Hip street food destinations like Common Market are very popular these days, but I still think Saint George’s Market, built in the 1890s, is the place to go for a really big Belfast Bap on a Saturday. They’re crispy but remain incredibly soft on the inside and are filled with sausage, bacon, and a runny fried egg. I’d also recommend any visitor to try the handmade sausage rolls at cafes like Loaf and The Bobbin: they’re huge, a meal in themselves.
A popular – and reasonably priced – restaurant is Morne Seafood: I’ve never had a bad meal there, whether it’s steamed mussels or a daily fish dish. And I love Buba, owned by a couple that focuses on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern tapas. The dates wrapped in bacon are fantastic, as is the spicy lamb.
Titanic Quarter has a different vibe to other areas and is home to the Game of Thrones Trail, a series of stained glass installations scattered along the Maritime Mile. I also like the area around Queen’s University and the Botanic Gardens where there is a lot more diversity and you get a real sense of the new Belfast coming through. It’s a bit offbeat, but gives a real sense of the city’s vibrancy. There are so many new restaurants that have been opened by newcomers, whether it’s burger bars popular with students or the new Greek restaurant Tzatziki. Take a stroll through the Botanical Gardens – the restored Tropical Canyon is the newest botanical greenhouse.
West Belfast has so much to offer – the people are friendly and the area is rich in culture. You can walk, take the Glider bus or even book a black cab tour from the town center to see the many political murals along the Falls Road, the Peace Wall on Cupar Way and the International Wall along Divis Street and Northumberland Street to see human rights and fight social injustice around the world.
Don’t miss the new James Connolly Visitor Center in a beautiful building on Falls Road: it’s an Irish-speaking center with interactive exhibitions, a cafe, gift shop and regular live music.
Everywhere in Belfast is walkable: you can really get around the city on foot, although the buses are good too. From West Belfast, a stunning grassland walk leads up to Black Mountain, which is also home to a wide variety of wildlife. Both this and the rockier Cave Hill are great for Sunday morning walks to clear the cobwebs. Black Mountain is a gradual climb, while Cave Hill is more of a challenge with its imposing silhouette – but both peaks look out over the city and across to Lough Neagh, and the views are simply beautiful.
For the craic in Belfast, the Cathedral Quarter has everything you need. I met my husband at the Duke of York pub: on a fine evening everyone is out in the street. We also hang out around Union Street, especially in the summer, which also has a few LGBTQ+ bars (a new LGBTQ+ club called Libertine has opened nearby).
For cocktails, I love the tiny Muriel’s Bar for their coconut margarita. And for live music, it’s hard to beat Bert’s Jazz Bar: it’s part of the Merchant Hotel, but with separate access from the street.
Harrison Chambers of Distinction (doubles from £90) on Malone Road is a large restored town house with eclectic boutique-style rooms and excellent breakfasts. Everything you need is within walking distance and next to Blank is an up and coming restaurant that doesn’t show the menu until you sit down. The Bullitt (doubles from £89) is good value, right in the city center, with DJ nights, pop-ups and a chilled vibe.
Maeve Monaghan is CEO of Now Group, a social enterprise that supports people to learn Disabilities and Autism. It operates Loaf Cafée & Bakery on Grosvenor Road and the Bobbin Cafee at Belfast City Hall