Belfast is a city that knows how to enjoy itself. So when the population is dressed up and daytime turns into party time, there’s a superabundance of pubs and hostelries to enjoy while the club scene is off limits owing to the pandemic.
Pubs and bars
Hell Cat Maggies is a cool place to kick off the evening. It has great views of the City Hall and environs, and the crowd is youngish. You can sample the food, typically superior pub grub like Bang Bang chicken or trad Irish fare like beef and Guinness Irish stew with cheesy soda bread on the side then sample a beer or white Russian while listening to some decent sounds.
For high style, literally, you have to try out The Perch Rooftop Bar in Franklin Street at the centre of Belfast’s industrial heritage. On the 5th floor, it’s an extremely cool, slightly industrial space. Cocktails like a Cobbler are the drink of choice, or a prosecco, and star DJs such as Jay Kay (house) and Conor Magavock (soulful house) still happily ply their trade.
In terms of city pubs, you’re spoilt for choice in Belfast. White’s Tavern known as the oldest pub dates from 1630 and is situated handily in the centre, offers good drink, an open fire in the right season and an old school menu for those who like club sandwiches and baked Alaska.
The John Hewitt bar looks old, but isn’t, and attracts a cultured clientele with atmosphere and reasonable prices and on Saturday evenings from around six has a live traditional Irish come-all-ye.
For high style, literally, you have to try out The Perch Rooftop Bar in Franklin Street at the centre of Belfast’s industrial heritage – on the fifth floor, it’s an extremely cool, slightly industrial space
Kelly’s Cellars is another institution, looks old and definitely is, provides great craic and Guinness. Another Belfast institution is McHugh’s Bar and Restaurant. The handsome Georgian building dates to 1711 and it’s opposite the city’s leaning Albert Clock. It has four big rooms with a traditional Irish pub, a bar in the basement, a popular restaurant (try the potato boxty) and a private dining venue. As you try a pint of the dark stuff, you might catch buskers outside.
Filthy McNasty’s in the Dublin Road is one of the fashionable downtown bars with decor based on your auntie’s non-designer sitting room. It’s relaxed, the drinks are affordable, the staff friendly. Just opposite is the newest bar on the block, The Points Belfast, a reworking of Auntie Annie’s but now a traditional Irish pub which is popular with students.
Bohemians will like The Sunflower pub in Kent Street at lunchtime or later. Formerly an old-style Belfast boozer (with cage), it’s now cool green and yellow, provides some food at weekends and in normal times hosts great music and drama events by companies like Shot Glass Productions. There’s a beer garden and a range of craft beers.