By our reckoning, there are well over 100 bars in Belfast and a lot of them are worthy of a mention. We’ve narrowed the capital’s bar scene down to less than a dozen. Feast your eyes, and get the rounds in at some of the best and most historic bars Belfast has to offer.
Bars in Belfast
The Dirty Onion and Yardbird is a two-for-one special housed in one of the oldest buildings in Belfast. You’ll find it on Hill Street, 60 seconds around the corner from our Cathedral Quarter hotel. The Dirty Onion is the name of the downstairs Irish bar with an enormous drinks selection and live entertainment literally every day of the week. Upstairs is Yardbird, the chicken restaurant so good you’ll want seconds.
The Friend at Hand
Staying in the Cathedral Quarter, time to tell you about five legendary bars around Hill Street and Commercial Court, which are loved by locals and tourists alike, and trade under the umbrella of The Duke.
We can only begin with the original, The Duke of York Bar. It’s your quintessential Irish Bar with the finest collection of memorabilia from the nine counties of Ulster lining every square inch of the place. It’s as much of a tourist attraction as even our most recommended activities in Belfast. Visit to tick it off the bucket list, enjoy one of the best pints of Guinness in Belfast, and stay for the craic.
The Harp Bar is Northern Ireland’s legendary home of punk. Its live music heritage is alive and kicking with gig spaces split across two floors. While the atmosphere doesn’t quite match the absolute chaos of the 1970s Harp Bar there’s still a buzz about the place, and again it’s one to tick off your bar crawl around Belfast. Plus, The Harp Bar shares its space with a new addition to The Duke’s family of bars, The New Orpheus. It’s an art-deco masterpiece dedicated to the lost Orpheus Ballroom which once stood on York Street.
Whiskey enthusiasts won’t want to miss a trip to The Friend at Hand. It’s a one-of-a-kind whiskey off-license with limited bar space and a mini-museum which looks back on Belfast’s history with the good stuff. The Friend at Hand’s collection stands at more than 600 different types of Irish whiskey, including some seriously rare bottles they claim are “never, never, never” for sale, as well as their excellent own-brand concoctions.
Last but by no means least, there’s The Dark Horse. It has everything! The walls are covered in intricate artwork and memorabilia. The bar is well stocked and pulls a mean pint of Guinness. If you need a pick-me-up, order some of the best coffee in Belfast, or take your pick from a wide selection of Suki loose-leaf teas. The furniture and artefacts all come from some of Belfast’s lost hotels. It makes for a sublime setting and the sandwiches and sausage rolls are top-class as well.
Those five make for a perfect bar crawl around the Cathedral Quarter. But, they’re far from the only bars you should visit in Belfast. Kelly’s Cellars is a famous bar on Bank Street. It lays claim to the title of the oldest pub in Belfast. Who are we to argue with when the Guinness is this good. The clientele includes tourists and locals, the staff are really friendly, and the atmosphere’s always top class. If you’re peckish, the Irish stew is to die for, and an absolute bargain. It can be a bit shoulder-to-shoulder on a weekend, but there’s a big outdoor seating area with heaters to keep you warm even in the coldest months.
Lavery’s is another popular stop on the Belfast-wide bar crawl. It’s an enormous bar – the oldest family-owned operation in all of Belfast, would you know? – with a live main bar that’s great for watching sports, a brilliant back bar for drinks and craic, a stylish roof terrace that’s ideal for when the sun decides to shine, and an enormous pool room with 18 tables. You could easily get lost in this place, but there are worse places to do so.
Other honourable mentions go to the always-excellent Sunflower Public House on Union Street. It’s the only pub in Belfast to retain its security cage as a memento of the capital’s history. Don’t be put off, inside you’ll find an intimate but welcoming bar with an excellent beer garden and a delicious pizza oven. The Garrick on Chichester Street is another old-world pub with three bars, a ridiculous choice of drinks, regular live music, and some of the tastiest pub food going.
And that’s that… Just kidding, we can’t talk about bars in Belfast without mentioning the most famous of the lot, The Crown Liquor Saloon on Great Victoria Street. Also known as the Crown Bar, this legendary boozer is owned by the National Trust and stands as a time-warp to the Victorian-era. The choice of real ales is extensive. The homemade food is delicious. You’ll be warmly welcomed with a double measure of famous Irish hospitality. In its heyday it was one of Belfast’s most popular Victorian gin palaces. It’s been stunningly restored, even down to the gas lighting. As far as we’re concerned, a pint of the black stuff or a G&T at The Crown Liquor Saloon is a must for any newcomer to Belfast. The proximity to the train station means you can make it the first or last thing you do!