Warning, a trip to Belfast will cause serious hangovers. The drink goes down way too easily when you are joining in a singsong at The Dirty Onion or sipping craft beer at The Woodworkers. This Cathedral Quarter Belfast bars guide (and beyond) not only recommends where to drink but also what cool things to do or check out at each establishment.
Let’s get our bearings before we start to booze. Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast, is split into five neighbourhoods.
- The Cathedral Quarter (city centre) is the hotbed for bars and street art (not the political murals)
- Titanic Quarter (East) is home to the Titanic Museum and SS Nomadic Titanic
- The Gaeltacht Quarter (West) is also known as the Irish Quarter (expect signs in both English and Gaelic)
- Queens (South) is where you’ll find Queens University
- Botanic Gardens, the Ulster Museum and lots of eateries on Botanic Avenue
- North is Belfast Caste territory
Cathedral Quarter Belfast Bars
Generally, most visitors head to the hub of pubs when they first arrive, which is the Cathedral Quarter. I tend to avoid the central party streets like The Bigg Market in Newcastle (check out the hipster bars of Ouseburn instead) in search for pubs with a bit of an edge, the type that offers more than flat Fosters with a side of urine stench. However, some of the best bars in Belfast are located in the Cathedral Quarter!
1. The Spaniard
This one up/one down pub serves lots of rum in a risky décor backdrop. Can you count the number of crucifixes you see? I thought not. Upstairs is dark with a tinge of red lighting and a little quieter than the ground floor on a Saturday night. We had the pleasure of drinking to spun 80s and indie for an hour or two. Craig refused to dance. There’s an extensive cocktail menu at around £8 per cocktail. Check out ‘Chery’ on the wall stairs – is it Cher or Mary?
Price: £12.20 (1 beer, 1 vodka)
Address: 3 Skipper St, Belfast BT1 2DZ
Website (don’t be put off by the slow website)
2. The Dirty Onion
Turn left outside of The Spaniard and follow the sounds to The Dirty Onion. Live music belts out seven days per week at this popular Belfast pub which means it is always rammed full of party people. I wanted to not like it here because it is everyone’s recommendation, but the vibe is uplifting, and furry friends are welcome, what’s not to love? The Dirty Onion is actually one of Belfast’s oldest intact timber frames dating back to 1680. The restaurant is the Yardbird, specialising in tantalising chicken,
- Price: £8.25 (1 cider, 1 Jaeger)
- Address: 3 Hill St, Belfast BT1 2LA
3. Duke of York
Everyone knows the Duke of York for its outlandish street art at Commercial Court (have you seen the 50 Shades of Grey/The Fall fusion?) and an array of trinkets. It reminds me of the roadside cafés in the States with its throwback metal advertisement plaques. The Duke of York has inside and outside seating. We headed here on our first night and were photobombed by a local. Perfect start to a weekend away!
Price: £10.30 (1 beer/1 vodka lemonade)
Address: 7-11 Commercial Ct, Belfast BT1 2NB
Moving away from the Cathedral Quarter to my favourite pub in Belfast, Sunflower – the last caged bar in the city. Why a cage? During the Troubles, pubs were often a target for bombs, so cages were erected to protect patrons. The cage is now covered in hanging baskets and a cheeky sign reads ‘no topless bathing, Ulster has suffered enough’. Sunflower has an inside area which hasn’t been decorated since nineteen canteen (it prides itself on ‘no gimmicks’, and an outside garden seated area with lots to look at. Lads, let me know what you see when you take a leak (there was a gimmick!) Sunflower sells well-fired pizzas and offers live music seven days a week from folk to open mic. Dog welcome, especially photogenic ones (website gallery).
This bar was recommended to us by our Black Cab Tour driver, make time for this tour.
