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Belfast’s night scene has been booming in recent years with the opening of many new clubs and “trendier” bars throughout the city. The city’s night scene is buzzing year round, but it is between October and May when it really gets going. This is due to the influx of university students who occupy many of the bars, clubs and bistros every night of the week.
The majority of hip clubs and bistros, as well as traditional pubs, are located along the Golden Mile and throughout the University district.
Some upcoming festivals and multiple events in the city can be viewed below.
Also you can go online to Northern Ireland's What's On Events Guide - www.whatsonni.com. You can find out what's happening all across Northern Ireland searching by date, location and category.
Belfast is a city that has developed to host many cultural festivals of specific themes and also general arts festivals, which are happening throughout much of the year. There are many festivals in Belfast. From the well respected Belfast Film Festival, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and Belfast Festival at Queens (a wide ranging arts festival which was known for some time as the biggest European arts festival after Edinburgh), to niche areas such as Open House Festival (folk and roots), Belfast Childrens' Festival and the maritime themed Titanic Festival, the festivals of Belfast are wide ranging. There are also festivals located within various suburbs of Belfast. All months have at least one festival going on, often there are more than five in any month.
The Tourist Information Centre for Belfast, called The Belfast Welcome Centre, will be able to tell you about most festivals going on. It's likely though that they will miss some, there really are a lot, and they are diverse. It's a very good idea to search The Web, ask around, read newspapers, and pick up the glossy magazines about Belfast such as "What About" and "Fate" etc.
*** Some past festivals in Belfast.March 2009. Belfast Fashion Week. The Baby Grand studio theatre, Grand Opera House. March 10th to 15th 2009. www.belfastfashionweek.com
March 2009. Between The Lines Literary Festival. The Crescent Arts Centre's annual literary festival. 23rd to 29th March.
Belfast venues are: The Black Box (Cathedral Quarter), Fenderesky Gallery (which is currently in 105 Royal Avenue near Cathedral Quarter), No Aibis Bookstore (Botanic Avenue near the park), and Queens University main Lanyon building. Note that The Crescent Arts Centre itself is not a venue for festival events this year (the C.A.C. is temporarily located on Ormeau Road while the University Road building is refurbished). Tickets from C.A.C., Ormeau Road (02890 242338), The Black Box and No Alibis Bookstore. Website: http://www.crescentarts.org/events/be...
March 2009. World Irish Dancing Championships. 23rd to 30th March. www.waterfront.co.uk
March 2009. Moving On Music Festival. 25th to 29th March. Programme to be announced. Click here: A Weblink.
April 2009. Belfast Film Festival. Various Venues. April 10-19th. www.belfastfilmfestival.org
The Golden Mile is a long, thin X shape of two thoroughfares which meet and split again. At the end nearest city centre, The Golden Mile starts as Great Victoria Street and, nearly parallel, the Bedford Street 'prong' road which becomes in name Dublin Road. Dublin Road and Great Victoria Street converge at Shaftesbury Square (note the high electronic billboard on one side and the human statues placed on a wall by Ulster Bank at the other). The central end of The Golden Mile, on Great Victoria Street is where you will find the famous Crown Bar and also Robinsons' complex of bars.
The Golden Mile splits again two ways going away from the city centre after Shaftesbury Square, into Bradbury Place (becoming University Road) on one side and Botanic Avenue on the other. The end is around Botanic Gardens on this side and near Queen's University main building front on the other. (You can go on further than The Golden Mile, past the university on University Road, to find nightlife nearby near the end of Malone Road, in Stranmillis and not far on Lisburn Road).
A good number of nice places to go out to can be found between both roads of the Golden Mile at the city end, between G. Victoria St. and Bedford St. (Two inviting bars - Irene and Nan's and Bar Bacca, La Lea club, James Street South restaurant, at the other side of Bedford Street is Roscoff restaurant, both restaurants for acclaimed dining). And at the other end, between University Road and Botanic Avenue (Bar 12, Scratch club, The Taphouse, Queen's Film Theatre cinema and cafe bar.) The most part of the two main thoroughfares and the vicinity of the central square where they converge have a lot of nice places to visit, for eating, drinking out, listening to music, dancing in nightclubs.
Pubs and bars typically close around 11:30pm, but many that are located in the city center and around the Golden Mile routes stay open until 1:00am, some may have slightly later licenses at weekends, and dance clubs stay open later. Feel free to print and bring this guide along with you.
A very good source of information about events of all kinds via The Web network is: searching under Belfast in the Culture Northern Ireland website. For events, currently you may need to select each type of event separately in the Culture Northern Ireland site (e.g. search under 'music', then 'performing arts', then 'film', then 'classical arts') as less specific searches may bring up results of lots of places to visit like Belfast parks with or without streams, and the Police Museum. For less advertised events, looking at the Moving On Music website, which is not intended as a comprehensive listing but has a small list of concerts and other events which are certainly likely to be very worthwhile.
Searching The Web network is likely to bring up more random pages with information on events in the city. The best advice for a comprehensive guide is be dedicated and keep with the searches on Culture Northern Ireland's site, despite the lack of simplicity there is currently.
For live music and other cultural events, look around for a few of the growing number of glossy small (but thick) monthly magazines about going out in Belfast, including Fate, Go Belfast and What About?. You'll find them in Tourist centres, bars, restaurants, hotels and some guest houses and more. At last count there were at least five or so of these. Fate particularly is good for listing venues and when and what their regular music nights are at the beginning of each month. The Big List isn't glossy, looks like a tabloid newspaper and the city event listing paper. It's not completely comprehensive, but lists a lot of events in the city, so an idea is also to search The Web with the date(s) you are looking for and type of event and "Belfast"- concert, recital, theatre, play, dance club, house club, live band, cabaret, showcase etc. If The Big List misses individual events they may be little advertised also, though potentially interesting and rewarding.
Perhaps the most dramatic entry on the city’s night time entertainment scene is The Odyssey, the 10,000-seat arena and entertainment complex featuring night clubs, restaurants, bars, IMAX theater, ten-pin bowling and other activities. *** Many attractions are at the Odyssey.
