You don't need to catch a flight to get your Christmas market fix. Nicola Brady has the pick of the bunch here at home...
More and more Christmas Markets are popping up around Ireland every year, from small and kitschy village fairs to hipster craft shopping experiences.
Here’s our list of the best around the land, where you can shop local for gifts, pick up a glass of mulled wine and get into the Christmas spirit.
Galway Continental Christmas Market
There were over 350,000 visitors to Galway's Christmas market last year, dipping between the 50 wooden chalets in Eyre Square. Galway's food game is strong, so go with an empty stomach and dig into crepes, bratwurst, pretzels and German beer. What says “Christmas” more than a straining belt, eh?
Details: November 16 – December 22, galwaytourism.ie
GLOW – A Cork Christmas Celebration
With a giant Ferris wheel, choirs singing carols and Christmas lights a go-go, Cork comes to life at this time of year. There are plenty of market stalls to tempt you, too.
Details: Every weekend in December, corkchristmascelebration.ie.
Winterval in Waterford
This Christmas extravaganza takes over the whole city each year, with various festive merriment spread in every nook and cranny. You’ll find market stalls in a few locations – following your nose is the best bet.
Details: November 17 – December 23, winterval.ie
You couldn’t ask for a prettier backdrop – City Hall is festooned with twinkly lights, and the cute market huts are fit to burst with ornaments, gifts and a hefty amount of tempting food from all around the world. Our tip? Sniff out the hog roast.
Details: November 17 – December 23, facebook.com/BelfastXmasMark.
Limerick’s Milk Market
This weekly market consistently knocks it out of the park, but it comes into its own at Christmas. Pick up a festive wreath, a good stash of chutneys and as much local cheese as you can carry.
Details: December 14–16, 21–24, milkmarketlimerick.ie/xmas
Après Dublin and the Stephen’s Green markets may not be taking place this year, but there are plenty of cool little alternatives around the city. You can pick up cool pieces of art and crafts in A Fabulous Christmas Market at The George, which is on December 1. The Designer Christmas Markets are being held in the Bank of Ireland forecourt on College Green on December 7, too.
Details: facebook.com/TheGeorgeBar, facebook.com/DesignerDublinChristmasMarket
Slane Distillery, Co Meath
The Boyne Valley is a paradise for artisanal food, and you can pick up a good selection at the Slane Distillery’s Christmas market (above). The setting, in the distillery’s 250-year-old Georgian stables, is a beaut.... watch out for concert memorabilia, too.
Details: Every weekend November 30 – December 23, slaneirishwhiskey.com
Teeling Distillery, Dublin
Nothing kicks the season of jollity into gear like seeing the lighting of a Christmas tree. The one at the Teeling Whiskey Distillery is lit on December 5, with the Spirit of Dublin Christmas Craft Fair taking place on December 8. The distillery tour is pretty cool too...
Carlow Culinary Christmas
Rachel Allen and Fishy Fishy’s Martin Shanahan will be on hand to field your questions about that pesky turkey, comedy Christmas cook offs and a host of local food for sale. Tickets are €19.50, which includes a €5 voucher for the Food Village.
Details: December 6 – 8, visualcarlow.ie
The regular Dublin Flea market is sorely missed in the city. So until they find a new home, pop along to their Christmas market in The Point. There are over 280 highly curated stalls over the two long weekends – expect to see handcrafted jewellery, excellent vintage and swoonworthy home décor.
Details: December 6-9 & 13-16, dublinchristmasflea.ie
Strandhill People’s Market
From their set up in Hangar 1 at Sligo Airport, the Strandhill People’s Market is a popular favourite among Sligonians, and their Christmas market is no exception. You’ll find local crafts, artworks and decadent treats, alongside their regular collection of healthy juices, sushi and wholefoods.
Details: December 2, 9, 14-16, 21-23, strandhillpeoplesmarket.ie
The Lisnavagh Christmas Fair 2018
Held in the grounds of the gorgeous Lisnavagh House, this crafty fair is the perfect place to pick up some gifts. There are also Children’s Christmas Craft Workshops held in the afternoon, which include hot chocolate and a visit from the big man himself (€13).
Details: December 8-9, lisnavagh.com
Things are delightfully bonkers at Yulefest Kilkenny – expect to see Stormtroopers and an Irish Wolfhound called Fionn (mascot for the 3rd Infantry Battalion) popping up around the city. There’s a strong charitable spirit too, which feels like a far more fitting Christmas theme than tinsel and baubles.
Details: Throughout December, yulefestkilkenny.ie
Wicklow Christmas Market
Held in the Abbey Grounds in Wicklow town, the market brings the usual selection of wreaths, crafts and tempting food. But you’ll forget about all of that when you find out that there are actual alpacas on the scene. How we did Christmas without alpacas for all these years, I’ll never know.
Details: Every weekend from December 8, wicklowchristmasmarket.com.
All the wintery merriment is based around a 600-square-metre ice rink in Mullingar Town Park, with a Swedish Fika style Christmas market held on December 6-9.
Details: November 23 – January 6, winterfestmullingar.ie
Dundalk Christmas Market
Held as part of Frostival, the stalls in Market Square are packed full of Christmassy treats, and there is plenty else to capture the attention of little ones, too.
Details: December 14-15, dundalktown.ie/frostival
Christmas in Donegal
There's loads going on in Donegal this Christmas, including Santa's Kingdom in Buncrana (November 24 to December 23), a craft and art fair in Letterkenny's An Grianán theatre on December 1, and later in December, Letterkenny's artisan Christmas market.
Carrigaholt Christmas Market, Co Clare
Some 30 stalls are expected selling artisan food, handmade gifts and more local produce on the Loop Head Peninsula on Sunday, December 7. Read more on the community's sustainable approach to tourism on Loop Head here.
Westport House’s Winter Wonderland
OK, so it’s not strictly a market. But with story telling, face painting, crafting, treats, the Santa Express Train across the Estate and, of course, Santa himself, we had to include Westport House’s Winter Wonderland. There are also festive movies shown in the Drive-In, too, because it aint Christmas until you’ve seen Elf.
Details: November 24th to December 23, €14-€28.50, westporthouse.ie
NB: All prices and dates subject to change.