Over 1 million people are set to enter through the gates of City Hall Gardens this year to visit the Belfast Christmas Market. MR Services construction team have already begun working hard to transform the Gardens into the award-winning annual Market. They will be hammering, securing structures and building chalets to create the Christmas Village in time for the opening of the Market on Saturday 16 November at 12noon
The Belfast Christmas Market attracts visitors from across Europe and has become a significant contributor to the local economy. 1,083,692 visitors came to the market in 2018, 184,228 of those visitors were from out of state and they spent £38.9m. The overall the gross economic impact of the 2018 market was a staggering £87,190,920, demonstrating the citywide benefit of such a large and well organised event.
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor John Finucane said: “The arrival of the Christmas Market at City Hall is always eagerly anticipated and officially heralds the start of Belfast’s festive season. It’s fantastic to see so many visitors enjoy the Market every year – both locals and visitors alike. Having the Market in the heart of the city provides an invaluable boost to the city’s retail and tourism offering. I am also delighted that NI hospice will be operating the grotto this year, raising awareness of their work and services as well as hopefully raising some much needed income.’
This year one of the 20 chalets along the outside perimeter of the City Hall grounds, will be host to LOAF catering, (a social enterprise bakery set up by the NOW Group to help people with learning difficulties and autism into employment) who will be serving their delicious sausage rolls.
In partnership with the NOW Group, two new initiatives have been introduced for people with accessibility challenges. On the Donegall Square East side of market, a quiet room has been created to offer a calm space when the Market becomes just a little too much. In addition market traders have received awareness training about the JAM Card. The JAM Card, which stands for ‘Just A Minute’, is 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 also as downloadable app for smartphones.
Diane Hill, Director of Business Development at NOW Group, said: "We're looking forward to bringing our award winning sausage rolls to the Christmas Market this year alongside spreading the word about our JAM Card. We're proud to work with Market Place to share our JAM Card training with traders to help them ensure that the environment is inclusive and enjoyable for all."
This year the food court 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
Allan Hartwell, Managing Director of Market Place (operators of the Belfast Christmas Market) said: “We are very proud our flagship Christmas Market in Belfast offers initiatives that ensure the market is a welcoming place for everyone. Each year we push to make the market bigger and better than ever and in 2019 we have raised the bar, with additional investment to support charities and social enterprises.”
“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 we encourage people to visit and explore everything else that this wonderful city has to offer.”
Market Place continue to support local food and craft with the return of some local favourites such as The Dribbly Yak, Rossi’s Ice Cream and the incredible social enterprise Outside In who will be donning their tinsel and Santa hats to help the homeless. Armstrong’s Twisted Fish are returning after a very successful boost to their business in 2018.
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: crepes 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 and end the day in one of the bars serving local and continental drinks to get even more into the Christmas spirit.
New media partners Q Radio, will be onsite throughout the five week market with live broadcasts, voucher giveaways and lots of visitor fun on offer alongside over 90 traders selling delicious food, jewellery, clothing and crafts.
Sinead Cavanagh, Group Sales Operations Manager said: "Q Radio are delighted to be media partner for the Belfast Christmas Market this year, the market is one of the key events for the festive season enjoyed by people near and far. We will be there with different activities including live broadcasts, music, presenters, promo teams and a few surprise visitors too, and we look forward to it.”
To keep track of market additions, and the ever-important weather updates, follow the official Facebook page at Belfast Continental Christmas Market.
Belfast Christmas Market will be at the City Hall from 12noon on Saturday 16 November until 6pm on Sunday 22 December. Opening hours are:
Monday – Wednesday 10am – 8pm
Thursday – Saturday 10am – 10pm
Sunday 12noon – 6pm