Cork’s Fair Alternative has been held since 2006 in the Unitarian Church on Prince’s Street, but is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. For a special gift, check it out. Regular Saturday stall-holders will be joined by seasonal and new artists, with arts and crafts, fashion, body care, and vintage gear. Prices from €1 to €100.
Details: www.facebook.com/thefairalternative; Dec 15-24.
The heart of Kilkenny is a dramatic Christmas setting. With the city’s Anglo-Norman castle as a backdrop, stall-holders offer local delicacies, handmade goods, traditional toys, gifts and stocking fillers. That’s not all: Mrs Claus will tell stories, the Kilkenny Gospel Choir will sing the carols, and there’s a sit-down coffee area. Elsewhere, watch out for the Christmas Fair in Paulstown’s Shankill Castle (Nov 30, Dec 1).
Details: www.kilkennychristmasmarket.com; weekends from Dec 1-23.
A flea market might not sound appetising at Christmas, but Dublin’s Christmas Cracker Flea Market has products to fill your belly and your stocking. The festive edition of the monthly Dublin Flea Market takes place in Smithfield, with 120 stalls selling everything from arts and crafts to vintage clothes. In Farmleigh House, there are food markets every weekend in December.
Details: www.dublinflea.ie; www.farmleigh.ie; Dec 14-16.
Cork’s annual Christmas Celebration sees the Grand Parade inundated with wooden chalets and stalls, with artisan food and crafts to fill the deepest festive stockings. A vintage carousel and helter-skelter, a dedicated glühwein bar and an outdoor stage are all new this year. At Bishop Lucey Park, watch out for the Sugar Plum Fairy, Captain Walnut, and The Toymaker as an array of red, gold and blue lights brings to life a winter wonderland inspired by The Nutcracker. It opens weekends from 4pm-8pm.
Details: www.corkchristmascelebration.ie: Nov 30 — Dec. 2, Dec 6-9, 13-23.
Home to the Bunburys family since 1702, the Lisnavagh estate, in Rathvilly, is hosting its fifth Christmas Fair next weekend. A €5 entry fee (parking is free) buys access to a range of stalls, including clothes from Silk Connection, wooden toys and gifts from Seán the Toy Box, paper lanterns from Manuela Curran, handcrafted pens from Ian Robertson, and lunches from Kildare Kitchens.
Details: www.lisnavagh.com; Nov 23-24.
Fancy an old-school Christmas market? Limerick’s Georgian Quarter is hosting a yuletide shopping special on Pery Square. Chalets have been taken by retailers ranging from Carrygerry Country House Products to Ponaire Coffee and La Boheme vintage and designer clothes, with canapés, mulled wine and carol singers adding to the seasonal vibes. If you’ve got kids in tow, listen to the fireside storytelling sessions... or make a Christmas wreath.
Details: www.limerickgeorgianmarket.com; Nov 23-25.
A Hasbro museum featuring first production toys from the 1950s. Demonstrations of a traditional Viking Christmas. A road train taking visitors on a 2km tour of Ireland’s oldest city... little wonder Waterford is expecting 500,000 visitors this December.
Winterval is the first, all-encompassing festival of its kind in the south, and this is a mere taste of its offerings — dozens of chalets will take over the medieval city centre for a Christmas market, too.
Details: www.winterval.ie; Nov. 30 — Dec. 23.
Some Christmas markets last for weeks and are free to attend. The market at Marlfield House, by contrast, lasts just four hours and costs €35 for a ticket.
The exclusivity comes with trimmings, however — including a festive cookery demo from Darina Allen, floral display tips from Joeanna Caffrey, and a bespoke market of hand-picked jewellery, skincare products, designer clothes and cashmere throws... as well as cakes and hampers.
There’s bubbly on arrival and a fork supper, too.
Details: www.marlfieldhouse.ie; Dec 13 (5pm-9pm).
The renowned tourist town of Killarney is king when it comes to Kerry’s Christmas celebrations, so you can expect high standards at its annual open-air markets.
A smorgasbord of Irish and international food and crafts is promised beneath the Christmas lights, but if you can’t wait for Dec 14, check out Killarney’s Christmas Craft and Food Fair at the Malton Hotel next Sunday.
With more than 100 arts, craft and food stalls visitors have the perfect excuse to get a head-start on what, for many, is the arduous annual Christmas shopping.
Details: www.christmasinkillarney.com; Dec 14-16; 21-23.
Clanging bells, atmospheric masses and choral evensongs... Christchurch is an indispensable part of the festive season for many Dubliners. And, lately, the cathedral’s 12th century crypts are offering an added bonus — in the shape of a Christmas market.
A dozen or so stalls make for a super-intimate shopping experience inside one of the city’s oldest structures, and, this year, there are plans for a gathering of food stalls in the cathedral grounds, too. Entry is free.
Details: www.christmas.visitdublin.com; www.christchurchdublin.ie; Dec 15-22.