Skip to Content

Belfast and Northern Ireland

How to Spend a Christmas Day/Night Out in Belfast

Looking to celebrate the Christmas season? Look no further than Belfast City Centre for a fun filled day, with food, drink and shopping!

Christmas tree decorations

Whether it’s with a group of friends, your partner or family, there are plenty of places in Belfast to enjoy some time off and explore what it has to offer. I live around one hour outside of Belfast, and as a Queen’s student, it has become my second home. Sometimes I walk or drive around the city and think to myself, “this is the perfect city for me!”

People are friendly and the food and drink are among the best I have had. Every year, my partner and I spend one day and night in Belfast during the month of December, to Christmas shop and to enjoy the hustle and bustle of this amazing city.

So, here are my top recommendations for a day in December!

Breakfast or Brunch anyone?

Start your day off right with one of the top breakfast and brunch spots in Belfast. One of my favourite places to visit is the infamous Maggie Mays for a traditional full Irish/Ulster fry, or you can choose from their all day breakfast menu. You have 3 locations to choose from: Botanic Avenue, Malone, and City Centre, for classic homemade grub and a huge variety-packed menu. Another perk is that whether it’s 11am or 7pm – it BYOB (bring your own bottle!).

Coffee from the Pocket Cafe and Maggie Mays interior

Lunch at The Pocket and Maggie Mays

If you are looking good coffee to start off your day of shopping, visit The Pocket at The Flat Iron on Upper Church Lane. This spot is directly on the outskirts of Victoria Square shopping centre, offering great speciality coffee, a modern take on breakfast food and a chilled, Instagrammable atmosphere.

Let’s Christmas Shop Until You Drop!

Last minute, Black Friday or organised – Christmas shopping in Belfast is done right. With the centrepiece being Victoria Square shopping centre, with over 70 retail shops, 8 restaurants and 1 cinema, you can find something to keep everyone happy. To explore the city even more, use the lift to head up to the viewing dome for a 360-degree view of the city, completely free of charge. I can get all my Christmas shopping complete in Belfast city centre: my brother? JD Sports or Lifestyle Sports. My sister? Boots, Lush or Zara. My Mum? Rituals, The Body Shop or Avoca. My Dad? Fat Face, Fossil, or O’Neill’s.

The dome in Victoria Square

The Dome at Victoria Square

All-Year Round Markets

Now, I know everyone loves a Christmas Market, and we will get to that later. However, Belfast has some cracker markets in the centre, with amazing street food, crafts, and gifts. You have the famous (weekend-only) St. George’s Market, which I love during any holiday, as they go out of their way to celebrate Belfast-style. The market was built in 1890 and was named the UK’s Best Large Indoor Market 2023, so no need to worry about the weather! It’s a classic, full of history and a perfect spot to grab some unique Christmas gifts.

If you want something more modern and focused on food – Common Market and Trademarket Belfast are the places to be. Both combine the best street food that Belfast has to offer in a cool space where socialising and cheeky drinks are a priority!

Food and drink from Belfast markets

A collage of food, drink and gifts from a range of markets in Belfast

The Christmas Market

Located on the grounds of Belfast City Hall, the Christmas market is not one to miss. I visit every year, and there is something new each time to enhance your festive experience. This market is incredibly international, with Belgian chocolates, Australian kangaroo burgers and Dutch pancakes. Not to mention the beer tent – of which Belfast has two! You have the traditional German beer tent, where steins of beer are a must, although I wouldn’t recommend a stein of cider if you don’t have a sweet tooth! Then there is Lavery’s Bar beer tent, which hosts a variety of local musicians and offers a more up-market experience compared to the German counterpart. The hustle and bustle of the Christmas Market is a necessity to put you into Christmas holiday mode!

Student Belfast Christmas market collage showing food and drink stalls

Dinner Time

Hold on – there are far too many dinner spots in Belfast city centre so let me just rhyme some of them off. Here are my fabulous recommendations;

Finish the Night Off Strong (not just your drink!)

I LOVE Belfast night life. It’s my favourite place to go out, there are so many amazing places to choose from, it’s impossible to list them all. In Belfast, you will always get a good pint, Bittles bar is the best for Guinness, and some bars do amazing cocktail and gin mixes. There is something for everyone, whether it’s a lively bar with music and dancing, a quirky, old-style bar with history or a quiet, romantic bar. Belfast has it all, and all in walking distance, take it from me who wears heels!

Outside Belfast bar with Guinness sign on wall behind red bench

My recommendations are: Bittles, The Duke of York, The Harp Bar, The Dirty Onion, Granny Annies, The Perch, The Empire, Kelly’s Cellars, The Points and White's Tavern.

Find out more

Life in Belfast

More blogs about Belfast and Northern Ireland

PhD research opportunities

Erin McGrattan  

PhD in Cancer Epidemiology | Postgraduate Student | Northern Ireland

Hi, I'm Erin McGrattan. I'm from County Down in Northern Ireland and I studied for my undergraduate degree in Queen's in BSc Food Quality, Safety and Nutrition. I am now undertaking a PhD in Cancer Epidemiology, focusing on oesophageal cancer and I'm situated in the Centre for Public Health.

I love Belfast and have lived in the city for a few years, so I am open to answering any questions regarding its history, nightlife, best food spots and student accommodation. I am an avid camogie player so I'm interested in any GAA or sports clubs in my area.

Erin McGrattan