Pubs of Belfast
The pubs are a big part of my stay in Belfast. I manage to cobble together a list of 13 places in the city centre. I then visit them all over the four nights I am here, spending at least an hour, sometimes a lot longer, in each one. Without exception, I get a friendly reception in all of them, and I get to enjoy longer chats with the locals in many. The whole experience is excellent.
The pubs are listed here alphabetically and a map showing their relative locations appears below. For orientation, Great Victoria Street Station is marked with a green X and Belfast City Hall is marked with a red X.
#1 – Bittles
A smallish bar, full of character with colourful paintings of Belfast and Irish personalities on the walls. Reputedly one of the best pints of Guinness in the city. A claim that is not undisputed of course.
#2 – The Crown
Officially the Crown liquor saloon: a long-surviving Victorian gin palace, this is probably the city’s most famous pub. With its beautiful decor, decorated windows and wooden snugs it is a tourist attraction in its own right.
#3 – Duke of York
Beautifully and softly lit with walls covered with Belfast memorabilia and mirrors, the Duke is one of the best pubs for Irish whiskey in the city centre. A pint and a packet of Tayto crisps are fine for me.
#4 – Garrick
“A nation that keeps one eye on the past is wise, a nation that keeps two eyes on the past is blind” or so it says on the pink-painted wall above the entrance to the Garrick. With fantastic friendly staff, the Garrick is full of sports fans; half are watching the rugby on one screen, the other half watching the football on another.
#5 – Kellys
Officially Kelly’s Cellars, this claims to be one of the oldest pubs in the city. It certainly looks the part. Whitewashed exteriors and cosy inside, there is not really a menu to speak of, but there is delicious Irish stew on offer.
#6 – Maddens Bar
“Broken Irish is better than clever English” says the sign next to the entrance. There is a videophone intercom to get in, but once inside the single room bar is a real gem with a very friendly vibe. Definitely one to return to.
#7 – Morning Star
Located down one of Belfast’s passages, known as “entrys”, a lovely old interior and apparently, according to the guy who I am drinking with, has a reputation as a bit of a racing pub.
#8 – McHughs
The building dates back to 1711 and is another claiming to be the oldest pub in Belfast. I visit once to listen to the live music in the crowded bar downstairs and then go back again to eat in the restaurant upstairs.
#9 – Points
Also known as the Five Points. I manage to get a seat by the bar just as it is filling up. Fantastic traditional Irish music to listen to. Massive place with a separate retro-style bar in the form of a shop.
#10 – Robinsons
Just a few doors down from the Crown. Lots of Titanic memorabilia on the walls in the Victorian saloon and a spit and sawdust bar, Fibber Magees, hiding in the back.
#11 – Royal
Traditional loyalist pub in Sandy Row just outside the City Centre. Big mural of local snooker player Alex Higgins who, as the friendly customers explain, was a local and died in a nearby building.
#12 – Sunflower
Retains gated entrance from the “troubles” era, giving it a slightly menacing look on the outside. On the inside there is a warm welcome, excellent craft beer, live music and homemade pizza in the back.
#13 – Whites
Another contender for the oldest pub in the city. Large darkish room with a beautifully lit bar. There is a big roaring fire giving off some wonderful smells. A fantastic friendly vibe early on a wintry Friday evening.