I've just returned from a winter city break in Aberdeen which has left me feeling all festive. I'm still getting to know the city, so it was great to have a few days to explore some of the sites, discover cute cafes and I even started my present shopping which is making me feel all smug as I'm usually a last minute person.
Being a city means that Aberdeen doesn't shut down for the winter and I found countless ways to spend my time including a free lunchtime concert, a visit to the Botanic Gardens and museum trips among many other activities. In fact, I've written a blog post all about the indoor activities that I discovered during my latest trip to Aberdeen.
However, one of the main reasons for this trip was to embrace the seasonal spirit at the Aberdeen Christmas Village and Market. The Village has an extended footprint this year and boasts the stunningly dramatic backdrop of Marischal College. With regional businesses and community groups at the heart of the event, it was nice to visit a Scottish Christmas market that supports and champions local talent.
Here are a few of my reasons to visit the Aberdeen Christmas Village this year...
1. SHOP FOR LOCAL GOODS AT THE CHRISTMAS MARKET
No Christmas Village would be complete without a festive market and Aberdeen is no exception. However, I was delighted to find out that a new market supporting local makers had been introduced for 2018 which is the kind of shopping I enjoy.
I don't know about you, but I'm more than a bit weary of seasonal events in other parts of the country that feature numerous stalls selling the same mass-produced items year after year. It is refreshing to see a Scottish city embrace local talent as their main shopping focal point.
Christmas in the Quad takes place within the impressive courtyard of Marischal College and the cute little cabins are all home to businesses from the North East of Scotland, with a small stage also providing a platform for local musical talent. It is the perfect chance to pick up a unique gift while supporting local enterprises. The market runs from Thursday to Sunday until Sunday 23rd December and the line-up changes every week so there are new opportunities to buy a varied range of regional arts. crafts, food and drink each weekend.
I combined a shopping excursion to the Christmas Village with a trip to the Aberdeen Etsy pop up market and managed to find some really unusual locally made presents. Although the Etsy market is finished for now, it is worth keeping an eye out for other makers events in the city.
2. GO SKATING AT THE OUTDOOR ICE RINK
Thanks to countless Christmas holiday movies featuring stylish individuals gracefully gliding around Central Park, there is something about this time of year that makes me want to don some skates and take to the ice, despite my lack of skills. It is also a fun way to burn off a few festive calories if you've indulged in too many mince pies - guilty!
Below the jagged pinnacles of Marischal College is Aberdeen's very own outdoor ice-rink and as settings go, this is an impressive one. With the grandeur of the world's second largest granite building in the background, you can showcase some skilful shapes or skid around like Bambi, which is definitely more my style. Skating at Christmas is much more about enjoying the atmosphere and less about having any kind of expertise.
If you only go ice-skating once a year then it should be outdoors in the winter and whether it is the reality or not, you will soon feel like you have stepped in to the scene of a Christmas card or an iconic painting by Sir Henry Raeburn.
3. INDULGE IN SOME FESTIVE FOOD & DRINK
When you're all shopped out or your legs are weary from skating, then checking out the food and drink offerings should be next on your list.
Hot snacks and drinks can be picked up from some of the little wooden cabins dotted around Broad Street. Think sweet and savoury treats like pancakes and waffles with a variety of toppings or Scottish favourites like venison burgers and haggis bon bons.
If you prefer a more substantial sit down meal indoors, then the Village is handily situated next to the new Marischal Square leisure development. Here you will find a mixture of restaurants, coffee shops and Mackie's 19.2 ice-cream parlour which sits 19.2 miles from the farm where the ice-cream is produced!
If you just fancy a celebratory festive tipple then the Moose bar next to the ice-rink is the place to go with choices including sparkling Prosecco, a cheeky cocktail, an indulgent Bailey's hot chocolate and much more. The glass walls mean you can soak up the Christmas atmosphere whilst cocooning indoors all warm and cosy.
4. ENJOY SOME FAMILY FUN AT THE FAIRGROUND
Along with everything else, the Aberdeen Christmas Village has also increased the number of fairground attractions on offer this year. For youngsters there are traditional favourites including a helter skelter, carousel and bumper cars.
Older thrill-seekers will no doubt gravitate towards the rotating Fast & Furious, swinging upside down on Freak Out or getting catapulted upwards by a bungee slingshot, all of which induced a fair bit of screaming as I walk around - apparently that is a good sign. These attractions are probably best enjoyed before indulging in the food or drink!
Many of the rides are operated by family run Codona's who have been running an amusement park at the city's beachfront since 1969, a firm favourite with locals and visitors and bit of an Aberdeen institution.
5. VISIT SANTA
Some of my fondest childhood Christmas recollections include my annual visit to Santa's Grotto. When you are wee enough to still believe, meeting Santa is a magical thing. Luckily this year, he has set up residence in a little wooden cabin in Aberdeen along with some of his elves.
Every child that visits Santa will receive a gift and gain some enchanting memories.
The Grotto is open Thursday - Sunday, until the 23rd of December.
MORE FESTIVE ACTIVITIES IN ABERDEEN
Some of the highlights include -
12 days of Christmas wooden sculpture trail - look out for 12 carved totem poles located across the city centre depicting The Twelve Days of Christmas
Nativity scene - Find the traditional nativity scene at St Nicholas Kirkyard
Community events - From carol singing to Xmas fairs, there are regular community events all over the city during December
Jager Haus - Glühwein? Bratwurst? Yes, please! Head to the German-themed bar in Union Square for some European treats
Panto - Almost compulsory at Christmas is a visit to the Panto and Aberdeen has a selection of traditional favourites to choose from including Snow White and Jack and the Beanstalk
Christmas lights - You can find twinkling lights around the city centre with some of the best in Union Street and the Bon Accord Shopping Centre. Free to visit and sure to brighten up a dark winter night
Hogmanay celebrations - The party doesn't end at Christmas. After a few days well earned rest, the New Year celebrations begin. This year in Aberdeen, the main event takes place on Schoolhill and features live music from Celtic rock band Gleadhraich and Thank You for the Music (ABBA tribute) followed by a spectacular firework display from the roof of His Majesty's Theatre.
I loved my festive city break which has left me feeling all glowy and warm so I've only one more thing to say...
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Disclaimer - my trip to Aberdeen was arranged and sponsored by Visit Aberdeenshire, however as always, all experiences and opinions are my own.
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