Another development of recent years, on the other side of the Lagan River, a ten minute walk from City Hall (and visible from the front of City Hall) is the circular Waterfront Hall which has given Belfast a great, large sized venue for hosting concerts from symphony orchestras to Bjork's recent tour and Marianne Faithful. The complex includes a studio sized hall for theatre and music also, and glass faced bars looking out to the city and a restaurant.
For many years, these concerts, pop, rock, even large house dance music events, and symphony concerts were held at The Ulster Hall, though now Waterfront Hall has become the most frequently booked and popular venue in Belfast. The Ulster Hall on Bedford Street is a very old institution of Belfast, has been refurbished and reopened in 2009. The secondary hall here in the Ulster Hall building, known until recent years as The Group Theatre, and still referred to as The Group Space, was a venue for many amateur drama performances for decades. Recently, this small hall has been converted back into a minor recital hall part of The Ulster Hall.
The classical and modern art music scene in Belfast is dominated by The Ulster Orchestra (whose home since 2009 is in The Ulster Hall) and smaller recitals put on by The School of Music at Queen's University.
There can be other concerts in St. George's Church, High Street, for one venue, and sometimes in the small recital room in The Linen Hall Library, nearly opposite City Hall. In the university area concerts are sometimes put on in Elmwood Hall and Whitla Hall, and more often small recitals in The Harty Room (off University Square). Also check the listings at The Grand Opera House (see Theatre, below) in their main theatre and The Baby Grandstudio theatre for concerts. Electro-acoustic music concerts (electronically produced and acoustic modern art music combination) are given at Sonic Arts Research Centre, which is off Malone Road (beside Eglantine Bar and The Streat cafe). Occasional musical concerts are given in the pleasant concert and conference hall at The Spires Centre (entrance on Upper Queen Street) and occasional recitals at The Crescent Arts Centre (see below, and note the monthly Blue Moon Showcase here for live music).
Theatre life can be patchy for such a good sized city as Belfast. The Lyric Theatre, at Stranmillis by the river, is the main serious theatre venue, a small, plain and charming venue which however may be disappearing. The much loved, simple 1960s building with its endearing lobby bar downstairs and upstairs with views and a gorgeous tiny garden is to be replaced. A new Lyric Theatre building will have a similarly smallish small main hall, a few more seats only, and also a new, very small studio theatre to seat nearly 100 people. The development means that for a few years, probably, Belfast theatre will be more bare than patchy. Check with city information and on The Web for details about plays which the Lyric Players and other theatre groups are putting on elsewhere during this time.
*** Expansion welcomed. 2010, A new theatre has opened in Newtownabbey, which is a satellite town to Belfast actually attached to, but not included in, the Greater Metropolitan Area of Belfast. There is a train stop some minutes walk away from the new theatre which connects with Central Belfast. It is possible to go by bus also. This is a far distance from Belfast City Centre. It is thought this is a serious theatre venue, perhaps as well as a community theatre venue. Despite its location for people in or closer to the centre of Belfast, it offers very welcome choice for theatre goers in the city who are prepared to travel more than usual.
The Old Museum Arts Centre in the main city centre has done a great job of filling the gaps, but that's hardly a fitting summary of this favourite little, simple venue for a lot of theatre goers. It's a much respected space. It is really a studio theatre venue and has had many enticing productions and good variety. In the last year or so world renowned jazz musicians for example have graced the much appreciated, small, plain, black hall which local and visiting actors perform on. The small theatre is often referred to as the strange word OMAC. A second, much larger proposed venue in The Cathedral Quarter for The O.M.A.C. arts company, a project which was called O.M.A.C. 2, is currently referred to as The M.A.C. and is expected to open in 2011.
The Grand Opera House is an institution of great variety, being both the modern music hall of Belfast city, more musicals than at any other venue have graced this theatre, and also, less often, a venue for more serious productions, perhaps less overtly fun nights out. Touring national productions are housed here. Within the year passed as this is written, there has been a Russian production, Swan Lake on Ice, and two British productions from companies across the water, Pygmalion and the English 20th Century Opera Peter Grimes by Britten. Marvellously, the recent addition of a studio theatre at The Grand Opera House, called The Baby Grand has added significantly to Belfast's cultural life, including music of many types and theatre. Make sure to check what's on here as the venue isn't widely advertised as the main hall is. For a night out, including the theatre or night, the bars and restaurant of The Grand Opera House are likely to be a good choice. The view from the window side of the top floor restaurant can be magnificent but also just dark.
Less regular and occasional theatre venues, a non comprehensive list: Waterfront Hall - this large auditorium does host drama, also check the studio theatre in this venue, Crescent Arts Centre (see below), The Black Box, Queen's Drama Centre which is a part of the Queen's Film Theatre building and shares the bar, entrance and ticket office, and rarely also the Northern Bank Theatre, Waring Street. Also many unusual theatre venues during Belfast's frequent festivals - telephone or go into the Belfast Welcome Centre to find out if a festival is on while you are in town and pick up or find out where to get a programme or get the festival web site.
A second, small but reasonably sized older theatre in Belfast was the Civic Arts Theatre hidden away in what seem like flats in Botanic Avenue, which closed regrettably and unaccountably in the 1990s, and still lies dormant there. Strangely, it has not even been spruced up for occasional festival events and lies completely dormant in the road where so many visit, unlikely forgotten though as it had a faithful audience. Bring back the Civic Arts Theatre!!!
Adding to the most recent developments in the city of Odyssey Centre and Pavillion and Waterfront Hall is a blast of fresh air and much anticipated designer wear and homeware shops, Victoria Square shopping centre, a partly enclosed, partly open air shopping area (chilly, or 'fresh', depending on your perspective, in the cold months). Open from only months before Autumn 2008, this has new eateries including an oyster bar, the first restaurant of a popular American Italian restaurant chain to open outside the U.S.A., a Spanish Tapas bar, McDonalds, coffee shops, bistros and grill bars, a branch of a popular Portuguese fast food restaurant and, on opening, the biggest O'Briens sandwich bar in the world. Also at one entrance to the centre are two historic bars of Belfast, The Kitchen Bar and Bittles. Early evening jazz music is played at The Kitchen, Thursdays 5 to 7.30.
Victoria Square hosts Music at the Square on Friday evenings between 6.30 and around 8.30 p.m. (wear cold weather clothing in the cold months). So far this weekly event has programmed musical performances including a local African Drumming performance group, Sosoya, a choir, a jazz band, a touring Nashville country singer and an electric string quartet.
