street, presumably on purpose. While the main market area has a distinctly continental, or alpine, feel to it, George Street has a more homespun feel, with local products on offer. That of course includes haggis, whiskies and various cakes and other sweet treats, but you'll also find plenty of locally crafted gifts, from scarves and hats to ornaments and Christmas decorations and cards. At the end, you'll find St. Andrew Square, where there's usually a skating rink, theatre, and circus, but check local guides for details, as these do sometimes appear in different locations.
About the Edinburgh Christmas Market
The idea of a specialist seasonal market in the city has been alive since 1999 when the first "Capital Christmas" was held. It was such a success that it has never stopped, and has grown into the winter wonderland you see today. In some ways, it has become a little more similar to the other Christmas markets that grace every UK city at this time of year, with its chalet-style stalls and continental food and drink. But Edinburgh's interpretation has managed to retain the unique local flavour more than others, especially in the George Street area.
Ways to save on your train ticket to the Edinburgh Christmas Market
Whether you're getting the train to Scotland from somewhere in England or you're travelling from Glasgow, you're going to want to spend as little as possible on your travel, so here are a few tips for you.
First, you should avoid peak hours, which are the morning and evening rush hours. Travelling in the middle of the day or after 8 p.m. will ensure you don't pay peak fares. And if you're travelling off-peak, you can save even more – up to a third – if you use a Railcard. For a one-off fee for one or three years, you can save on all your off-peak travel with a Railcard, so if you're a frequent traveller, or just make a few long journeys each year, you can more than cover the cost of the card and then start saving some big money.
Also, try to book as far in advance as possible, because the sooner you book, the cheaper the ticket will be – and you'll stand a better chance of reserving your favourite seat in the carriage of your choice.
Other ways to save include booking as a group if there are between three and nine passengers in your party. You just book all the tickets together and you'll get a group discount, as well as having the chance to sit in your chosen seats as a group. The same applies to families. Although it's a slightly different ticket, it's still cheaper than buying individual tickets.
Finally, try to avoid third-party train ticket vendors like Trainline - buy directly through our website or via the Avanti app, there's no additional booking fees added.
Get the app
The Avanti West Coast app brings plenty of travel benefits right into the palm of your hand. Without leaving the app, you can book tickets, change your booking, upgrade to a First Class carriage, plan your single or return journey or cancel tickets. When you buy using the app, your tickets are stored on the app itself, so you always have it on hand to check your times or to show to the conductor or station staff. If you've got a Railcard, you can add that to your app, so we can easily apply discounts when you use it.
Find out more about downloading our app for Apple or Android here.