Discover Belfast’s St. George’s Market, County Antrim

ST. GEORGE'S MARKET BELFAST

Updated On: May 20, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

St. George’s Market is one of Belfast’s top attractions. It features many stalls selling food, crafts, and antiques. The food served is sourced from all over Ireland and the world.

Once an open market with likely a slaughterhouse and a meat market, St. George’s Market was built over three stages between 1890 and 1896. The chosen location for the market is today known as May Street. The last Victorian-covered market in Belfast encloses over 300 stalls.

The first market, built by city surveyor JC Bretland, was much smaller than the present-day one. The redbrick building had inscriptions in Latin and Irish, including the city’s Latin motto, “Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus,” which means “What shall we give in return for so much?” The Irish phrase inscribed read “Lámh Dearg na hÉireann,” which means “Red Hand of Ireland.”

During the Second World War, Belfast suffered from German bombings and the market temporarily served as a mortuary. The bodies of those unidentified were brought into the market and a public funeral was held for them in 1941.

A major renovation took place in the 1980s, with an upgrade to hygiene regulations in the market. Some old walls and bricks were restored, while some were replaced with special ones made in England to match the unusual size of those in the market. The new market opened its doors to the public in 1999.

While mainly a market, the building hosts other events such as food festivals, exhibitions, charities, and live music shows. Performers there include Duffy, Deep Purple, and Newton Faulkner.

ST. GEORGE’S MARKET BELFAST – A Thriving 19th Century Market

What are the St. George’s Market Opening Times?

The market itself is only open three days of the week. From Friday to Sunday. Each day offers something new, with different stalls available. See the opening times below:

  • Friday: the Variety Market is open from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm
  • Saturday: the City Food and Craft Market is open from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
  • Sunday: the Sunday Market is open from  10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Market Days and Offerings

St. George’s Market operates three distinct market days, each with its unique character and offerings:

  1. Friday Variety Market: The Friday market is the oldest and most diverse, featuring around 250 stalls. Visitors can find an eclectic mix of goods, from antiques and collectables to fresh produce and clothing. The atmosphere is lively and bustling, with traders offering everything from fresh seafood to handmade crafts. The Friday market is mainly known for its selection of local and international foods, making it a haven for food lovers.
  2. Saturday City Food and Craft Market: The Saturday market focuses on local food and artisanal crafts. It showcases the best of Northern Irish produce, including organic vegetables, meats, cheeses, and baked goods. Artisans display their handmade jewellery, ceramics, textiles, and artworks, reflecting the region’s rich cultural heritage. Live music performances add to the vibrant ambience, creating a festive environment that attracts locals and tourists.
  3. Sunday Market: The Sunday market is more relaxed and blends elements of the Friday and Saturday markets. It features various food stalls, crafts, antiques, and live entertainment. The emphasis is on family-friendly activities, with multiple workshops and events for children and families. The Sunday market is also a great place to sample international cuisine, with numerous food stalls offering dishes from around the world.

Facilities Available at St. George’s Market

St. George's Market
St. George’s Market

There are several facilities available at St. Georges Market. 

  • Toilets available including Disabled
  • Parking nearby – Multi-stories and pay-and-display spaces.
  • Free WiFi – Belfast WiFi Available
  • Wheelchair Friendly
  • Shuttle Bus

Culinary Delights

One of the highlights of St. George’s Market is its diverse culinary offerings. The market is renowned for its food stalls, which provide a gastronomic tour of Northern Ireland and beyond. Visitors can savour traditional Irish dishes like soda bread, boxty (potato pancakes), and Ulster fry (a hearty breakfast featuring bacon, sausages, eggs, and black pudding). Fresh seafood is also a major draw, with stalls selling locally caught fish, oysters, and mussels.

In addition to traditional fare, the market offers a wide array of international cuisines. From Indian curries and Mediterranean mezze to Mexican tacos and Japanese sushi, the food stalls cater to various tastes and dietary preferences. Many vendors use locally sourced ingredients, ensuring high quality and freshness. The market’s food court provides ample seating where visitors can relax and enjoy their meals while soaking in the lively atmosphere.

