Guide to Cork's Christmas markets

The range of options for supporting local Cork businesses while you do your Christmas shopping is growing, writes Ellie O’Byrne.
Guide to Cork's Christmas markets
Crowds attending Glow, A Cork Christmas Celebration on Grand Parade. Picture Clare Keogh

‘TIS the season to spend silly money once again. And boy, do the Irish love to shop at Christmas time. Last year, it was estimated that the average Irish household spent over €2,600.

The rise in prevalence of that new phenomenon, the “Black Friday” sale, has pushed Christmas spending out into November, but has also driven a lot of purchasing online. According to Retail Ireland, Irish consumers spent €50 million on the US-originating consumer splurge this year, meaning they’re predicting that shoppers will have even less to spend in local businesses in December.

So if you’re going to spend it, you may as well spend it locally.

2018 has been a year marked by a growing awareness of environmental issues, from single-use plastic to our carbon footprint. It’s time to get ethical with our shopping, and one of the first ways of doing that is to buy local.

A burgeoning craft movement in Cork and a heightened pride in the quality of the county’s extraordinary food produce is meaning a host of new and innovative markets is springing up, alongside well-established champions of local trade.

From the turkey to the pudding to the gifts you give, where you choose to buy makes a difference.

Shopping in large multinational retail chains may offer ease and convenience, but it won’t deliver anywhere near the level of festive good cheer that wishing a Merry Christmas to the hard-working hero who grew your Christmas sprouts for you does.

You’re supporting the local economy, often putting your hard-earned cash straight into the pockets of business people who’ve worked just as hard. You’re reducing food miles and making it easier to choose products with less packaging.

On top of that, you’re adding to a sense of community-based festive spirit by getting out and about on the streets of Cork in the lead-up to Christmas Day. Bumping into neighbours and that ex who moved to Australia 10 years ago is all part and parcel of the gift that is Christmas.

But let’s face it, this is Cork, not Vienna. It’s one thing flitting from stall to stall with a warming glass of mulled wine in crisp wintry weather, but it’s not so much fun to be Christmas shopping in torrential rain and high winds.

If the weather does turn nasty, there are a growing number of indoor options too, including an innovative new online market for local suppliers, NeighbourFood, where goodies including hampers can be pre-ordered for collection.

Cork City Council are supporting a shop local initiative this Christmas, and are offering free parking from 5pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at their North Main Street and Paul Street car parks, as well as an extended Park and Ride service.

The multi-storeys at North Main Street and Paul Street are also set to offer extended opening hours for the festive period.

See http://corkchristmascelebration.ie/transport-info/for full information on the parking schemes available.

Aileen Arthur with her daughters Zoe bell Arthur and Emily Arthur arrive at Glow on Grand Parade and admire the big wheel. Picture Clare Keogh 
Aileen Arthur with her daughters Zoe bell Arthur and Emily Arthur arrive at Glow on Grand Parade and admire the big wheel. Picture Clare Keogh 

Glow, A Christmas Celebration

Cork City Council’s outdoor Christmas market has all the seasonal atmosphere of a traditional European Christmas Market, with decorated wooden stalls and family entertainments in the form of the annual Ferris wheel and the much-loved Bishop Lucey Park Christmas experience.

To cap off this winter wonderland, there’s music on Grand Parade too, with dozens of singers from Carrigtwohill Gospel Choir, Cork City Male Voice Choir, Cork City Musical Society, GLÓ Trio and Barrack Street Youth and Junior Band all lined up to perform over the coming weeks.

Shopping-wise, stalls lean heavily towards street food and sweet treats to have on the go, but there are options on offer for those who want to combine socialising with their Christmas gift-buying, including Pimp My Pooch dog clothes, a stall featuring fairy-themed crafts and handmade Christmas decorations and wooden crafts.

GLOW Christmas markets are from 12 noon to 8.30pm each day on the following dates:

Friday 7th December to Sunday, 9th December 

Friday 14th December to Sunday, 16th December 

Thursday 20th December to Saturday 22nd December 

Bishop Lucey Park will open on these dates from 4.30pm to 8.30pm.

Shoppers at the Neighbourfood on Barrack Street. Photo Joleen Cronin
Shoppers at the Neighbourfood on Barrack Street. Photo Joleen Cronin

Virtual food shopping at Neighbourfood

IF you’re really stuck for time but still want to support local, why not try a virtual market? 

Not all online shopping has to go straight into the pockets of impersonal online giants like Amazon, as foodie entrepreneur Jack Crotty proved with the launch of his new click-and-collect buyers group that champions local food producers, which was launched amidst much fanfare last month.

