Scotland Christmas Markets: Where to Find the Best of Them
It’s never too early to get into the festive spirit - here’s where to find baubles, bratwurst, and the best gluehwein in Scotland’s Christmas markets
Is it even Christmas until you’ve spent a day sipping on mulled wine and browsing the maze of stalls at a Christmas market? We don’t think so. This festive tradition may have originated in Germany, but this year we’re looking forward to eating our body weight in gingerbread in the best Christmas markets in Scotland. Here at Plum Guide we might not have a team of elves at our beck and call but we do have our home critics, and they’ve put their expert heads together to search for the best places to enjoy Scotland’s Christmas markets, so read on.
1. Edinburgh Christmas Market
If you’re visiting a Christmas market in Scotland for the first time, you can’t go wrong with heading to Edinburgh. The capital puts on a show filled with enough festive cheer to rival the North Pole itself, with Santa staging a six-week takeover of Prince’s Street and the gardens. Here you’ll find everything from ice skating, grottos, and fairground rides, as well as the more traditional wooden chalets selling artisan decorations. Not to mention enough gluehwein to get you very merry indeed. Not a mulled wine fan? Head to the pop-up Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar, which has become a fixture of the festive season with its warming whisky cocktails and hot toddies, perfect for warding off Edinburgh’s December chill. It’s arguably Scotland’s prettiest Christmas market, and the rest of the city ain’t bad either. Once you’ve finished in the market, go for a walk around the scenic Old Town and marvel at the beautiful tenement townhouses and cobbled streets that give this city a particularly festive feel.
2. Ayr Collective Christmas Market
It may be better known for golfing than grottos, but if you’re searching for the most interesting Christmas markets in Scotland you can’t bypass Ayrshire. The majority of events are held in the capital, Ayr - explore Christmas light installations and public artworks around historic buildings with Winter Wanderland (see what they did there?), and definitely drop into the Ayr Collective Christmas Market to buy tweed and treats from local sellers. It might not be the largest of markets, but it’s definitely one of the most individual, and the destination of choice if you really want to impress with your stocking stuffers this year. With attractions like the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, countless castles (this is Scotland, after all) and the beautiful Arran Island wilderness, Ayrshire is our top pick for a festive family holiday in Scotland.
3. Inverness Eden Christmas Craft & Food Fair
There’s no shortage of Christmas markets in Scotland’s northern corners, but you can’t miss out on heading to Inverness for a Christmas craft and food market. This is the place to be for those of you looking for the perfect stocking filler, with an endless array of gift-worthy products on offer for you to spend your hard-earned cash on. Predictably, you can find both food and crafted goods here, so you’re not going to be disappointed if the market’s name has got your hopes up. Peruse the decorated stalls to find a range of cheeses, cakes, patisseries, chocolates, coffees, preserves, and much more to ensure you have enough to nibble on through the Christmas Day celebrations. Or, if the ‘craft’ aspect is more your thing, explore the impressive jewellery, clothing, artwork, candles and countless other goods on offer. Whether your objective is a casual stroll through the Christmas market, or you’ve left all your shopping to the last minute, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Inverness.
4. Ullapool Christmas Market
Recommending you go to the Highlands is, admittedly, a bit of a cop-out - the region counts for almost a third of Scotland’s total landmass so it’s hard to avoid going there. But we fear we’d end up on the naughty list if we left it out, and we’ve been so good all year, so we thought we had better highlight two different markets for your pleasure. Make your way to coastal Ullapool to see a Christmas tree made entirely out of lobster creels, and enjoy a wander through their Winter Festival. Try your hand at ice skating, or purchase all the gifts you could ever need from the jewellery, decoration, and food stalls. This small village market has a reputation for its unmissable lights, so don’t miss out on what will be an unforgettable trip north. End a day in the snow searching for reindeer prints with mulled cider around the fire. Just make sure the chimney’s clear for the big night itself, or Santa might leave you a sooty carpet as well as a stack of presents.
5. Dunfermline Annual Christmas Parade
Here in Fife, they march to the beat of their own drum; or at least they do at the Dunfermline Annual Christmas Parade, which has previously seen local punk bands rub shoulders with traditional pipe bands. There’s a strong Scottish vibe to this Christmas market, with a focus on local products. If you’re looking for tartan tree trimmings or Santa-shaped shortbread, you’ll find it here. There are also a number of artisanal food stalls to pick up the last bits and bobs for the big day - we might not be swapping the turkey out for a haggis anytime soon, but some traditional oatcakes and a few drams of Scottish whisky never go amiss for festive nibbles. For the unforgettable experience of a classic Christmas in Scotland, this is certainly a market to stick on the ‘must visit’ list.
