I first arrived in Northern Ireland the last week of November 15 years ago. Oh how the city has changed! And I’ve been fortunate to have seen these changes up close and personal my first 3 years when I lived in South Belfast. Like any city, it really comes to life for Christmas and there’s lots to see in Belfast in December with kids.
Belfast really is shining this December, after the shocking Primark Fire in August. It’s now open again for business, and I’m loving the community feel of the city centre this month with the expansion of the food stalls, rides and games for kids, green seated areas in the streets (which are currently pedestrian-only in some areas). All the activities spread out makes the downtown area feel bigger and less crowded. I hope they are able to use this format in the future!
Here are a few of my recommendations for passing time in Belfast and making the season magical for the whole family.
1) The Continental Market will be back for its 15th season on the grounds of City Hall. Enjoy the sights and smells of Germany, Netherlands, France, and more while you wander through and enjoy the continental flavours. It’s expanded over previous years and now has stalls outside the City Hall grounds, as well as down some of the surrounding shopping streets.
2) St. George’s Market is always a favourite if you’re in Belfast from Friday to Sunday. The stalls will be sure to have lots of selection for Christmas gifts. This is one of my go-to places to find unique hand-crafted goods to send to family and friends back home and around the world on December 11 & 12th there will also be a twilight market.
3) Each December the Grand Opera House has a panto (pantomime) or two for the younger audience. I’d never seen a panto before having children, but they’re lots of fun with some audience interaction and comedy.
4) The official Christmas Light Switch-on took place in November, but the lights are still on and ready to be enjoyed as you stroll and do some window shopping.
5) Speaking of lights, take a ride up in the elevator at Victoria Square and take in the view from inside the dome. It was only last year that we made it up to the top to look over the city, and it was a fantastic sight! We now try to go up as often as we can when we’re in Belfast; the kids love it!
6) Make a date and visit Santa in his grotto. It’s a little different here than in North America. You won’t catch a glimpse of Santa until after you’ve paid for your ticket, waited in line, and then enter his cabin. There are locations at malls, garden centres, and elsewhere. As an alternative to this, you could visit the Black Santa and be thankful for what you do have this festive season.
7) Shopping. Of course, you can also shop while in Belfast. There may be a few things that you can’t shop for so easily with the kids, but we’ve managed by one parent taking both kids while the other does the shopping. Then Phil and I will each take a child and they’ll shop for their sibling. The children love shopping for each other and put great thought into their gifts!
8) I made some good friends when I first arrived in Belfast and stayed in a youth hostel. Most everyone has now left and moved back home or elsewhere. One Northern Ireland friend I met there is an artist and we try to meet up with him in December. It’s usually the best time to find us both in Belfast at the same time. Even if we don’t meet up with him, we will stop by a gallery or two to see what’s shaking. The children really enjoy it (probably more than us parents). Special in-residence artists and shows bring a new perspective to our viewing, and they are now also offering one-day and weekend classes.
9) The libraries usually have Rhythm and Rhyme sessions for the 0-4 age group, and Storytime for the 4-8 age group. Around major holidays there are often themed crafts as well. Check out what’s happening and you may be able to join in one of the sessions in or around Belfast.
10) Have a family meal while you’re out in Belfast. From fast food, pub grub, to fine dining, you’ll find it all within the city centre, perhaps even at one of the markets mentioned above.
Have a great time this December, where ever you are, and let me know what your favourite December thing to see is in your area!
If you find yourself in Northern Ireland, check out these other posts we’ve written about some things to do:
- Top 10 Things To Do In Belfast In November With Kids
- 10 Things To Do In and Near Belfast in October For Families
- 10 Things To Do In Belfast In September With Kids
- 10 Things For Families To Do In The Belfast Area In August
- 10 Things To Do In Belfast In July With Kids
- 10 Things To Do In Belfast In June With Kids
- 10 Things To Do In The Belfast Area With Kids In May