Every Thursday night in the Empire Bar see the Rab McCullough blues band from 10.30pm to 1am. It's free admission and it's a consistently good night out in this historical bar which is in an old church. Also every Sunday night in the same place you can see Glen Haddock (classic rock and pop) from 10 to 12pm, which is always good and free. Rab McCullough plays an acoustic set in Madisons bar on Fridays from 7.30 to 9.30pm.
Belfast is in essence a small town with little to sustain tourists for more than a day or two. However there is an aspect to the city which has benefited from the isolation of the past – the nightlife. Try and get beyond the dated, formulaic dance/rock scene, the tedious traditional music and the dull bars and you will find a scene unrelated to anything you can find in Europe. A triumvirate of underground clubs form a loose association to provide a unique scene – Fresh & Clean, Section 29 and Victory Over The Sun. The clubs are constantly on the move never returning to one location and dancing is forbidden! Belfast is littered with old Victorian buildings, warehouses, tunnels and rooftops providing a safe haven for the uber-cool. Dub-step and modern classical provide the current sound track and champagne (in one event served in blood transfusion bags) provides the fuel. Admission is on average £80.
Most of the venues seem to be off the city centre. If you have difficulty tapping into the scene try leaving your contact number on 07546585801
Damn the naysayers, The Crown is a classic. Wood and brass everywhere, huge snugs less conducive to intimacy than getting to know some gregarious locals, the sound of conversation and smoke in the air – everything a pub should be (even though the smoke will soon be a thing of the past). As for the toilets, well, you’ll hardly be lingering when there’s so much going on outside. Some reputations are well earned.
This superb celebration of food and drink has become an annual event in the run-up to Christmas and is the perfect place for presents for the food-lover in your life. Or just a great place to hang out, stuff your face and get in the festive spirit. The stalls set up in front of the City Hall offer a huge variety of fresh and cooked produce: Indian, Thai, kangaroo burgers, paella, all kinds of salamis and cheeses … the list goes on. A personal favourite are the huge bratwurst sausages washed down with an even bigger stein of German lager. The market, including the bar, stay open late every weekend in December, and the atmosphere is as worth sampling as the food.
Location: Outside the City Hall.
A deeply eccentric experience based in Belfast and Dublin. It is a combination of live art and jazztronica presented in ever-changing environments. I was given corporate tickets by my employer in France but I believe you can get on the paying guest list for 80 euros. Beautiful people, beautiful music and very very weird venues - this is the coolest club in the world.
Various venues in Belfast and Dublin. Contact +44 (0)7901 853 216.
I have to admit that after having taken the tour bus trip, drank a pint of Guinness and sampled an Ulster fry, there is little else to do in Belfast during the day.
I came to Belfast on a clubbing trip but despite the hype on the Internet I found little innovation or individuality in the local clubs – there is nothing in Belfast that can’t be found in the High Street of any English market town on Saturday night. I believe this is due to the isolation of Belfast from mainland UK and Europe.
However, I did discover on a Wednesday night Victory Over The Sun. This event defies categorisation - I found myself in a disused river culvert underneath the city centre, there was a gratis champagne bar, live performance art, DJ’s playing the coolest jazztronica and best of all, no dancing!
That evening I believe I found the essence of this city at night i.e. pride in not following trends, fierce protection of an underground ethic, erudite people and fascinating conversation. The cost was £50 and worth every penny.
This area of Belfast, around the district of St Anne's cathedral, features the best of bars that Belfast has to offer. The Spaniard is a small and friendly new bar which plays great music. The John Hewitt usually has live music and is run by the Unemployed Resource centre. The Duke of York is also a veritable Belfast institution. Just stay clear of the Northern Whig on a Friday or Saturday night, last time I was there it was full of drunken stags and hens!
If you want to have drink spoiled by camera-wielding tourists, this is the place for you! Hopefully you will have no need to avail of toilet facilities - they are still in the Victorian age. This establishment's claim to fame is that it's "unspoiled" since it was built - do you really want to drink in Dickens' time?
Victoria Street - opposite Europa Hotel
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