Belfast is well known for its street art; you can’t fail to notice the murals from its past that decorate the sides of buildings. The best way to explore this more urban side of the city is through a guided tour – we suggest either Belfast Mural Tours or a ‘gently paced’ walk with Seedhead Arts. There are also many galleries small and large in Belfast that showcase the creative spirit of Northern Ireland. Our favourites are The MAC, which hosts live theatre and dance performances as well as art shows; the Ulster Museum, where you’ll also find exhibitions on history and natural science; and the contemporary Golden Thread Gallery.
Queen’s Film Theatre
The programme of entertainment at this independent cinema is what sets it apart and makes it a worthwhile visit, from acclaimed documentaries to old-favourites and sing-a-long screenings. It’s also well known as the only cinema in Northern Ireland with a full licenced bar, meaning you can enjoy a glass of wine or a locally distilled gin while you sit back to watch a film.
Minnowburn may be just outside the city, but here you’ll find acres of woodland and meadows, a Neolithic earth henge and an Italian sunken garden providing a little peace away from Belfast’s hustle and bustle. The National Trust has put together a few walking trails, so you can stretch your legs and admire the far-reaching views across the Lagan Valley.
Root & Branch
Just a few minutes’ stroll down the road from Neptune Belfast is Root & Branch, a coffee roastery and ‘brew bar’ dedicated to responsible sourcing. Not only will they make you an expertly-brewed cup of coffee (or tea, if you prefer) to enjoy in their small courtyard or on their street-side bistro tables, but you can also walk away with a bag of the beans they roast on site.
Mourne Seafood Bar
These two restaurants, one in Belfast city centre and the other a 45-minute drive down the coast at Dundrum, are a collaboration between chef Andy Rea and fisherman Bob McCoubrey. So it’s only natural that the seafood they serve is at its very freshest. We love to stop by the Belfast restaurant for a leisurely lunch of their Japanese style oysters or traditional beer-battered fish and chips.
This much-talked-about restaurant sits on the banks of the River Lagan and is highly recommended for good reason. The atmosphere is relaxed and the food is simple and seasonally-driven. If you’re visiting us late in the afternoon, this is the place to stop for supper.
The Crown Bar
The interior (and exterior, for that matter) of The Crown Bar is covered in elaborate mosaics, stained-glass windows and carved ceilings. There’s even a red granite-topped bar complete with a heated footrest. And it’s all lit by gas lanterns. Built by the Victorians in the Gothic style, the building is owned by the National Trust but it still runs as a working bar and restaurant. We recommend cosying up with a drink in one of the snugs.
Envoy of Belfast
This pared-back boutique sells modern women’s clothes and accessories by designers both well-known, such as Dries Van Noten, and more under the radar, like VISVIM, whose pieces are patterned with hand-applied dyes.
Put together by the non-profit Craft & Design Collective, this gallery and retail space in the centre of the city showcases a collection of prints, jewellery, ceramics and more by artisans who all design and make locally.
And should you be feeling a little peckish after your visit to Space CRAFT, Sawyers Deli, with its floor to ceiling shelves of gourmet goods, is just next door.
The chocolate bars and truffles created by Co Couture are made in small batches using the best ingredients, sourced locally whenever possible. Stop by their boutique on Chichester Street to pick up a present, or something to keep all to yourself.
St George’s Market
This indoor market, built in the 1890s, is well worth a wander through. There are three different markets to visit – the Friday Variety Market, where you can find anything and everything from antiques to fish; a food and craft market on Saturdays; and a Sunday market that combines the best of both. Spend a couple of hours browsing the stalls, or simply sit with a cup of coffee and listen to some live music.