The city of Belfast is on to a revival. Every year more and more people discover what the Northern Irish capital has to offer. Apart from historical tours about the Troubles, the city is nowadays also popular for its vibrant weekend nightlife. Where Dublin can be a bit too touristy, the bars in Belfast are still mainly visited by locals! From traditional pubs to cocktail bars, from beer gardens to live music: discover all the bars you need for an unforgettable pub crawl in Belfast!
The best traditional pubs in Belfast
When sidling up to the bar, have you ever wondered what the story is behind the pub you’re in? In Belfast, you should! The city is home to several pubs that date back a few centuries and have plenty of original artefacts or interesting stories to tell. These bars should be your first stop on your Belfast pub crawl!
1. The Crown Liquor Saloon
The Crown Liquor Saloon is Belfast’s most famous pub! It’s in every tourist guide and you owe it to yourself to at least have a look at the gorgeous Victorian interior! The Crown is situated right in front of the Europa Bus Station, which means that you can enjoy your first pint as soon as you arrive! Why wait, right?
Take some time to admire the tiles and notice the mosaic of a crown on the entrance floor.
The Crown Liquor Saloon is mainly known for its “snugs”: private booths that still feature the original gun metal plates for striking matches and an antique bell system for alerting the staff. A must for every first-time visitor in Belfast!
Address: 46, Great Victoria Street
2. Duke of York
The Duke of York is located in one of Belfast’s atmospheric alleys of the Cathedral Quarter. It is always busy in here and on warm evenings the crowds spill out onto the alleyway, creating a lively and vibrant atmosphere. The Duke of York pays homage to Belfast’s industrial past and centuries-old newspaper trade. The interior is decorated with beautiful antique mirrors and artefacts from some of the city’s most famous buildings from bygone times.
Music lovers: Snow Patrol played one of their first gigs here in the late 90’s when they were still a little-known indie-band.
Address: 7-11, Commercial Court
3. White’s Tavern
Well hidden in a small alleyway, White’s Tavern claims to be the oldest tavern of Belfast, established in 1630 as a wine and spirit shop! The rustic and cosy candle-lit setting is ideal for a great pint and an even better conversation. Keep an eye out for live-music sessions during the weekend. It’s the place to be for a relaxed atmosphere far away from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding streets.
Address: 2-4 Winecellar Entry
4. Bittles Bar
A great example of an old Victorian bar, Bittles is flat-iron shaped and has been around since 1868! It is famous for its extensive whiskey collection. The triangular lounge is adorned with portraits of Ireland’s most famous literary and sport legends and some famous Northern Irish politicians, which give the place a lot of character!
Address: 70, Upper Church Lane
5. Kelly’s Cellars
Established in 1720, Kelly’s has managed to preserve a lot of its original features: uneven concrete floors, low arches and an open fire. If you picture the typical example of an Irish pub, Kelly’s would be it! It has a rich musical heritage and features traditional music sessions several nights a week. Kelly’s is also known for its history; the United Irish Men used Kelly’s Cellars as a meeting place to plot the 1798 rebellion against the English Rule.
Address: 30-32, Bank Street
6. The Morning Star
Another pub situated in one of Belfast’s narrow alleys and easily identified by its beautiful green exterior. The building that houses “The Morning Star” has been historically listed and dates back to 1810. It used to be one of the terminals for the Belfast to Dublin mail coach. Inside, you can admire the original mahogany counter and huge mirrors. Lots of locals, the staff is very friendly and they do a great lunch buffet!
Address: Pottingers Entry
7. Mc Hugh’s
Established in 1711, Mc Hugh’s houses several bars. In the main bar, you’ll encounter a homely feel with open fires and comfortable seating – the perfect place to relax with a well-poured pint. The basement bar plays host to live bands during the week from traditional music to the local rock music scene. The restaurant upstairs provides traditional Irish food with a modern twist. Speaking of which, in between your drinks, you should definitely take some time to check out the food scene in Belfast!
Address: 29-31, Queen’s Square
A mix of locals and tourists flock together in this small pub for good craic and lots of atmosphere! There are planned music sessions several nights a week, but occasionally musicians will just show up and start jamming. On Wednesday evenings, Maddens is the place to come to if you want to learn some Irish dancing. If you liked Kelly’s, chances are you will like Maddens too!
