With the countdown to Christmas well and truly on, it’s time to make a list, check it twice and get organised with your Christmas shopping. Add a bit of extra sparkle to your shopping this year and get that list ticked off quickly with a festive break to Belfast. Less than two hours from Dublin by rail or road, compact in size and overflowing with festive cheer, there’s so much to see and do in the city while you shop. Check out Visit Belfast’s list of top activities and best places to shop for a Christmas shopping experience to remember. So, what are you waiting for? Come on up and make it a Belfast Christmas.
Stop 1: Fuel Up
Shopping on an empty stomach is never a good idea, so start the day right with a good feed to set you up for a busy day. Fill up with a hearty breakfast at the opulent Harlem café in Bedford Street. Go early to beat the queues which are known to form outside this eclectic bistro famed for its funky, art-filled space and sublime brunch dishes. For a glamourous experience, step into the vibrant and contemporary Grand Café at the Grand Central Hotel and peruse a menu filled with tempting variations of classic breakfast dishes and an indulgent range of signature specials. Or nip into The National to sample anything from Beans n’ Toast to a cod burger or a vegan club sandwich – there’s plenty to choose from whether you want to try something new or stick to what you know. For a lighter bite, head to Established Coffee in the city’s Cathedral Quarter. A stomping ground for the cool kids, you’ll find some of the best coffee and mouth-watering brunch options here, suitable for all dietary requirements. Why not start your shopping as you eat breakfast with a trip to the city’s oldest Victorian market. St George’s Market is home to a smorgasbord of culinary delights and global foods to chow down on as you shop an abundance of colourful stalls with gift ideas for all.
Stop 2: Victoria Square
A veritable mecca for Christmas shopping, Victoria Square has everything you need all under one twinkling dome. For showstopping designer gear, head to Flannels on the top floor of Frasers to shop a huge range of labels only found here – from Jimmy Choo to Balenciaga, Valentino and more – whilst tech heads can get their fix at Ireland’s only Apple store. Be among the first to shop the brand new Tessuti store which is home to designer collections for men, women, and children, including brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Billionaire Boys Club, Parajumpers, Versace Jeans Couture, Moose Knuckles, Sandbanks, and Emporio Armani. Get your high street fashion fix with a huge range of names. Fashionistas will love gifts from brands such as Phase Eight, Monsoon, Reiss, Pull & Bear, New Look, Kurt Geiger and River Island whilst sporty types should hit up Sweaty Betty, Gym + Coffee and Lifestyle Sports.
Pick up a range of beauty gifts at BTY Cosmetics, M.A.C., Kiehl’s, Rituals, The Perfume Shop or L’Occitane or spoil your loved one with a special piece of jewellery from Lunn’s, Swarovski or Goldsmiths. For something a little more intimate, pop into Boux Avenue or Calvin Klein. For a gift that will last a lifetime, pay a visit to the new Bradley Art gallery on the upper floor and take home an iconic print or canvas from Northern Ireland’s most celebrated artist. Don’t forget the kids! There’s plenty here for them too with the city’s only Build–A-Bear store for furry friends, Claire’s Accessories for stocking fillers and Mamas and Papas for the littlest ones in the family – or those on their way! While you’re there, marvel at the square’s incredible Christmas light display and grab a selfie at their special festive installation just outside Frasers. Ride the elevator to the viewing platform for 360 degree views of Belfast or, if you prefer to have your feet on the ground, take a visit to the Jaffe Fountain and marvel at a piece of history dating back to 1870.
Stop 3: Enjoy a Festive Tipple
Christmas shopping is thirsty work, so take a break from all that retail therapy with a festive drink at one of Belfast’s iconic bars. Head to the Cathedral Quarter for a pint of the black stuff in legendary bar The Duke of York – and don’t forget to get a selfie in the famous picture-perfect alleyway – or drink in the atmosphere of a trip to The Harp Bar, with live music getting everyone into the festive spirit. For a real treat, pop into The Merchant Hotel’s cocktail bar and admire the stunning Christmas tree whilst sipping on a perfectly mixed festive cocktail. Or check out Margot. Tucked away below street level, it’s the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of Belfast’s city centre. Soak up the chilled atmosphere whilst hanging out with even cooler clientele.
