Tag Archives: activities

Edinburgh Christmas Market

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Edinburgh is an easy place to get into the Christmas spirit. It has cold weather, hearty food, and a very Dickens-esque vibe…this is the UNESCO City of Literature, after all.

But truly one of the best ways to celebrate the holidays in Europe is at the Christmas markets. Luckily for us, Edinburgh has a great one. If you are in town for the holidays, be sure not to miss it!

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Located off of Princes Street (with stunning views of the castle) the Edinburgh Christmas market runs from the end of November until the beginning of January. Charming stalls sell everything from furs, to fudge, to nutcrackers. It’s a good place to pick up gifts for friends and family…don’t forget to treat yourself too! IMG_2188 IMG_2200Food stalls are everywhere, and most of them have a Bavarian theme. You can find bratwurst, streusel, gluhwein, mulled cider, and soft pretzels. You heard me right: soft pretzels (these are very elusive here)! If Bavarian food isn’t to your taste, it’s easy to find fish and chips, burgers, and crepes.

IMG_2138 IMG_2181IMG_2157The market is also extremely family-friendly. There’s an ice skating rink, a Ferris wheel, a Christmas tree maze, train rides, and visits with Santa Claus. For brave souls, there is also a terrifying giant swing. I just might build up the courage to go on it next time 😛

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For those over 18, the market has some interesting and unique drink stands. We really loved the Carousel Bar, which is near the National Gallery, and the Hot Toddy Bar, which overlooks the skating rink (above the “SKATE” sign in the picture).

IMG_2171 IMG_2191All of the bars have similar menus, and for a £2 deposit, you’ll get a ceramic souvenir mug which can either be taken home or returned. You can order various types of  drinks, including hot toddies, gluhwein, and mulled cider. They have non-alcoholic beverages available too, of course!

Most importantly, the Christmas market can be a wonderful place to enjoy the company of good friends 🙂

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Tour of Buckingham Palace

During the months of August and September each year, Buckingham Palace opens its doors to the public. Since Alex and I were in London celebrating our wedding anniversary in August, we had the opportunity to go and visit.

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The tour of Buckingham Palace includes a visit to the State Rooms and garden. The private residences of the royal family are not accessible whether or not they are in residence at the time. If you are curious as to whether or not the Queen is present during your visit, just look at the flag on top of the Palace. If it is the British flag, she is not there, and if it is the Royal Standard, she is. When we visited, the British Flag was flying.

The cost of the tour was around 20 GBP per person, which roughly translates to around $32. When booking online, you will see that there is limited space for each time slot. I thought this meant that it was fairly exclusive due to space limitations, but apparently it is not. I was stunned to see a line wrapped around the palace for the same entry time. It will be PACKED when you arrive, but this shouldn’t deter you from booking tickets. The tour itself is self-paced and comes with an audio guide, so you can mosey around at your leisure. The crowd breaks up once you are inside the palace.

We were not allowed to take photographs once inside, so unfortunately I can only share my experiences with you. We initially entered the palace through the side entrance and traveled through several corridors towards the state rooms. On the way, there is a large viewing deck on the quadrangle, which is basically the interior courtyard. This is where all the cars go when they enter the palace.  Since it’s a working palace, it’s not unusual to see activity here of some sort.

Moving on, we visited the state rooms. The most “famous” room is the bright red throne room where William and Kate took their official wedding portraits. Each room had it’s own color scheme distinguishing it from the rest and were all very beautiful and ornate.

Our tour ended in the gardens, where were now allowed to use our cameras. I snapped these while we were outside:

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All in all, we spent between 2 and 3 hours walking in and around the Palace. They also have a great souvenir shop on the way out, selling “official” royal items. I would also recommend trying to see the Changing of the Guards before or after your visit. The British Monarchy’s Official Website will have up to date information on dates and times. It’s a very big ceremonial tradition and is always intriguing to watch.

As far as logistics of getting to Buckingham Palace, your best best is to get off the Tube at either Victoria Station or St. James’s Park (Circle and District Lines).