Victoria Square also brings a new cinema to Belfast, an Odeon. The new Odeon Cinema adds city screens to the popular Movie House Cinema at Dublin Road, also Movie House, City Side Centre, Yorkgate (on the very edge of Central Belfast to the north), Storm Cinema at Odyssey, and also the city's arthouse and main foreign film screening cinema, Queen's Film Theatre by the main university site. The Q.F.T.is discreetly tucked into a townhouse in University Square's terraced houses, look carefully to find it in a row of townhouses at the side of the main university building. All cinemas are well placed for bar, restaurant and cafe visits for before and after screenings. Cinemas at the largest shopping or entertainment complexes, Odeon and Storm have excellent eating and drinking options and there is one nice restaurant bar and a couple of fast food outlets beside the Movie House City Side, Yorkgate. The Dublin Road Movie House is very well located on the Golden Mile. A short walk from The Q.F.T. will bring you to Botanic Avenue's food and drink choices, University Road is a walk in the other direction, or with a longer walk, Stranmillis. (here are two excellent suburban city cinemas too, an art-deco cinema in East Belfast, The Strand (165 Hollywood Road), and the former Cineplex Cinema in The Kennedy Centre, West Belfast has re-opened as a lovely, modern, quite large Omniplex Cinema with luxury seating. [No links are being accepted in the editor at present, Omniplex Theatre Kennedy Centre link: http://www.omniplex.ie/cinema/cinema/... ]
If you’re looking for some night time singing or traditional music entertainment, you may look within Belfast’s lively pubs reliably at weekends and who knows what you'll find at other times. Seek particularly the old taverns of Madden's Bar (past the side entrance to Castle Court Centre, near Kelly's Cellars and St. Mary's Chapel) and Kelly's Cellars (Bank Street, entry between Primark and Tesco Metro) which is the oldest bar in the city, and also The Garrick Bar (Chichester Street, past the front of City Hall, near Waterfront Hall). These three bars may hold traditional music sessions some weeknights as well as at weekends. Visitors are welcomed and traditional songs are performed by local musicians. A favorite among locals and visitors alike is the Crown Liquor Saloon, known for its high-Victorian architecture, atmospheric setting and delicious ales.
Lovers of drinking in genuine, atmospheric places, as well as food lovers but mostly music lovers should find McHughs Bar by Custom House Square underneath a big, famous clock called Albert (near the Merchant area end of Cathedral Quarter & outlying end of High Street, close to the bank of River Lagan). McHughs is both a solid, unpretentious, easy place, and for a pub a quite fanciful delight in parts, while for both being a really easy place to relax in. There is some kind of music most nights at this bar and gastropub. A few floors host everything from traditional music sessions to jazz groups, singers of country music, blues and you name it otherwise. Traditional sessions and some other live music are generally free while there is frequently also a cover charge to see other performances away from the main bar area.
An interesting area of the city is a part associated with the once booming linen industry of Belfast of old, naturally sometimes mentioned as The Old Linen Quarter, lying within the regular grid of streets directly behind the City Hall. It is largely a business district today, while just lying off the Bedford Street part of The Golden Mile for those who wish to take a look.
Regarding nightlife and daytime pub life in this vicinity: At the far end of this quarter, the walk along Ormeau Avenue from the B.B.C. Building (Broadcasting House) to The Gasworks will have you become acquainted with some interesting places for going out: The bar and restaurant of the Holiday Inn are at one end. One complex attends to the going out needs of those who like to drink and / or like loud music: The Limelight club for D.J. club nights and some live bands, Katy Daly's bar many locals and some visitors will remember as The Dome, Spring and Airbrake for live bands, mostly rock, pop-rock and punk type pop bands, though at times roots and folk bands. Make a note to visit Ormeau Baths Gallery during the daytime (open Tues. to Sat. last admission 5p.m., free entry). Just off Ormeau Avenue is Zen Asian and Japanese Bar and Restaurant on Adelaide Street. The Gasworks complex lies where Ormeau Avenue finishes and is really worth having a look into if you're visiting, a good portion of it being what remains of the old red brick city gasworks amongst new developments echoing the redbrick heritage. For eating and drinking out in a quiet but alive place away from busy life of Belfast, the Radisson Hotel contains the rather nice Filini Italian restaurant which overlooks the manmade pond at The Gasworks, as well as a cool bar retreat in this quiet, enclosed city village.
A tunnel from The Gasworks complex, open until around 5.30 p.m., leads to the city centre part of the Towpath along River Lagan, certainly worth a diversion. If you've longer, heading North (left if you're facing the river) for not very long will bring you to Waterfront Halland The Hilton with its pleasant bar, The Oxford Grill nearby, and the few recent bars and restaurants around Waterfront Hall.
A walk of less than an hour in the other direction along the Lagan will bring you close to The Boat Club where The Cutters River Bar and Grill serves drinks and very good food. This is the Stranmillis Wharf of the river, and just over ten minutes walk from here, passing Stranmillis College and going uphill, is the main Stranmillis village of Belfast, not far from Queen's University. This is a good place for eating and drinking out in small places such as Giraffe, The House and The Blue Print Pizza Company as well as sandwich bars and a few small Asian restaurants.
Yum is a bistro restaurant in Stranmillis, a serious place for enjoyable food but an informal, relaxing and enjoyable bistro type of venue. The prices are very reasonable for the food and nice wine is served at affordable prices, as well as beer. The food can be Mediterranean, Irish, Oriental, and is usually delicious with pleasant, relaxing service. Yum is open from early lunchtime right throughout the day for a snack, a meal or even just for drinks. It's recommended.
It's much quicker to walk, drive or take a bus to Stranmillis passing Queen's University, but the towpath is a great Belfast experience - access is from underneath Central Station when the Gasworks tunnel is closed (also from where Ormeau Avenue meets Stranmillis Embankment, where the main roadside river stretch lies for a while). Cafe Conor is a noteworthy little nook restaurant and bar on Stranmillis Road, opposite the museum and very near the main university building (this is the furthest point if you've got to Stranmillis by the river towpath, or the nearest point if passing Queen's). It is named after a significant artist of Belfast. Pleasant food and drinks, and a great, cosy though airy and light location for eating and drinking at very long tables as well as the more usual sizes.