- Price: £10 (1 beer, 1 vodka lemonade)
- Address: 65 Union St, Belfast BT1 2JG
Belfast Trad Music Bars
It is very evident that music runs through the veins on Belfast city (tell me ma…) and most bars that play music (The Dirty Onion) cover some traditional tunes but if you want guaranteed traditional sessions check out The Garrick Bar (Wednesday-Sunday except for Saturday), The Duke of York (Thursday) and Sunflower (Sundays).
5. Katy’s Bar
Katy’s Bar is actually one of Belfast’s live music venues, but it is worth a few swifters if passing by. The antique pub light by the bar is cool and stands out from the rest of the décor. The disco tunes were blaring on the Friday night, but the door staff wouldn’t let us in on the Saturday (past curfew).
- Price: £10.60 (1 beer, 1 red wine)
- Address: 17 Ormeau Ave, Belfast BT2 8HD
Cocktails Belfast Bars
6. Love and Death
You’ll walk past this speakeasy (a few times) so look out for Little Wing Pizzeria then look up and take the stairs to the right. Death and Love is a small bar that sells £8 cocktails, beers and spirits.
- Price: £12.20 (1 one cocktail/1 beer)
- Address: 10a Ann St, Belfast BT1 4EF
7. The Bear and the Doll
Not your average cocktail bar, not even a cocktail bar at all, but The Bear and the Doll is one of the new kids on the block so deserves some ad space and classic cocktails come in at £5 during happy hour Friday-Sunday. They also serve Craig’s favourite, Brewdog, and beer flights. This ultra-cool bar plays decent music (live DJs) and hosts a weekly open mic night (free beer for participants). Food is not served on the premises, but you can order through Deliveroo. This bar is the future.
- Address: 10-30 Library St, Belfast BT1 2JD
The Perch, Babel, The Ivory
For cocktails just shying either side of £10 see below.
Rooftop Bars in Belfast
8. The Perch
Apparently* air con was pioneered in Belfast but not sold to The Perch. This isn’t really a rooftop bar in the sense that most don’t have a roof but it’s still a pleasant place to have a drink. Follow the tweeting bird noises to the rickety lift. It gets very busy on the weekends.
- Price: £10.80 (1 beer, 1 vodka lemonade)
- Address: 42 Franklin St, Belfast BT2 7GE
*So our tour guide says yet disputed online
9. The Ivory Belfast
Situated on the third floor of the House of Frasers, The Ivy Belfast offers food, drink, cocktail making classes and views of the city.
- Address: Victoria Square Belfast
The Babel Bar at the Bullit Hotel not only has panoramic views of Belfast but also shrubbery style cocktails if that’s your style of tipsy tea. Live music takes place Tuesday-Sundays.
- Price: Sharing platter and bottle of Prosecco £30/cocktails around £10 mark
- Address: 70-74 Ann St, Belfast BT1 4QG
11. The Treehouse Belfast
This fairytale-like bar/restaurant prides itself on informal dining in an urban rooftop retreat. Cocktails come in at around £8 which is a common price mark of Belfast.
- Address: 38-42, Upper Arthur St, Belfast BT1 4GH
12. The Roof at Union Street Bar
This gay institution, Union Street Bar, now has a rooftop bar serving daiquiris, martinis and punch for £7 – the cheapest cocktails in Belfast I’ve seen.
- Address: 8-14 Union St, Belfast BT1 2JF
Belfast Bars with Gardens
Since the rooftop bars mainly have roofs or are jam-packed, the next best thing is Pub gardens, and Belfast has heaps of them. Peaky Blinders (formerly the Hudson Bar) has an outdoor seating area and caters for the Cillian lovers (yes please), door staff in flat caps, live music and food. The Dirty Onion, Sunflower and The Woodworkers (all mentioned in this pub guide) also have beer gardens.
- Address: 14 Gresham St, Belfast BT1 1JN
13. Filthy McNastys Secret Garden
Filthy McNastys has a secret garden which is not so secretly advertised on the front of the pub. Disclaimer, we never ventured in but it does come recommended (and the pictures look cool) but we walked past on the Friday night while on the hunt for a kebab for Craig (hanger widow) and saw a scene from 2am Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow (here’s where we drink in Scotland’s best city ) so decided it wasn’t for us.
