A Guide to Christmas in Belfast

Festive season has arrived in Belfast, and the city is packed with things to look forward to.

Markets Galore

The Belfast Christmas Market takes over the grounds of City Hall until 22 December. There are over 100 traders to browse, but you can go without spending a penny and come away feeling festive thanks to the sparkly lights and merry atmosphere.

A short dander down the road and you’ll find respite from the crowds in the Twilight Market under the impressive dome of 2 Royal Avenue. The market promises an array of gifts from local makers and producers, plus gourmet treats with music, food and surprises. The market runs on Thursday 14 December and 21 December 2023 from 5pm  – 9pm.

Belfast’s biggest independent market is back this year, with a showcase of the city’s best art, seasonal gifts, fashion, jewellery, artisan food, vintage and more. Visitors of Portview Christmas Market can also expect live music, local DJs and tasty food options. Portview Christmas Market is on 16 December 6pm – 10pm and Sun 17 December 12pm – 4pm.

It’s a Wonderful Fry…

What if we could bring together a dreamy Christmas dinner and succulent, crispy, golden fries? There’s no need to wonder because The Union Bar has only gone and done it. Amongst the festive offerings at The Union Bar this December are fries laden with turkey, ham, stuffing, chipolata sausages and gravy (£5.95). There’s also a special festive pizza with garlic butter base, turkey, ham, stuffing and mozzarella cheese (from £5.50). Eat and be merry!

Festive Feels at QFT

Queen’s Film Theatre is a haven for movie lovers this December, with a roster of films to help you banish the bah, humbugs.

If you’re wanting to catch a showing of a classic then you’re in luck. Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, Die Hard and Love Actually are just a few of the festive favourites showing. There are also several lesser- known films including Carol and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on this December. Remember Queen’s student tickets are just £4.50.  

Step into History

Botanic Gardens might be frosty, but the Palm House and Tropical Ravine are toasty all year round and a must for any plant lover in Belfast. Dating all the way back to the 1800s, keep your eyes peeled for Victorian artifacts amongst an impressive display of horticulture.

Equally impressive is The Linen Hall Library, the oldest of its kind in Belfast, dating back to 1788. The library is home to a variety of collections, and you could spend hours uncovering something new here. You’ll also find a wonderful selection of gifts and the Linen Hall café, one of the cosiest in Belfast, with views over the festive market at City Hall.   

Get Some (Free) Culture

Feliz Navidad! That’s Spanish for Merry Christmas. If you’d like to brush up on your language skills, then head to The Sunflower where free Spanish lessons are hosted upstairs every Monday. All levels are welcome. The next session is Monday 18 December at 6.30pm.

Ulster Museum are hosting a special festive edition of its Slow Art Sunday programme. Taking place on Sunday 17th December, visitor guides will explore links to the Christmas story with a focus on the 16th century Baldassare Peruzzi’s The Nativity.

For those looking for something a bit different this December, the MAC hosts free Queer Set Dancing classes with no experience necessary. The class is run by a queer woman and aims to create a welcoming and friendly environment for LGBTQ+ people and allies to learn a new dance, have some fun, and meet new people. The perfect way to prepare before you hit the dance floor this Christmas! The next class takes place on Thursday 14th December at 6.30pm.

Volunteer Your Time

‘Tis the season of giving. SU Volunteer has a network of over 500 organisations that welcome volunteers and can match you to your perfect role.

Handy Helpers enables you to take part in a wide range of one-off volunteering opportunities in the local community. You can pick and choose what activities you want to participate in based on your interests and availability.

If you’d like to help local children and young people improve their study skills, build their confidence and raise their aspirations, then Homework Clubs might be the match for you. 

Alternatively, there’s Jump IN, a programme which will help you build the networks, skills and confidence you need to progress in your voluntary role and enhance your employability skills.

In the run up to Christmas Tumble Circus and Ulster Folk Museum (Cultra) are looking for volunteers. Get in touch with SU Volunteer for more info.

Enjoy a free Christmas Dinner

If you find yourself on your own this Christmas or you’re feeling the pinch with the cost of living, there are several places you can go to celebrate the day with others and enjoy a free Christmas meal.

City Church Belfast will be providing free meals from 12-2pm on Christmas Day for those who find themselves lonely and homeless over the Christmas period. There will be Halal and veggie options available. To book contact Carlos Neto at neto@citychurchbelfast.org. Address: Common Grounds, 12-24 University Avenue, Belfast.

Ballynafeigh Methodist Church and Rosario Youth Centre are partnering to provide a Community Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day from 12-2pm. There is no booking required. Address: 338 Ormeau Road, BT7 3GZ.

Bengal Brasserie Belfast is opening its doors and welcoming those in need to celebrate the festive season with them and enjoy a free Christmas meal.  Reserve a table by phoning 028 9069 2229 or visiting bengalbelfast.co.uk. Address: 455 Ormeau Road, BT7 3GQ.

We know the holidays can be hard. If you’re struggling this winter, there is support out there – contact SU Advice or Lifeline.

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