Ho ho ho! Get into the festive spirit and head for one of the gorgeous traditional European style Christmas markets dotted around across Ireland. A world apart - but only a stone's throw away - these feel-good Christmas markets are a great excuse to take a break and catch up with friends or to squeeze in a last romantic break before the year is out. If you're planning on bringing the kids there'll be lots of entertainment for them too and the perfect opportunity to find some unique stocking fillers while you're there.
Put www.discoverireland.ie on your Christmas list and enjoy a truly festive experience.
Enjoy Gluhwein in Galway
Get Christmas wrapped up and head West for the authentic Galway Continental Christmas Market, (November 21st - December 22nd), where a wander around traditional wooden chalets in Eyre Square will put you in the festive mood. Pick up unique hand crafted gifts from one of dozens of craft makers on hand, and stock the cupboard with delicious artisan food. After all that thirsty work head for the German Bierkeller offering a wide range of traditional fine German Beers, Oktoberfest activities and Lederhosen, with performances and carollers. The kids can say hi to the man himself in Santa's Grotto, and hear tales of Christmases past from storytellers. Galway city is a great place to visit at any time of the year, so make a break for it!
Experience the magic of Winterval in Waterford
If you are looking for a taste of Nuremburg's Christkindlesmarkt or Prague's Vanocni then make a date with the magical Waterford Winterval in the south east, (November 21st to December 23rd). Enter Christmas heaven as you wander food stalls serving hot delicious treats and discover an array of special handcrafted items from talented local craft designers. As well as serious shopping there will be no shortage of festive fun with lots of free family events including Winterval Illuminates and Penguins at the Palace. Book a festive horse drawn sleigh ride, and hop on the Ferris Wheel for panoramic views of the Christmas lights. Bring the kids to visit the elves hard at work in their workshop and don't forget to have a family portrait taken at the Snow Globe at George's Court - perfect for uploading to your festive Facebook page. And we are glad to report that Waterford On Ice is back on the Quays!
Glow in Cork this Christmas
Let it Glow, Let it Glow, Let it Glow! That's the motto down south for Glow - A Cork Christmas Celebration, (November 28th - December 21st). The Glow Festive Food Market takes place on the Grand Parade serving delicious Christmas crepes, gourmet sausages and locally produced spiced beef. And you will be spoiled for choice from local designers selling beautifully crafted wood pieces, jewellery, ceramic and prints. Cork's famous English Market is also just across the road, the perfect spot to sip hot chocolate and pick up a range of gifts and Christmas nibbles. After all that hard work shopping bring the family to Bishop Lucey Park which will be transformed into a giant Christmas pop-up 3D book featuring scenes and live characters from "Twas the Night Before Christmas". Make a date with the Christmas Ferris Wheel and soar 30 metres above Cork with stunning views of the city's skyline.
Take three Merry Christmas markets in Dublin!
Make Christmas an excuse to visit Dublin, where you will be spoiled for shopping choice on a yuletide break. The annual favourite, The National Crafts & Design Fair, (December 3rd- 7th), is back at the RDS with more than 500 designers, artists and crafts people decking out the halls with lots of distinct and unique gifts. You will find everything from handmade chocolates to high fashion at prices starting from as little as under a fiver.
In the city centre you can savour Christmas at the inaugural St. Stephen's Green Christmas Market, (November 13th - December 23rd), where more than 60 traders will locate in traditional wooden chalets outside St Stephen's Green Park between Grafton Street and Merrion Row selling quality Irish handcrafted gifts including accessories, woodcrafts, jams, preserves and prints. There will be seasonal food and drinks to fuel you along the way! Choirs and carollers will also help get you into the festive spirit. The market opens on the same day that the Grafton Street Christmas lights are turned on, transforming the city centre into a wonderful winter wonderland.
Taste Christmas in Carlow
How about getting all your festive shopping done in the super romantic surrounds of Duckett's Grove House & Estate's, which hosts it annual Christmas Fair, (December 7th). Browse dozens of stands for ceramics, knitwear, jewellery and embroidery, as well as handmade Christmas cards and decorations, with a backdrop of musical entertainment and festive fun. Stock up your Christmas larder with Christmas cakes, puddings, mince pies and a host of seasonal tarts and chutneys - perfect as gifts or just for you. Pick up a handmade Christmas wreath fresh from the forest, and hey don't forget the mistletoe!
Enjoy a cheery Christmas in Clare
The courtyard of the gorgeous Trump International Doonbeg Lodge in Co. Clare, (November 28th - 30th), will be transformed into an old world town square for its annual Christmas Market. Feast on a traditional Christmas scene as 60 traders sell arts, crafts and festive treats, with scents of gingerbread baking and meats roasting from the outdoor café wafting in the air. There festive fun for all the family with go karts and puppet shows as well as a live Nativity scene and Santa Station.
In Lisdoonvarana don't miss the indoor Burren Christmas Family Fayre, (December 6th - 7th), with stalls teeming with great pressies. Pick up a handbag, handmade chocolates or some hand crafted jewellery. And splash out on a hamper stuffed with delicious local meats, sea foods, chutneys and relishes before you head ho ho home!
Enjoy Christmas at Limerick's Milk Market
Buskers from all around the world will add to the exciting buzz at this year's Christmas Market at the Milk Market in Limerick City. Local producers and traders have been selling fresh, natural foods here since 1852 and dozens will be on hand to ensure that you can check off everything on your rather long shopping list! Running Thursdays to Sundays from the end of November and right through Christmas week food will sizzle, Christmas choirs will sing and craft workers will explain their work - all in a wonderful, fun, festive environment.
So if you thought Christmas shopping would be a chore think again - give yourself the gift of a fun shopping break this Christmas, and get all your shopping done in one fun swoop. www.discoverireland.ie