Scottish produce enjoys a reputation for quality, from sumptuous summer fruits and venison steaks to heather-coloured tweed and Celtic jewellery. Edinburgh’s markets have the lot in some knockout locations, both in the city centre and the intriguing outskirts.
Edinburgh’s markets are packed with fantastic produce and give visitors the chance to experience Scotland’s capital at its buzzing best. For decades, the Farmers’ Market has supplied shoppers with fine food in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. The West End Fair vends beautiful crafts during festival time, while the Christmas Market keeps the mulled wine flowing. There are some new stalls on the block, too, notably hip street-food hangout Pitt Market in Leith, which has late openings and live music. This and the Stockbridge Market provide a perfect focus for out-of-the-centre explorations, while the Old Tolbooth Market is sited in one of the most historic parts of the city. Shop on!
Sip a Steampunk coffee at Stockbridge Market
Situated in Jubilee Gardens on the banks of the Water of Leith, Stockbridge Market has a rep as the second farmers’ market in the capital. But that doesn’t diminish the quality of the handcrafted creations and fresh ingredients sold here every Sunday (10am – 5pm). Goodies on offer include artisan cheeses, smoked salmon, jewellery, crafts, soaps, crêpes, melting marshmallows and even handmade dog treats. Some regular stall occupants include Mademoiselle Macaron for colourful sweet treats, Vegan Tipples and – in their own custom-fitted VW Camper Van – North Berwick’s Steampunk Coffee Roasters.
No visit to Edinburgh in the wintertime would be complete without a browse round the atmospheric Christmas Market (daily 10am – 10pm, mid November to early January). It’s also pretty much impossible to avoid, regardless of whether you’re a tourist or a beleaguered Edinburgh shopper. The market has, for more than 20 Christmases past, occupied the main thoroughfare below the Mound, stretching along East Princes Street Gardens Terrace and around the Scott Monument amongst colourfully lit fairground rides. Culinary treats are plentiful, with crêperies and hot-food stalls dotted around the fairground and vendors offering that scented seasonal favourite, mulled wine.
Out of the Blue operates out of a former army drill hall that has been transformed into a full-blown cultural hub, playing host to a range of public events and artists’ studios. Their monthly flea market (last Saturday of the month from 10am to 3pm) is an all-ages event with a cornucopia of handcrafted goodies from local artists: bric-a-brac, vintage vinyl, fashion, musical instruments, antiques, furniture and indescribable one-off gems. The in-house social enterprise café keeps shoppers fuelled with seasonal snacks and organic baking.
It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque market setting than this – Edinburgh Farmers’ Market looks right up at the city’s medieval castle. Every Saturday (9am–2pm) the blue and white striped awnings on Castle Terrace shade an excellent range of products: meat, seasonal fruits and vegetables, jams, chutneys, crusty bread, handmade chocolates and pies. Tasting samples are commonplace, so try before you buy from some esteemed suppliers including Puddledub Pork, natural organic producers Caurnie Soap and – for some famously good Scottish soft fruit – Tay Valley Fruits. The Edinburgh Fermentarium sells a range of naturally fermented products such as kimchi and sauerkraut.
The salty suburb of Leith now has a yard market to call its own – Pitt Market – where you can chomp your way round food stalls vending shellfish, noodles, steak and toasties (Saturday noon to 10pm, Sunday noon to 8pm). Their USP is the buskers that turn it into something akin to a yard party. Top recommendations include the vintage milk float selling waffles and ice cream, plus excellent coffee.
Take a bus down to the shoreline at Leith on a Saturday for the Leith Market (Saturday 10am to 4pm), where you can buy prints, pantry goods, candles and a whole lot of food. There’s a dedicated vegan quarter on the first Saturday of the month, with plant-based vendors like Planet Kuku (who do an excellent egg-free tortilla) and chilli jam specialists Trodden Black.
Explore multicultural Edinburgh at the Old Tolbooth Market
This is a new space in a historic area, just off ancient Canongate in the heart of the Old Town. Envisaged as a community arts and commerce project, the Old Tolbooth Market (daily 11am to 6pm) has a multicultural remit, with a Scottish/Afro-Caribbean street buffet, Jam Rock Jamaican chicken and more. You’ll also find hot Tanzanian hot chilli sauces, flowers, arts and crafts, plus live music and performances.
Hosted in August during the Festival period in a lovely churchyard at the western end of Princes Square Gardens, the West End Fair is a consciously classy craft fair, with the best local makers selected to exhibit their goods each year. It has more the feel of a design fair than a market – you can browse hand-dyed silks, luxurious wool and tweed clothing, jewels, art prints, ceramics and glasswork.