When I moved to Belfast as a shy, chubby and unsociable student back in 2005, I had no idea about the journey that awaited me and the adventures that I would have in this amazing city. My life has become intertwined with what Belfast has to offer and I will shout from the mountains to anyone who will listen, the love I have for the city that I now call home.
As I have watched the news unfold this last week about the closure of many local businesses, it made me sad. Will our City ever be the same again? Can the industries that are most affected by this second lockdown ever recover?
I hope they will, and I hope that when all this is over, we come out in force to celebrate the wonderful places we have on our doorstep. I for one, will be the first out!
Here is a list of 10 of my favourite places in Belfast, where I cannot wait to return to as soon as normal service resumes (whenever that may be).
The Muddlers Club is one of Belfast’s most recent Michelin Star Restaurants, after being awarded the impressive accolade in October 2019.
The restaurant, led by head chef, Gareth McCaughey, is tucked away between Waring Street and Exchange Place and is a fully blown experience from start to finish. The staff in the restaurant are first-class and they are as passionate about the food as Gareth is.
One of the focal points in the restaurant is the open kitchen, which offers guests the ability to watch the chefs create the outstanding dishes they are being treated to.
The highlight of the restaurant is the delicious taster menu, which is created using home grown produce carefully selected by Gareth. I was blown away during my visit – the food was outstanding and included many dishes that I had never tried before, with each course better than the one before.
I absolutely loved Muddlers Club, so much so that I’ve booked to go back at the end of November – lockdown dependent – but if you’re looking an incredible tasting experience in one of Belfast’s best restaurants, then Muddlers Club is the place to go.
2. Helen’s Bay
Located about 15 minutes from Belfast towards Bangor, is the small but beautiful beach, Helen’s Bay. This is one of my favourite spots and when the sun is shining (and even when it’s not), there’s no better place to be.
The walk from Helen’s Bay takes you past Crawfordsburn beach and if you’re looking for a decent hike, you can walk all the way to Bangor! (I haven’t been that brave… yet!)
Regardless of how I’m feeling, a trip to Helen’s Bay always makes me feel better and clears my head, whether it’s an early morning walk or a trip out after work to watch the sun go down… peace and tranquillity with every visit.
I first heard about Belfast Wine School shortly after it opened in June 2018 and it piqued my interest straight away, as it offered something different to the city. Fast forward to 2020 and it has quickly become one of my favourite nights out!
Headed up by Seana Hackett, the wine school offers various courses including WSET, wine and cheese evenings, old world v new world tastings, charcuterie and wine workshops, and Saturday courses with lunch. The groups are intimate with a maximum of 20 people (pre-COVID), although Seana also offered Zoom tastings during lockdown, which were a great way to put in a lonely and otherwise uneventful evening.
If you’re looking for a fun and entertaining night out in Belfast, visit belfastwineschool.com to see all available courses and book your space.
For a full rundown on an evening at Belfast Wine School, read my Belfast Wine School Blog here.
J’adore Café Parisien! ❤️
Offering gorgeous views over City Hall, Café Parisien brings some Parisienne chic to Belfast City Centre, not to mention a beautiful menu of French food.
The restaurant is one of the many offerings from the owners of Galgorm Hotel and Spa and it has all the class that you would associate with the acclaimed Co. Antrim resort. One of the many USPs of Café Parisien is the outdoor terrace on the first floor, where guests can dine and enjoy their drinks, whilst viewing the hustle and bustle of Belfast below. Pure bliss!
Unfortunately, Café Parisien has been closed since the start of lockdown in March but has an expected reopening date of Spring 2021. I’ll be counting down the days until I can visit and recommend that you do too if you’re looking for somewhere special to dine in the City. You will not regret it.
Yet another food establishment but again, one of the best the City has to offer. General Merchants is a collection of four cafés throughout Belfast – Ormeau Road, Forestside, East Belfast and Stranmillis.
Ideal for a coffee, for brunch or even an evening meal, General Merchant’s is a very cool establishment and on most of my visits, there has been a queue to get in, showcasing its popularity. Generally, it doesn’t take very long to get seated, but I can confirm, it’s definitely worth the wait.
One of my favourites on the day menu is the Huevos Rotos, which introduced me to the delicious Ballymaloe Relish and on the evening menu, I’d highly recommend the incredible Daisy Duke chicken burger.
For the perfect date, it’s General Merchants every time!
6. St. Anne’s Square
I always imagine when I’m walking through St. Anne’s Square, that I’m walking through the streets of Italy… (N.B. I’ve never been to Italy but I imagine I’d get the same happy feeling?!)
Since my first stroll through St. Anne’s Square on a beautiful Summer’s Day when the sun was splitting the trees, I have loved it! It’s just beautiful.
A residential and commercial area, St. Anne’s Square features many tasty restaurants including Buba, Coppi, House of Zen, Pizza Express and the recently opened 7Spice, as well as The MAC and Pure Gym. It’s also close to St. Anne’s Cathedral, as well as the bustling streets of the Cathedral Quarter. All definitely worth a visit if you’re out for a nice stroll in the city!
One of the City’s most recognisable landmarks, which is visible from almost everywhere in Belfast.
Close to Belfast Castle and Belfast Zoo, there are different walking routes available to get to the top of the hill, and the steep(ish) trek is worth it to see the views across the City.
Cavehill is also famous as a spot to catch the sun rising and this was something I witnessed quite recently. Following a 30-minute hike from the Hightown Road entrance on a wet and windy morning, we reached the top, just in time to see the sun rise over the water and it was stunning. Absolutely worth the 6am wakeup call!
Continuing with the theme of offering fabulous views over the City, The Observatory at Grand Central Hotel is up there with the best!
Opened in 2018, The Observatory, which is located on the 23rd floor of the Hastings Hotel epitomises luxury and is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the City or celebrating a special occasion.
Be advised that it is quite pricey with the average price of a beer £8, gins £12 and cocktails £15 but even if it’s only for one drink, it’s worth it, for the views and experience alone.
One of Belfast’s oldest attractions and one of the last surviving Victorian covered markets, St. George’s market showcases some of the best arts, crafts and food suppliers in our City. Opening from Friday through to Sunday, it’s a lovely way to spend a weekend morning, stocking up on fresh produce from our local suppliers, not to mention sampling some of the gorgeous tasty treats on offer.
10. Titanic Quarter
And last but not least, it wouldn’t be a blog about Belfast without a mention of the Titanic, in this case, Titanic Quarter.
Home to many attractions, including the Titanic Museum, Titanic Hotel, SS Nomadic, We Are Vertigo and Cargo by Vertigo – Belfast newest outdoor al-fresco venue with views over the famous Samson and Goliath cranes at Harland and Wolf, there is plenty to do and see.
So that just about covers some of my favourite attractions throughout Belfast and I look forward to when I can get out and about again to support these fantastic businesses.
Let me know if there’s anywhere you would recommend for a visit!