Ireland has a rich tradition of markets, but not of Christmas markets. Here's why that's all about to change

Winterval, Waterford

Ireland has a rich tradition of markets, but not of Christmas markets. Waterford traces its winter gatherings back to medieval times, for example, when end-of-year markets glowed in the face of inclement weather.

Today, the tradition has ballooned into the Winterval Festival. Alongside the market stalls are 30 free events, including Santa’s grotto and a Winterval Express train. Most unique, I think, is a pop-up Polish Christmas village, which showcases their traditions, food and dishes.

Details: winterval.ie; Nov 29-Dec 23 and Dec 27-31.

Burren Christmas Family Fayre, Co Clare

The Lodge at Doonbeg’s markets may be better-known, but the Burren Christmas Family Fayre spreads a unique brand of festive cheer around Lisdoonvarna.

The indoor event features 26 craft, food and seasonally-themed stalls, classic games at novelty stands, an hourly raffle and freshly baked goodies.

The fun continues outdoors, with a funfair carousel and tug-o-war, and funds support the Coisceim Childcare facility.

Details: Pavilion Town Hall, Lisdoonvarna; Dec 7-8.

Christmas on the Square, Dublin

The Dublin Docklands Christmas Festival (Dec 12-23) enters its ninth year, but it’s far from the only show in town. Over on Merrion Square, the local Innovation Network has teamed up with Hennessy Cognac Ireland for what looks like a real Georgian gem.

For one day only (Nov 30), houses will be open to the public — with Irish artisan producers gathering in the College of Anaesthetists, a Wildean salon at No 8 Merrion Square, and an Irish Design Shop pop-up in the Irish Architectural Archive.

Meanwhile, the Gibson Hotel is offering a Christkindlmarkt, from Nov 27. Hog roasts, bratwursts, and waffle lolly pops are just some of the treats on offer. The Point Village market is priced at €28, for two courses, or €35 for three.

Details: merrionsquare.ie; thegibsonhotel.ie.

Galway’s Continental Market

Set in Eyre Square, and featuring 50 traders from all over Ireland and Europe, Galway’s Christmas shindig is one of the closest in spirit to the centuries-old Continental markets. Stalls sell all kind of crafts and food — you might find pastries from Brittany, nuns selling icons from Belarus, or shawls and toys from Lapland. As ever, a German beer tent sits at the heart of it all, with enough Bavarian brews, sauerkraut, and lederhosen to keep the aficionados happy.

Details: galwaychristmasmarket.ie; Nov 22 to Dec 22.

Glow: A Cork Christmas Celebration

The Christmas markets on Grand Parade lie at the centre of Cork’s celebrations. But don’t limit yourself to the stalls, which spill over with mulled wine, crepes, gourmet sausages and hot chocolates... there’s a magical fairy village in Bishop Lucey Park, too.

‘Tír na Nollaig’ promises a fairy woodland with lights, forest creatures, larger-than-life toy soldiers and traditional Irish music.

Children can post their letters to the North Pole here, too (provided they’ve not been naughty). It opens from 4-8pm and is free.

Another stocking-filler to consider is the Indoor Crafts Market, run by Cork Craft and Design, at Triskel Christchurch. It’s the place to stock up on crafts for all budgets, including jewellery, art, children’s toys and rustic trinkets.

Details: glowcork.ie; Nov 29 to Dec 23.

Castle Durrow Christmas Fair, Co Laois

Christmas is coming early in Castle Durrow. On Monday, Dec 2, the hotel has a girls’ night out to remember, in the shape of a fair offering bubbly on arrival, a meal with a glass of vino, a dinner preparation chat with the hotel’s head chef, a flower demonstration, wine tasting and pop-up market. Tickets cost €25, with B&B packages also available. The event runs from 6pm-11pm.

Details: castledurrow.com.

Christmas at the Milk Market, Limerick

There’s something for everyone here — dozens of stalls are packed with artisan foods, crafts, decorations, toys and other titbits. The market dates from 1852, but a recent refurbishment has provided a canopy to keep all the gourmet pies, happy hot dogs, buttery fudge, wood-fired pizzas and mucky carrots dry.

Details: milkmarketlimerick.ie. Friday to Sunday.


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