You simply go online and order your groceries from County Cork’s top producers. Shoppers can log in from Wednesday each week, and then collect on the following Tuesday evening from their atmospheric Barrack St depot, a former 18th-century apple market.

It could prove a one-stop-shop for Christmas goodies. As well as everything you need to serve up impressive Christmas party fare, everything from olives to cheeses to cured meats, you can also buy handmade cosmetics as well as kiln-dried logs for that crackling yule fire. You can even get your Christmas booze list sorted, as the online store stocks an impressive selection of wines.

For the truly lazy, NeighbourFood are doing Christmas hampers, a gift the foodie in your life is sure to go absolutely gaga over. You buy the empty basket in their online store and select your produce and then collect the whole thing in one go.

NeighbourFood Cork City’s regular collection day is Tuesday from 5-7pm, but Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year, the last Christmas collection is on Saturday, December 22 from 5-7pm.

Sign up to order at: http://www.neighbourfood.ie

The Fair Alternative Craft Fair, Princes Street, Cork.
The Fair Alternative Craft Fair, Princes Street, Cork.

A Fair Alternative

ANOTHER indoor market, the Fair Alternative champions not only local producers but also sustainability. From upcycled vinyl records cleverly crafted into time-pieces for the hipster in your life to cruelty-free handmade cosmetics, the array of crafts on offer is impressive and innovative.

Organiser Virginie Laveau, herself the designer behind the On The Verge, a clothing line designed and ethically sourced in India, says there’s been a growing trend towards shopping with a conscience.

“It’s great to see the public really getting conscious of sourcing their products from local artists,” she says. 

“The level of craftsmanship in Ireland is outstanding and you are sure to make a lasting impression by offering a unique handmade gift this Christmas.” 

Other stalls include Mike Prior’s photography, Carrignavar wooden utensils, Aroma Bliss skincare, Ceramifique ceramics, Remedy Roots tea mixes, and Japanese Origami art from Sachiko’s Paper Crafts.

For those up in the annual organisational heap, this market also has the advantage of being open daily in the weeks leading up to Christmas, making a visit easy to plan.

The Fair Alternative Christmas Craft Market is on each day from Friday the 14th of December right up until Christmas Eve, in Cork’s Unitarian Church on Princes Street.

The opening hours are 10am until 6pm daily and 12.30 to 6pm on Sundays.

Cork City Council bringing sparkle to North Main Street’s Young at St Peter's.
Cork City Council bringing sparkle to North Main Street’s Young at St Peter's.

Sparkle on North Main Street

THE events centre at St Peter’s on North Main Street is holding an indoor market that exclusively features the work of Cork artists, designers and crafters.

Centre manager Eileen O’Shea says she’s delighted to be able to support such an array of local crafting talent. 

“It's a lovely atmosphere on the market days, and it is a really nice opportunity to shop local and support Cork’s artists and designers,” she says.

This year the festive atmosphere is given an extra lift with the addition of a Santa’s Grotto for junior shoppers.

Smallies can stop by for a gift and a picture with the jolly bearded one, and bags of Reindeer Food for the big night will also be on sale, with all proceeds going to the Make a Wish Foundation.

Hot chocolate and toasties from the in-house café, which will be open throughout, will be joined by warming treats from a pop-up kitchen from new Cork-based catering company, Imbue, run by brother and sister team Katie and Martin O'Shea. Katie has cheffed her way through many top London restaurants and will be offering up home-made goodies including hot spiced apple juice, curries and cakes.  St Peter’s Markets are open on December 1, 15 and 22.

Extra dates for Santa’s Grotto on Sunday, December 16 and 23.

Scenes from the Midleton Farmers market. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Scenes from the Midleton Farmers market. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Shop local

FINALLY, if shopping in the city centre isn’t your thing, remember Cork County has an incredible array of farmer’s markets and most will have seasonal additions to their normal 

range of produce in advance of Christmas.

This is by no means a definitive list of every market in the county, just some of the more popular ones:

  • Macroom Farmer’s Market each Tuesday (just show up!) 
  • Wilton Farmer’s Market each Tuesday www.wiltonmarketcork.com 
  • Mahon Point Farmer’s Market each Thursday www.mahonpointmarket.ie 
  • Clonakilty Farmer’s Market each Friday www.wildatlanticmarket.ie 
  • Midleton Farmer’s Market each Saturday www.midletonfarmersmarket.com 
  • Coal Quay farmer’s Market each Saturday (check facebook for details) 
  • Douglas Village Farmer’s Market each Saturday www.douglasmarket.ie

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