The Belfast Christmas Market is located on the grounds of Belfast City Hall which bang in the centre of the Belfast City Centre and only a short walk from the main transit hubs with the Europa Bus and Train Station and it is next to the main shopping street at Donegall Place. The city centre is, I guess, quaint wherein a short 5-minute walk to the Belfast Continental Market we were greeted by Mormons, charity shop workers, a busker playing a violin trumpet (who I am told is “a legend”) and a relatively pleasant beggar asking for pennies for ‘tea’. Apparently we were too late for the Hare Krishnas. Anyway, these days we are sure to visit annually and each year is fairly similar from every year before.
Belfast Christmas Market 2020
Belfast Christmas Market 2020 is scheduled to take place from 16 Nov – 22 Dec 2020.
Due to uncertainly with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) there may be changes to opening times, stalls and attractions, and there will likely be social distancing measures. The Belfast Christmas Market traditionally opens daily from morning to late-ish (10:00AM – 20:00PM weekdays). However, full details are yet to be confirmed.
Belfast Continental Market
So Belfast Christmas takes place on the grounds of Belfast City Hall at Donegall Square (our local guide to Belfast here), and, as far as Christmas Markets go, it’s really not that bad, with its fancy backdrop at Belfast City Hall. And when it comes to tacky themes and clichés, it’s not plastered with them. As I have been put off by the ridiculous commercialisation recently at many Christmas Markets like the rather massive Hyde Park Winter Wonderland in London, with rollercoasters, and haunted mansions, and just any random crap to cash in on the occasion. They just don’t feel that Christmassy anymore. Any, check out our video tour below (2019).
Belfast Christmas Market
For me, being Christmassy is what these Christmas markets is all about, and while Belfast Christmas Market isn’t overly traditional in itself (it first opened in 2004 with Asian and South American foods among its stalls), it does at least bring some more recent nostalgia for myself. Otherwise these traditional markets are set to replicate the seasonal charms of Germany’s Christkindlmarkt, as well as the wider winter markets of continental Europe, and in Belfast they do this relatively well. Although we did find the exact same Helter Skelter from Hyde Park last year, which is red and white, and fun, so I guess it’s Christmassy. I’m just being a scrooge.
The Best Food Stalls
I don’t really take notice of the gift and trinket stalls, because I have no interest whatsoever in shopping. And these markets are otherwise all about food and drink for me, which I guess is the same for most people given there’s just a crazy amount of snack stalls. As the market is lined with all the usual continental treats, like frankfurters, schnitzels, raclette, maybe, and of course vin chaud/gluehwein/mulled wine. Along with some less likely stalls like Paella and other stuff I ignore (is Paella Christmassy). Anyway, this visit was more to share my own traditions with Fanfan by ordering a kangaroo burger from the “Meats of the World” stall, because it’s weird. And asking for a “German crack whore” at the “German Krakauer” stall, because it’s hilarious (or it was 13 years ago). Don’t forget the Hog Roast.
Belfast Christmas Market for Kids
Most of the kids’ stuff is on the left side of Belfast Christmas Market when arriving to the front gates of Belfast City Hall. You just look for the big red and white Helter Skelter, and then there are lots of things like a giant snow globe, a Christmas carousel, and you can meet the big man himself opposite at Santa’s Grotto. Snack-wise there is the marshmallow toasting station to keep them entertained as well all sorts of sweets and treats in-and-around the Belfast Christmas Market like candy and chocolate stalls, donuts and churros… Then there are the beer tents in the centre to escape them.
The Beer Tents
My other obvious interest was in the heated beer tents at the Belfast Christmas Market, and to hopefully make a night of the occasion. Only the tables were already packed by the time that we had arrived, because it’s “baltic” outside. So if planning a night out, it’s probably best to arrive in the early evenings, to get a seat. Meanwhile I was still gauging the local prices on this visit, and my initial reaction was that everything is overpriced, given 7 years had passed since my last visit. But, in hindsight, the prices are really not that bad. Anyway, the Kangaroo burger set me back £4, it was £3.60 for the Mulled Wine, for a pint of Paulaner in the beer tents it was £4.75, and it’s £9.80 for a Stein (2 pints). Note, these are all 2017 prices.
Views from Around
There are alternative eating/drinking options surrounding we ended up going for pub grub at “The Apartment Restaurant” which overlooks City Hall and the Belfast Continental Market. At least when it’s not obstructed by the comings-and-goings of coaches at Donegall Square. And the views are nice enough despite our hideous photo-op below (I look like I’ve gained stones in one week in Northern Ireland). For UK standards Belfast is fairly inexpensive. And while service is normally irrelevant to me, the millennial waiter managed to plaster my jacket with sauce without telling me, and I ended tipping him £7 because my brother picked up the bill. I had to walk through Belfast City Centre jacketless in the freezing cold. Anyway, these are just more of those adorable quirks of Belfast, and while the city may be a bit out-of-sorts at times, it does have some lovable rapscallion charm to it all. (Bottom image from Café Parisien)
Belfast City Hall
The Belfast Christmas Market Belfast City Hall marks the centre of the city, at Donegall Square, and it is relatively easy to find from either of the bus or train stations. As well as nearby parking in the city centre malls. Because Belfast is just relatively tiny as a city. So the City Hall is an attraction in itself, and is worth seeing on any visit to Belfast, where public tours take place during early afternoon hours (times shown here) throughout the year. And this includes a whole bunch of museum-like exhibits on the ground floors. However the hours are stretched through into the evenings during the Belfast Christmas Market events, and the building does look at its best, when decorated with Christmas trees and festive baubles.