Cool Pubs In Belfast

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Sensible sign outside the Duke of York in Belfast [Photo by Marguerita Tan]

When in Belfast, experiencing the Irish pub culture is a must. There are pubs and bars aplenty where you can immerse yourself in and enjoy the best grog and grub that Northern Ireland has to offer. Here’s but three of the top watering holes in the city:

Kelly’s Cellars at 30 Bank Street

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Kelly’s Cellars – one of the oldest pubs in Belfast [Photo by Marguerita Tan]

I managed to find Kelly’s Cellars on my first day at Belfast as my city tour driver announced at the tour’s end that the pub – “which has the best Guinness in town” – was just round the corner behind Primark department store in the city centre. Truth be told, the pub was high on my must-visit list ‘cos major cast members of Game of Thrones the likes of Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington were once pictured in it having after-filming drinks. Well, even without famous faces, the pub–built in 1720 and one of the oldest in the city–was a lovely place with cosy interiors filled with fascinating bric-a-brac. The heartfelt Irish greeting, “Cead Mile Failte”–which means a “hundred thousand welcomes”–can be seen both inside and outside the premises.

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Kelly’s Cellars – an old-fashioned bar with nice interiors [Photo by Marguerita Tan]

Though it was early evening, the pub was already quite packed but I managed to find a nice corner spot on a high stool at the bar. A cheery waitress took my order and told me that it will take a few minutes for the Guinness pint to settle before she serves it to me. She then took the time to tell me that my £2 coins were outdated (bummer!) and patiently helped me check if my other coins were still legal tender!

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Great Pint of Guinness at Kelly’s Cellars [Photo by Marguerita Tan]

A drinking mate told me that the Guinness in Ireland is much better than the ones they served back here in Singapore and she was not wrong! Served well-chilled with a thick foam head, the pint was rich and creamy without much bitterness, and easily the best Guinness I’ve ever tasted. Just wished there was Irish stew to go with it but that was already sold out by 6pm. Still, it was nice to just enjoy a pint at the lovely bar before finding a small table where I could rest my back against the wall and people-watch. When my stomach started growling, I simply popped into the fish ‘n’ chips eatery two doors down…

Bittles Bar at 70 Upper Church Lane

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The “flat” bar that is Bittles Bar [Photo by Marguerita Tan]

Before visiting a new city, I usually follow the local tourism agency either on Twitter or Instagram to see what other interesting places I should look out for. Thanks to @VisitBelfast on Twitter, I learnt about the unique Bittles Bar that is housed in a Flatiron-like building which is, like, totally cool as I love the Flatiron Building in New York.

Located behind Victoria Square mall, the red-bricked bar was built in 1868 and once called the Shakespeare because of its theatrical clientele. Its interiors were just as quaint. Despite small and triangular in shape, it has much character thanks to rows and rows of well-lit beer and whiskey bottles adorning the walls behind the bar, and especially the colorful array of artwork adorning the rest of the room that celebrates Northern Ireland’s literary and sporting heroes, as well as politicians.

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When in Belfast, drink a Belfast Lager! [Photo by Marguerita Tan]

Bittles Bar is also renowned for having one of the widest range of local and international beers in Belfast, as well as for its extensive whiskey collection. As it was a surprising hot and sunny day whilst I was there, I went for a Belfast Lager which was served by the manageress in a well-chilled Franciscan Well (Brewery) mug. The bright golden ale has a nice foam head with crisp flavors of hops and much carbonation. Though it had a slight bitter aftertaste, the beer was nonetheless smooth and refreshing, just great to savor in an aircon environment on a rare hot day in end May.

Duke of York at 7-11 Commercial Court

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Cobbled alleyway along Commercial Court [Photo by Marguerita Tan]

I came across this cool cobbled alleyway in the Cathedral Quarter while hunting for a mural of Jon Snow, the King in the North in Game of Thrones along North Street but which unfortunately I discovered too late that it has since been painted over (sob!) Still, this enchanting laneway was a nice place to discover with its eye-watching wall ornaments, street signage and red benches. The Duke of York, one of the most popular pubs in the city, is along this lane and it’s a huge long bar bedecked with loads of old-time memorabilia both inside and outside its premises. Word has it the bar is truly happening on most nights.

