The twinkle of lights, the glint of gold and silver decorations, the sizzle of smoked Bratwurst and slow-cooked onions, the scent of cinnamon spice and lull of festive jingles. If you’ve never made it to the Christmas markets of continental Europe, hop in the car or book a seat on the bus or train, because Belfast's Christmas Market is all you need this Yuletide season.
Arguably the biggest Christmas market on the entire island of Ireland, Belfast City Hall is the stunning backdrop once again for the city’s annual continental-style Yule mart. Offering a feast for the senses, find 90+ wooden chalet stalls appointed with all manner of handcrafts, gifts and artisan products, as well as hot food pop-ups and bars overflowing with Christmas cheer.
A fixture in the city every November and December in the lead up to the Big Day itself, in 2018 it’s running right the way ’til 22nd December within Belfast City Hall grounds, and snaking around exterior of the gates, as well as down pedestrianised Donegall Place as it’s grown year-on-year and can’t be confined.
The city erupts in a roar of colour, music and food this time annually and this European-style market is always worth a visit. There’s food, crafts, entertainment and two huge tavern-style bars (The Continental and Lavery’s Irish Bar) with their colourful windows, live music and craic galore.
With a glass of warm Gluhwëin in hand, feast on hog roast, indulge in some mouth-watering Belgian chocolates, warm filled crêpes, Dutch poffertjes (pancakes), as well as speciality cheeses and cured meats direct from Europe.
For the foodies, there’s also a food court area with a mix of international and local fare, from a Mourne Seafood pop-up with fresh chowder, fish tacos and maritime delights to a gourmet duck burger stand. Set up in its own area with lots of communal benches and corners to perch and eat and drink, it’s the perfect place for an al fresco bite - giving respite from all the shopping - in the city this December.
A curated collection of both local and international traders, there’s something for everyone if you’re picking up some last minute presents or decorations. From ornaments and trinkets to woodwork, beauty products, wreaths and all manner of stocking fillers, the price point is always reasonable, so it’s a great place to find some Secret Santa gifts or something unique and special for that person in mind who adores all things Christmas.
Find the vintage Helter Skelter and take in impressive views right across the market, whilst nearby there’s also a snowglobe photo opportunity, a colourful, traditional carousel and Santa’s Grotto, where the man himself will be meeting all the excited little ones to hear about what they want to find under the tree.
Kids can also post their letters to Santa in the postbox beside the grotto whilst charity Pretty ’n’ Pink is also being supported by the Grotto this year. The grotto is in operation Monday to Wednesday 3pm – 6pm, Thursday to Friday 2pm – 7pm, Saturday 11am to 7pm and Sunday midday to 6pm.
Down the road on Donegall Place, you’ll find even more stalls mixing local and international goods, whilst topping it all off is a giant Snow Slide with each go costing just £2. Sliding into Christmas has never been this fun!
Set against the spectacular backdrop of Belfast City Hall, Belfast Christmas Market in the heart of the city is a perfect pit stop, day trip or annual excursion to fill anyone’s heart with festive cheer.
It runs from approximately 10am daily (12-6pm Sunday) until 8pm Monday to Wednesday and 10pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays ’til Saturday 22nd December. For more information,click here.
Where To Stay?
Looking for somewhere central to stay this December? There’s nowhere quite like The Merchant Hotel, and this season of celebration there’s a special Festive Shopping package of an overnight stay, three-course dinner in The Great Room Restaurant and a £50 Victoria Square voucher, choosing between Victorian rooms for £275 or Art Deco rooms for £295. The offer runs right up until mid-January, so it’s also a great way to plan a January sales trip, too.
One of the city’s newest boltholes is Bullitt Belfast and if you book an overnight stay direct at bullitthotel.com you’ll get a special discounted rate and a festive drink on the house! What’s more, Babel - Bullitt’s Rooftop Bar - is offering a Tipsy Tea every Saturday and Sunday in December from 12pm – 4pm. Priced at £29.50 per person with gin cocktails or £44.50 per person with Champagne cocktails. Tipsy Tea will also be available every day from December 26th to 31st.