Northern Ireland

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Northern Ireland - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Belfast Empire Music Hall

    University Area

    Inside a deconsecrated church, the Music Hall has been one of the city's leading music venues for more than 30 years. Most nights are devoted to concerts from local groups and tribute acts, while stand-up comedy shows are usually on Tuesday—TV personality Patrick Kielty was a regular until he hit the big time in London.

    42 Botanic Ave., Belfast, Co. Down, BT7 1JQ, Northern Ireland
    028-9024–9276
  • 2. The National Grande Café

    Central District

    Named after its former bank occupant, the National underwent an eco-friendly face-lift in 2019 to enhance the overall experience at this café as well as food and drink offerings. The £425,000 renovation included a new retractable roof, energy-efficient natural-gas heating in the popular beer garden, and the introduction of a closed-loop system enabling all parts of the fruit to be used in cocktails without waste. Ingredients in the food are sourced within 64 km (40 miles) of Belfast and, to cut down the amount of glass or plastic, the bar filters and carbonates its own tap water. Quality deluxe sandwiches with beef brisket, chicken, or pulled pork, along with tapas, croques, and salads span the menu throughout the day; to wash your food down choose from hangover cures, low-alcohol gin, or bracing cocktails such as the National Spritz, Nitro Espresso martini, or Irish coffee made with Powers whiskey (all £10). The upstairs nightclub has also been rebranded as Sixty-6. In the beer garden, look for the quirky art installation "Living Barrels." It was created by French artist Sylvain Ristori, who collaborated with Jameson whiskey brand to produce a sculpture using recycled materials from the barrel staves of Midleton Distillery.

    62–68 High St., Belfast, Co. Down, BT1 2BE, Northern Ireland
    028-9031–1130
  • 3. Alibi

    University Area

    On Friday and Saturday nights, Alibi comes alive upstairs for clubbers and local nighthawks. Downstairs, from 5 to 10 pm, the bar serves pizzas or chips while the prosecco flows on Friday.

    23–31 Bradbury Pl., Belfast, Co. Down, BT7 1RR, Northern Ireland
    028-9023–3131
  • 4. Bert's Jazz Bar

    Cathedral Quarter

    Belfast's only dedicated jazz bar offers live music seven nights a week and excellent cocktails in surroundings calculated to evoke New York at the height of the golden age of jazz.

    16 Skipper St., Belfast, Co. Down, BT1 2DZ, Northern Ireland
  • 5. Bittles Bar

    Cathedral Quarter

    Colorful drawings of political, cultural, and social life hang on the walls of this triangular Victorian pub on the fringes of the Cathedral Quarter which claims to sell more pints of Guinness per square foot of floor space than any other pub in Ireland. The drawings are by talented local artist Joe O'Kane, a pub patron. From a selection of rotating taps, Bittles serves local craft brews such as Farmageddon cider, Hilden ales, and Beavertown IPA (a company founded by Logan Plant, the son of Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant). As well as premium Irish whiskeys, the bar also stocks a large range of craft gins, including Gunpowder from Drumshanbo in Leitrim, and two local ones, Shortcross, distilled at Crossgar in County Down and Echlinville Pot Still from the Ards Peninsula.

    70 Upper Church La., Belfast, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
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  • 6. Botanic Inn

    University Area

    Known as "the Bot" to its student clientele, the Botanic is a big, popular disco-pub which also serves bar food from 12--8.

    23–27 Malone Rd., Belfast, Co. Down, BT9 6RU, Northern Ireland
    028-9050–9740
  • 7. Brennan's Bar

    Golden Mile

    A noisy, modern pub, this bar jams on up-to-the-minute music. It can get a bit boisterous, so some may prefer a quiet snug (booth) across the road in the more serene Crown Liquor Saloon. Food is served from noon daily (Monday through Thursday until 8:30, weekends until 7).

    48 Great Victoria St., Belfast, Co. Down, BT2 7BB, Northern Ireland
    028-9024–2986
  • 8. Chelsea Wine Bar

    University Area

    Packed with affluent professionals determined to prove that life begins at 30, the Chelsea serves reasonably priced contemporary gastropub cuisine and has 100-plus wines on its list. There's live music on Friday and Saturday evening in the downstairs bar.

    346 Lisburn Rd., Belfast, Co. Down, BT9 6GH, Northern Ireland
    028-9068–7177
  • 9. Cutters Wharf

    University Area

    Down by the river south of the university, this bar and upstairs restaurant is at its best on summer evenings and during live music performances featuring acoustic guitar and classic rock on Friday or Saturday after 6 pm. Food is served until 9 pm. Spacious and light inside, it rarely gets too packed; if seating is limited, try the picnic tables and chairs on the wooden deck outside.

    4 Lockview Rd., Belfast, Co. Down, BT9 5FJ, Northern Ireland
    028-9080–5100
  • 10. Hell Cat Maggies

    Central District

    This first-floor New York--inspired bar beside City Hall is named after a formidable character who was born in Ireland and raised hell with the Dead Rabbit street gang, one of the infamous Gangs of New York in the 1800s. Drinks, such as Mulberry Street, Paradise Square, and Gentleman Jasper reflect the connection. The food, served from noon, includes mussels with Guinness and garlic, falafel burgers, chicken stack, waffle fries, or shrimp cocktail.

    2 Donegall Sq. W, Belfast, Co. Down, BT1 6JA, Northern Ireland
    028-9099–4120
  • 11. Kremlin

    Cathedral Quarter

    A massive statue of Lenin above the front door greets patrons of the undisputed center of the Belfast gay scene. The over-the-top Soviet theme continues inside. Superstar DJs regularly fly in to perform.

    96 Donegall St., Belfast, Co. Down, BT1 2JF, Northern Ireland
    028-9031–6060
  • 12. Madden's Bar

    Central District

    A popular locals' favorite near the Castle Court mall, Madden's has live music nightly and traditional tune fests with set dancing on Wednesday night.

    Belfast, Co. Down, BT1 1FJ, Northern Ireland
    028-9024–4114
  • 13. McHugh's

    Central District

    In Belfast's oldest building (1711), McHugh's has three floors of bars and restaurants, and live music Thursday to Sunday. Food is served from lunchtime in the downstairs bar, while dinner—including special "on the hot rock" steaks, cooked to your liking—is available 6 pm--9 pm in the upstairs restaurant. McHugh's retains the character of an early-18th-century dockside inn and exudes a homey feel with open fires.

    29–31 Queen's Sq., Belfast, Co. Down, BT1 3FG, Northern Ireland
    028-9050–9999
  • 14. Observatory

    Central District

    Spectacular sunsets and nighttime views over the city are the key selling points of the Grand Central Hotel's posh penthouse lounge. It's the highest bar in Ireland, with an imaginative cocktail list and a swank clientele. Dress to impress.

    9-15 Bedford St., Belfast, Co. Down, BT2 7FF, Northern Ireland
    028-9023--1066
  • 15. Peadar O’Donnell’s Bar

    West Bank

    Traditional Irish and folk music sessions are held most nights in the main downstairs bar. There's a different musical personality in the nightclub Gweedore Upstairs, where you're likely to hear everything from indie and house music to rock and chart disco.

    59–63 Waterloo St., Derry, Co. Londonderry, BT48 6HD, Northern Ireland
    028-7126–7295
  • 16. Robinsons

    Golden Mile

    A popular pub encompassing five venues under one roof, Robinsons draws a young crowd with folk music in its Fibber Magees bar on Sunday; pop in the redesigned Robinson's Lounge on weekends. Food is served daily from 12:30 to 4 pm and from 6 to 9 pm.

    38–42 Great Victoria St., Belfast, Co. Down, BT2 7BA, Northern Ireland
    028-9024–7447
  • 17. The Duke of York

    Cathedral Quarter

    Along a narrow cobblestone alleyway bang in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, the Duke of York specializes in rare antique whiskeys. With its ancient mirrors, vintage signage, and other memorabilia, it is a glittering shrine to long-forgotten distilleries—but more importantly it's also the best whiskey bar in Belfast, if not all of Ulster. It's said they have a better selection of rare Bushmills whiskeys than the famous distillery itself. One of the most popular is 12-year-old Redbreast, while their Powers John Lane is a classy single-pot-still whiskey, also 12 years, with a combination of bourbon- and oloroso-sherry-cask-matured spirits.

    7–11 Commercial Ct., Belfast, Co. Down, BT1 2NB, Northern Ireland
    028-9024–1062
  • 18. The John Hewitt Bar

    Cathedral Quarter

    A must for every traveler, this bar named after one of Ulster's most famous poets (who ironically wasn't a big drinker) is traditional in style with a marble counter, waist-high wooden paneling, high ceilings, and open fire. It channels Hewitt's socialist sensibility, as it's owned by the Belfast Unemployed Centre (which it helps fund with its profits)—top pub grub is served from noon to 4 pm and live music is featured most nights. Irish artisanal cider and bottled craft beers are the most popular.

    51 Donegall St., Belfast, Co. Down, BT1 2FH, Northern Ireland
    028-9023–3768
  • 19. The Playwright

    University Area

    Moody black-and-white framed portraits of famous Irish novelists, poets, and playwrights such as Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw adorn the walls of this liquor lounge and taphouse, popular with students and visitors. Sip a glass of wine or beer and reflect on the words of Wilde, who said, "Alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, may produce all the effects of drunkenness." Live bar entertainment features acoustic acts from Thursday to Sunday, while the huge Time nightclub on the first and second floors is open Friday and Saturday nights with music from local DJs.

    5–6 Lower Crescent, Belfast, Co. Down, BT7 1NR, Northern Ireland
    028-9031–2742
  • 20. Tinney's Bar

    Central District

    A quintessential slice of city life, Tinney's is one of Derry's oldest bars and a family-owned business which can trace its pedigree back to 1847. Drop in to hear some Derry-speak (the "barrs" is a local term for gossip) where conviviality is the theme. Warm yourself at the glowing open fire with a pint of stout, sometimes humorously referred to as "soup of the day." An upstairs room focuses on the city's shirt factory heritage with a display of mounted photographs and Singer sewing machines repurposed as pub tables. Each Tuesday the venue hosts Irish traditional musicians, including gigs by the renowned Foyle Folk Club and popular storytelling sessions.

    4 Patrick St., Derry, Co. Londonderry, BT48 7EL, Northern Ireland
    028-7136--2091

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