Craftsmanship and Artistry

St. George’s Market showcases local artisans and craftsmen who sell various handmade goods. The market stalls feature unique items, from handcrafted jewellery and pottery to bespoke clothing and home décor. These products often incorporate traditional techniques and materials, reflecting the region’s cultural heritage.

One can find beautiful examples of Irish linen, a fabric produced in Northern Ireland for centuries. Jewellery makers often use local gemstones and traditional Celtic designs, creating pieces that are both contemporary and rooted in history. Woodworkers and carpenters offer finely crafted furniture and accessories, demonstrating the skill and craftsmanship that has been passed down through generations.

Cultural and Community Hub

Beyond its commercial activities, St. George’s Market serves as a cultural and community hub. It hosts various events throughout the year, including live music performances, craft workshops, and seasonal festivals. The market is where people come together to celebrate local traditions and foster a sense of community.

Live music is a regular feature, with local musicians and bands performing a range of genres, from traditional Irish folk music to contemporary rock and pop. These performances add to the vibrant atmosphere and provide a platform for local talent. The market hosts themed activities during special events and holidays, such as Christmas fairs, Halloween celebrations, and St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

The market also supports local charities and community initiatives. Many stallholders are involved in social enterprises, using their businesses to support various causes, from environmental sustainability to mental health awareness. The market’s management works closely with local organisations to ensure that St. George’s Market remains a space that benefits the entire community.

Events at St. George’s Market

St George’s Market | Belfast | Northern Ireland | Things to do in Belfast | Belfast City Centre

Many events occur within the market area throughout the year, especially during the summer, including many music events. 

Live music is played in the market most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. June is a month when the calendar is fully booked with live music. Enjoy the music with some of the local traders’ food.

To learn more about St. George’s Market, visit the Belfast City Council website. The website has information about events at the market, the local traders, news and more. You can also become a trader at the market via the Council website.

Sustainability and Future Prospects

St. George’s Market has made significant strides towards sustainability in recent years. Many vendors are committed to environmentally friendly practices, such as reducing plastic use, sourcing locally, and minimising food waste. The market has implemented recycling programmes and encourages reusable bags and containers.

The market’s management is also looking towards the future, exploring ways to enhance the visitor experience while preserving the market’s historical integrity. Plans include upgrading facilities, expanding the range of events and activities, and increasing support for local businesses. These efforts ensure that St. George’s Market thrives as a commerce, culture, and community centre.

Visitor Experience

Visiting St. George’s Market is a sensory delight. When you step inside, you are greeted by a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and smells. The vibrant colours of fresh produce, the enticing aroma of sizzling food, and the hum of lively conversation create an immersive experience that captures the essence of Belfast.

Navigating the market is a pleasant experience, with wide aisles and well-organised stalls. The friendly and welcoming nature of the stallholders adds to the market’s charm. Many traders are passionate about their products and are happy to share stories and information about their goods. This personal touch enhances the shopping experience, making it more than a transactional activity.

St. George’s Market offers tourists an authentic glimpse into Belfast’s local culture. It provides an opportunity to interact with residents and learn about the city’s traditions and history. The market’s central location makes it easily accessible from other significant attractions in Belfast, such as the Titanic Quarter, the Ulster Museum, and the Botanic Gardens.

Conclusion

St. George’s Market is more than just a marketplace; it symbolises Belfast’s resilience, creativity, and communal spirit. Its rich history, architectural beauty, and diverse offerings make it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Northern Ireland. Whether you are a resident or a tourist, a visit to St. George’s Market promises a memorable experience filled with discovery, delight, and a deep connection to Belfast’s vibrant heritage.

As the market continues to evolve, it remains a testament to the enduring appeal of traditional markets in a modern world. St. George’s Market stands as a beacon of Belfast’s past, present, and future, inviting everyone to share its bounty and beauty.

Have you ever visited the excellent St. George’s Market? Comment below about your experience and whether you bought any tasty treats.

Other great blogs to check out include: Belfast Spring Market | Belfast Christmas Market | Camden Town Market, London | Balmoral Show, Northern Ireland

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *