Take Five: Christmas in Belfast

6th December 2013
Pól Ó Conghaile
By Genevieve Lyttle

Cobbled streets, Christmas jingles on every corner and glistening lights that illuminate the city centre from top to bottom – there’s no question about it, Belfast is beautiful this time of year.

Whether it’s a city break with friends, a family trip or a romantic weekend away, Belfast has it all. The joys of the Christmas season are in full swing, and there’s never been a better time to visit.

Here are my top five reasons to experience Christmas in Belfast!

1) Christmas Markets…

Magic fills every corner of the Christmas Market in Belfast (pictured above) and with record amounts of visitors, the market is showing no signs of slowing down.

Situated on the doorstep of the iconic Belfast City Hall, some 96 stallholders from 32 countries are selling exquisite food (pastries, burgers and treats like you’ve never seen before), quirky clothes, cute crafts and a vast and varied range of drinks from across the world. The atmosphere at the Belfast Christmas Market alone is enough to get even the most cynical of Scrooges into the Christmas spirit.

2) Top Shopping…

belfast, christmas, markets, city hall

One of the many benefits of shopping in Belfast is the city’s size.

Belfast is home to lots of big brands, huge selections and everyone’s favourite department stores, yet you won’t find yourself hiking from one store to another. It’s quite the opposite actually! Belfast is a big and vibrant city but the great shopping facilities are all found within a small radius, meaning you won’t have to trek from one side of the city to the other or attempt to drive and park.

Late night shopping kicked off in big shopping centres like Castlecourt on November 28th, and runs right through to December 23rd. Victoria Square (70+ stores) and most other high street stores will have extended hours this Christmas. If you’re coming for a weekend break or an extended trip, the city centre offers a wealth of great hotels that are all conveniently located at the heart of Belfast.

3) Treats & Eats…

ox, belfast

Belfast is foodie heaven. From tucked-away cafes scattered throughout the city centre to well-known bistros found on Botanic Avenue, there’s plenty to tickle everyone’s taste buds.

If it’s stylish bars and chic bites you’re after, the city centre offers them by the bucketload (see around the Cathedral Quarter for ultimate meet and eat bars and restaurants like 21 Social). Restaurants like Ox (pictured above) and James Street South tick the fine-dining boxes, and if it’s good old fashioned pub grub you want, it’s very rare to find a single street in Belfast that will not offer you at least one pub.

Another favourite of mine, if it’s quality and locality you seek, is Bright’s Traditional Belfast Restaurant.

4) Arts, Culture and Beauty…

belfast, art, culture

In terms of arts and culture, Belfast offers something spectacular especially around this time of the year. From inside the contemporary doors of The Mac to The Grand Opera House, the city’s oldest theatre house, you’ll be spoiled for choice in terms of entertainment.  Belfast offers musicals, art and culture for all this Christmas with events happening all over the city.

Belfast itself is a picturesque city with iconic architecture and a real sense of tradition, whilst somehow boasting great modern and contemporary creativity.

From the edge of the city centre you can gaze up at the famous Cavehill (historically known as Ben Madigan from Irish: Beann Mhadagáin). Cavehill overlooks Belfast and welcomes the beginning of the Christmas season with snippets of snow scattered around the impressive landscape.

Standing here, it’s easy to forget you’re in the midst of the one of the busiest and most economically flourishing cities on the island of Ireland!

5) A Warm Welcome…

Christmas Market, Belfast City Hall

If you’re considering visiting Christmas in Belfast with your family, or indeed visiting for the very first time, it can be a bit of a task to figure out where to go and what to see.

It’s not easy getting around any city for the first time, but don’t worry, because Visit Belfast is on hand with its very own welcome centre. With lots of information and a warm Belfast welcome from the staff, you can be sure to find out everything you need to know about spending  Christmas in Belfast.

So, if you’re looking for all the variety and vibrancy of city life, Belfast welcomes you and your loved ones with open arms this Christmas.

About the Author:

Genevieve Lyttle is a content creator for expedia.ie and a lover of all things travel. Genevieve spent recent years living in London, Bristol and Malta and has now returned to her native Tyrone to spend time exploring Ireland. Her favourite places include Dublin, Donegal and Belfast city.