With a compact center filled with retail experiences, Belfast is a shopping destination that people seek out from across Northern Ireland. In fact, these days you'll find shoppers crossing the border from the Republic of Ireland to take advantage of favorable tax rates and pure variety of choice. From classic malls to covered arcades, the capital city has a range of modern and historic shopping centers where you can find trendy High Street bargains or one-of-a-kind boutiques.
The top place to shop in Belfast is the retail-packed Victoria Square. Set off Royal Avenue, the area is the main retail space in the city center. All the major fashion brands can be found in the shopping area, including Topshop, Urban Outfitters, Guess, River Island, and Superdry. Label-conscious shoppers can find the latest trends, and then fill up at the cafes and restaurants around the mall before catching a movie at the cinema. Be sure to visit between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when you can climb the glass dome that sits above the square. The vantage point offers 360-degree views of the city.
After leaving Victoria Square, the shopping continues along Royal Avenue, which has a mix of independent stores and High Street favorites. Stock up on makeup from Becca or wander the aisles of Marks and Spencer and Zara. In addition to one-stop favorites like Boots, you will find plenty of coffee shops for a caffeine fix to keep the retail therapy going all day.
Located off of Victoria Square, Arthur Street is a great place to shop for gifts or homeware in Belfast’s city center. This is the avenue where you will find Avoca, one of the premier stores for Made in Ireland gifts. Some of the handwoven items are still made today on the 300-year-old looms that run at the mill in the Avoca village where the brand was born. There is also a food hall and the beloved Avoca Café for light meals. Also on Arthur Street, keep an eye out for Oliver Bonas, a store that releases custom home goods with new international-inspired designs appearing every week.
Located off of Royal Avenue, Fountain Street is also brimming with shops filled with retail savvy travelers. The best place to start is inside the Fountain Centre, a covered shopping space that has everything from foodie favorites to handmade gifts. Shop at Sawer’s Limited for gourmet food at Belfast’s most famous deli but don’t forget to save luggage space so you can go crazy at SpaceCraft, which sells unique pieces by local artisans. Try to be at the center between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to hear the 24 bells of the Alice Clock, Ireland's only automaton clock, play on the hour. If you wander further along Fountain Street, you will find children’s toy stores and bookshops on the road outside of the shopping center.
St. George’s Market
On the weekends, the undisputed best place to shop in Belfast is St. George’s Market. The market was built in the 1890s and is now the last Victorian market standing in Belfast today. The area next to the River Lagan was a market before the current building was constructed, with the first stalls appearing in 1604. A careful restoration in the 1990s has kept the market tradition alive and well, so a visit here on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday is one of the top things to do in Belfast. Fridays are when the market typically sells food from fresh produce to local seafood, baked goods, and street food. On the weekend, food is still available but the main draw is the stalls selling antiques, handmade goods, and arts and crafts.
Located on Royal Avenue, which is a major shopping destination in its own right, Queen’s Arcade is one of the most historic retail centers in Northern Ireland. Built in the 1880s, the covered arcade has long been one of the most prestigious places to buy gifts and jewelry in Belfast. Browse the selection at Lauren May, which carries unique jewelry from UK-based designers or pop into Lunn’s for high-end watches and gems. If you need a break from the luxury shopping experience, Queen’s Bar and Café is an ideal place for a drink between hitting the stores.
Belfast’s 1980s shopping center is still very much a retail destination when exploring stores in and around the center of the city. It remains the second-largest shopping mall in the city center (outshined only by Victoria Square) and hosts more than 80 shops and cafes. You can find bargains at the High Street stores, including Dorothy Perkins and Jack & Jones, or look out for serious discounts at Poundland and Bargain Books. For something more local, Wrapped Up specializes in Made in Ireland crafts like ceramics. In addition to shopping, CastleCourt even has an indoor play area for little ones who might be more interested in climbing atop the colorful installations than trying on clothes.
Those looking for an alternative to commercial malls will enjoy the shopping experience on the Lisburn Road. This is the main road that links Belfast to Lisburn and it was traditionally a working-class area. However, over the last 20 years, it has developed into a hub for independent boutiques and you can find shops specializing in everything from fashion to homeware. It is sometimes called the Style Mile and attracts well-heeled shoppers who browse for new designs at independent and luxury-focused stores like Emporio and Deja Vu. The high-end feel of the stores along this lovely avenue (which runs from Bradbury Place to Balmoral Avenue) means it is sometimes compared to King’s Road in London.
For a modern mall experience outside of the city center, the Kennedy Centre is a mall and entertainment complex located in west Belfast. The center is a one-stop-shop for practical needs with a post office, butcher, and Sainsbury supermarket. For the fashion-obsessed, there is a DV8, Louis Boyd Menswear, and Peacocks for womenswear and accessories. There are numerous cafes and restaurants for a meal between stops, and the shopping center also boasts an eight-screen cinema so you can watch a movie after completing your purchases.