The countdown to Christmas has already began in Ireland and the rest of Europe. As early as November, every major city gears up for their traditional Christmas Markets. The excitement builds up as the markets opening dates get closer. It’s always fascinating to see what European and local Irish vendors have in their stalls for the year.
As we say here in Ireland: Nollaig Shona! It a Gaelic translation for ‘Happy Christmas!’ and pronounced as [NOL-ig HUN-uh, with the silent ‘s’]. Listed below are four Christmas Markets in Ireland that you may want to visit:
1. Light Up Galway
Galway is a quaint little town facing the Atlantic Ocean in the west of Ireland. This is a popular tourist destination because of Kylemore Abbey and its close neighbour, County Clare, where the famous Cliffs of Moher can be found. Galway is the home of the Claddagh ring. Its Connemara region which has the largest Gaelic-speaking (Ireland’s language) population in the country makes it a place close to the hearts of the locals. As a tourist, whether you view its emerald-green valleys or unspoilt waters, there’s no denying the picture-perfect charm of this region lets you experience the natural beauty of Ireland.
Galway has one of the longest running Christmas Markets in Ireland and since its inception in 2010, there is no stopping the city from adding brilliance year by year as it becomes the European Capital of Culture in 2020. With over 50 stalls, the 2017 Christmas Market brought in over 350,000 visitors to Galway city. This year’s theme is ‘Light Up Galway’ which is focused on highlighting many of the city’s iconic structures using lighting installations. The aim is to help visitors navigate the city and create a picture-perfect backdrop.
You can take a glimpse of the colourful market atop a Ferris wheel, ride a carousel and be one with kids or even hop on Santa’s sleigh. The market is really a treat. There are loads of entertainments that kids and adults will surely enjoy. Also try mulled wine! It’s not Christmas without it. This is the star of the market. It is made of red wine which is simmered with sugar, spices (cloves, cinnamon), honey and some fruits. It is served steaming hot making it the traditional drink during winter season. Christmas Markets are said to have originated from Germany. Hence, it is also a common to see German craft beers on sale.
The market runs from Friday 16th November until Saturday 22nd December 2018. It is open every day from Monday to Wednesday at 12 noon to 8pm, and Thursday to Sunday from 10am to 10pm.
How to get there: Galway is roughly 200 Km (125 miles) from Dublin City. It is served by public buses (Go Bus, Citylink and Bus Eireann) departing from Dublin Airport or Dublin City Centre at hourly intervals with a total journey time of 2.5 hours, non-stop. The return trip bus fare is approximately 25 EUR (29 USD).
2. Dublin at Christmas
Moving to the east side is Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland. It is the largest city in Ireland in terms of population. The Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, General Post Office are just some of the major historical landmarks of the city. The only Guinness Storehouse in Ireland is in Dublin. The Temple Bar district and Grafton street has a lively vibe captivating both tourists and locals alike. Better yet, pop to ‘The Brazen Head’, the oldest pub in Ireland dating back to 1198.
Some notable Dubliners are poets Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde and the music group U2. It is worthy to mention that the lion, that went by the name of Slats, in the MGM logo was born in Dublin Zoo in 1919.
The markets in Dublin are situated in various locations across the city. The Dublin Flea Christmas Market takes place from December 6 to December 9, and from December 13 to December 16. It is an indoor market at The Point Square. The opening times are: Thursday & Friday from 1pm to 8pm and Saturday & Sunday from 11am to 6pm. In the past years, there was an outdoor market near the Saint Stephen’s Green area. Check the Dublin Christmas website for updated information.
3. Waterford Winterval
Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city, with its walls founded by the Vikings in year 914 A.D. Located in the southeast, it is known for its handcrafted crystal and thus termed as the ‘Crystal County’. It is also where you can find the traditional blaa. It is a type of floury soft bread roll that is made in Waterford’s old-style bakeries. Meanwhile, the oldest Roman Catholic cathedral, the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity build in 1793 is in Waterford.
Waterford’s Winterval Christmas Market theme has been running since 2012. In 2016, 650,000 visitors strolled in the streets of Waterford to soak into the magic of Christmas! What I particularly like is their festive light show that illuminates each night at the Cathedral Square. Enjoy the atmosphere as it cascades through the city centre. Walk to the different stalls for personalised or handmade gifts for Christmas, or even mementos to take home. Or, simply delight your sight with the creativity and uniqueness that goes into each product. You may find nutcrackers, kitchen gadgets, handmade soaps, beautiful ornaments, wood carvings, decorative plants, jewellery & pottery, knitwear, and many more. There is also a giant post box where kids can drop their letters to Santa. Don’t miss the Viking Triangle, the historic centre of Waterford and see the remnants of the Viking’s settlement. Since you are already in the Crystal County, visit the House of Waterford Crystal if you’re looking for something special.
The market runs from November 17 to December 23.
How to get there: Waterford is 170 Km (106 miles) from Dublin City. It is served by public buses (Dublin Coach and Bus Eireann) departing from Dublin Airport or Dublin City Centre The return trip bus fare is approximately 20 EUR (23 USD).
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4. Belfast at Christmas
While Belfast is politically part of the United Kingdom, it is geographically in the north of Ireland. It is where RMS Titanic was built. In Belfast, a massive Peace Wall exists separating Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods. It is a relatively bizarre scene at this modern-day era, yet it is interesting since it has a lot of history and culture enveloped in it. More in history, the most bombed hotel in Europe during the World War, The Europe Hotel is in Belfast city centre. The hotel is still fully-operational, so you can go for a drink and learn more about Belfast’s troubled past.
Every year, the Christmas Market fills Belfast City Hall with elaborate decorations and stalls from all over Europe. The market is so stunning with a huge Christmas tree erected in the entrance. We visited the market and roamed for three hours but it seemed not enough. A lot of things to see! The market is a foodie paradise. It is the best place to satisfy your taste buds and sample different specialty foods from all over Europe. From the famous German bratwurst (sausage) and salamis, Dutch cheeses, Belgian chocolates and waffles to French pastries, Turkish candies, Italians pizzas, Spanish paellas, jams, olives or even a traditional hog-roast. There is plentiful of choices for everyone.
The market operates from November 17 to December 22. It’s opening hours are 10am to 8pm from Monday to Wednesday, 10am to 10pm from Thursday to Saturday, and 12pm to 6pm on a Sunday.
How to get there: Belfast is 168 Km (104miles) from Dublin City. It is served by public buses (Dublin Coach, Air Coach and Bus Eireann) departing from Dublin Airport or Dublin City Centre over a 2-hour journey, nonstop. The return trip bus fare is approximately 20 EUR (23 USD).
If you have never been to a Christmas Market, you don’t know what you are missing! It is a great place to spend time with family & friends. With cities coming to life with colourful lights and streets lined with a latitude of wooden chalets, it is a wonderful way to kickstart the festive mood.
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