Belfast to-do guides: pubs & bars

From old, traditional Irish pubs, to arcade-style haunts, to fancy cocktail bars. Belfast is rammed full of excellent bars and pubs for going out. Whether for a quiet pint, or something a bit more lively, or upmarket, there truly is plenty for everyone and every occasion. 

Stuck with where to start? We shortlisted seven of our favorite bars and pubs from across the northern capital to give you a taste. 

The Sunflower

Starting off with an old haunt near Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, this site has been home to a public house for over 100 years. From December 2012, however, The Sunflower bloomed and has continued to blossom ever since. 

The Sunflower is still very much a traditional Irish pub. From the moment you enter through the security cage at its front door, a relic from 1980’s Belfast, you are surrounded by history. Downstairs has retained it’s carpeted, snug bar area, whereas upstairs hosts a music venue for it’s regular gigs, complete with wooden dance floor and stage.

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Credit: @sunflowerpub

However, it has been meticulously brought into the modern-day without sacrificing its historical significance. Now, the smoking area boasts street art from local artists, a stall that does amazing wood-fired pizza, and a variety of local craft beers. This amazing outdoors space has served them very well in Covid-19 times, allowing them to open up safely. 

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Credit: @thesunflowerpub

If you’re looking for a bustling, friendly (and dog-friendly!) pub, with history and music, you can’t go wrong with The Sunflower. 

The Points 

Sticking with the traditional Irish pub style, but now heading south of the city centre to the bustling, studenty Botanic area. The Points, previously called and still sometimes referred to as ‘The Five Points’, is a vast space. With live trad music on every night of the week, and sometimes Irish dancers, it’s the perfect venue for a big crowd on a Friday or Saturday night. 

Though now a lively, bustling pub, its name has a more sobering origin. The Five Points was a neighborhood of Irish migrants in New York’s Lower Manhattan, believed to have been the first slum in America. It was a place where the Irish community banded together, in criminality and gangs, to fight the dreadful poverty they faced. 

There is no doubt, however, that the Five Points locals would be impressed with the drinks menu on offer at The Points. Boasting over 80 local and international whisky and ales, as well as a whisky tasting experience with a local whisky expert – fancy! 

The Jailhouse/Henry’s 

Heading into the city center, you’ll have to know where you’re going to find The Jailhouse and Henry’s. Located down the alleyway Joy’s Entry, it is believed these venues were the place Henry Joy McCracken, founder of the Society of the United Irishmen, was held prisoner before he was executed. 

Jailhouse, as it is known now, laid destitute for decades, whilst Henry’s next door has been a licenced premise for more than 100 years. Now under new owners, the two venues have been connected, with Henry’s given a face-lift, and The Jailhouse excavated, with original features restored. 

The two now work as two joined up bars, with Henry’s operating as a bistro-pub with food, and The Jailhouse as a cocktail and gin bar. Both are that bit more up-market, with a classy atmosphere. Definitely a place to go if you’re aiming to impress. 

Cuckoo

Fun, colorful, wacky – three of many words you could use to describe Cuckoo. If the combinations of cocktails in jam jars and arcade games are your thing, look no further. 

Boasting air hockey, pinball, ping-pong, dance mats, Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, a VR Machine with over 90 games, and even a private karaoke room to rent out; It’s pretty much impossible to be bored at Cuckoo. 

Located in the studenty area of Belfast, this is a bar for both a chilled but fun mid-week evening, as well as a heavier, wilder weekend night out. 

The Dark Horse

Never will you find a more polished bar or pub in Belfast than The Cathedral Quarter’s The Dark Horse. With copper coating and vintage mirrors galore, this is an old man’s pub turned upmarket local bar. 

Going outside to its beer garden, however, you get quite the contrast to the traditional plush furniture by the bar, in the form of some spectacular street art.  

Credit: https://dukeofyorkbelfast.com/the-dark-horse-courtyard/

Credit: https://dukeofyorkbelfast.com/the-dark-horse-courtyard/

The courtyard shows surreal depictions of Northern Ireland’s culture and history, with an oak tree standing in the middle as it’s centerpiece. On the ground radiating from the plant are quotes from Seamus Heaney, cut into solid steel – quite a sight to behold whilst sipping on a drink.  

Liquor XXX

Linked to the more widely known Filthy Mcnastys, Liquor XXX is a small but perfectly sized Latino themed cocktail bar. Located just next to it’s larger bar/club complex, directly opposite the aforementioned The Points, this bar is an often overlooked gem in the Belfast pub and bar scene. 

Winning Best Cocktail Bar in the Irish Craft Cocktail Awards last year, these guys know how to make a delicious and beautiful drink. 

Credit: @liquorbelfast

Credit: @liquorbelfast

Throw in some banterous bartenders, and a carpeted, cosy vibe, and you’re onto a winner here (literally). 

The Spaniard 

Last but most certainly not least, we head back into Belfast’s city center again for one final stop at The Spaniard. For fans of rum and trinkets – two things the venue has plenty of. Small, cosy, and candle-lit, it’s tables are spread across three floors, and every wall (and ceiling) is covered in paintings and ornaments.

It also claims the odd celebrity amongst its clientele, including Bill Murray and Sean Bean! Both, the bar’s owner explains, come for a quiet drink when in the area, as they know the staff won’t barrage them for photos and autographs. 

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Emily Booth

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