Would you enjoy a guilt-free break in the run up to Christmas? One where you could indulge yourself whilst also happily wrapping up your special gift shopping?
I would, and did, in Belfast! A Christmas break in Belfast is brilliant- the city is a perfect size as to be buzzy with city culture, Christmas cheer and unique locally made gift ideas without being a totally overwhelming teaming mass of crowds. I think you’ll love it!
Here are a few reasons why I recommend a Christmas break in Belfast:
Did you know St George’s Market was voted the UK’s Best Large Indoor Market? What a hive of delights! I’ve just said that Belfast isn’t crazy-making busy, but the Saturday Food & Craft Market here isn’t quiet by any stretch, and later in the day many of the food stalls can sell out of their most popular items. My tip is to arrive around the opening time of 9 a.m. on Saturday, do a bit of gift shopping (SO much you’ll love!) and then indulge yourself on the Belfast Food Tour. Starting at St George’s, this walking tour meanders round Belfast as you sample local food and drink delights; you’ll gather excellent gift ideas into the bargain. And it is a bargain- at £45 for four and a half hours of local knowledge as well as the eats, I found it great value. Actually, a gift certificate for the tour might make a good gift!
I also love finding vintage gifts in addition to well made local products. The joy of discovery is part of the fun of shopping for presents, isn’t it– although there is the danger of discovering too many treasures for yourself! Belfast hosts several fabulous Vintage and Handmade Fairs throughout the year, and I came away with several vintage finds for under £20 total! As I write the next Fair is Sunday the 13th of December on the city’s outskirts at Belfast Castle, a fantastic location.
With stunning views over Belfast city and harbour, the Castle also has a lovely garden (cat themed!) plus several walks and archaeological sites to explore in Cave Hill Park. Did you know that the rock face of Cave Hill supposedly reminded Jonathan Swift of a sleeping giant? Thus giant Gulliver of Gulliver’s Travels was born! Now that’s a scene deserving of a selfie 😉
Back down in the city, Belfast City Hall is surrounded by the uber-festive Belfast Continental Christmas Market. You’ll hear fun patter from the stall holders, and there’s gluhwein galore. If you weren’t feeling the Christmas spirit before entering the Market, you’ll catch the cheer pretty sharpish in these surroundings, and of course the Baroque style City Hall building is a glorious backdrop. Another market to consider if you are in Belfast on the 20th is the Fine and Dandy Market of local artists, makers, bakers, and vintage sellers in the Crescent Arts Centre. I came across a few of these stall holders at the Vintage Fair, so I’ll warn you—there’s some very tempting baking going on in Belfast. Do that Cave Hill walk to balance it out!
As your days can be happily filled browsing markets, tasting delights and strolling with views over or of the city, your nights should be no less marvellous. Restaurants in Belfast are serving top notch cuisine, and on all 3 of my weekend breaks I’ve been a very happy wine & diner. I couldn’t choose a favourite, but check out some award winners here. I can, though, give you a tip for choosing a spot for a festive drink if you love gin.
So far, I’ve 2 favourites; first is Muriel’s with 100 gins on her list, including Northern Ireland’s only gin distillery, Shortcross. Earlier this year Shortcross ran a gin drinks competition, and Muriel’s won the gin & tonic category. In the gin cocktail category, The Merchant won with their ‘9 hour Bill’. The Merchant is my favourite for the sheer elegance of the surroundings; I’d nearly drink mud there and enjoy it! Seriously, though, if you love cocktails, do call in—you’ll be spoiled for cocktail choice. (Stay tuned for more on Shortcross in an upcoming post!)
A wee drink before or after a show is perfect. This Christmas break I went to The Lyric Theatre to see an original Belfast play, Christmas Eve Can Kill You. It is full of that great Belfast humour that makes a visit here so fun. The Lyric was packed; Belfast folk love theatre, and why not, with venues like the beautifully modern Lyric and the beautifully Victorian Grand Opera House on their doorstep? It would it be so festive to see a show there this Christmas! Hop on the train, plane, or nip up in your car- Belfast is easy to get to! Check out discovernorthernireland.com for accommodation deals & more to help you plan your visit. Enjoy!
I visited as a guest of Discover Northern Ireland, and a version of this article also is on their blog section. I’ll have 2 more posts on enjoying Belfast coming soon; one with ideas for the culture lover, and another full of flavorsome food & drink. I genuinely love visiting Belfast, & think you will too 🙂