6. Dundee Ethical Christmas Fair
If you're worried about your carbon footprint this holiday, there’s no need to try and count the air miles on Santa’s sleigh - just head up to one of the most guilt-free markets possible, the Dundee Ethical Christmas Fair. You won’t find any plastic tat here, just beautiful gifts made by local creatives and an overwhelming sense of seasonal smugness. Spread across more than 45 stalls inside a Christmas-themed marquee, you can find goods from food and drinks to pottery, photography to candles, handbags to soaps, and many more festive offerings. Bring the younger ones to see Santa and watch them become engulfed in the various different children's activities, all while you sit in the cafe with a hot cuppa, of course.
7. Dundee WinterFest
A newer addition to the Scottish Christmas market selection, Dundee WinterFest at Slessor Gardens was such a monumental success in 2021, that it looks as though it’s here to stay moving forward, and we are definitely on board with that. With an abundance of different market stalls, different rides (including a big wheel), and an ice rink, there is something around every corner to get you in the festive spirit. If you’re braving the ice rink however, just be ready for the kids to laugh hysterically when you inevitably lose your footing… maybe you’ll see the funny side of it too. You can always sip away your sorrows at the traditional Bavarian bar if not, so your dented pride won’t hurt for too long.
8. Glasgow St Enoch Square Christmas Market
The first of two Glasgow Christmas markets to feature on this list, the Glasgow St Enoch Square Christmas Market is a slightly more peaceful market than others you’ll find in Scotland, with its smaller scale. Although, smaller scale doesn’t mean less enjoyment, and it certainly doesn’t mean less desirable food, as proven by the edible goods on offer here. Make the most of the free entry, and keep your money available for the hog roast, bratwursts, crepes, and of course the mulled wine. What is a Christmas market without mulled wine? (Or Gluhwein, as it is traditionally known). The market is also located right next door to Glasgow’s famous Style Mile, so wander in and out of the shops between stall visits, and get your Christmas shopping finished off at the last minute, in the true Christmas spirit.
9. Glasgow George Square Christmas Market
The little brother of the two Glasgow markets often gets overlooked, so we thought we would give it the limelight first, but now we are onto the main attraction of Christmas in Glasgow: The Glasgow George Square Christmas Market. This market is in fact the second largest in the country, behind the famous Edinburgh Christmas market, and is situated in the city centre, attracting a huge number of people every year. The beautiful church sets the scene for an unforgettable event, with plenty of stalls and activities to get stuck into and a huge Christmas tree watching over you as you browse. Make sure you visit on an empty stomach to save room for the delicious foods on offer, and wash it all down with a classic German beer or the essential cup of Gluhwein. What better way to get in the Christmas spirit than by surrounding yourself with the very best of Glasgow’s festivities? And to top it all off, there’s live music playing all night, so you can enjoy the timeless sounds of Christmas while you go.
10. Stirling Christmas Market at Albert Halls
One of a few different markets dotted around Stirling, the market at Albert Halls is a brilliant occasion for all the family to get involved in. Here you’ll find an event that showcases the very best of Stirling's local community, with a huge variety of products and crafts available for purchase. The shopping experience you find yourself enjoying here won’t be like anything you’ve encountered before, with a complimentary mocktail and mince pie helping you peruse the countless stalls promoting small businesses and their crafts. Perhaps a slightly lesser known Scottish Christmas market, but a highly recommendable one all the same. For anyone struggling to think of present ideas and in need of some inspiration, be that for friends, family, or even yourself, you’ll have more than enough to work with by the time you’ve completed the rounds of this market.
11. Aberdeen Christmas Village
Rounding off this list of the best Christmas markets that Scotland has to offer, we’re heading to Aberdeen, and the mesmerising lights of the Aberdeen Christmas Village. This is another of the markets that keenly looks to promote local businesses and their goods, so stroll around each of the stalls dotted throughout the market and buy yourself some truly unique products to spice up Christmas this year. Enjoy the live music, the nativity celebrations, and even the entertaining dance performances as you spend quality time with the family during the festive season in the northeast of Scotland. The festive spirit (or the mulled wine) may even take over and have you joining in with the dancers, embarrassing the kids and making memories to last a lifetime. If that’s not what Christmas is for, then we‘ve been doing it wrong for a long time.