Back when I studied abroad in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 2014, I discovered the fun and wonder of going to the pub. Pub culture was not something I was aware of growing up in the US and Thailand as a teenager. Since then I have discovered that pub culture is an integral part of my many places, like Scotland and England. However, Belfast has some of my favourite pubs in the world. The history of the pubs is also intertwined with the complex political history of Northern Ireland. Whether you’d like to find out more about the history, or just hang out to grab a pint, Belfast pubs are incredibly special.
This pub is incredibly charming and definitely a must-see when in Belfast. Built in 1720, it is one of the oldest pubs of Belfast. Historically, Kelly’s Cellars was a meeting place for Henry Joy McCracken and the United Irishmen when they were planning the 1798 Rising. The story goes that McCracken hid behind the bar when British soldiers came for him.
You’ll find whitewashed walls, roaring fires, traditional Irish music, chatter, laughter, noise and plenty of atmosphere at Kelly’s. It definitely was my favourite pub!
Whites Tavern has two very different venues under one roof. Downstairs, the Belfast traditional pub, playing traditional Irish music in an old fashioned setting (open fire, vintage wooden floors, etc.). Upstairs you will find a small intimate venue with very cool music (bit of pop, rock, alternative). It’s one of Belfast’s oldest pubs, dating back to 1630. It claims to be the oldest tavern.
The Crown Liquor Saloon
This pub is incredibly fancy-looking. It has a really ornate interior of brightly coloured tiles, carvings and glass. Polychromatic tiles decorate the exterior, including a mosaic of a Crown on the floor of the entrance. Once you step inside, complex mosaic tiles decorate the interior too. The red granite topped bar is of an altar style, with a heated footrest underneath and is lit by gas lamps on the highly decorative carved ceilings. Built to accommodate the pub’s more reserved customers during the austere Victorian period, the snugs feature the original gun metal plates for striking matches and an antique bell system for alerting staff. The pub has booths with doors that can close.
Duke of York
This pub is a traditional Belfast bar crammed with original mirrors and memorabilia. It’s got cold beer, great Guinness and the largest selection of Irish whiskeys in Ireland. They have music sessions Thursdays-Sundays: traditional, acoustic and rock. Fun fact, the Duke of York is where Snow Patrol first performed in 1998.
I particularly loved the Yeats poem on the stairs down to the loo. All in all, the Duke of York is a wonderful pub and a must-see for first time visitors.
Maddens is a fun traditional Irish Pub with Celtic decor. Its walls are full of posters in Irish heralding traditional music events. Bodhrans and mandolins line the walls, as well as loads of beer advertisements. Maddens also has dance sets. When my Dad came to visit from the US, he declared that this was his favourite pub in Belfast. And, I have to admit, it is a pretty cool place.
Despite the name (haha), this is one of the nicest Pubs in Belfast. It has multiple areas inside. The first room is warm, inviting, and has a large oval dining table with candles where people can sit and have a drink by the bar and by the live band that is playing up front. The next space is a courtyard with another bar, named “The Secret Garden.” There is a gazebo of sorts and some large wooden tables with benches. Underneath the “deck” is an area that has some long couches and lots of seating. There’s an outdoor space upstairs as well. It is covered in wallpaper, and decorated with picture frames and upholstered chairs. Back downstairs through double doors is an all white room with candles placed in colored glass holders. Another bar is located there. The place is very large and pretty unique. The music tends to be good as well. My favorite area is probably the front room.
Self-described as a “non conformist, alternative bar,” Cuckoo has a really strong cool, youthful vibe. It has a hipster feel to it, and the cocktails in mason jars really hone that in. Complete with arcade machines, ping pong tables, air hockey, and foosball, you’re bound to have a good time. Cuckoo also makes a huge effort to have discount nights as well as other themed nights.
Which pub sounds the best to you?