Edinburgh at Christmas

Image by Magnus Hagdorn, available on Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons 2.0 license

It’s that time of year again! Students all over Durham are preparing for their Christmas breaks with secret santas and formative submissions. With all these deadlines creeping up, an escape is very much needed. This year will be the third consecutive year that mine is going to be to the Edinburgh Christmas markets.

Edinburgh is a dynamic and beautiful city. It’s full of amazing food and there is a deep history laid into every cobblestone you’ll step on. It’s safe to say that it is one of the best places on Earth. The city turns even more magical every year when the Christmas Markets move into its centre. It has everything to make the perfect day away after all those stressful assignments get turned in. The six-week festival, which began on the 16th of November and will run every day until the 4th of January, is a hugely popular event full great food, good drinks, shopping stalls, a multitude of rides and more.

As you wander through the maze of stalls, your senses will come to life from the sweet-smelling foods and warm drinks. After a few years of being adventurous, I can promise one of the best things to eat comes from the salmon sandwich stall. If fish really isn’t your forte, the grilled cheese stall is also fabulous. However, the foody heaven doesn’t end there, you’ll be able to find a multitude of savoury and sweet bites to appease whatever your tastes are. And of course, what is a Christmas market without Bailey’s hot cocoa or the spiced ciders? Make sure to grab one of these so you don’t miss out!

In regards to shopping, you’ll be able to find just about everything, from hand-made maps, cashmere tartan scarves to the perfect Christmas gift to take home to your parents. Depending on when you go, you might also be able to get all your secret santa presents sorted. Even if you aren’t going to buy anything, it’s fun to go look at all the handmade crafts and the niche products which the vendors put so much effort and heart into.

Now for those who are children at heart, the rides. From bumper cars to a Helter Skelter to a rollercoaster, Edinburgh has it all. But be warned that you do need to buy tickets for all these rides beforehand. A must-do for my friends and I is the Christmas tree maze; it’s truly fabulous because of the sweet sap smell that surrounds you as you explore the maze, meaning it really will get you into that holly jolly spirit. After that, I’ve got to recommend the Helter Skelter. Truly a blast from the past, it may not be the most adventure seeking ride, but the nostalgia makes it one of the best ones to do (and a ticket gets you two turns on it). Next, while I do love a good teacup ride, please be aware that riding it two times in a row can leave you feeling slightly worse for wear! But whilst I say this, I do recommend going on it; it’s gorgeous and the teacups are fun.. the first time around. Needless to say, the rides are well worth it and make the day much more fun.

While the markets are the main attraction this time of the year, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty more to explore in this city. For a free activity that most will enjoy, the National Scottish Gallery is situated right in the markets. Have fun going through and exploring their wide range of work. Also nearby is the Royal Mile, where you can hear the sonorous tones of the bagpipe, see the old city and its architecture, and at the very end you’ll come to Edinburgh Castle. The Castle entry isn’t free, but it’s definitely worth the splurge. And at the least, you can enter its courtyard for free and gaze at the stunning views across the city. If you’re there at 1 p.m, you’ll also hear the one-o-clock gun sound; it’s a tradition to fire a blank at 1 p.m. so that all the ships in the harbour can calibrate their clocks. After you’ve explored the Castle, there are many places on the mile to try the traditional food of the region, such as haggis, if that catches your fancy. There’s also the famous Princes street which is full of shopping for those that miss the big city shops.

All-in-all, it’s easy to see why Edinburgh is the perfect day out. However, be warned; dress warmly, it gets much colder up there. It’s also going to get dark early but it doesn’t take very long to get around the city, so don’t stress about getting there first thing and leaving on the last train out. Do be weary of when attractions close; on most days the market is open 10 am to 10 pm. But the Castle and museum usually close much earlier. Currently, I’m counting down the days until I return in a couple of weeks. It’s become a tradition for me and my friends, and it might be your next tradition too.

Featured image by Ally Crockford, available on Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons 3.0 license

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