Dublin and Belfast: 5 ways to spend an evening in each city

Spend an evening exploring Dublin and Belfast, from foodie hubs to pubs with pedigree

1. Creative Central

Cathedral Quarter, Belfast

The oldest part of the city, Cathedral Quarter was once home to Belfast’s old trade and warehousing district. Now, it has blossomed into a bustling hub of dynamic culture and arts, complemented by stunning architecture. Its narrow cobbled streets and alleyways are home to cozy pubs, contemporary restaurants and some underground music venues.

Temple Bar, Dublin

The cobbled streets of Temple Bar have more than earned its status as cultural quarter of Dublin. The maze of streets and alleys is packed with quirky attractions and venues. Admire some artwork in a gallery, catch a show at one of Europe’s oldest built theatres or browse for some eccentric treats in a vintage store. Outside, the streets are always buzzing: wander through a pop up market or watch an outdoor show (weather permitting, of course!).

2. Pubs

Dublin

The Brazen Head lays claim as the city’s oldest pub, open since way back in 1198! It’s such a Dublin institution that it even got an honorary mention in James Joyce’s epic novel Ulysses.  

The Stag's Head
The Stag's Head

Traditional music fans will love James Toner’s, combing a lively atmosphere with nightly music sessions. The Long Hall’s Victorian splendor (think ornate carvings and elegant chandeliers) is one of the city’s most beautiful pubs, and a local favourite. For a pub with pedigree, try The Stag's Head: built in 1770, this is a pub so pretty it’s starred in films such as Educating Rita and A Man of No Importance.

Belfast

Built in 1826, the Crown Bar is a superb example of Victorian elegance. Sip in style surrounded by extravagant wood panels and Corinthian columns. Stop in for a drink at the Duke of York, tucked away in the historic Half Bap area. The artefacts, posters, and old advertising signs cluttered around the pub add a vintage charm. For a more modern setting, the Northern Whig’s bright airy interior is decorated with three magnificent granite statues, rescued from Prague in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, the open fire and oak beams in White’s Tavern create a charmingly rustic setting for a nightcap.

3. Restaurants

Belfast

The Victorian-style Rayanne House offers a five-star, nine-course meal that was served to first-class passengers on the Titanic. Imagine Filet Mignon topped with Foie Gras for starters. For a pre-theatre bite, try James Street South. With a seasonal menu and local produce, food is as fresh as it gets. Meanwhile, the Mourne Seafood Bar is tucked behind a fishmonger’s shop so you’re guaranteed the catch of the day (like moreish Mourne mussels). Just be sure to book ahead. Ox’s high ceilings and cream brick interior create a stylish, yet relaxed vibe. The focus is on organic, local produce like succulent Irish beef and fresh-from the-field vegetables.

Titanic meal at Rayanne House
Titanic meal at Rayanne House

Dublin

Once a bookshop, the elegant Georgian setting of the Winding Stair is packed with vintage charm, a creative menu and a bookshop on the ground floor. For hearty, honest food it has to be Hatch and Sons, where the rustic kitchen setting makes you feel right at home. Try the delicious beef and Guinness stew. Meanwhile, haute cuisine meets chilled atmosphere at the Michelin-starred Chapter One. It’s French-inspired cooking with a contemporary Irish twist. Want to try something a bit different? Crackbird is a trendy spot that serves only farm-fresh chicken. Sounds limited, but it really works — the chicken is delectable and served with mouth-watering sides.

4. Music

Dublin

The 3Arena is a state-of the-art-venue with an intimate atmosphere, and has hosted some of the biggest names in music (Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi, Beyoncé), while Whelan’s is a Dublin institution: part traditional pub, part live music venue, it mixes trad, indie and rock over two levels (look out for the Stone Man propped against the bar). Vicar Street is a cozy setting for smaller performances, with a strong emphasis on soul, folk, jazz and foreign music. Meanwhile, The Grand Social’s three differently themed floors hosts live music, DJs and even pop up flea markets.

The Grand Social
The Grand Social

Belfast

Once a Victorian church, The Belfast Empire Music Hall is now home to some of the finest rock, jazz and traditional music acts in the country. Meanwhile, The Grand Opera Hall is the oldest theatre in Belfast (1895) and has been honored by performances from a galaxy of stars, including Pavorotti and Van Morrison. For something eclectic, the Oh Yeah Music Centre is a non-for-profit that supports young and upcoming acts. Looking for a bit of edge? Try the Limelight, a pub/nightclub renowned for its live rock and indie music. Oasis, Manic Street Preachers and Kaiser Chiefs have all graced the stage.

5. Theatre

Belfast

Northern Ireland movie legends Liam Neeson and Ciaran Hinds got their start in the world-class Lyric Theatre. Recently refurbished, the building hosts a state-of-the-art theatre in a cozy setting, with spacious bars overlooking the river. The Black Box is renowned for its eclectic atmosphere and it is a home for Belfast’s emerging local acts. Expect everything from film to cabaret. Looking for alternative cinema? The Queen’s Film Theatre is a small independent theatre at the prestigious Queen's University Belfast, showcasing new and classic films, while the award-winning MAC is Belfast’s newest arts venue, putting on world class theatre, along with art, photography and sculpture.

Queen's University, Belfast
Queen's University, Belfast

Dublin

The Abbey Theatre, founded by WB Yeats and Lady Gregory, is Ireland’s national theatre, putting on everything from classics to cutting-edge. Smock Alley, the first Theatre Royal built in Dublin, opened in 1662 and is now Ireland’s ‘oldest newest theatre’, hosting drama, comedy and more. The Gaiety Theatre is buzzing with musicals, west end hits, pantomimes and plays, while the boutique Theatre Upstairs celebrates new plays and rising talent. The beautiful gallery space by the theatre boasts views overlooking the Liffey.

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