Address: 74, Berry Street
The best cocktail bars in Belfast
More into cocktails than Guinness? No problem, a pub crawl in Belfast doesn’t need to be all about pints! A lot of regular pubs will be able to shake something that resembles a cocktail, but some bars just do it better
Tucked away down a side street near the City Hall, Rita’s tries to create that classy feel from a 1950’s Hollywood movie. I would suggest you choose a weekday to go to Rita’s. On a Friday or Saturday evening it gets too busy to appreciate the comfy sofas and stylish atmosphere. The staff are very knowledgeable on their cocktails, which are definitely a few notches up from your regular mojito or cosmopolitan!
If you are looking for a classy, romantic cocktail bar, head for Rita’s!
Address: 44. Franklin Street
A new kid on the block since October 2019 and a great one that is! Rather small, this great speak-easy mixes up a mean cocktail! Prices are very affordable too, compared to most cocktail bars. Go for the “Aviation” a lovely mix of gin, crème de violette and lemon juice. Last time I was there they had a Cuban-themed orchestra playing, making you forget the wet Belfast outside!
Address: 19, Fountain Street
3. The Tipsy Bird
The Tipsy Bird used to be one of my favourites. They seem to have gone downhill a bit lately with staff being hit and miss, so hopefully they’ll pick up again. The interior is something else and worth a visit on its own: the beautifully designed and quirky bird theme even extends up to the toilets.
Keep an eye out for the 2 for £10 cocktails!
Address: 90-100, Ann Street
4. Revolución de Cuba
One of the busiest places in town! Revolución de Cuba is a Cuban-themed bar and restaurant, set in a gorgeous Art Nouveau building in the heart of Belfast. Whether it is cocktails you are after, tapas or a more substantial meal, this bar has got you covered. Some of the rum cocktails, like the Zacapa, are the best I’ve ever had! The place is pretty noisy and seems to attract a fair amount of stag and hen parties, so visiting on a weekday might be better if you like things quiet.
On Sunday all cocktails are £4.50!
Address: 25-39, Arthur Street
5. Chez Mal- Malmaison
Head here on a Friday between 5pm-8pm and your cocktail will only set you back £6! Their “Thank God it’s Mal” deal also includes free nibbles like chicken wings and spicy mozzarella balls! Talking about a deal! A perfect start to the weekend!
Address: Malmaison Belfast, 34-38 Victoria Street
The best beer gardens in Belfast
Shhht, don’t tell anyone, but occasionally the sun makes a guest appearance in Belfast! When that happens, drop everything and rush to the closest beer garden near you! A pub crawl in Belfast doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors! Places will be jam packed, so you’re in for some pushing and shoving to actually get a drink! But don’t let that spoil the fun. Follow me to some of the best beer gardens in Belfast City Centre.
1. Kelly’s Cellars
One of the most traditional Irish bars in Belfast is situated on Bank Square and the whole square doubles up as a beer garden in summer. No cars, plenty of space to sit or hang around and occasionally live music concerts outside. Not a bad place to start your pub crawl.
Address: 30-32, Bank Street
2. The Bullitt Hotel
Bullit is a boutique hotel, but also one of the most popular places to have a drink in its inner courtyard. In winter they have heaters outside.
Make sure you check out their second rooftop garden, called Babel, it offers nice views over the dome at Victoria Square.
Address: 40a, Church Lane
3. Henry’s/ The Jailhouse
Two adjacent pubs in one of the most picturesque lanes of Belfast. Probably the smallest beer garden in Belfast, but it’s a real suntrap and away from the hustle and bustle of the busier Cathedral Quarter pubs.
Address: 4. Joy’s Entry
4. The National Grande Café
One of Belfast’s most popular beer gardens. If you fancy some green between the wooden tables, this is the place to be!
Address: 62, High Street
5. The Dirty Onion/ The Thirsty Goat
Two separate bars, situated right next to one another and with very similar beer gardens. Both offer regular live music outside.
The Dirty Onion has music 7 nights a week and a rotisserie chicken restaurant upstairs.
Address: 1-3, Hill Street
6. The Sunflower
A local’s favourite! None of the beers they serve are mainstream brands, so if you want a change from Harp or Guinness, this is the place to go to! If you’re feeling peckish, make sure to try one of the stone-baked pizzas served in the beer garden.
Address: 65, Union Street
Just in case you thought Belfast was all about the drink, there is of course much more to discover! It doesn’t even have to cost a lot! Have a look at these 13 FREE things to do in Belfast and why not, make a weekend out of it!
Have you been on a pub crawl in Belfast? Or does your city have any traditional pubs? Looking forward to reading your stories!