A Magical Christmas in Belfast

Originally published in House Sitting Magazine

Spending Christmas in Belfast was an unexpected pleasure that I didn’t anticipate. We had an absolute magical Christmas walking around the brilliantly decorated Belfast streets.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here
©Belfast Live

Belfast is one of the hottest cities to visit these days. It has left the “troubles” far behind and has one of the hippest vibes on the planet. National Geographic Travel Magazine has declared that Belfast is an absolute “must-see” destination, and as a house sitter, I couldn’t agree more.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

From super friendly locals to top-notch dining destinations, scenery that will knock your socks off, and thousands of years of history you couldn’t find a better place to settle for a while and spend time exploring. If you are lucky enough to be here at Christmas time here are some of the Belfast must-do’s for Christmas.

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Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

What to do at Christmas in Belfast  

1. Christmas Lights in Belfast

The lights go on in Belfast in a gala celebration at the end of November usually around the third weekend. The streets are shut down all around City Hall and the event includes live music, celebrities and a grand throwing of the switch to light up the town as soon as dark begins to settle in.

Belfast City Hall all lit up for Xmas

2  Christmas Pantos

It wouldn’t be Xmas in any UK city without pantomime. From Rapunzel to Peter Pan and Aladdin this city is all out for the families and this traditional British entertainment. Panto season will begin again in 2021.

3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town

So many cool Santa’s are in town starting the last week in November. The Santa Claus Parade takes place at 12 noon on the same day the lights go on. The parade begins at City Hall and winds its way down through the main streets of Belfast to Castlecourt, which is one of Ireland’s largest shopping centres. You can visit Santa in the grotto and get all your shopping done.

Santa Claus Parade in Belfast

4. Belfast Christmas Markets

Ireland is no slouch in the Christmas Market stakes. From the glorious St. George’s market with its Twilight Market early in the month or its extended hours that run up to the big day, Belfast is a haven for great markets at Christmas time.

Belfast Christmas Market - sugarplum visions

The Belfast Christmas Market is returning to the grounds of Belfast City Hall and will offer crafts, artwork, superb street food, and rides for the kids on heritage fairground attractions like a beautiful old carousel.

Belfast Christmas Market all lit up in the evening

There will be lots to see, do, drink and eat. You can also check out the Inns Market where you will find all manner of locally made treats and produce to grace your Christmas table.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here
©Visit Belfast

There’s plenty to do all around Belfast with Christmas Markets in some heritage locations including Castle Ward’s (yes it’s a Game of Thrones location) Crafted Show. This is a winter fair and market chock full of locally made arts and crafts, including locally produced gourmet foods, and it’s presented in the superb surroundings of the 18th Century House and Stableyard at Castle Ward.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

The Argory is an Irish gentry home that sits in a beautiful wooded estate. It is open year-round but at Christmas dresses spectacularly for the holidays. The home is festooned with traditional wreaths and trees and you can take a cozy horse and buggy ride around the estate after you finish your shopping.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here
©The Argory

5. Party Time

Belfast has some legendary “craic” (good times) with a huge variety of pubs, clubs, theatres, music halls and live music to sample the best of Belfast. It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Horrible Xmas Jumper Pub Crawl. Sign up on FB and follow the simple rules and you’re off.

Christmas pub crawl, christmas in Belfast

6. The Snowman

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without watching the Snowman and listening to the glorious music. At the waterfront, you can watch the movie on the big screen scored by the Ulster Orchestra and a young singer performing “Walking on Air” this has become a Christmas tradition for many families.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

7.  Titanic Belfast

You can’t visit Belfast and not visit the waterfront and behold the Titanic Experience. With its interactive special effects, rides, full-scale reconstructions you can uncover the true legend of the ship the world didn’t think could sink. The Titanic experience includes a magic step into the Old Curiosity Shop to enter the world of Father Christmas.

