A city famous for its warm welcome, Belfast is the perfect place to soak up the magic of the most wonderful time of the year and enjoy an overdue catch up with friends and loved ones. Decked out in festive splendour, there’s something wondrous to discover on every street corner. There’s magic in the streets, music in the air and the sound of laughter and delight as the city lights up for Christmas and gives visitors and locals alike all the festive feels. The perfect place to shop all your Christmas gifts, create special festive memories with the family or unwrap a new side to the city best seen in the glow of twinkling Christmas lights, Belfast is waiting to welcome you with a big ‘Merry Christmas’. So, what are you waiting for? Come on in and let your Christmas begin.
Belfast Christmas Market, City Hall
Making a welcome return to the grounds of the iconic Belfast City Hall is the traditional Belfast Christmas Market. Arguably the most spectacular Christmas market on the island of Ireland, this year the city welcomes market stall holders from 21 different countries, displaying the best festive fayre and serving up some of the best traditional and contemporary - not to mention unusual - food and drink to savour while you shop. From French crêpes to Dutch pancakes, Belgian chocolates, Spanish paella and giant bratwurst from crowd favourite Schwenkegrill, marketgoers can take a culinary taste adventure whilst soaking up the illuminations of the famous carousel or perusing the colourful stalls to pick up unique Christmas gifts and memorable souvenirs of a great festive day out in the city. Visitors can also treat themselves to the well-known Hug in a Mug of Gluhwein from the prize winning Kochem vineyard located in the Mosel Valley, Germany, or end the day in one of the bars serving local and continental drinks to get even more into the Christmas spirit!
Get Crafty at 2 Royal Avenue
2 Royal Avenue, the city’s newest cultural space, has been transformed into a magical Winter’s Den this festive season. Grab the family and head in to enjoy a series of free events that are sure to get you in the Christmas spirit. Don your Christmas jumper and pop in to one of the many events taking place at the Winter’s Den this December – have a go at making your own Christmas crackers, shake your baubles whilst rocking around the Christmas tree at a festive silent disco or have a not so silent night at the adults only ‘We WISH You a Merry Christmas’ event, filled with comedy and carolling.
Winter Skate at SSE
Nothing is more festive than a trip to the ice rink so get your skates on and book a Winter Skate at the home of the Belfast Giants in the SSE Arena. Running until 3 January, wrap up warm and experience holiday magic with all the family or feel the romance after dark with a special Twilight Skating Session on selected dates.
Indulge in a Festive Afternoon Tea
‘Tis the season to indulge and there’s no better way to treat yourself than with a sophisticated festive afternoon tea in one of the city’s best restaurants. Step back in time to a period of luxury, elegance and 5-star service with a special Titanic Festive Afternoon Tea. Set in the opulent surroundings of the Titanic Suite featuring the stunning Grand Staircase and live jazz music, it’s an experience not to be missed. Or take a break from Christmas shopping and nip into the stunning Fitzwilliam Hotel in the heart of the city. With a delightful twist on the traditional festive tea, enjoy an elegant catch up with friends amongst the twinkling lights and decadent decorations.
Have all the fun of the fair at Winter Circus
Award winning circus company Tumble Circus returns to Belfast’s Writers’ Square with their spectacular Winter Circus show this Christmas for their sixth year of riotous family fun. From international circus artists to well-known comedy characters, Tumble Circus combines circus skills with comedy, theatre and social commentary. Audiences can expect big laughs and some mighty craic in the fully heated big top tent until 2 January.
Festive Films at Ulster Museum
Catch all your favourite festive films this Christmas in the unique surroundings of Ulster Museum. Screening every weekend in the run up to Christmas, the seasonal programme in partnership with Cinemagic includes family favourites and Christmas classics such as Miracle on 34th Street, The Polar Express, Santa Claus: The Movie and heart-warming tearjerker It’s A Wonderful Life.
