Tastes of Europe return
A continental flavour to the festive season was unveiled in Belfast today as the Christmas Market returned to the city.
Thousands of people are expected to visit the popular attraction which will stay in the grounds of the City Hall until December 18.
Dozens of market stalls offering a wide range of crafts, food and decorations from across Europe and Russia are on sale in the run-up to Christmas.
Among the favourite dishes returning for festive shoppers to enjoy are Spanish paella, Tyrolean dumplings, Dutch cheeses, crepes from Brittany, and giant bratwurst sausage from Germany.
And there is a special section showcasing some of Northern Ireland's best food products, which are usually only available on Saturdays at St George's City Food and Garden Market.
This includes Country Harvest's delicatessen, Suki Teas, Archana Indian Cuisine and the Rocket and Relish gourmet burger bar.
Liqueur coffees, German and continental beers and local brews from the Hilden Brewery are also available.
Markus Kochem's wine stand, which produces the wine from their vineyards along the Moselle Valley, is also among the traders' wares in the grounds of the City Hall.
The Flying Dutchman, Gradus van de Wardt, is also returning with his huge display of bulbs and perfectly formed Christmas trees.
A great selection of gifts and crafts, including hand-painted Russian dolls, handmade candles, bags, toys and jewellery are also on offer.
And making his first appearance at the market is Santa, who has his own grotto. Proceeds will go to the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice.
Aer Lingus and Norfolk Line are this year sponsoring the travel costs of traders who have come from Belarus and Russia.
Michael Browne, chairman of Belfast City Council's Development Committee, said: "The Continental Market is definitely one of the highlights of Belfast's Christmas calendar, and its arrival is eagerly anticipated by not only people from the city but also much further afield.
"This year's market promises to be bigger and better than ever, and no doubt once again will prove to be a popular seasonal attraction."
Opening hours are 10am-8pm Monday to Thursday, 10am-10pm Friday and Saturday, and 1pm-6pm on Sunday.
For details of all Christmas events in the city see www.belfastcity.gov.uk/events .