Take the Lagan towpath to places of great beauty and refreshment at the lovely Suburbia Bar. If you have 3 hours or so earlier in the day, and want a quiet time, walking along the river towpath to Stranmillis and well beyond, where the Lagan goes through forest and country parks of outer Belfast up to Shawsbridge can be very rewarding. Bring a suitable warm and waterproof coat as appropriate in the cold months. If you walk up here or otherwise drive or take the bus to visit Shawsbridge, this popular natural part of the edge of Belfast has the Suburbia Bar of Ramada Hotel, Shawsbridge which serves gourmet standard, affordable bar food as well as beers and wines (last food orders by 9.45 Mon. to Sat., earlier Sun., bar opens until later). This is a lovely bar to drive to or take a taxi for the evening also. The hotel also has the well regarded Belfast Bar and Grill upstairs and a further eaterie, the Indian restaurant Spice Club.
Belfast is a city which has a plethora of Asian restaurants. Unlike some other British cities, Indian cooking, though represented, is not most favoured in the city's Oriental cuisine restaurant life, but instead Chinese cooking. Chinese food, including take aways, has been very popular in Belfast for years.
There are many restaurants, and one lovely Chinese cafe worth mentioning, where the food is as good as a restaurant though without the wait, is Tao Noodle Bar and Cafe on Dublin Road - look for the colours (there's a second Tao cafe by St. Anne's Cathedral, near the strange shaped coloured sculptures close to the city Art College.) The Queen's end of Lisburn Road has The Jharnaand Fat Buddha restaurants (and further up the road), while there are many Asian restaurants on the two main sides of The Golden Mile (see top). The Bo Tree Thai is a well regarded Thai place on University Road, near Queen's main building. Sakura restaurant and sushi bar, Botanic Avenue, offers an uncommon treat of Japanese dishes. Gingeroot is an Indian Cafe Restaurant on Great Victoria Street, and The Duois a Chinese restaurant in a lovely position near the very centre of the city, overlooking River Lagan by The Waterfront Hall. Also right here by the river is Harbour View Teppenyaki and Sushi Restaurant.
This is a very small selection of the city's Asian eaties.
Click here for the Weblink to this page: The Lisburn Road on The Web in Facebook (anyone can access this to view):
A suburban area of Belfast which is most worth visiting is Lisburn Road. If you are attracted to shopping in Belfast, particularly for best quality designer Mens and Womens clothes, and also homewares and furniture, you'll be interested in Lisburn Road as well as Victoria Square. But also Lisburn Road has become a place for going out, during the daytime as well as in the later hours. The road has a good deal of interest to offer in small galleries, while the town end, at Queens University, can start your foray into art in Belfast close by at the Ulster Museum in Stranmillis. Whether you want to examine art for pleasure in the small galleries the Lisburn Road offers, or are looking to pick up some art to buy, here is an ideal part of the city to lose yourself in, with a good deal of walking.
For daytime visits, the road has many coffee and tea shops, delis and sandwich bars, also a few renowned ice cream parlours. There are some very well regarded places to eat and drink such as Shu Restaurant and basement cocktail bar, and Essence Restaurant, as well as more casual places to relax easily out in or grab something to eat. (See also the Asian Food section.) Pizza Express, as usual, caters for both worlds.
Daytime hours and night-times, a few diner style licensed cafes like Springsteens and Ruby Tuesdays have low key attraction while Ryans Barand The Chelsea Bar are two of the major places to visit on a night out in Belfast, for very good quality cafe bar menus and to relax over a drink or some or many. For a small corkage fee you can bring your own wine or beer to some other good diner style restaurants, Relish, a gourmet burger cafe, and Wrap Works Co. Mexican wrap restaurant for ace Burritos, Fajitas etc. (a very good vegetarian choice also). Also, the amiable Scarlett's Bistro. Relish is a bus journey or good walk up Lisburn Road. Wrap Works and Scarlett's are reasonable walks but nearer from the Golden Mile, close to the Tates Avenue junction. Deez bar, close to Wrap Works is a local favourite in the area, with an upstairs club which is mostly student and 20-something orientated.
TaTu Bar and Grill *** Expansion welcomed. TaTu Bar has closed recently. The space is now occupied by a new restaurant - wine bar, Monzu.
(TaTu had been of the more popular night places to visit over a number of years, and late at night, the D.J. could be seen on an upstairs pedestal by the street windows, through the 2 storey glass front from outside. The dance music was heard well inside and was inviting outside most nights. It seemed in recent times the days of TaTu as a renowned and loved club bar had passed, but who knows what will happen with changed management? TaTu's food has, with former management, been well regarded and it's a nice place to spend time drinking in. The two storey glass front has been replaced by signage on the upper floor.)
Buses go to and beyond the going out and shopping limit of Lisburn Road which is Balmoral, and can be boarded from the City Centre and Bedford Street, Dublin Road and Bradbury Place, and any part of Lisburn Road itself. A train route from Great Victoria Street Station has a stop a quite short walk from the bottom (Queen's Quarter) end of Lisburn Road, the City Hospital stop, and a stop near the middle of the part of this road worth visiting, Adelaide stop. (And then another stop, Balmoral at the end of the part worth visiting, see below).
The very far end of where the eating and drinking services and also shopping locations on Lisburn Road is at Balmoral where The King's Head bar and restaurant can give a relaxing or lively time out, as it suits. There are tables outside on the patio and frequently events such as live music, or dancing, most week and weekend nights. Live jazz usually on Sunday evenings would make it worth the short train journey from Great Victoria Street or bus ride, and taxi after hours back. Saturday night music is a genuine affair often, away from the world of cover bands that some Belfast pubs often host: singer-songwriter, roots, world music and rock music are the norms.
Large scale public and private conference events, public and professional fairs and shows of all descriptions, and large scale house music nights and rock music's biggest names are hosted at The King's Hall, opposite The King's Head. This venue holds a huge amount of people, the main hall being comparable in size to The Odyssey Arena. Also attached to The King's Hall complex is the quite large Nugent Hall, reasonably sized Balmoral Hall, and rooms of The Octagon. Large scale public entertainment events hosted at The King's Hall include, a few times a year, Planet Love dance club, Planet Fun fair and public Real Ale and Beer festivals. The Orb and Orbital have played within the last few years.
