Want to get into the Christmas spirit? With mulled wine and fairy lights aplenty, here are the best Christmas markets around Ireland this year, counted down by Cameron O'Neill
Many things define Christmas: the decorations, the snow, the TV adverts, and of course, the presents, yet nothing beats the atmosphere of a good Christmas market. There’s something wonderfully Christmassy about throwing on some warm winter attire and wandering around a chilly market where tempting aromas waft through the air, the soothing sound of Christmas carols fill your ears, cute stocking fillers fill the stalls and, of course, a glass of mulled wine is waiting to warm you up. What could beat it?
More and more Christmas markets are popping up around Ireland each year, from small ornate village fairs to hipster craft shopping experiences. We want you to make this Christmas in Ireland a special one and experience some of the top Christmas Markets across the country. So whether you’re visiting Ireland on a winter break or live in the country year-round, here are our top 6 markets for you to visit this festive season.
The Galway continental Christmas market
The Galway Christmas Market is the perfect excuse to ramble around one of the world's friendliest cities. It's also one of the most well-known markets in Ireland, boasting over 350,000 visitors last year alone while also proudly donning the title of Ireland's longest running Christmas market, spanning over the course of six years. The Galway Christmas market is already underway, and is open from 12 pm to 8 pm Monday to Wednesday and 10 am to 10 pm Thursday to Sunday - it will take over Eyre Square until just a few days before Christmas on Saturday December 22.
As the days get colder and we start to move right into the belly of winter, Galway city’s already energetic atmosphere tends to intensify and it all stems from the Galway Christmas Markets. Warm lights, adorable wood cabins and a monstrosity of a Christmas tree set the scene. The market spans from Eyre Square to Spanish Arch, with 50+ wooden stalls bragging a mouth-watering selection of food and drink for all. Along with this, there are amusements to keep the kids entertained and a beer tent where you can unravel while nursing a pint or three. Children workshops, a visit from Mr. Claus, a carousel, Santa express train, live entertainment and performances and a 32 meter Ferris wheel will have you spoiled for choice and is sure to get you in the ultimate Christmas spirit this year.
Belfast continental Christmas market
You couldn’t ask for a more glamorous backdrop than Belfast’s City Hall and the Belfast Christmas Market offers just that, making it as pretty as a picture. Festooned with twinkly lights, the market brightens up the northern city throughout December. The market is already underway, with it being open from 10 am to 8 pm Monday to Wednesday, 10 am to 10 pm Thursday to Saturday and 1 pm to 6 pm on Sunday until December 22.
The City Hall has been transformed into a traditional German-Style market packed with 90 handcrafted wooden chalets. This markets’s food game is strong so we’d strongly advise to go with an empty stomach, as it plays host to over 30 international traders. From Belgian waffles and Dutch pancakes for the sweet tooth to alligator and impala for the more exotic palate, this market offers something to satisfy all. After all, what says Christmas more than a straining belt?
Along with this the dinky huts are fit to burst with stocking fillers and intimate presents with a range of authentic gifts on show. Of course it wouldn’t be a Christmas market without Santa on hand to take requests from visiting children and if you post a letter to Santa in his post box on the grounds of the Christmas Market by the 18th December you’ll receive a personal letter back from him. At the end of the day you can kick back and watch the bustling of the city below as you take a ride on the Ferris wheel.
Glow Cork- A Christmas celebration
I’ll gladly embrace any excuse to visit Cork - a county jammed with beauty and buzz as it truly comes to life this time of year, the rebel county prepares for Christmas in style. The Christmas markets celebrations will commence on November 29, running on four different weekends before Christmas; November 29 to December 1, December 6 to 8, December 13 to 15 and December 20 to 22, opening from 12 to 8:30 pm each day.
Filled with activities such as puppet workshops, vintage carousel rides, the National Elf Test in Bishop Lucey Park where families can watch Santa’s elves pass the tests needed to be of service this Christmas and a 30-meter-high Ferris wheel which offers unobstructed panoramic views of the city and market below. Food fans are also spoiled for choice with the ‘Festive Food Markets’ on hand offering the most delicious artisan food. Glow Cork is definitely a must for everyone in Ireland this festive season.
Ireland’s oldest city dives into the festive season in the shape of Winterval. The Waterford Winterval is without doubt one of the top Christmas Markets in Ireland this year providing a full month of Christmas magic. This Christmas extravaganza takes over the whole city, creating a winter wonderland for kids and adults of all ages. The Market opens on Friday November 23 and is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until December 18, where it will then take place every day until Sunday December 23.
The festival is packed full of entertainment both free and ticketed, such as the famous Christmas lights show that takes place every 30 minutes and Santa’s Grotto meet and greet. With a vintage funfair which includes a Ferris wheel, carousel, ice-skating rink and a live animal crib, there’s various festive merriment spread in every nook and cranny. We’d also highly recommend paying a visit to the exploration dome which offers a series of 360 degree movies on everything from stars in the night sky to snow creation and more. Lastly, end the night by taking a ride on the Winterval Express Train which takes you on a tranquil 30-minute ride through the city.
Wicklow Christmas Market
One of the newer Christmas Markets in Ireland this year takes place on the Abbey Grounds in Wicklow tow,n just a 25 minute drive from the M50. This busy Christmas market takes place on November 23, 24 and 30 and December 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15.
The Wicklow Christmas market is the definition of excitement with interactive activities such as the Santa Express, fire shows, funfairs, gingerbread decorating workshops and of course, the Alpaca Experience (Yes, real alpacas!). Along with this the stalls are overflowing with food, drink, decorations and hand-made gifts. This market really has something to offer for everyone, proving that Wicklow is the place to be this Christmas.
Dun Laoghaire Christmas market
If you long to escape the busy city for an afternoon and breathe in some fresh sea air, we’d highly advise taking a trip to the Dun Laoghaire Christmas market, one of the prettiest Christmas markets in Dublin. This port town in a south Dublin suburb has its own regular market year round but it goes all out for Christmas, labelling it a ‘Christmas Festival’. With Santa arriving to open the festival and switch on the blankets of fairy lights that hang above the street and decorate the huts, it is a complete winter wonderland. The market commences on November 30 and will be open on weekends for the majority of November and December from 11 am to 7 pm. On the final lead up to Christmas Day, it will be open every day of the week until it’s closing date, December 23.
Dun Laoghaire is set to be ‘electrifying’ again this year, featuring a 55ft retro Ferris wheel from 1958 at centre stage that is reported to have featured in the original ‘Grease’ movie. There will also be a vintage carnival placed at Moran Park to compliment the Christmas market with attractions full of nostalgic charm such as retro Hobby Horses, candy floss, a rollercoaster and a Santa’s Post Box for kids to post their letters in. The stalls have something for everyone from hand-crafted gifts and decorations to jewellery and funky socks. Following your nose is best at this market that is full of exquisite food to keep your belly happy.
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