Belfast Continental Christmas Market Returns

Performances of Dickensian carols by the Pickwick Players add to the familiar feel at Belfast City Hall from November 17

As the days grow shorter and Christmas fast approaches, the award-winning Belfast Continental Christmas Market is soon to return to the grounds of City Hall from Saturday, November 17 until December 20.

The opening of the market will coincide with the 2012 Christmas Lights Switch On, which is compared by UTV's Julian Simmons and features performances from the Barazina Youth Choir and children's favourite, ZingZillas.

Boasting over 80 traders, the market offers shoppers a gastronomic journey around the globe. Offerings include crepes from France, Belgian chocolates and an exotic selection of ostrich, wild boar and crocodile burgers for those with a taste for adventure.

Giant bratwurst sold from the iconic Schwenkgrille, Spanish paella and nougat from Italy is also on offer for hungry festive shoppers. And Belfast City Council is encouraging visitors to show their support for the local retailers from St Georges Market, who make up over 30% of the traders.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Gavin Robinson, said: 'The Belfast Continental Christmas Market is one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated events, both by residents and visitors alike, and provides an invaluable boost to the city’s tourism offering in the run up to Christmas.'

This year, the shopping experience will be enhanced by the musical offerings of community choirs, with a special treat in the form of the Pickwick Players, who will be performing traditional Dickensian carols in authentic Victorian costume as part of the Dickens 2012 bicentenary celebrations.

The market has also designated special time slots from 10am to 12pm Monday to Wednesday for their 'buddy scheme', an initiative aimed at providing additional assistance for those who may require it during their visit. After a walk around in the brisk winter air, the complimentary tea and coffee served in the Bobbin coffee shop as part of the scheme should provide a welcome treat.

Market Place Europe, which runs the market, has kept with tradition by once again donating the famous Santa’s Grotto to help support the Lord Mayor’s charity of choice, Barnardo’s NI. Director of Barnardo’s NI Lynda Wilson said: 'We are delighted that the Lord Mayor has chosen Barnardo’s NI as this year’s beneficiary of the Christmas Market’s Santa’s Grotto.

'Christmas is such a magical time of year and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to add some extra sparkle by offering children the chance to visit Santa and his elves. We are looking forward to welcoming lots of children and their families to our Santa’s Grotto, and those families will know that by supporting us they will also be helping many other children this Christmas too.'

Belfast Christmas Market will be at the City Hall from Saturday November 17 until December 20. For information visit the Belfast City Council website.