Balmoral is served by the train stop of this name which is right beside The King's Head, only ten minutes or so from Great Victoria Street Station in the city centre. You can also get a train from Botanic stop this way via first the most central Great Victoria Street stop Again, for getting to any part of Lisburn Road including this Balmoral part, you can get a Lisburn Road Translink bus from the city centre.
*** Expansion welcomed. The Lisburn Road has seen a new gourmet fast food joint beside Arcadia Delicatessen is a very major recent addition to the area, and a very big and worthwhile draw in the city. www.arcadiadeli.co.uk
*** Expansion welcomed. A new, small restaurant has opened beside Monzu (where TaTu was) and Rollo Pollo, in this part of Lisburn Road. There is a small Italian restaurant since summer 2009,. Very well worth visiting also, here, is the healthy, quality fast food cafe-bistro and take away, Rollo Pollo Kitchen - www.rollopollo.com
Beside Rollo Pollo and Monzu is another recently opened (summer 2009) small eateries, Uel's Restaurant. http://www.uelsrestaurant.com
Another suburban vicinity worth visiting mostly for shopping though also for an evening out is in East Belfast, Tullycarnet to Belmont Road and around a few parts of the Upper Newtonards Rd. Unlike the other vicinities of the city mentioned, this area really requires a drive or bus or taxi journey, and there are pockets of interesting establishments separated from other pockets an isolated places, separated by noteworthy walking times. But isn't it a change if you choose to walk and have the time? For shopping this part of town is best defined in having renowned designer ladies fashion boutiques, both of the most famous brand names such as D.K.N.Y. and C.K. and less famous, more select names including highly regarded local and national designers. But also some mens fashions and more. If staying out here for the evening or coming out especially, some bars and restaurants offer an inviting visit. It is a very good idea to get names and addresses of shops and places to go out to before travelling to this area - Belfast Welcome Centre and The Web should help, as well as the glossy Belfast monthly magazines mentioned above.
If dancing the night away is your scene, try any of Belfast’s many clubs and discos spread throughout the city. Popular hangouts for students and the younger set include Orpheus & The Underworld with its low prices and Shine, which features trance, funk and smoother sounds.
Mono club is around or near the main commercial centre of Belfast, and is a favourite for dance music, recently hosting a visit from house legend D.J. Danny Rampling. Mono is at the core of Belfast's dance music life, and, with SHINE, has been the centre of the city's house music scene for years.
Not too far from Mono, in the Cathedral Quarter, is The Potthouse which has a dance music club most nights of the week, usually in The Sugar Room. Very close to The Potthouse is Ollie's Club of The Merchant Hotel.
MILK CLUB has ceased. It's not hoped it's gone forever, maybe not R.I.P., the managers have said it may open once again in the future. The building is now occupied by Rain Club, which is less core dance music orientated - being much more of a party disco and student orientated club. *** Expansion Welcomed.
Thompson's Club, paces away from the central City Hall, is one of the oldest and well known of Belfast's dance music D.J. clubs, though much less underground at times these days. The Warehouse Club [added: now known as Browne's Club] on Boucher Road, above Browne's Bar and Grill, is one of the newest D.J. dance clubs in the city, a taxi journey outside the centre or a train or bus ride to Balmoral Station from Great Victoria Street or Botanic stations and a 20 minute walk, going past part of Musgrave Park. The Warehouse Club has recently started a Friday night club opening until 6 a.m., - may be student focussed.
SHINE is a longstanding dance music club, typically a house music club, hosting regional, national and international names in DJing, which is located at Mandela Hall in the Student Union building at Queen's University (Shine is a public event held in the Student Union, specifically not a student event.) www.shine.net The DJs are top names, and visitors within the last year have included the best of Northern Irish talent, along with people such as Paul Oakenfold, Alex Metric, 808 State and Sasha.
SHINE events promotion company in Belfast have for a few years owned The Stiff Kitten club, Bankmore Square (beside Movie House, Dublin Road), [ www.shine.net] , which hosts various club nights from general club discos and student discos, to R and B or dubstep nights. But particularly the great late night venue with very good sound system, is known as one of the few leading house and underground house music venues on Saturday night (and some other nights) in Northern Ireland. Recent visitors have included DJ Steffi (Panorama / Berghain, Berlin), Chicago original Felix Da Housecat, Ben Klock, and lots of other huge names, old and newer, from Europe and America. B.B.C. dance programme presenter Paul Hamill is a regular D.J. here, as are bigger Northern Irish house DJs such as Phil Kieran and up and coming names such as Screendeath.
*** Expansion welcomed. (It is thought that Event club has ceased. Details follow anyhow.) Come Summer time - not far from the Cathedral Quarter, in a part sometimes called the Library area, off the end of one of the main city streets, Royal Avenue, you may find the popular Saturday dance music D.J. club Event in The Old Shoe-Box Factory. This has been a little used venue, an old place with some history, attached to the pleasant Union Street bar, where the entrance to the club night can be also. Event is one of the few, or perhaps only, city clubs to open after 4 a.m., staying open and keeping people dancing until 6 a.m. by selling soft drinks only (there may be no alcohol from the start of the night, around midnight.) Nearby bars are The Front Page and The Library Bar, both of which can have live bands playing.
The Stiff Kitten bar and club (Bankmore Square, off Dublin Road, next to Movie House cinema) has been a very central dance club to Belfast's nightlife, often hosting the big names in national and international D.J.s. Recently, The Stiff Kitten has hosted some pop-rock and rock bands, which is a departure for this venue. The bar is quite relaxing, pre-club time, and there are outdoor tables in the square where traffic noise is not much of a disturbance. *** Expansion welcomed. Scratch is a recently opened dance music club on Lower Crescent, off Botanic Avenue, which, like the club parts of The Fly which occupied the space before, is a party disco style of venue and student orientated, being very near the university. The Fly's lower part is now a bar only, though with DJs playing on some evenings. This is a student and student aged venue. There are venues such as here and Renshaws bar and club which are frequented nearly exclusively by students and student aged people, while some, including Renshaws would not allow admittance to non-students.
For a night out, you should consider the nightclubs and bars at Odyssey, though this huge riverside venue is a taxi ride away from most parts of Central Belfast.
