16 of the Best Cathedral Quarter Belfast Bars + Beyond

The Dirty Onion mural of woman and wolf in Belfast

This article has links to products and services we love, which we may make commission from.

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.

You may also like our guide to the best Belfast tours.

Belfast Quarters

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
City Hall Tours Belfast

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 as another comparison (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, which is the popular pub area!

The Spaniard

The Spaniard (3 Skipper St) is an 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.

Check out ‘Chery’ on the wall stairs – is it Cher or Mary?


The Dirty Onion

Turn left outside of The Spaniard and follow the sounds to The Dirty Onion (3 Hill St).

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.

The Dirty Onion mural of woman and wolf in Belfast

Duke of York

Everyone knows the Duke of York (7-11 Commercial Ct) 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 their throwback metal advertisement plaques.

The Duke of York has inside and outside seating.

We headed there on our first night and were photobombed by a local. Perfect start to a weekend away!


Moving away from the Cathedral Quarter to my favourite pub in Belfast, Sunflower (65 Union St) – 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 caged pub Belfast

Sunflower has an inside area which hasn’t been decorated since nineteen canteen and it prides itself on ‘no gimmicks’.

There is also an outside garden seated area with lots to look at.

Lads, let me know what you see when you take a leak, there is a gimmick!

Sunflower sells well-fired pizzas and offers live music seven days a week from folk to open mic.

Dogs are welcome, especially photogenic ones.

This bar was recommended to us by our Black Cab Tour driver, make time for this tour.

Sunflower Caged bar Belfast

Belfast Trad Music Bars

It is very evident that music runs through the veins of Belfast city (tell me ma…) and most bars that play music (The Dirty Onion) cover some traditional tunes

However, if you want guaranteed traditional sessions check out The Garrick Bar (Wednesday-Sunday except for Saturday), The Duke of York (Thursday) and Sunflower (Sundays).

Katy’s Bar

Katy’s Bar (17 Ormeau Ave) 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 a Friday night, but the door staff wouldn’t let us in on Saturday (past curfew).

Cocktails Belfast Bars

Love & 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.

Love & Death (10a Ann St) is a small bar that sells £8 cocktails, beers and spirits.

Love and Death red brick pub in Belfast

Rooftop Bars in Belfast

The Perch

Apparently* air con was pioneered in Belfast but not sold to The Perch (42 Franklin St).

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.

*So our tour guide says yet disputed online

Crowds at The Perch Belfast

The National Grande Cafe

Burgers, beers and beats, The National Grande Cafe (62 High St) is known for its DJ takeovers.

The Treehouse Belfast

The Treehouse (38-42, Upper Arthur St) is a fairytale-like bar/restaurant that prides itself on informal dining in an urban rooftop retreat.

The Roof at Union Street Bar

This gay institution, Union Street Bar (8-14 Union St), now has a rooftop bar serving daiquiris, martinis and punch for low prices – the cheapest cocktails in Belfast to be seen.

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.

Note: The Dirty Onion, Sunflower and The Woodworkers (all mentioned elsewhere in this pub guide) also have beer gardens.


Haymarket (14 Gresham St) has an outdoor seating area and caters for friends and couples looking for a day out with live music and food.

If you don’t want the party to stop, kick off with their bottomless brunch and stay for live music all afternoon into the night.

Crowds listening to live music at then Peaky Blinders now Haymarket bar Belfast

Filthy McNastys Secret Garden

Filthy McNastys (45 Dublin Rd) has a secret garden that is not so secretly advertised on the front of the pub.

Disclaimer, we never ventured in as it didn’t look like it was quite up our street, but it does come recommended by others.

Useful tip – the chemist across the road from Filthy McNastys has an outdoor vending machine that sells condoms.

Play safe Belfast fans!

The Woodworkers

Another favourite, The Woodworkers (20-22 Bradbury Pl) is a 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.

The Woodworkers colourful murals at rooftop bar in Belfast

Karaoke Bar Belfast

When I go back to Belfast I’ll be hitting Union Street’s BT1 (38-40 Great Victoria St) 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.

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 that sell bar food.

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.

Check out the menu on the website.

The Crown

The Crown (46 Great Victoria St) is a lavishly ornate looking pub from the outside which is absolutely butling 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 lights, antique bell and gunmetal plates, The Crown is a time capsule for tourists, which serves food.

Often cited as the oldest pub in Belfast, definitely serves pub food like burgers, sausage and champ and fish.


The oldest family-owned bar in Belfast, Laverys (12-18 Bradbury Pl), offers a beer of the month, side order and a game of pool for a fiver.

For hungrier customers, there is a full menu that includes steak, fish, chicken, burgers and vegan options.

Food is also served in The Woodworkers (part of Laverys, recommended above).

Pin to your Belfast board

Text says Belfast Bars image of Dirty Onion bar mural and Woodwookers rooftop decor

Final Words

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.

Over to you, any questions or comments?

4 thoughts on “16 of the Best Cathedral Quarter Belfast Bars + Beyond

  1. Ashley Collindy says:

    I think this section has been mistakenly included in this Belfast review, as it’s about Newcastle, England.
    “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.”

    • Two Scots Abroad says:

      Hi Ashley, thanks for your comment – it’s just a comparison to the likes other city’s party streets.

  2. Ryan Biddulph says:

    What a freaking fun time Gemma! I have read from more than 1 travel blogger who noted how the liquor goes down smooth there; and you will find ample drinking buddies to put back some suds with. Even lightweight me would have to enjoy some fine drink in this town. Rocking post.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *