Anyone looking for great nightlife in Belfast can choose from a pretty comprehensive gamut of pubs ranging from the historical to the hysterical, and the staid to the silly. A majority are concentrated in the ‘golden mile’ that runs south on Victoria Street from the Grand Opera House to Shaftesbury Square and Queens University, though there are lots of exceptions.
Here are a few for a visitor to Belfast to consider, and many more to be found if you have the time and inclination to wander.
Possibly the pub best known to locals and visitors alike is the Crown Bar Liquor Saloon, right on Victoria Street. It’s the classic old Victorian, ornate to the max, owned in fact by the National Trust. If you want real ale – not easy to find in the city – and some serious atmosphere, the Crown is definitely a great choice.
Conversely, the Menagerie on University Street seems to be almost unknown to visitors, but a rare treat for music lovers of all brands. Live acoustic music, rock bands, heavy-hitter DJs and more live entertainment, something different is on offer almost every night of the week. Neither the inside or exterior are architecturally impressive, but the beer is very good – and surprisingly cheap.
The Queen’s Bar in the City Centre will appeal to almost any taste, but it’s outstanding as a spot for a romantic tryst. Excellent beer at good prices and above-average bar food, the atmosphere is cosy and promotes a feeling of seclusion even in this central location.
For a combination of local food, drink and music, one of Belfast’s oldest pubs, the Garrick Bar on Chichester Street is just the ticket. All sorts of musical talent can be found performing in the Front Bar or the Back Bar, and a pretty good Meal Deal is available every day from 3:00 p.m.
If it’s upscale you want, Ollie’s is located in what used to be bank vaults in the basement of the old Merchant building in what’s known as the Cathedral Quarter. Make no mistake; this is a luxury nightclub rather than a pub. It has recently been renovated to the tune of about £500,000, and if you can get a reservation it’s worth the price.
The Dirty Onion is also in the Cathedral Quarter, an old bonded warehouse that used to house tens of thousands of barrels and crates of Jameson whiskey. Now it houses a very popular pub with live music seven nights a week, specialty free-range Yardbird chicken rotisserie, and of course Jameson, as well as fine beer and ale.
Though it certainly isn’t apparent from outside, Whites Tavern is the oldest pub in Belfast, dating from 1630. It’s fairly well hidden away with alleys on three sides but next to the High Street, and until you walk in the door it makes very little impression. Once you’re in, however, it’s hard to leave the old-fashioned warmth and friendly ambience of this venerable and oft-renovated tavern.