Come Up the Lagan… On a Hydrobike
See Belfast from a new perspective with a unique city tour – by waterbike. Explore the Belfast Waterways at night and take in the city illuminated for Christmas from the water with a Belfast Hydrobikes by Lights experience. Wrap up warm, saddle up on your colourfully lit hydrobike and enjoy a leisurely pedal past the historic Harland and Wolf Cranes, Waterfront and Obel Tower – the city’s tallest building. For a truly festive experience, book a spot on the Hydrobike Santa Experience and follow the magic trail to find Santa’s secret floating grotto. With a range of hydrobikes available for kids and families, equipped with full safety equipment, this is a Santa visit with a difference (and the best presents for the kids!).
Experience Festive Spirits on the Dark Belfast Dander Tour
If you ever stayed up late at Christmas to watch BBC’s M. R. James ghost story for Christmas when you were a kid or hid behind the pillows when the ghostly children of ‘Lost hearts’ appeared, then this is the Christmas 2022 event for you! A Ghost Story for Christmas and Dark Belfast Dander at Muriel’s Café in Church Lane, Belfast is where you’ll learn of the dark side of Christmas. BelfastLad’s Francis Higgins will be telling the dark history of Christmas’ past in a special guided tour. Beginning at Muriel’s Café in Church Lane, you’ll go on a one-hour dark Belfast dander around the haunted sites of Old Belfast’s entry’s and alleyways that sprang up from High Street in the 17th Century stopping at various points along the way to discover if those old streets are still haunted today. Revive your spirits after your tour with a festive cocktail prepared by expert mixologists back in the safety of Muriel’s Café.
Get Stuffed with a Traditional Christmas Lunch
Belfast is famous for it’s fantastic, locally produced food and there’s no better time to sample the best of the city’s food offering than at Christmas. For cosy pub grub with a festive feel, nip down Pottinger’s Entry and follow the trail to The Morning Star. Housed in an ornate Victorian Grade 2 listed building, it exudes a cosy Christmas pub experience with a first-class menu to boot. Top tip – check out the festive gourmet burgers accompanied with Christmas fries. For a fine dining experience check out the city’s newest restaurant and award-winning chef Niall McKenna’s latest offering Waterman within the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, or pay a visit to Michelin starred restaurants The Muddlers Club or Ox. For a less formal fine dining experience, settle into the snug of Ox Cave and enjoy a stunning sharing menu of winter canapes, chateaubriand and festive treats by candlelight.
Tick off your Christmas Shopping List
A city bursting with high-end luxury designer, high street and independent brands, Belfast is your one-stop place to tick off that all important Christmas shopping list. Victoria Square is a mecca for Christmas shopping with everything you need all under one dome. Pick up something special at Lunn’s Jewellers or tech heads can browse the latest must haves at Ireland’s only Apple store. Find comfy pyjamas in Boux Avenue or beauty treats fromL’Occitane, Kiehl’s and Rituals.
For a family friendly shopping experience, head to CastleCourt. Visit the Yankee Candle shop for Christmas candles and Wrapped Up for local art. Sports fans can get their kicks at O’Neills, whilst The Entertainer has Santa presents sorted with a huge range of kids’ toys and games.
Donegall Place is home to host of popular brands, including Next, M&S, Zara and Skechers and the recently reopened flagship Primark store has everything you need, from homeware to fashion. Don’t forget Smithfield Market which is a shopper’s haven just around the corner with everything from antiques and collectibles to old-time sweets and even camping and boxing gear!
For something uniquely Belfast, visit the traders at St George's Market, one of the best markets in the UK and Ireland and home to a burgeoning collection of curios, antiques and the finest fresh produce as well hot food from around the world to delight the senses.
Finally, a trip to visit Belfast’s last Victorian Arcade built in 1880, Queen’s Arcade is home to a variety of luxury Boutiques and local independent retailers and is the only Rolex, OMEGA, TAG Heuer and Montblanc Boutique in Ireland for a truly personal gift this year.
Getting home couldn’t be easier…
Make a full day and night of it with Translink’s late night bus and train services. This special Nightmovers service runs from Belfast City Centre every Friday and Saturday until 23rd December (plus Thursday 22nd December on Goldliner, Urby and Metro). For more information and to plan your route, visit translink.co.uk/nightmovers.
For more information or to plan your perfect festive day in Belfast, visit www.visitbelfast.com