Belfast is a cracker city any time of year but it really comes alive during the Christmas season. The streets are aglow with decorations, the Christmas market cabins (and the people) are crammed side by side in the City Hall gardens and the pubs are full of festive-clad punters singing “Fairytale of New York” at the top of their lungs.
It’s a magical city to stroll through because every inch of the city is sprinkled with Christmas cheer – even the tiniest alleyways are decorated which makes it an ideal place to get a bit lost, even if you’re a local like me! I took myself on a festive tour a few days ago with just my camera and allowed myself to get caught up in the spirit of things. I took so many photos I thought I had to share them just in case you’d like to get a bit carried away too.
I’ve listed my favourite festive spots but if you think I’ve missed any gems make sure to tell me in the comments!
I know City Hall isn’t exactly a secret what with the Christmas markets right outside but have you ever been inside? They have the most beautiful Christmas tree and there’s tours that can take you round the whole building if you fancied having a nosy. The staff are super friendly too – Gaz, one of the security guards had to get in on a selfie when he saw me snapping!
The markets can be really crowded on the weekends so my tip is to go early or, if you’re able to, head during the day on a weekday. It’s a beautiful place when it’s quieter mostly because you’re able to walk at a normal speed and because they’re quite small, it only takes a wee while to enjoy them.
There are plenty of photo opportunities too. The most popular place to capture the Helter Skelter is at the entrance to Patterson’s Place – you haven’t been to the markets unless you get this photo!
Margot is a relatively new bar on the block having just opened earlier this year but it’s already established itself as one of the cosiest bars in the city. Not satisfied with providing just a regular spot for a festive pint, the bar has gone all out on the Christmas decorations making it an essential visit this season. The Georgian buildings have been dressed to the nines outside and inside you can find a beautiful candle-lit fireplace and Christmas tree sparkling in the corner – very merry indeed!
St. George’s Market
St. George’s is on every Belfast tourist guide but at Christmas it’s an extra special place to visit. The decorations, music and lights bring the festive joy but the vendors are who bring the spirit. It’s a perfect spot to wander on a weekend morning with a toasty cup of mulled wine and at Christmas it is the best place to snap up presents from local businesses.
Revolución de Cuba
A popular watering hole for the city workers, Revolución de Cuba has really went for the festive decorations this year. They’ve kept the disco balls up and at night it sparkles and shines so much it almost feels like you’re inside a bauble – a bit trippy when you’ve tried a few of their cocktails!
An historic thoroughfare, Joy’s Entry had been derelict for decades throughout the Troubles but now it’s one of the most colourful alleyways in the city. Each season the owners of The Jailhouse bar decorate the entry and this Christmas has been no exception with nearly every inch of the alleyway covered in beautiful boughs and bows. The music from the bar is played outside too so it’s hard not to feel happy if you decide to take a detour through there.
Henry’s / Jailhouse
Well, if you’re going through Joy’s Entry you might as well call in to the two sister pubs that are adjoined in the alleyway. Inside is just as beautiful as outside and if you’re brave enough, you can enjoy a drink on the terrace on the second floor.
Of course the fanciest hotel in the city would have the fanciest facade and the facade of the Merchant is a real thing to behold this time of year. A Christmas in Belfast calls for a festive tipple in either The Great Room or The Cocktail Bar, each beautifully decorated and each as fancy as the next. ‘Tis the season!
The whole Cathedral Quarter is the merriest corner of Belfast and not just because it’s where the best pubs are! Every street is lit up like a Christmas tree and it makes a beautiful wee walk after a pint.
It’s a small piece of the city but it’s a cherished one having survived years of neglect and countless recessions. I love walking through here from Royal Avenue across to Sawer’s, another Belfast institution. The arcade is like stepping in to another time and at Christmas it’s a special part of the city that feels like a haven from the chaos of the main streets.
Opened in 1897, Sawer’s is Belfast’s oldest Deli and is famous for it’s range of cheeses and chutneys. The deli provided the Titanic with it’s cheese and olives for its functions so it’s renowned as the best spot to get all the festive treats. Once you step inside it’s hard not to get carried away (I blame the deep wicker baskets the provide at the entrance!)
Another hidden corner of the city that can’t escape the festive touch! The oldest tavern in the city, White’s is a brilliant spot to find a quiet corner and enjoy a festive pint with a friend. Live music is played out in to the square outside that’s beautifully decorated throughout Christmas.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my favourite festive spots in the city! I hope you get to enjoy a few of them this season and savour al the good this city has to offer.