Edinburgh, UK – The festive spirit in Edinburgh turned into frustration for Christmas shoppers as they faced extensive queues at the Christmas markets on Saturday. The popular East Princes Street Gardens market, featuring rides and a dazzling light trail, attracted massive crowds on the penultimate weekend before Christmas. However, the decision to keep only the Market Street entrance open left hundreds stuck in a seemingly never-ending line, prompting some to abandon their festive plans.
Images captured from the Market Street entrance showcased a sea of marketgoers stretching along Waverley Bridge, highlighting the overwhelming turnout. Despite the holiday cheer, the sole entry point became a bottleneck, leading to prolonged wait times and disgruntled visitors.
One shopper, expressing her dismay, described the chaotic scene, saying, “It was absolutely mobbed. People must have been queuing for ages. They were only using the entrance near Cockburn Street for some reason, and no other entrance was open. I didn’t even bother waiting. I just turned around and went to George Street instead!”
Another visitor, who had planned a special day out with her 7-year-old granddaughter, shared her disappointment, stating, “I took my 7-year-old granddaughter into town for a day out. She wanted to go on some of the rides and get a few presents. But she got so fed up in the queue. We waited for more than half an hour, and that’s just too long for a child to stand in the cold.”
The unexpected bottleneck prompted suggestions for improved crowd management, with one visitor proposing, “If there’s a record number of people attending, they should maybe think about having time slots and staggered entry so that people don’t leave disappointed.”
This surge in attendance follows a record-breaking opening weekend in November when the markets attracted a staggering 80,000 visitors. In light of the increasing numbers, organisers had advised attendees to consider visiting during off-peak times, specifically avoiding Friday afternoons/evenings and Saturdays.
Responding to the concerns raised by frustrated shoppers, a spokesperson for Edinburgh Christmas explained the reasoning behind the decision to use only the Market Street entrance during peak periods. “As always, Edinburgh’s Christmas promotes Market Street as our sole weekend entrance during peak periods, to safely operate a one-way system and allow visitors to fully enjoy our illuminated light trail. The time taken at peak times for visitors to traverse this one-way system and view illuminations in East Princes Street Gardens is approximately 12-14 minutes.”
Despite the challenges faced by visitors at the East Princes Street Gardens market, organisers highlighted alternative options for those seeking a festive experience without the extensive queues. “On one of the final weekends before Christmas, the festive spirit has truly taken over Edinburgh, with many guests enjoying attractions throughout the city. Any visitors not wishing to wait at East Princes Street Gardens can explore our artisan market on George Street or take the little ones to West Princes Street Gardens to enjoy the Festive Family Funfair and experience the full range of Edinburgh’s Christmas attractions.”
As Edinburgh copes with the influx of Christmas shoppers, this incident serves as a reminder for event organisers to explore innovative crowd management strategies, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for all attendees.