Belfast’s Continental Christmas Market

Belfast Christmas Market returns in 2022 and will take place on the grounds of Belfast City Hall between 20th November – 23rd December 2022

Belfast Christmas Market is located in the very centre of Belfast City (map here) on the grounds of Belfast City Hall at Donegall Square. It is within a short walk (6-minutes) of the main transit hubs of the Europa Buscentre and Great Victoria Street Train Station (directions here). It is also next to the main shopping streets of Donegall Place.

Belfast itself is a quaint and somewhat charming destination (our local guide to Belfast here) where in the short walk to Belfast Continental Market we were greeted by Mormons, charity shop workers, a busker playing a violin trumpet who I am told is “a legend”. A relatively pleasant beggar asks us for pennies for ‘tea’. We were apparently too late for the Hare Krishnas.

Belfast Christmas Market 2022

So Belfast Christmas Market takes place on the grounds of Belfast City Hall, and, as far as Christmas Markets go it is quite small, but it’s also quite attractive with its prestigious backdrop of the buildings and monuments of Belfast City Hall. When it comes to tacky themes and clichés as well, it’s not plastered with them, which is something I find with other ‘continental markets in the U.K.’. A recent example being the rather massive Hyde Park Winter Wonderland in London, with rollercoasters, haunted mansions, and just any random crap to cash in on the occasion. Many Christmas Markets just don’t feel very Christmassy anymore.

Anyway, checkout our quick video tour of the pre-Covid Belfast Christmas Market 2019.

The Christmas ’Continental’ Market

For me, being Christmassy is what these Christmas markets are 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 as the main Christmas destination in all of Northern Ireland.

Traditional markets are otherwise set to replicate the seasonal charms of continental Europe, like Germany’s Christkindlmarkt, and just the wider winter markets throughout the continent. And in Belfast they do this relatively well, although we did find the exact same Helter Skelter from Hyde Park, which is red and white I guess, and fun, so it steal feels Christmassy. I’m just being a scrooge.

The Best Food Stalls

I don’t really take notice of the gift and trinket stalls given I have no interest in gifts and trinkets or in shopping in general. So these markets are 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 including the usual continental treats, like frankfurters, schnitzels, raclette, and of course vin chaud/gluhwein/mulled wine.

There are also some less likely stalls like Paella (is Paella Christmassy) and other stuff I ignore. Anyway, on our more recent visit, I was set to share my own traditions with Fanfan on her visit from Thailand by ordering a kangaroo burger from the “Meats of the World” stall, because it’s weird. Then I ordered a “German crack whore” at the “German Krakauer” stall because I guess it was hilarious 15 years ago. Then there’s the Hog Roast.

Belfast Christmas Market for Kids?

Arriving to the front gates of Belfast City Hall, most of the kid’s stuff is found on the left side of Belfast Christmas Market, just look for the big red and white Helter Skelter. Then there are lots of other exciting Christmas-themed attractions like a giant snow globe, a Christmas carousel, and you can of course meet the big man himself at Santa’s Grotto.

The marshmallow toasting station looks fun. Otherwise, there is plenty of snack stalls in-and-around Belfast Christmas Market with sweets and treats like candy and chocolate stalls, donuts, churros… enough anyway to keep the kids entertained. Then there are the beer tents in the centre for those looking to escape them.

The Beer Tents

I guess most people at the Belfast Christmas Market are there for the heated beer tents (at least that’s why I am) and to hopefully make a night of the occasion. The problem is that tables will likely already be packed in the later hours because it’s “baltic” outside. If planning a night out, it’s probably best to arrive in the early evenings to get a proper seat.

While prices in Belfast are comparatively cheaper than most of the U.K., they are a bit expensive compared to other nights out in Belfast, and, personally, I would move elsewhere after a Mulled Wine (£3.60), a pint of Paulaner in the beer tents (£4.75) or more likely a Stein (2 pints £9.80). The Kangaroo burger set me back £4. (Note, these are all 2017 prices I will update this year). Then we’re off for some less cramped/just-as-Christmassy shenanigans along the cobbled streets of the Belfast Cathedral Quarter.

Views from Around

There are alternative eating/drinking options surrounding the Belfast Christmas Market with bars and pub grub along Donegall Square and overlooking the City Hall and Belfast Continental Market. At least when the views are not obstructed by the coming-and-goings of coaches at Donegall Square West. The views are nice enough despite our hideous photo-op below (I look like I gained stones in a week in Northern Ireland). The Café Parisien opposite also has decent views (bottom right photo).

One of our more ‘recent’ visits was at ‘The Apartment Restaurant’ where the millennial waiter called my SLR an ‘old person camera’ and somehow plastered my jacket with sauce without telling me. I begrudgingly ended up tipping him (£7) because my brother otherwise 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 life, and while the city may be a bit out-of-sorts at times, it does have some lovable rapscallion charm about it all.

Tours of Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Hall is an attraction in itself, and it is well worth seeing on any visit to Belfast with historical monuments and rather fascinating architecture, along with free public tours of the building’s interiors (depending on council proceedings. This includes a whole bunch of museum-like exhibits on the ground floors.

These public tours take place during early afternoon hours (times shown here) throughout the year, however the hours are stretched 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.

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