Read also:
Northern Ireland: ‘Game of Thrones’ Locations To Visit North Of Belfast
Northern Ireland: ‘Games Of Thrones’ Locations To Visit South Of Belfast
Belfast: Stunning Street Art

All photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s permission.

 

 

Belfast: Stunning Street Art

I can’t recall the first time I fell in love with street art but visiting cities renowned for outstanding murals such as Penang in Malaysia and Brisbane in Australia only grew my fascination for them. And although my primary reason for visiting Belfast recently was for Game of Thrones related interests, the fact that the Northern Ireland capital is also filled with stunning street art certainly made my trip much more memorable.

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Building-high mural located opposite the Albert Memorial Clock in Belfast Cathedral Quarter [Photo: Marguerita Tan]

Everywhere you turn in Belfast, you are likely to spot a mural or two on a building close to you. There is actually a black taxi tour that brings you (I think) to every notable mural in the city but if you are not that fussy, a thorough walk around the city centre or Cathedral Quarter will offer you a good number of outstanding paintings on the walls.

2018-05-21 19.10.21 (640x640)This lively mural, for instance, is located close to Kelly’s Cellars in Bank Street – where you can find “the best Guinness in the city”, according to my Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus guide. There are many other eye-catching murals in this area on and around the popular pub’s outdoor premises too.

2018-05-24 12.37.45 (620x640)Located in an empty parking lot close to the Belfast Cathedral (a.k.a St Anne’s Church) is this amazing larger-than-life caricature of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, one of my favorites found on this trip. Various murals can also be found on other buildings around  the magnificent church.

2018-05-26 10.32.58 (640x640)There are also tons of colorful murals to be found all along the nearby North Street. Whilst trying to find a reported mural of Game of Thrones‘ King in the North, Jon Snow, I walked all the way to the northern most end of the street, which although also showcased lots of intriguing murals and graffiti, the buildings were also rather isolated and creepy even in broad daylight, so I quickly walked back towards the city centre.  Only after a Google search later did I learnt that the Jon Snow mural has been painted over as the building it was on is undergoing renovation. Sob. Oh well, luckily there were other fun murals to see.

2018-05-25 11.12.07 (640x640)Like this cool Dali-inspired mural I found in a covered alleyway close to another famous pub, Duke of York, reportedly the oldest pub in Belfast. The mural, which features many Belfast landmarks and of cos the famous Guinness, is very long – covering the entire alleyway which was too narrow for me to photograph the whole painting in one shot. Just glad I stumbled onto it while taking a shortcut.

2018-05-22 16.39.09 (640x597)Most of the murals in Belfast are also very political. One of the city’s main attractions is the main Belfast Peace Wall located at Cupar Way and which you can get to easily via a Hop-On, Hop Off Bus (which is also a good way to give you an idea of where the notable murals are across the city).

There are reportedly about 100 “peace walls” throughout the city – majority which are six metres high with barbed wire on top and with colourful artwork painted on the side, most of which do not necessarily contain messages of peace however. The walls are still up – with gates at certain junctions that are locked at night – to divide communities (mainly Catholics and Protestants) that were responsible for a very troubled warring period in Belfast’s history infamously known as “The Troubles” where thousands were killed and many more injured. The walls run for kilometres so if you want to cover it all, best to ask for a detailed map which alas I was unable to find for myself.

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Murals with political overtones are also aplenty along the Falls Road and Shankill Road areas. Thanks to the city tour bus, I was able to catch most of them ‘cos I don’t think I could or would possibly see them all on foot. (There’s a lot of ground to cover.)

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You need to be extremely flexible, agile and seated on the top of an open-top bus if you want to capture them all on camera cos the guide will rattle like a machine gun with instructions such as “over your left shoulder, and over your right shoulder, and back to your left, and now right!” while the driver sped on as if he’s late for an urgent family matter. Still, a very good (and cheap) way to see and learn about the history and significance of some of the murals in the city.

If you love murals as much as I do, Belfast is a great city for it. Just wished I could have found at least one Game of Thrones mural though…

All photos by Marguerita Tan. No text or images from this post are to be used without the blog author’s permission.