While Belfast keeps visitors busy with trips to St. Anne’s Cathedral and the brilliant Botanic Gardens, there is also a thriving night scene to look forward to before bed. The capital of Northern Ireland has its fair share of traditional pubs, but you can also find contemporary cocktail bars and serious craft beer tap rooms. Whatever nightcap you are looking for, you can be sure to find the perfect drink and atmosphere at these eight Belfast bars.
Taking Irish kitsch to another level, the Duke of York is one of the most popular pubs in the Cathedral quarter. The cobblestone alley leading to the front door sets the mood for a drink at this classic Irish bar. This is the place to come for a pint of Guinness and a lighthearted crowd. Or, get a drop of something stronger by sampling the extensive whiskey menu, sure to keep you warm while you lose yourself in the antique mirrors and vintage signs plastering the interior.
The newest trend in Belfast seems to be rooftop bars—but if you really want a drink above the city, head to the swanky Observatory Bar in the Grand Central Hotel. Located on the 23rd floor, this is the highest bar in all of Ireland. Come for the unbeatable views and stay for the signature cocktails, inspired by and named after landmarks around the city. Order a bright Market Quarter cocktail for the delicate flavors of gin, elderflower, citrus, and Earl Grey—topped with egg whites. If you want to skip the cocktails, the bar also serves a refined Afternoon Tea.
If you are in the mood for trendy cocktails and an even trendier crowd, swagger up to The Treehouse bar at AMPM. The modern romantic restaurant is dripping in hanging flowers and soft candlelight, but the real magic happens on the rooftop terrace bar. This hotspot on Upper Arthur Street is always packed with fashionable crowds sipping specialty cocktails like the Pink Moment, which has fruit-infused gin, grapefruit juice, and mint. If you fall in love with the mixology here, you can even purchase a beautifully produced book of cocktail recipes to recreate at home.
During the Troubles in the late 20th century, pubs became targets for bombs and other acts of violence. As a security measure, many installed cages around the doors. All of these have since been removed—except for the cage at the Sunflower, which stands as a reminder of the city’s history. The pub itself is anything but somber, however, and is famous for its live music, cheerful beer garden, and cheeky sign that reads: "NO TOPLESS SUNBATHING: Ulster has suffered enough." The pizzas from the wood-fired oven are the ideal accompaniment for a pint as well.
Come raise your pint for a good cause at the John Hewitt Bar, a pub that is owned by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre. Rather than searching for grants and donations that always fell short, the center decided back in 1999 to open a pub to fund its work. The pub has a hearty food menu as well as local craft beer and a full list of gin-based cocktails. The bar regularly hosts live music, drawing a laidback crowd in the central Cathedral quarter.
Even the most seasoned Irish drinkers tire of Guinness—and that's where the Woodworkers comes in. This two-level bar has a tavern feel, offering up a fantastic selection of craft beers on tap. Check the Untappd app for the latest list of what they are pouring, and stay for the sticky BBQ baby back ribs or a vegan Shepard’s pie after you finish that delightful IPA. Better yet, order a tasting flight so you can sample as many beers as possible.
Ask most people where to grab a few drinks in Belfast and The Dirty Onion will be at the top of their list of suggestions. With music seven days a week, you will soon be singing along with the pub's mixed crowd of locals and visitors. On sunny days, enjoy a drink on the outdoor patio. When you can’t take another pint, head upstairs for delicious chicken at the Yardbird restaurant.
If you love a bar with a good theme, pop into Peaky Blinders for some cider and a side of chicken wings. The bar (formerly known as the Hudson) has been redesigned to look just like the one in the "Peaky Blinders" series, with the staff even dressing up as the characters. The pub has a clear gimmick but pulls it off with flair.