A day out in Edinburgh filled with all sorts of festive fun is a great way to kick-start the Christmas festivities. As you know Edinburgh is a popular destination to visit no matter what time of year, so we prepared ourselves for visiting Edinburgh’s Christmas Market as a wheelchair user.
Everyone loves a Christmas market it seems. Despite how busy it could get, we wanted to soak up the Christmas atmosphere and enjoy a nice family day out. I also wanted to try something I’d never done before. Ice skate. Yes, wheelchair ice skating is possible and surprisingly super easy. I’ll come back to the ice skating in a bit and let the suspense build some more.
Visiting Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets In A Wheelchair
How to Get To Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets
Like most of our trips to Edinburgh city centre, we opted for the easiest option, the tram. You can read about my experience of travelling by Edinburgh Trams here. We park our car in the Igliston Park and Ride where there are many disabled bays and boarded the tram heading for Princes Street.
A return ticket costs only £3.40 and saves us a lot of stress trying to find a parking space in Edinburgh. The tram stopped at Princes Street which brought us right to the Edinburgh Christmas market in Princes Street.
Depending on where you are travelling from there is also the option of arriving by train as Waverly Station is across from Princes Street Christmas market. Haymarket Station is also not too far.
What to See and Do at Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets
Ice Adventure: A Journey Through Frozen Scotland.
As I was looking through the website at all the attractions at this year’s Christmas event my eye caught the images of the beautiful ice sculptures at the Ice Adventure: A Journey Through Frozen Scotland. Instantly I thought it would be fun to experience this cool (pun intended) walk-through of Scotland’s history through these amazing sculptures.
If you like Scotland’s national drink, then you might like to have a Shackleton Whisky at the Ice Bar while admiring the ice designs.
With temperatures of minus 10, we made sure we were well-wrapped up, but nothing could have prepared us for how cold it actually was. In fear of turning into an ice sculpture ourselves, we only spent around fifteen minutes inside and felt that was plenty of time to walk around and see all the sculptures.
Tickets are priced at £10 (adult), £7 (concession – under 16s, students and OAPs) and £30 (family of two adults and two children).
Although the ice sculptures are incredibly impressive and beautifully created, in my opinion, I feel this attraction is priced too high for the amount of time you spend there and the size of the area to walk around.
Wheelchair Ice Skating
When I discovered the ice skating at St Andrew’s Square was wheelchair accessible I knew I had to give it a go. It’s one of the most Christmassy things to do, isn’t it? Well, at least I think so anyway.
I’ll always remember my first ice skating experience because a) it was at my favourite time of year and b) I got to experience it with my nephew who was also trying it for the first time.
I love doing things like this with my nephew because even at such a young age it’s showing him that things that are typically perceived as inaccessible are in fact very accessible and just because I’m a wheelchair user doesn’t mean I can’t do these things.
As soon as we collected our tickets at the box office we made our way around to the entrance where someone was waiting for us. My sister and nephew went a different way from me as they had to go across a bridge with stairs to collect their skates and skating aid for my nephew. A member of staff instructed all skaters to stop while I entered and made my way safely across the ice rink.
I was then asked if I required any assistance from staff, but as I was happy to drive my power wheelchair myself, we were quickly on our way whizzing around the Melville Monument.
I was previously told that power wheelchairs aren’t allowed on the ice and that someone would need to push my wheelchair, but that is not the case at all. My power wheelchair had no problems at all on the ice rink and worked amazingly well.
We had a fantastic time ice skating and I’m really happy I got to experience it. It was starting to get dark as we were skating around so it was lovely to see all the Christmas lights which made it feel extra special.
The ice skating runs in half-hour slots and prices range from £9 to £12.50 (adult), £5 to £8 (concession) and £20 to £35 (family of two adults and two children).
Accessible Toilet at the Ice skating (St Andrews Square)
There is an accessible toilet at the Ice skating, but I thought it was very small. We struggled to close the door once I got inside the cabin-style toilet due to how small it was and the fact the door opens inwards (almost touching the toilet).
This also meant we struggled to then open the door to leave as there was zero space inside the toilet to move or turn my wheelchair. There was an electric-powered lift to take you up to the toilet, but I honestly feel there could have been a much better type of accessible toilet available than this one.
If you enjoy wheelchair ice skating, you might also enjoy my review of wheelchair skiing.
Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets
A trip to Edinburgh during the festive period wouldn’t be complete without a stroll through the Christmas market. So, of course, we made sure to have a wander through and browse the different stalls at Princes Street Christmas market before jumping on the tram and going home.
Surprisingly the market wasn’t as busy as we expected it to be especially on a Friday night. Although some stalls were more crowded than others, I was still able to move around in my wheelchair without much difficulty.
The Christmas market is pretty massive and spreads across three levels. The first two levels are mainly food and gift stalls as well as some rides with the third level featuring Santa Land with more kid’s rides.
We didn’t actually bother going to the Santa Land level as when we walked to the end of the second level we realised there was no accessible path down to that level. There were only steps down to Santa Land from that end.
We had to go back the same way we had just come and by the time we made it back to the other end of the market, we decided not to bother going down as my nephew didn’t want to go on any more rides.
I enjoyed having a look at the stalls and admiring all the lovely Christmas decorations. I’m not going to lie, I was tempted to buy a few things. However, as you know, prices are usually very high at events like these.
The Big Wheel
I was hoping to go on the big wheel, but unfortunately, when I enquired about accessibility I was told that it was wheelchair accessible, but not for power wheelchairs due to weight restrictions. If you’re a manual wheelchair user and fancy a ride on the big wheel then this could be an option for you.
Tickets cost £9 (adult), £6 (concession) and £25 (family of two adults and two children).
Changing Places Toilet
There is a Changing Places toilet at The Booking Office (Wetherspoons pub by Waverley station) which is across from Princes Street. This Changing Places toilet is really handy if you’re at the market and require the use of this facility. It had everything you’d expect from a Changing Places toilet such as a hoist, height-adjustable bed, emergency pull cord, grab rails and lots of space.
Where to Eat at Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets
I can’t stress the importance of making a restaurant reservation as soon as possible, especially when visiting Edinburgh during Christmas. We managed to book a table at one of our favourites, Bella Italia. We’ve been to a few Bella Italia’s around Scotland and always enjoyed our meals.
The Verde burger and Morello Cioccola are delicious and my favourites. The one we went to was on Hanover Street which is only a few minute’s walk from the Christmas market.
There is a step into the restaurant but there is a ramp that staff put down for wheelchair access. Although the restaurant is wheelchair accessible it doesn’t have an accessible toilet. This is disappointing, but apparently, it’s due to the age and layout of the building. Non-accessible toilets are upstairs in the restaurant. All staff were amazing and incredibly helpful.
Top Tips For Visiting Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets In A Wheelchair
So there you have it, my top tips for visiting Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets in a wheelchair. Has this got you into the Christmas spirit yet? Have you already been to the Christmas Markets? Let me know about your experiences in the comments below.
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Thanks to Edinburgh’s Christmas for two complimentary tickets to Ice skating and Ice Adventure, however as always, all opinions expressed in this honest review are my own.