The Cathedral Quarter is the beating heart of this vibrant city. Take a stroll along the great quaint cobbled streets to St Anne’s Cathedral and admire the soaring pillars, detailed mosaics and elaborately carved stonework; relax in a classic pub, like the impossibly charming Duke of York; grab a bite to eat at Coppi, a contemporary restaurant serving great local produce; or enjoy live music, theatre, literature and comedy all within easy reach.
Below the towering Samson and Goliath – the famous Harland & Wolff cranes that dominate the Belfast skyline – lies a quarter full of history and heritage. Delve into the history of Belfast’s shipbuilding heritage at Titanic Belfast, where interactive exhibitions tell the story of the infamous vessel from dream to tragedy. Climb aboard The Wee Tram to visit the Dock And Pump House, where the Titanic was constructed over a century ago, as well as the World War One ship HMS Caroline and the SS Nomadic, the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world. This emerging quarter also boasts the Titanic Hotel, built in the former headquarters of Harland & Wolff, as well as an eclectic mix of eateries: try the great coffee at Paper Cup and local delicacies at The Galley Café.
From streets filled with Victorian-era homes to spectacular green landscapes, Belfast’s leafy Queen’s Quarter is a scenic delight. Take a leisurely stroll around the Botanic Gardens, marvel at the architectural beauty and historical curios of the Ulster Museum, or take a campus tour around the charming grounds of Queen’s University. Don’t miss the eclectic array of shops and live entertainment on the doorstep of this dynamic quarter: Queen’s Film Theatre is a unique way to enjoy a night at the movies, while a trip to No Alibis, Northern Ireland’s only independent crime fiction bookshop, is a must for fans of the genre.
Belfast’s Linen Quarter pays homage to the city’s tradition as a leading producer of woven linen during the 19th century. After recent regeneration, the quarter has emerged as one of Belfast’s coolest areas, with the old linen mills now housing chic bars and award-winning restaurants. Experience a gorgeous example of old-world opulence at the Crown Liquor Saloon; one of the city’s most impressive rooftop bars at The Perch; and the city’s Neo-Baroque copper-domed masterpiece, Belfast City Hall. Music lovers will love the opulent Grand Opera House, no-frills indie haven The Limelight and the 160-year-old Ulster Hall.
Belfast is enjoying a food renaissance so a visit to the Market Quarter, a bustling district filled with expert butchers, fishmongers and local producers, is a must. Step inside St George's Market (open Friday-Sunday), one of Belfast's oldest attractions, and sample an array of gastronomic delights amidst a cacophony of aromas. Or opt for a fine dining experience at Ox, a Michelin-star restaurant overlooking the River Lagan. And if you’ve got time, check out a show at the stylish Waterfront Hall, one of Belfast’s best live entertainment hubs.
Smithfield and Union Quarter
On the fringes of the Cathedral Quarter is the Smithfield and Union Quarter, which has garnered a reputation as the city’s coolest clubbing hotspot, and as Belfast’s unofficial LGBT quarter. Dance the night away in the colourful alternative atmosphere of Maverick. There’s history here, too, at the extraordinary 130-year-old Belfast Central Library, a landmark Victorian building that gives Belfast so much of its distinctive character. The quarter also boasts a rich publishing tradition, with two daily newspapers – The Irish News and The Belfast Telegraph – published here.
A hub for Irish language and culture in the west of the city, the Gaeltacht Quarter is characterised by a lively culture of local music, traditional pubs and homely food. A great way to explore the area is with a Black Taxi Tour, taking in the famous peace wall and the authentic stories behind the many colourful political murals. Pop into An Chúlturlann, an Irish language, arts and cultural hub, or venture further west and enjoy 180-degree views across the city during a three-mile trail at Divis Mountain.