There may be dance music clubs held at Lavery's in Bradbury Place, particularly in The Bunker section upstairs. Halo Club is a non-alcoholic dance event that has been held at times in the basement cafe-bar of May Street Church: www.clubhalo.co.uk. The Basement Bar at the side of The City Hall (Donegall Square East) has DJs playing some evenings. Queens Cafe-Bar holds small bar club type evenings sometimes in the week, in Queens Arcade between Donegall Place and Fountain Street.
(Skye Club Bar which had been in Howard Street has closed down, becoming The Washington Bar and Restaurant.)
If you are visiting Belfast or new to going out in Belfast, and maybe chance across this web page which follows, don't get excited as if you trot up to most of those addresses these days you won't find anything like a dance club there on any night of the week in Belfast. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that Belfast was not only looking forward to great things quite a few years ago, but had a respectable and enjoyed dance music scene, that can really only can be seen to have died away significantly within the past 2 or 3 years, up to now, early 2010. Scratch is one club which came, but it's really only another student venue. Whilst one really positive development must be The Warehouse in Boucher Road. The web information referred to is in this page by Virtual Tourist, which seems to make out the city has a thriving night time dance club scene, when this just wouldn't at all be claimed by many people today who are really interested in the music of serious dance club culture:
http://www.belfasttourist.com/directo... - One reference not to trust for nightclub information in Belfast (see last paragraph).
The Cathedral Quarter is much publicised in what you may read and hear about Belfast. Though there are attractions here, it is really just a developing, often quiet part of the city centre presently. Not much more than a decade ago, there was nearly nothing here. Now you will find some cafes and restaurants and bars, but the area has so much more potential, and you may find that the area is as quiet as its venues are enjoyable and rewarding. The Cathedral Quarter extends out into the old Merchant area of Belfast, which could be one of the more interesting city quarters, though is mostly undeveloped for leisure or historical visitor interest as yet.
In the Cathedral Quarter you should catch the artwork and important presentations related to Northern Irish politics in the John Hewitt bar, named after an important writer of Belfast. Nearby is the large, inviting Northern Whig bar, housed in the old offices of the city's defunct Northern Whig liberal-socialist newspaper. Very rarely used, but if you're in Belfast during one of the bigger few of the city's many cultural festivals you could find this simple, hardly developed venue open: the small Northern Bank Theatre at the corner of Waring Street, opposite The Northern Whig. In very recent years The Oh Yeah Music Centre has sprung up (The Outlet Building, 15-21 Gordon Street) in an old whiskey warehouse. Belfast Exposed, 23 Donegall Street, is a photography gallery which has some very worthwhile exhibitions.
Developments are coming about. The Old Museum Arts Centre arts company (see theatre, above) are developing a large arts centre in the quarter, The M.A.C. expected to be opened in 2011. While a once renowned place is seldom used for the public: The Art and Design School (of University of Ulster) may hold irregular events. When known as The Art College, Conor Hall was a bare place but of great legend as large underground house and dance music nights were leading lights in the early days of house music in Belfast.
St. Annes Church Of Ireland Cathedral (Anglican Communion branch) is the area's namesake. Here you can sometimes hear lunchtime and evening concerts by visiting or connected choirs and players. (Also daytime musical services at St. Anne's have organ playing programmed, from the well regarded Cathedral organist or a visiting organist, and some have sung services, often by British composers of the 19th and 20th Centuries. For daytime visiting, sung services are at 11 and Evensong 3.30, both on Sundays, check within for other days). The Cathedral is open until late afternoon most days, opening in the evening when concerts are programmed, or the Belfast Welcome Centre should be able to help. All, of any or no religion, are welcome to services. Other events are mostly not at all affiliated with the religious business of the Cathedral.
Belfast's second Premier Inn hotel has opened to occupy the historic Four Corners site, a disappointment to many as there had been proposals, advertised outside the formerly dormant building, to develop a new arts, entertainment and eating and drinking out location at the significant Four Corners building. The new Cathedral Quarter Premier Inn has a large restaurant and bar. In Autumn 2008 the new Four Cornersbar, with restaurant attached, has opened at the ground floor of this new hotel branch of the lower mid. priced chain, at the junction of Waring Street and Donegall Street.
The Cathedral Quarter including the Merchant area end contains pretty good eating and drinking options: The Pott House Bar and Grill, Printers Wine Bar, The John Hewitt bar, The Duke of York bar, The Spaniard bar, the likeable and different Malmaison bar. Also The Cloth Ear bar and Ollie's club of the city centre's first five star hotel, The Merchant Hotel. Very worthwhile cultural events are held at The Black Box, sometimes also at The Potthouse. Queen's Square and Custom House Square, in the old Merchant area by the riverside are often referred to as being within Cathedral Quarter these days, and this is the proximity of McHughs bar, an 'old tavern' mentioned above, great for food, drink, atmosphere and music.
The 2Taps Wine Bar and Tapas Cafe, opposite The Merchant Hotel, has become a well liked place. There is live music on the terrace at 2Taps from 4-7 each Friday to tempt you to start a good Friday night out early and make more time for enjoying yourself, or to experience an earlier night - it could be a relaxing or enlivening start to a night eating out, visiting a selection of bars or seeing a play, or just staying here for wine, beer and maybe tapas.
At the far side of town to the Cathedral Quarter, near the Botanic Gardens, for a hip, relaxed crowd, these may be appropriate:
The Taphouse Bar (formerly The Fly), a good sized space on Lower Crescent (with entry to the city's newest dance club, Scratch, beside), or Madison’s, geared towards the thirtysomething crowd as well as younger persons. For grabbing a snack or smaller meal before going out, including Northern Irish staple Potato Champ, and also nice French Toast, Maggie May's is a good cafe on Botanic Avenue.
