You may have already seen my earlier green parka (which is proving a godsend this winter!) outfit post and breakfasting post – we stayed in the quite grand Europa Hotel (see their iconic little rubber duck below. The little package is one I ordered from US jeweller Gramercy Eight and took with me as hadn’t had time to open!) right in the city centre, which meant practically everything we did was in walking distance.
Arriving mid-tour, Laura and I joined a group of international journalists and our fantastic guide Dee (who knew absolutely everything and everyone!) at the MAC arts centre where we immediately fuelled up on the most delicious scones and jam. This was in preparation for attending the Sound of Belfast event The Big Music Project competition, helping young people get into the music industry, where we saw the most talented group of youngsters singing and performing to get through to the next round… (Read on below – The Skinny immediately below for convenience…)
I was really impressed by all these restaurants, good for lunch & supper:
Coppi, Graze, Deanes at Queens, The Barking Dog
Great little cafes with good coffees, hot chocolate and scones:
Established, Neill’s Hill Brasserie, the MAC
Pubs & live music: Check out one of Belfast’s oldest buildings The Dirty Onion and the other pubs & bars in the Cathedral Quarter on Hill Street
I was bowled over by the Ulster Museum and loved the Botanics for a walk plus lots of events going on too: the MAC, Mandela Hall, Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Oh Yeah Music Belfast Music bus tour, Van Morrison walking tour, Ulster Hall
I didn’t get to explore quite enough to discover any little independent boutiques, but the central shopping area covered all the main highstreet stores and there were lots of stalls at the markets:
St Georges Market, Victoria Square in the town centre for all the main highstreet stores, the Christmas Market from 15 Nov – 21 Dec
That evening we dined at delicious Italian Coppi – just by the MAC in the Cathedral Quarter – before shirking the rain by nipping down Hill Street with its pop culture murals and many bars. The following day we visited St George’s Market, full of food, knick knacks, paintings, homewares and more and we were then taken on a fascinating music tour of the city from treading the stage at the Ulster Hall (where Charles Dickens read from The Christmas Carol to 2000 people without amplification and Led Zeppelin first performed Stairway to Heaven in 1977) to stopping by iconic live music haunt Limelight and seeing the drum shop where Kate Bush ordered a lambeg drum painted with fluffy clouds to use on Running Up That Hill.
Lunch was at natural food Graze in Ballyhackamore in east Belfast, the main street is home to 18 restaurants no less and then we hit the just opened Christmas Market – one of the busiest I’ve even been to, it was bustling and bursting with goodies, presents, candies, foods, chocolates, decorations and more! That evening we had another incredible meal, this time Deanes at Queens, just by the Mandela Hall where we went for some live music (Therapy was headlining) – very similar layout to Kentish Town’s The Forum if you’ve ever been there!
The next morning, our last day, we started off at the beautiful Botanic Gardens before checking out the completely brilliant Ulster Museum in South Belfast – I was so impressed by the contemporary art on the top floors and kids art area and the rest replete with natural history floors and political history sections. Our last lunch, at The Barking Dog, just a few minutes walk from the museum, was possibly my favourite – my Sunday go-to eggs Florentine and the most divine dessert I have ever tasted, a warm apple tart with cinnamon and ice-cream.
For a city with such a troubled past and one that is still close – we passed plaques commemorating deaths at the hands of British troops – the energy and good humour of its people shone through in every encounter as did the creativity, clearly at its core; Belfast-born musicians include Bono, Van Morrison, members of Ash and Snow Patrol, 1950s songstress Ruby Murray, Thin Lizzy founding member Eric Bell and David McWilliams who wrote and sang 1967 hit Days of Pearly Spencer (a personal favourite!) and so many more.
Stylonylon was a guest of Tourism Ireland – thank you so much for such an incredible few days!
Find out more at ireland.com