What do you think of when you think of Belfast? I bet it’s something to do with balaclavas. I’m going to spend the next five minutes trying to persuade you to forget your preconceptions and put Belfast on your list for your next weekend away. Yes, the city has a complex heritage and unfathomable politics. But in my opinion, this just makes it fascinating. One of my best friends lives there, and I visit often.
So, why go? Well, for a start, it’s really quite cheap to fly there from Bristol. I usually go on Easyjet for between 60-90 quid return. The flight is 45 minutes, so it’s cheaper and quicker than going to London for a night out.
Bristol – Belfast is your kindred city. Vast maritime history. Adventurous spirit. Incredible food. Pubs and bars you want to spend all day and night in. Outdoor drinking (yes, really) – so many hidden courtyards with heat and seats. Live music around every corner. Posh shopping alongside local, handmade and original. An amazing covered market (St Georges), which is the place to relax and buy the best the city has to offer. Sounds good, and a tad familiar, right?
And Belfast isn’t all about murals of men with guns anymore. Bristolians, you’ll recognise Inkie’s work here (he’s from Clifton as you know).
There are two ‘tours’ you should consider if you want to be a real tourist. The Taxi tours – where knowledgeable cab drivers take you into some of the most infamous areas of the city to learn about the ‘troubles’ and hear first hand about what it’s like to live through them. Then, on a fantasy level, you can do a Game of Thrones tour of some of the delicious filming locations. The below is barely an hour’s drive from the city, the Mourne Mountains (or Vaes Dothrak as you might know it). We often go walking there before heading to the airport on a Sunday. Beaches and mountains!
I’d pick an AirBnB and stay in a cool neighbourhood. There’s leafy victorian streets, colourful brick terraces, fancy dockside penthouses with hot tubs. Again – sound familiar? Here’s two I picked out that look awesome!
My top three pubs are easy, and all quite near each other.
The Sunflower Bar – a dream of a place with a low lit interior, wonderful beer, a wood fired pizza oven in its courtyard, and an original Belfast cage on the front – a hangover from the old need for security. Check out their Facebook.
The John Hewitt – big old place with a penchant for live music and great local food. Always relaxed. Facebook here.
The Duke of York – down a popular alleyway, a haven for summer drinking, totally traditional inside, glorious Guinness. The website has some awesome pictures!
I’ll admit the weather isn’t awesome in Belfast, but, I’m Mancunian so I don’t care about rain much. However, if it’s an adventurous, scurrying from bar to restaurant to pub to museum to pub kind of weekend you’re after, it’s absolutely perfect. Whether it’s with your mates or your partner, Belfast is a fun, easy destination, in the same way that Amsterdam and Barcelona are fun and easy and accessible.
So there you go. Or as my friend Sara from Belfast would say, “right enough, that’s it then”.