Madison's has live jazz music on Monday nights. Close to Madison’s, in this good area for going out around Botanic Avenue is Bar 12 of The Crescent Townhouse Hotel, which is a more mature hangout place, as Duke's Hotel bar close by once was, though now Duke's bar is more popular with students as well as visitors of all ages. The Empire Bar and Music Hall is mentioned by guide books for its architecture, a grand old red brick church, but also because it is a great place to simply drink downstairs and also hear live music upstairs. The end of Botanic Avenue closest to Botanic Gardens and Duke's Hotel includes Asian eateries, pizza and Italian restaurant Renoir, the most central branch of Springsteens Diner, and the university end branch of the good Am:Pm restaurant-bar (the other is near the City Hall). No Alibis bookstore regularly hosts literary events and also some musical performances, a daytime cafe can be found in a spirituality store and excellent Molly's Yard restaurant is close to the Gardens with upstairs excellent A La Carte restaurant, and downstairs a small bistro for lovely, simple food or drinking at cheaper prices.
For daytime, teatime and some days early evening visiting, there's hardly a more down to earth place than Bookfinders Bookshop and Cafe on University Road, a second hand book shop (including some sheet music) which has a rear cafe serving lovely soups and sandwiches, snacks, cakes, tea, coffee and drinks including wine by the glass. What better a place than this to start a pub / cafe crawl in late afternoon or going out early at tea-time with some wine inside or out, maybe reading by yourself or chatting over a cheap book purchase! Here you'll find the kind of books you can't uncover in most bookshops and which you'd be unlikely to buy otherwise. Sit outside in Belfast's fresh or bracing or enjoyably chilly air, on the pavement by a couple of old, wobbly tables watching the traffic pass and people march. Or retreat inside to enjoy the simple, cosy cafe. You'll hardly miss the sign on the door "As mentioned in Marie-Claire", the style and lifestyle magazine. Bookfinders has been a landmark in Belfast for decades and is remembered fondly by people of Belfast as well as past university students.
At this end of The Golden Mile where it forks out towards Queen's University, one route being Botanic Avenue, Lavery's Bar and Gin Palace lies at the start of the other thoroughfare, Bradbury Place which soon becomes University Road. Lavery's also is mentioned by guide books because it has been so central to going out, drinking and hearing music in the nightlife of Belfast for many years, though a renovation of recent years has made the character less of a basic old, loved drinking den. It's a nice, easy place to drink in, a solid pub on three levels with a good, quite compact live music and D.J. music space. Also, Lavery's has been for many years one of the handful of the main venues for live rock style and pop-rock style (also pop-folk) music in Belfast for local bands, and also a wealth of visiting bands from outside the city, outside Northern Ireland and from foreign countries. These days the music performance space is called The Bunker (see website link for Lavery's Bar above).
More or less opposite Lavery's is the attractive V Bar on ground level, part of the M-Club complex and a good place to relax in. While the good old fashioned disco atmosphere of M-Club nightclub upstairs, more traditional and perhaps more flamboyant and party centred than the more underground dance clubs mentioned, may or may not appeal to you, V Bar is likely to please most. By contrast with M-Club, V Bar is quite subdued, stylish, with good attention but not too far from plain. It's a pleasing place to drink in or meet at, and has been found rarely full up. A neighbour of V Bar is Benedicts where you can often hear live music.
In this vicinity, you can rely on fast food outlets for quick snacks, even when leaving bars after 1 a.m. Bishops is a favourite traditional fish and chip restaurant which opens late.
Going up towards Queen's University, you should become aware of The Crescent Arts Centre which occupies a dark, old, endearing former church building, also once a school, at the corner of Lower Crescent (not the larger church in the island between Lower Crescent and Upper Crescent). This is a busy centre for classes of all types, from traditional music and dance to language, drama and self development classes, notably also this year, some French language events like film screenings and discussions. The centre also hosts cultural events, not every week, but it is worth checking the web site if you are interested in going out in Belfast. Usually there is a great regular night once monthly, with late bar, The New Moon Showcase, made up of a series of performances of all types, often of those who have been or will be performing in Belfast. From cabaret, roots music, popular music and drama to modern dance, jazz, folk and classical music.
[Note, as The Crescent Arts Centre HAS RE-OPENED after refurbishment in its home building. The studio theatre in the centre is called The Cube. There are many studios and rooms for all kinds of cultural pursuits, events, performances. Beside The Cube, is a large studio hall of roughly the same size as The Cube. There is a café in the centre selling cold and hot drinks, soup and prepared sandwiches and rolls. The centre opened to the festival "A Crescent Overture" in Spring 2010, a week long, very diverse cultural festival, hosting international, national and regional artists, performers, musicians.)
Anyone wanting experiences in tune with what is going on in the worlds of local and world "indie" (independent pop-rock) music, and at times styles including roots, should consider what is going on at Queen's University Students' Union, opposite the main university building (look for multi-colours in the Clements Cafe at the windows). Check the posters around here, or search The Web. Many visiting bands and local bands will have a page in MySpace.com (or YouTube.com, Bebo etc.) so you can check how they are, if that's music for you that night, and go along if it is.
The ' Bot' - Botanic Inn is one of Belfast's leading live entertainment and sports bars, all under one roof you have a sports bar offering live BIG screen sport, a restaurant style food, live music, prize winning pub quizzes, a club. Definitely worth a visit. The carvery on a Sunday from 12noon - 5 is a must for two course £5.45 per head!! The old Eglantine Bar is opposite, where the bar may be frequented by many while discos and events upstairs in the evenings are mostly steeped in students.
The M-Club has to be Belfast longest premier club. the Groooooovey train on Friday nights is popular for the 20+ a night for reliving the 70's. Great students nights on Thursday drinks as little as £2. A great night for all ages. Friday and Saturday nights the club is for over 20's.
Where to go for a quick drink, an evening out, or to include in a pub crawl in the very centre of Belfast? Beside or not far from The City Hall, great spots for drinking are Apartment bar, Irene and Nan's bar (both also good for eating) not too far to walk in Brunswick Street, and around the corner in Franklin Street, Bar Bacca (for eating, a tiny tapas menu only), a small, simple, attractive, zen inducing bar which has a Buddhist theme and an open fire in the wall. (La Lea club above Bar Bacca has been a favourite venue for D.J. dance music for years.) Skye Bar is a convivial, good sized bar with outside seating, where acoustic music can be heard at times in the early evening, and a dance club operates upstairs later on.
Two locations for going out which are very significant attractions are the grand, luxurious looking but very relaxing Cafe Vaudeville bar (Arthur Street, near front of City Hall) and also Bourbon Bar and Restaurant, with a theme of the American Deep South, New Orleans style and Colonial design (Great Victoria Street, near The Crown Liquor Salon).