Plus, while waiting on said kebab some lads coming from the Filthy McNastys asked for a club and the shop assistant said Thompsons. After they left they told us they looked like Thompsons (Garage) lads. Unaware of what Thompsons was I Googled it and the first review says – if you are looking for a club that will let you in…
Useful tip – the chemist across the road from Filthy McNastys has an outdoor vending machine which sells condoms. Play safe Belfast fans!
- Address: 45 Dublin Rd, Belfast BT2 7HD
14. The Woodworkers
Another favourite of mine, this rustic craft beer pub is a 20-minute walk from the Cathedral Quarter but on the way to the Ulster Museum in the Botanic Gardens (brilliant). After working up that thirst you’ll have plenty of choice of craft beer and a few more steps to the small back garden tables or a few more to the cool treehouse-like area. Snooker tables on the top floor.
- Price: £11.70 (1 beer, 1 vodka)
- Address: 20-22 Bradbury Pl, Belfast BT7 1RS
15. Karaoke Bar Belfast
When city breaking with Craig there’s no way I get to do karaoke (OK there was the one time in Lanzarote which resulted in me vomming the whole plane ride home) so when I go back to Belfast I’ll be hitting Union Street’s BT1 (Thursday-Saturday) for karaoke. BT1 is not a private booth kind of karaoke joint so there’s a free shot in it for all singers. Line ‘em up pal. The songbook is available here.
- Price: £8 for a cocktail, £13 for a jug
- Address: Basement, 38-40 Great Victoria St, Belfast BT2 7BA
Pub Grub Belfast
With the number of potential pints to be thrown down your throat in Belfast, it’s always best to go armed with a note of pubs which sell bar food. If you are anything like Craig and I, we always leave meals too late and regret it.
16. The Yardbird
This chicken joint can be found above the jumping Dirty Onion bar in the Cathedral Quarter. At lunch, you can fill up on a ¼ chicken or chicken burrito and fries for a fiver. If that wasn’t enough at dinner you can dine on the Hatch 22 offer which includes one whole chicken, two sides and a carafe of wine for £22.
- Address: 3 Hill St, Belfast BT1 2LA
The TV show themed pub was recommended to us by our Game of Thrones tour guide for a quick Saturday afternoon refuel. There was a band playing in the courtyard and the drinks were flowing. This bar is most known for its chicken wings (another chicken lovin’ eatery) but the curries also get kudos.
- Address: 14 Gresham St, Belfast BT1 1JN
- Website above
17. The Crown
The Crown is a lavishly ornate looking pub from the outside which is absolutely hoatching by afternoon with boozing punters. This bar dates back to 1826 and is now interestingly owned by the National Trust who have restored the premises over the years. With its gas lighting, antique bell and gun metal plates, The Crown is a time capsule for magpie tourists (which serves food). Often cited as the oldest pub in Belfast, definitely serves pub food like burgers, sausage and champ and fish.
- Address: 46 Great Victoria St, Belfast BT2 7BA
The oldest family-owned bar in Belfast offers a beer of the month, side order and a game of pool for a fiver. For hungrier customers, there is a full menu which includes steak, fish, chicken, burgers and vegan options. Food is also served in The Woodworkers (part of Laverys, recommended above). I am ecstatic to see Laverys making an effort in reducing their plastic consumption, switching their cutlery, straws, cups and napkins to biodegradable options.
- Address: 12-18 Bradbury Pl, Belfast BT7 1RS
Pin to your Belfast board
Hopefully, that’s given you a taste of what pubs in Belfast have to offer. Belfast is a small city with a lot of drinking locations, so I’ve only scratched the tip of the iceberg (Titanic reference) but highlighted some of the best bars for live music, interesting décor and pub grub to sober you up. Sláinte.