Belfast pub culture: Traditional music sessions and Victorian saloons

May 11, 2016 Belfast, Europe, Food and Drink

Each Belfast district has its own much-loved local pub, and many have been serving pints and hosting live musicians for generations. But you’ll also find hip, modern bars and roof terraces in up-and-coming areas like the Linen Quarter.

19th-century drinking dens

When trade and industry were booming in Victorian times, grand saloons were built for Belfast merchants, shipbuilders and craftsmen to socialise in. Many are still doing business, with well-preserved interiors and friendly, chatty clientele.

  • Crown Liquor Saloon: This architectural marvel of ceramic tiles, carved mahogany and stained glass remains one of Belfast’s finest gin palaces.
  • Bittles Bar: A great whiskey selection and cosy lounge with portraits of local heroes make this 1860s watering hole a local favourite. You’ll find it tucked within a red-brick building on the city’s Golden Mile.

Good pubs for live folk music

Belfast’s traditional music scene is alive and kicking thanks to near nightly pub sessions. From sad old ballads to rousing singalongs, you’ll always hear something here to suit your mood.

  • The John Hewitt: Busy pub in the Cathedral Quarter where regular customers and local musicians pride themselves on forming a real sense of community.
  • Madden’s Bar: This homey, bare-bones pub draws some of the country’s best folk players and hosts weekly set dancing classes.

Belfast style bars and trendy hangouts

The redevelopment of Belfast’s post-industrial backstreets has filled the formerly run-down areas with fashionable drinking dens. You’ll now find the city’s hippest bars, clubs, the best Belfast hotels and entertainment spaces around St Anne’s Cathedral and the Linen Quarter.

  • The Perch: Despite the unreliable Belfast weather, this buzzing rooftop bar draws locals and visitors outdoors for drinks and great city views.
  • Aether & Echo: Once a dingy pub called the Deer’s Head, this is now among the city’s coolest bars for craft beers and signature cocktails.

Country pubs near Belfast

You’ll find some great old hostelries out in the Antrim countryside, a short drive or taxi ride from Belfast.