This list is made up of hangouts in Belfast that I always come back to, from cafés to bars, to my personal favourites of the city’s tourist attractions, so that if you’re visiting, you can tell people you did cultural things and didn’t just eat cake and drink gin. If I’ve missed any of your favourite Belfast spots, please add them in the comments – I’m always looking for new places to try! In no particular order…
1. Sinnamon Coffee
As mentioned in my last post, Belfast does late night coffee well, and Sinnamon is a personal favourite, open ’til 11pm on weekdays, and 10pm at the weekends. With massive comfy sofas, some fabulous traybakes, and a coffee menu to rival Starbucks’ (without all the hipster nonsense), all contained in a cosy, independent café, Sinnamon is the perfect place for life chats.
Sinnamon Coffee, 80 Stranmillis Road
A teeny tiny café, with some fabulous breakfast and brunch options. They make a great coffee, but I normally go for a loose-leaf tea, which I would highly recommend to all you tea drinkers! This café manages to cater for dairy-free and gluten-free diets, without scrimping on taste or texture, and has a nice variety of sweet treats on offer. While its small size means the café is very cute, it’s more the place for a quick breakfast chat than a long catch up, although, if like me you have a tendency to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations, the close proximity of the tables makes this pretty easy…
5A Lockview Road.
Belfast’s newest ‘it’ place for coffee connoisseurs – I don’t pretend to be an expert on coffee, but it is amazing, and their regularly changing brunch specials are quirky, delicious, and highly Instagrammable. (Seriously, follow them on Instagram @established.coffee).
Brunching at Established Coffee, 54 Hill Street.
I know, I know, I ruined being a good person and choosing all independent eateries – but in the interest of being truthful, Avoca is one of my (and my mum’s!) favourites – great food, great service, and being lovely and spacious make it the perfect place for a leisurely (possibly liquid) lunch. Plus, the shop underneath the café always has some quirky finds.
Lunching at Avoca, 41 Arthur Street.
5. St George’s Market
An oldie but a goodie, there have been markets at St George’s since 1604. Active Friday to Sunday, this is the place to go to for fresh produce, a variety of local, continental and speciality foods, live music from local bands, to find the most unique arts, crafts, antiques and jewellery, and to meet their makers.
12-20 East Bridge Street.
6. Lyric Theatre
I love the Lyric because it both supports local talent, employing Northern Irish actors, and always puts on an excellent show. From classic theatre (sometimes with a twist) to contemporary Irish writing, from tragedy to comedy, the Lyric can be trusted to choose its plays and players well. Compared to many theatres, the Lyric keeps its ticket costs relatively low, and I personally love the new (award winning!) building, because no matter where your seat is, you always have a great view of the stage, making the whole theatre experience really intimate.
The opening set of Martin McDonagh’s ‘The Pillowman’ at the Lyric Theatre, 55 Ridgeway Street.
7. Cave Hill
If you want a bird’s eye view of Belfast, and an escape from city life, take a picnic up the Cave Hill – making it to the top always gives me a really satisfying sense of achievement, and it’s totally worth the climb for the views!
The view from the top of Cave Hill, Newtownabbey.
8. Titanic Museum
If you are looking for something touristy to do in Belfast, the Titanic Museum would be my top recommendation. The exhibition is really informative, and includes all the details you could ever want to know about the Titanic, but is far from your typical history museum, with part of the exhibition on a chair lift, taking you through a day in the life of a worker in the shipyard, and in general the exhibition maintains a sensitive focus on the human aspect of the tragedy.
Titanic Belfast, 1 Olympic Way, Queen’s Road, Titanic Quarter.
9. Miel et Moi
As the name suggests, this café bar is inspired by classic French bars and patisseries, and it offers everything from breakfast to dinner, coffee to champagne, and is open 7am-1am, so, theoretically, you could just move in and pretend to be Parisian. (I am seriously considering this as a life choice.) The customers Miel et Moi attracts tend to be of the ‘ladies who lunch’ variety, so the atmosphere is more formal than some of my other choices, but I had to include it because it’s like a little rabbit hole into France.
Miel et Moi, 703 Lisburn Road.
Last but not least, Birdcage is my favourite cocktails and catch ups location. With quirky, frequently changing décor, fabulous cocktails, and a nice, inexpensive selection of nibbles, Birdcage is perfect for relaxed, cosy chat. Plus, it’s a good people watching spot, because it always seems to be full of an interesting mix of people, and, if you want to sit outside, they are super cute and give you blankets. Top customer service if you ask me.
Birdcage, 92 Stranmillis Road.