St George’s Market Belfast – A ‘must do’ experience
By Lisa Johnston, Tour Guide, Belfast City Sightseeing
With fresh home-grown local produce and traders offering all kinds of colourful arts and crafts, bric-a-brac and curios it’s easy to see why St George’s Market was voted the UK’s Best Large Indoor Market of the Year 2014.
And if you take a trip to “Gorgeous St George’s”, as it’s known locally, any weekend you’ll see locals and visitors alike wandering amongst the stalls soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the sounds and the smells of one of Belfast’s most popular attractions.
It’s the oldest covered market on the island of Ireland – there’s been a market on this site since 1604 – although the elegant red-brick Victorian market building you see today opened in 1890 selling eggs, poultry and fruit.
By the way, St George’s Market is only a few minutes’ walk from Stop No 6 on Belfast City Sightseeing’s hop-on hop-off open-top bus tour. So do all, or even part, of our tour and hop-off here to have a look around St George’s Market.
There are actually three weekend markets for you to enjoy at St George’s:
The Friday Variety Market boasts almost 250 stalls selling everything from fruit and vegetables to antiques, books and clothes.
The second-hand book stall is my own particular weakness as I usually manage to pick up at least one or two books to add to my heavily laden bookshelves when I pop in on a Friday morning as I’m heading to work!
The fish section alone contains 23 fresh fish stalls which comes as no surprise – well, this is an island after all! The award-winning Saturday City Food & Garden Market offers a huge range of local, continental and specialty foods.
There’s fresh fish landed at Portavogie, pork from Cookstown, beef from Armagh, venison and pheasant in season, local organic vegetables and handmade gourmet chocolate. Try the ‘yellow man’ – a type of confectionery – or the ‘dulse’ – edible seaweed – and let me know what you think!
Continental and speciality foods include wild boar, tapas, cheeses, cured meats, teas and coffees from around the world, and delicious French pastries and crepes. And then, there’s the bread! If you’re a visitor you can’t have failed to notice that we love our bread here in “Norn Iron”!
Soda farls, wheaten farls, fadge (bread made from potatoes and my favourite), fruit soda, barnbrack, veda, pancakes and, of course, the Belfast Bap! Master baker Barney Hughes opened a bakery in Donegall Street in 1840 and by 1870 he was Belfast’s most successful baker and his most popular product was the Belfast Bap – an outsized floury bun. Delicious with a couple of slices of sizzling bacon for breakfast on the run!
The Saturday Market also offers a selection of handmade crafts, cards, flowers, plants and local photography, pottery, glass and metal work.
The Sunday Market is a mixture of the Friday and Saturday markets and showcases local arts and crafts – think beautifully drawn pictures of local landmarks like the City Hall and the Albert Clock.
And tee-shirts featuring Belfast sayings like ‘bout ye’ and ‘what’s the craic’ which, loosely translated, mean ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’! And all this while relaxing with a Belfast brew and listening to some of the best local musicians as they play live.
Gorgeous St George’s – what’s not to like!
So make sure to take advantage of Belfast City Sightseeing’s 48-hour hop-on hop-off open-top bus ticket and hop-off at Stop No 6 to see for yourself just what St George’s Market has to offer.
St George’s Market is located at the corner of Oxford Street and May Street. There is also an entrance in East Bridge Street.
The Friday Variety Market is open from 6am-2pm.
The Saturday City Food & Garden Market is open from 9am-3pm.
The Sunday Market is open from 10am-4pm.
For more details visit: www.belfastcity.gov.uk/stgeorgesmarket.com