Have your own Titanic Moment and enjoy a luxurious afternoon tea by the beautifully reproduced Titanic Staircase.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

8. Santa & Gruffalo’s Grotto

If you don’t know who the Gruffalo is then you are too old for this Christmas treat. All the kids know the story of the very clever mouse and the 8ft tall Gruffalo. Join them on their Christmas Journey to the grotto to see Santa. A brilliant way to spend the day in a forest park that features life-size statues, a rushing river, and beautifully created seating areas.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

9.  Ice time

If you fancy doing a little skating why not head to the SSE Arena where for £8 you can skate for a couple of hours and feel the chill of icy winter. On the other hand, if you prefer to watch some seriously fast skating check out the Belfast Giants hockey team.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

10. Party like it’s the roaring 20’s?

Then head to the Titanic Hotel and celebrate with all things Titanic or even a Game of Thrones feast.

11. Feasting for Christmas

The Europa

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a festive feast on the day and many fine Belfast Hotels will be hosting guests for sumptuous buffets. At the Europa which has the distinction of being the most bombed place in Belfast during the troubles, you can eat yourself senseless with a gorgeous buffet for a mere £100 per person.

You will find a lot on offer at a wide variety of establishments from hotels such as the Malmaison to Benedicts of Belfast all of these hotels offer superb celebration dining.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

The Merchant Hotel

The Merchant is an absolutely stunning hotel if you can afford the high price tag try the more affordable Afternoon Tea or restaurant for a Xmas splurge.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here
©Simon Hutchison The Merchant Hotel

12. Christmas Parties

There are dozens of Christmas Parties and events to attend in Belfast at Xmas time. From elaborate dinners and cabaret evenings which give you a chance to dress to the nines. Then there are the pub crawls, the party cabarets, the dance halls tribute acts and more – it’s all here in Belfast.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

Most of Belfast will shut down for Christmas Day but will re-open with a vengeance on Boxing Day for huge sales. If you want to partake of an Irish tradition on Boxing Day you should attend the Races at the Down Royal Racecourse. An annual tradition since the 17th century the races on Boxing Day are held at Ireland’s oldest racecourse and make a great day out for the entire family.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

Belfast has a very good transportation system connecting all parts of the City and into the more “rural” areas, it is a city that makes it easy to get around, and having a smaller footprint means that taxis are much cheaper than in the bigger cities in N. America.

a decorated Christmas tree in the shops in Belfast

There are all kinds of bus trips, tours and guided walks to help you see the best of the City, but I would recommend renting a car or taking bus tours to see the country itself. From the Game of Thrones to Causeway Coast Tours you will find lots of ways to get out of the city and see for yourself why Ireland is considered the most beautiful country in the world.

Looking for ways to incorporate Irish Christmas traditions into your Christmas celebrations? Here’s a few ideas for you.

Here’s a brilliant collection of Irish Christmas music that doesn’t become elevator noise – a no schmaltz zone in fact.

I couldn’t resist adding a few of my favourite Christmas tree ornaments.

Here’s a lovely little Claddagh tree ornament

These Royal Tara ornaments are a collector’s dream


Or these lovely Gold spiral shamrock ornaments for your tree.


New Years Eve in Ireland

Civic New Year’s Eve Celebration

There hasn’t been a large-scale public party in Belfast on new years eve for over 10 years now, but there have been rumors that this may be set to change, with talk of a new public party targeted at locals and visitors alike.

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

Parties & Events

There are a lot of Black Tie events that go on through Belfast, so if you want to get dressed up to the nines and bring in the new year sipping on champagne in some of the city’s top venues Gala evenings, then get your ticket well in advance.

Bars, restaurants, and clubs will all be advertising their New Year’s Eve events, so get your friends together and start planning and booking what you are doing to bring in the New Year!

NYE Restaurants

There are hundreds of places to grab something to eat in Belfast, here are just a few to get you started:

Holohan’s Pantry
Ginger Bistro
The Muddlers Club
Howard Street
Molly’s Yard

What do you plan to do with your Xmas?

Pin for inspiration

Christmas in Belfast how to spend a fabulous holiday here

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