Stop 4: Donegall Place and Royal Avenue
Belfast’s main shopping street is an iconic part of the city. Running from the front of the spectacular City Hall to Castle Court, you’ll find popular brands like Next, M&S, Zara and Skechers, with the rebuilt Primark store offering everything from homeware to fashion. Pop to the Craft NI Gallery for one-off homemade jewellery and bring some bespoke Belfast gifting to the one you love. For a truly unique Belfast gift, check out some of the city’s independent retailers such as Born & Bred, Art Loves at The Merchant, Steenson’s Jewellers, Matchett’s Music or the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre and take home a piece of Belfast this Christmas. Or why not shop the best of Belfast all under one roof at the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre opposite Belfast City Hall. Named ‘Northern Ireland’s Visitor Information Centre of the Year’ at the 30th Northern Ireland Travel and Tourism Awards earlier this year, the centre not only showcases Belfast’s unique and authentic tourism experiences, but its gift shop is brimming with incredible, locally sourced gifts that reflect the city’s craic and culture.
Stop 5: Feast on a Festive Lunch
Eat drink and be merry at one of Belfast’s many fine eateries. Enjoy an unrivalled view of Belfast Christmas Market and a decadent lunch at Parisien, with unparalleled balcony views of City Hall and Royal Avenue and offering a chic yet comfortable ambience. For a more casual lunch, head to the city’s newest restaurant offering, Roam. Starting out as a pop-up concept, Roam has found a permanent home in Callender Street and serves up simple, yet sophisticated, food. If pub grub is more your thing, try Henry’s, The Deer’s Head or Grannie Annie’s for top Northern Irish food with a side serving of great craic.
Stop 6: Queen’s Arcade
Located close to Belfast City Hall is the spectacular Queen’s Arcade. With much-loved independent shops, Queen’s Arcade is a great option for one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts and home to the only Rolex, OMEGA, TAG Heuer and Montblanc Boutiques in Ireland. Built in 1880 and restored to his former glory in 2019, it’s the last Victorian Arcade in the city – and a great spot for a festive photo. Get it on the ‘gram!
Stop 7: CastleCourt & Smithfield Market
No trip to Belfast is complete without a visit to the city’s most iconic shopping centre. CastleCourt is a must-visit for gifts for all the family. Complete your Christmas look with fashion and accessories from DV8, Quiz and Vila, or find the perfect children’s gift at The Entertainer. You’ll find something for sports fans at O’Neill’s and pick up some brilliant local art at Wrapped Up, or a classic scent at the Yankee Candle shop. Nip out the back entrance and you’ll find yourself in the heart of Smithfield and its famous market, offering a collection of curios and collectables. Know someone that’s got everything or is just hard to buy for? Smithfield has you sorted. Check out Coffees and Heroes for comic books, novels and pop culture memorabilia, step back in time at Lauro Antiques or saddle up and get down to Norm’s Bikes for a shiny new bicycle under the tree.
And you’re done…
With Christmas shopping all wrapped up, take some time to enjoy the magic of Belfast City at Christmas. Pop into 2 Royal Avenue, Belfast’s newest cultural space, as it transforms into a magical Winter Den. With events and activities for all the family – from Santa’s Post Office to Winter Warming Tales & Tunes to a Christmas Cracker workshop and even a silent disco rocking around the Christmas tree – you’ll get right into the festive spirit. Zip up Royal Avenue to the gates of iconic Belfast City Hall and enjoy the delights of Belfast Christmas Market, displaying the best festive fayre and serving up some of the best traditional and contemporary – not to mention unusual – food and drink to savour while you shop. Nowhere does festive spirit quite like this! Got time to chill? Head to Ulster Museum for a unique Christmas movie experience and catch some of the classics on the big screen. Or check out some of the city’s many guided walking tours, revealing the magic of Christmas around every street corner. There’s something for everyone in Belfast this Christmas – visit www.visitbelfast.com for more ideas and inspiration.
Make a Night of It…
With so much to explore, why not make a night of it with an overnight stay. For unabridged five-star luxury, escape to The Merchant Hotel and lap up the luxurious surroundings of this iconic hotel or take in the city views from the rooftop hot tub or check into the Grand Central Hotel and enjoy the grandeur of the décor and drink in the views from The Observatory – Ireland’s tallest bar. For a uniquely Belfast stay, you can’t miss a night at Titanic Hotel within the former headquarters of Harland and Wolff, builders of the RMS Titanic or opt for a quirky stay at The Warren, offering elegant Victorian design including chandeliers, wood panelling and gold mirrors but with communal areas for a more social experience.
There’s no doubt that Belfast comes alive at night. Feast on a dinner to remember at some of the city’s best restaurants. Check out Michelin starred options The Muddlers Club or Ox or, for a more budget friendly bite, head to Dean’s at Queen’s, Coco, Six by Nico or Coppi.
Be entertained at Belfast’s many watering holes – head to the Cathedral Quarter for a great night’s craic or catch a festive show at the city’s many cultural spots, from the Grand Opera House to the Lyric Theatre or The Mac.