Belfast is known for its cool hangouts, galleries and vibrant nightlife. So here’s the deal from guest writer Jonny Tiernan. Give us 48 hours, he says, and we’ll give you a city break you won’t forget…
Belfast by day
Start the day by the water with one of the city’s top attractions: Titanic Belfast, which has been described by the Huffington Post as “simply awe-inspiring at each step”.
After Titanic, head back across the river to the Cathedral Quarter – the heart of the arts in Northern Ireland. The Oh Yeah music centre used to be a bonded whiskey warehouse, and is now one of the city’s most happening live music venues. There’s an exhibition space here that details the Belfast music scene, from Van Morrison to Snow Patrol, which is perfect for exploring during the day.
In the afternoon, the nearby Golden Thread Gallery beckons as one of Northern Ireland’s leading contemporary art galleries. You’ll find everything here from local artists to international stars (Tracey Emin and Steve McQueen have both been shown here). Or try the impressive Metropolitan Arts Centre (the MAC), which recently hosted an Andy Warhol exhibition.
Belfast by night
By now you’ll need to refuel, so try some tapas at Coppi, followed by drinks at the Duke of York. Don’t worry if you can’t find a seat here; everyone spills out into the alleyway at the front anyway. Fancy something different? Try Filthy McNastys (nice beer garden and cocktail bar), the Crown Liquor Saloon (Belfast’s oldest bar), or the Sunflower Pub (great selection of ales). And when you’re ready to hit a club, Thompson’s have a great dance night called Misfit.
Belfast by day
After a big night out, a gentle start is always in order. We suggest you stop and smell the roses in the Botanic Gardens. On a sunny day the gardens will be full of people hanging out on the grass, soaking up the sun and avoiding work or study.
The Ulster Museum is conveniently located nearby. Entry is free and there’s a great collection of Irish and modern art inside. Obviously, you’ll need a break after your busy morning, so the Black Bear Café on Stranmillis Road is the place to go for some great specials.
With your belly filled, you’re pretty close to Queen’s University with its mighty Victorian architecture. Poet Philip Larkin was librarian here, and Liam Neeson and the late Seamus Heaney count among its alumni. Afterwards, head to The QFT, a little gem of an independent cinema.
Belfast by night
In the evening, tuck into some Mexican burritos at Boojum, a Belfast institution on Botanic Avenue. Or try The Moghul for some great Indian food. There are plenty of post-meal options, too: Lavery’s Bar, with its massive pool hall that turns into a club on Saturday nights; the Hudson Bar with its sublime selection of beers; the Limelight Complex, a popular alternative club with three rooms playing rock, indie and dance. If you’re looking for the gay scene, The Kremlin is the city’s biggest and brightest gay club.
So that’s Belfast. Chic, modern, friendly and just quirky enough to make sure you’ll never get tired of it. Just don’t overdo it and miss your flight home!