Belfast City : in the hearth of the Northern Ireland
January 1, 1970
I decided to write my first article about a city that means a lot to me : Belfast, also known by its Irish name Béal Feirste. First city that I lived in when I started traveling, and I had lots of good memories from there. If everybody heard about Dublin, that’s a pity that Belfast isn’t that famous because it has a lot to bring. If you can, just cross the Ireland to go to that part belonging to the UK but keep clearly the Irish culture. To share as much as possible about that city, these will be the four parts about Belfast : some tips good to know about that city, monuments and places to see, of course I will give my list of my favourite pubs & co, and finally end with a part just about the Irish side of the city that can amaze you.
So I hope that through this text, you will be more curious about that place and maybe even thinking about having a look by yourself!
Some basics good to know before starting…
We can heard about the fact that you have four seasons in one day… Well, this is true… And always good to know that if you wake up with a sunny day and not a cloud, still keep an umbrella not too far from you! (It happenend to many times to me that I go to work with a nice dress and freeze the afternoon under the rain waiting for my bus…) Of course days are better and warmer in summer, but just keep in mind that the weather can change anytime! But the point is, I rarely known some heavy rain all day long like you can have some other places ; and don’t get me wrong, you can have like anywhere else some beautiful days!
The other thing that I would advice to know is about the history. Having been staying there for a year let me time to feel that sometimes you can still have some tensions or riots in the city because of its history. I never had any troubles and met some of the nicest people, but just be aware of this.
Monuments, gardens… What to see as a good tourist!
Belfast is not a really big city, so one of the nice thing about it is that you can do everything by walk really easily! This is the map that you can find at the Tourist Information Centre based on the main street, Donegall Pl, that is perfect to see all the main spots!
- In the city centre, you can’t miss the City Hall which is a really beautiful building! If you have the time and opportunity to go inside, it is also nice to see! It is always nice during sunny days to just seat on the grass, enjoy news and sport events on the big screen, or just enjoy the place by itself. Summer, winter,… whatever the season is, this place always been nice to be. If you have the opportunity to go around Christmas, you will even have the chance to enjoy the Christmas Market open every nights! European food, hot wine, chocolates… Sure you will find what you wish and enjoy the atmopshere and the lights!
- Queen’s University is definitely one of the building to see in the city! You can pass through the hall and in the gardens.
- The Botanic Gardens is maybe not the biggest but it is definitely a nice one. You can enjoy the Rose Garden, or the Palm House got some really beautiful flowers and plants. It’s open until late (or darkness) so you have plenty of time to enjoy it. It is just next to the University.
- Even for those who are not big fan of museums, I would advice you to go to the Titanic Museum. The building, quite new, is interesting on itself. After, you can enjoy a really interactive and complete visit about the Titanic, how it has been built in Belfast city, and of course all the story until it sinks. It is a bit apart from the city centre, to the other side of the river, so if you feel a bit lazy or the weather doesn’t motivate you to walk, you can grab a bus or even catch a taxi. It still not that far so it will not be that much expensive. On your way to the quay, you will cross the Queen’s Bridge, and will have the opportunity to see the statue Ring of Thanksgiving.
- Anf for all shopping’s fans, you have obviously some nice shops on Donegall Pl., including a pretty big Primark, but I would also advice you to go to Victoria Square. Again, this is not the biggets mall you will see in your life, but this is a really bright and open mall which make it a nice place. You can also get the stairs or the elevator to go to the top of the dome and have a great view of the city.
Pubs & co.
One thing is sure, you can’t go to the city without trying at least one of their pubs! Difficult to make a selection, but those would be the top 5 (of course, this is a matter of opinion, but I will give for each of them the little thing that makes the difference for me).
If there is only one you can go, that is definitely that one : Kelly’s Cellars! The most Irish of the Irish pubs! You have a little fire in winter, a bit small but no worries you will always find a place to seat. The spirits’ bottles used are candles’ holders help to give a nice atmosphere. And what is really nice, you have a table nearby the fireplace that is always used by musicians that will enjoy playing some good Irish music in the same time they have drinks. They are not bands coming to play for the pub, they are just coming to have some good beer and at the same time will share their music! And try the Irish Coffee, it is a really nice one!
30-32 Bank Street
An other one which I really love is the Filthy McNastys. Do not stop at the first impression that it is a pub like any other beacuse as soon as you cross the doorstep, you discover something unique! Because you don’t have one, but three different sections with some really different atmospheres! First you enter in the Filthy McNasty’s, that I am actually not even able to describe because of its originality. Then you’ve got the Secret Garden, a comfy and nice outside area, with lights and candles, and some heater when it is a bit chilly. And finally, you have the Filthy chic, all black & white. Funny is, even people are kind of dressing different depends of the part they are going. So if you are several people, just go in there, sure all of you will find what you like in one of those three sections!
45 Dublin Road
An other that would be a great experience is Maddens Bar. You can enjoy regularly some live traditional Irish music, and once a week you even have some dancing sessions at the first floor. Everyone can participate, so if you fill like learning some steps, go ahead! If not, you can still enjoy the music and the atmosphere!
74 Berry Street
I will cheat a bit and talk about two pubs in one : The Crown and the Robinsons. In the same time, both are next to each other, and they are both some of the most famous of the city. The Crown is particularly famous because that’s an old one, and the inside is particularly nice. If you are a small group, you will be probably even able to enjoy one of the private cabin. Robinsons is a different kind, but one thing that I loved was going there one Monday night to enjoy some live Irish music in the back room. You also have a really restaurant on the first floor.
The Crown Bar : 46 Victoria Street / Robinsons : 38-40 Victoria Street
For the last one, I will probably say the Laverys. A good pub on the ground floor, a dancefloor at the first floor, and some good pool rooms on the second floor.
12-14 Bradbury Place
I still have to mention very quickly a couple of pubs : The Duke of York is particularly nice to enjoy with a good weather because you can enjoy the court and sit under the flowers. The Empire is also one that I particularly love because of its style, and if you have the opportunity to assist to a concert on the first floor, this is an old theatre really nice.
Outside pubs, you can also enjoy some really nice coffee shops. With no doubt, the best one I would say is Maggie Mays! They’ve got really good breakfast, actually they’ve gor just really good food! And one thing that they are famous for for a good reason : milkshakes! Some of the best I ever try!
Special mention to St George’s Market! You have some craft, tea… but also some international food and in the middle of the market some tables and sits to enjoy the food. On Sunday’s you have always some live music that you can enjoy in the same time than your lunch! Family, friends are going there to gathering, I was going almost every Sunday there and never get bored of it!
The Irish Quarter
Finally, you should definitely have a walk in the Irish Quarter, at the west of the city. You have plenty of street art picturing some history facts, and not just Irish. The best thing to do would be to get a map in the Information centre with all the different paintings you can observe. Like for the Titanic Museum, you can easily get there by bus or cab.
This is it! As I said, this is just a selection, obviously you have lot of other things to do and see, pubs to go… Enjoy!