Belfast City Hall’s Christmas Market is back — to the delight of thousands of visitors who thronged through its gates to enjoy its first full day of trading on Monday.
Stallholders did brisk trade as the grounds were packed with wrapped-up visitors looking for a tasty burger or beer, hand-made jewellery, fresh soap or hats, scarves and carved ornaments.
For stallholder Rory O'Loughlin of Frogjaw, this is his first year selling at the market after he won his place through Pitch Perfect — a Dragons’ Den-style competition run by Belfast City Council.
“We're selling a kitchen accessory that holds your wooden spoon out of the way when you're cooking,” Rory explained.
“I've been to the market before, but working at it is fantastic. Everyone stops to chat and I just don't want to go back to my ordinary job.”
Without doubt the biggest draw to the market is the food on offer. Wandering between the stalls is like wandering from country to country.
The peckish can opt for French baguettes, Belgian waffles, Dutch pancakes, German bratwurst or even Spanish paella — not to mention the Meats of the World stand selling everything from kangaroo to crocodile. Such cuisines have been firm fixtures of the market for years, as Dutchman Skouk Sieswerda explained.
“We run Dutch pancake stalls in markets around the UK and Holland all year and this is our eighth year in Belfast.
“This is a great place with great people in a great city. Belfast is one of the nicest markets to go to.”
To keep the cold at bay no trip to the Christmas Market would be complete without a hot cup of mulled cider or wine — gluhwein as it's traditionally called.
Patrick Marmion runs the Authentic German Gluhwein stand
and has been coming to Belfast for the Christmas Market for three years. “We love Belfast and Belfast loves us,” Patrick joked. “I've been going to Christmas markets for years as both customer and vendor and Belfast is great; you can't get better than a market in the grounds of the City Hall.”
The market, which will trade every day until December 20, remains a fun family day out.
The tinkling tune of the merry-go-round can be heard almost everywhere on the site and families were queuing at Santa's Grotto to hand in their Christmas lists in person.
Stephanie and Dermot O'Hanlon from Tandragee brought their three-year-old son Paddy to the city for the day — as they do for the market every year.
“It's becoming a Christmas tradition that we come to the market every year. It's a great day out for everyone and you can see people enjoying themselves.”