One distinctive, quite newly opened place to note for early to mid evening visits, which does not fit into the more luxurious trend of Cafe Vaudeville or Bourbon is Made in Belfast Restolounge. Think it is eccentric (they'll never know) though it's a pleasing, comfort inducing place to visit. This place does not open late so far, closing around 9.30 weeknights and later at weekends. Made in Belfast Restolounge is a bar and a restaurant, which serves good wine, Belfast beer, Guinness, Irish and Swedish ciders, and cocktails. It is a mix and match of old recycled or thrown away elements making up furniture and decorations including bare wooden plank boxes, and randomly chosen expensive looking antique comfortable armchairs, gorgeous designer cushions and costly huge antique mirrors, in a perfect location in the centre of Belfast. You can find it in a quite quiet lane at the side of City Hall called Wellington Street (this runs from Donegall Square West to Upper Queen Street, Jaeger clothes shop is on one City Hall side corner).
Going over City Hall from the Restolounge as a crow or pigeon or gull flies, on the other side road (main road) you can find an old favourite in Belfast, The Basement bar, cafe and night time bar-club. Nearby, for an early watering time treat or starting an evening at early dinner time is a champagne bar which unfortunately does not open most evenings, Oscars Champagne Cafe. Less than 10 minutes walk along Bedford Street from the back of City Hall is the 'Bridge House', part of the Wetherspoons chain is the cheapest in town. A great place to start your night, as great drink promotions and a great and reasonable menu - stag and hen parties will have a ball here. A great central location so easy to move onto other night spots in the city. Try there burgers, chips and a drink for £3. Around the corner is Morrison's bar, nice for cheap, lovely beer from Belfast (quite hard to find) and interesting wallpaper you might be pleased to dream about stripping off the walls and bringing home.
The first Thursday of each month also has seen night time opening for Belfast's art venues (Weblink). Check out some late night art on the first Thursday of every month, with public art galleries across Belfast staying open until 9pm to host exciting exhibitions, artist talks and events.
To briefly mention a few of more highly regarded (and often more expensive) places including a few past Michelin starred chefs, notably Paul Deane and Paul Rankin are:
Deanes (Howard Street). To experience an establishment of renowned chef and restaurateur, Paul Deane, at cheaper prices than Deanes restaurant, there is also Deanes at Queensand Deanes Deli and Vin Cafe, Bedford Street.
James Street South (at this street).
Roscoff [Paul and Jeanne Rankin, the T.V. chefs couple] (Linenhall Street).
Cayenne [Rankins] (Great Victoria Street).This quite low key though very amiable seeming restaurant was chosen just over a year ago in Time Out magazine's top ten to visit in U.K. and Ireland. It is eye-catching on the outside, in this hub for going out in Belfast, though a short walk away from other establishments. In early 2010 Cayenne, with it's gourmet but 'honest' class status, is offering a set 3 course menu for £17.50 and a set 2 course menu for £14.50 between 5pm and 7pm.
Metro Brasserie of The Crescent Townhouse Hotel (Botanic Avenue). A very well renowned French influenced British and Irish restaurant. There is a good sized and attractive additional vegetarian menu on offer here at good prices. While the Á la Carte menu is more expensive than many city restaurants, there is a good priced smaller set menu for 2 persons which includes one 75cl bottle of wine from a selection.
Mal Brasserie at Malmaison Hotel (Victoria Street, near St. George's Church at end of High Street - NOT Great Vic. St.).
Nick's Warehouse (Hill Street, Cathedral Qr.). Highly renowned for wine, from very reasonable prices to more expensive possibilities, as well as for good food in its unpretentious old warehouse setting, with a simple, relaxing bar attached.
Bastille Restaurant (Lisburn Road) is recently opened and is a quite high profile French restaurant. A French restaurant of any profile is highly unusual in Belfast, and indeed throughout much of The U.K. unfortunately (still). So this is really welcome. The restaurant opened to rave reviews from many restaurant critics.
L'Étoile Restaurant (Ormeau Road) is the only other French restaurant in Belfast, and has been here quietly for years. It is popular with those who like a true, simple goodness of French cuisine. It is a small restaurant, reservations are advised at the weekend at least. It is a very simple place with the emphasis on a simple, enjoyable visit for good food. There is the attraction of a small but significant vegetarian menu also.
Ginger Bistro (Hope Street, paces off Great Victoria Street). This cosy and very popular bistro has received critical acclaim for its food from national publications of The U.K. and Eire.
The Great Room Restaurant at The Merchant Hotel. Acclaimed food and surroundings.
The Spice Club Indian Restaurant, Belfast Bar & Grill and Suburbia Bar & bistro at The Ramada Hotel (Shawsbridge, outskirts of Belfast) are well recommended.
Molly's Yard (Botanic Avenue, University end of Golden Mile) is a very well thought of small eating place. A bistro downstairs offers a little less portion wise than the larger and more expensive set menu restaurant upstairs.
You also might like restaurants at Europa Hotel and The Hilton Hotel.
Lisburn Road vicinity: Legends Pizzeria (towards Queen's end of Lisburn Road), Green's Pizzeria (middle), The Wrap Works Co. (not far from Queen's end), Relish gourmet burger cafe (further side from university), Scarlett's Cafe and Bistro (not far from Queen's end). Also The Abacus Chinese Restaurant, which is at the corner of Malone Road and Eglantine Avenue (Malone Road is parallel to Lisburn Road and 10 minutes or so walk, this restaurant is quite near Queen's).
Golden Mile and around: Maggie May's (Botanic Avenue), Café Renoir has a licensed and an unlicensed part, the latter allowing B.Y.O. (Botanic Avenue), The Dragon Palace Chinese Restaurant is licensed and you can also B.Y.O. (Botanic Avenue), The Sun Kee Chinese Restaurant (Donegall Pass).
Stranmillis: Giraffe (Stranmillis Road).
Ormeau Road: Graffiti, also L'Etoile French Restaurant.
Most of these restaurants charge a corkage fee for wine (and beer where allowed), which is usually reasonable.
Mish Mash- an eclectic mish mash of musical madness every Thursday at Mynt. Just £3/4 entry & many £1.50 drinks. Top name acts alongside local DJs.