With over 1 million people expected to visit the Belfast Christmas Market this year, operators Market Place Europe are working hard to ensure a safe visit is had by all.
During the weekends when the market is expected to be busy, visitors will need to supply evidence of vaccination, or take a lateral flow test before being granted access. In addition, footfall will be closely monitored and when nearing capacity, a queuing system will be put in place. There will be a number of hand sanitising stations throughout the market and visitors will be encouraged to wear masks and make payments using cards instead of cash where possible.
With work due to begin on 7 November (pausing for the services of Remembrance), local construction team MR Services will transform City Hall grounds into the award-winning annual Market. For almost two weeks they will be hammering, securing structures, and building chalets to create the Christmas Village in time for the opening of the Market on Saturday 20 November at 12noon.
The Belfast Christmas Market will be supporting two of the Lord Mayor’s charities this year one of which is Positive Life, the only charity in Northern Ireland dedicated to supporting people living with and affected by HIV.
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Kate Nicholl said: “The arrival of the Christmas Market at City Hall is always eagerly anticipated and especially this year, given last season’s absence. Having the market in the heart of the city provides an invaluable boost to the city’s retail and tourism offering, and I have no doubt it will be hugely popular with visitors as always. I’m also really pleased that once again the market will be raising awareness of local charities and their services, as well as hopefully raising some much-needed funds to support their vital work.”
The Belfast Christmas Market attracts visitors from across Europe and has become a significant contributor to the local economy. 1,261,666 visitors came to the market in 2019. The overall gross economic impact of the 2019 market was a staggering £75.7m, demonstrating the citywide benefit of such a large and well organised event.
Allan Hartwell, Managing Director of Market Place (operators of the Belfast Christmas Market) said: “We’re delighted that once again the sights and sounds of the Belfast Christmas Market will form a focal point for the city centre during the festive season and given our focus on the safety of visitors, we would encourage people to visit during the week to avoid busy times.”
This year the food court at the Market with bench style seating makes a welcome return, as does the vintage Helter Skelter, offering stunning views right across the market, and the much-loved carousel.
Support for local food and craft has increased with a number of St George’s Market traders joining in the festive fun. Some local favourites will also be returning including Pappas Minerals and Tapitas, Rossi’s Ice Cream and the incredible social enterprise Outside In who will be donning their tinsel and Santa hats to help the homeless.
As well as even more local flavour, the Market still offers something a little bit different with 32 nationalities from all over the world bringing all sorts of unusual foods and gift ideas: crêpes from France, Dutch pancakes, Belgian chocolates, an exotic selection of ostrich, wild boar and crocodile burgers, giant bratwurst from the iconic Schwenkegrill, Spanish paella and sweets from Italy. Visitors can also treat themselves to the well known Hug in a Mug of Gluhwein from the prize winning Kochem vineyard located in the Mosel Valley, Germany, or end the day in one of the bars serving local and continental drinks to get even more into the Christmas spirit.
For those who need a momentary escape from festive over stimulation and the hustle and bustle of the market, a Quiet Room has been created. Visitors can request use of this calm space by visiting the Manager’s office.
Market traders will once again be receiving awareness training about the JAM ‘Just A Minute’ Card, a social innovation from NOW Group that offers a discreet way for users to tell people that sometimes they need a little extra time and patience. The JAM Card is available in the Quiet Room at the Market as a credit card sized card and the app can also be downloaded for smartphones.
There are a limited number of spaces available for traders selling high quality goods, and there is a particular interest in those selling vegan and vegetarian festive food. If you are able to trade for the duration of the market, simply visit www.marketplaceurope.co.uk, click on the ‘Traders area’ button on the top right of the page where you can sign up as an interested Trader. Prices vary according to product and pitch size; once an application is approved traders will be advised on costs.
Traders are always keen to employ local staff, if you are interested in joining the team and working at the Christmas Market please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
There is so much on offer throughout the city this year and the Christmas Market is just one of several events launching as part of the Christmas festivities. Christmas enchanted evenings run from 6.30pm to 9pm on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 November. Throughout the ‘Once Upon a Time’ themed season, visitors can enjoy a dazzling array of street performance, light projections, music, dance and window animation and from 27 November there will be magical pop-up entertainment every Saturday and Sunday across the city from 1pm-5pm.
To keep track of Christmas Market news, and the ever-important weather updates, follow the official Facebook page at Belfast Continental Christmas Market and keep an eye out for our TikTok channel launching this year!
Belfast Christmas Market will be at the City Hall from 12noon on Saturday 20 November until 6pm on 23 December.
Opening hours are:
Monday – Wednesday 10am – 8pm
Thursday – Saturday 10am – 10pm
Sunday 12noon – 6pm