I recently visited Belfast for several meetings and since it was my first ever visit to the capital of Northern Ireland, I was determined to sneak in some time in between my meetings to see a bit of the city. As it so happened, some of my meetings were held in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast. I’d not heard of this area before but I spent a few hours exploring the Cathedral Quarter and discovered an up-and-coming district packed with beautiful hotels, excellent restaurants, delightful pubs and a vibrant arts scene. This district sure was a highlight of my short trip to Belfast!
A stroll around the Belfast Cathedral Quarter
I started my stroll at the stunning Merchant Hotel. This historic 19th century building was originally the Ulster Bank before being converted into a five-star hotel in 2006. Even if you’re not staying there, I definitely recommend dropping in, if only to see the breathtaking Great Room (featuring Ireland’s largest chandelier), and you definitely have to have a cocktail at the adjacent Cocktail Bar, reputed to be one of the best cocktail bars in the world!
The district was named after St. Anne’s Cathedral, with its intriguing spire that seems to pierce the sky above. I later heard that locals call it “the rod to God”! Haha!
From the Cathedral, streets branch out in different directions. I strolled down bits of Hill, Talbot, Donegall and Waring Streets. Hill Street, with its cozy pubs and amazing street art, is my favourite. I checked out Established Coffee, a cool coffee shop, before popping into the The Friend At Hand, a gorgeous whiskey shop & museum.
Further down Hill Street, I found a quaint-looking road (Commercial Court) and ventured into it.
Two of the most popular pubs in the Cathedral Quarter, the Duke of York and the Dark Horse, face each other, and around the corner, I discovered a little lane (Umbrella Passage), with its distinct umbrellas hanging from the ceiling and colouful murals on its walls. The passage led me into an amazing courtyard filled with murals, each with its own story. I was just blown away by the colourful scenes and the stories!
Later that evening, I had a terrific dinner at Babel, which is located on the rooftop of the Bullit Hotel. The restaurant bar features a cool garden wall where the herbs used in the cocktails are grown. There’s also an open-air terrace and bar.
After dinner, I popped into Muriel’s Café, a few doors down from the Bullit Hotel for one of their famous cocktails.
Belfast street art in the Cathedral Quarter
As I walked around the Cathedral Quarter, I couldn’t help but notice the amazing street art around every corner. It was quite obvious that many of them are allegories (and I hope to do a Belfast street art tour one day to find out the hidden meanings of each piece). After several days, I concluded that Belfast is arguably one of the best cities for street art in the UK, if not Europe.
Read other Velvet Escape posts on street art:
If there’s one thing that became clear to me during my stroll around the Cathedral Quarter, it’s that I absolutely have to return! I only managed to see the district in the afternoon. I’d love to experience it in the evenings when the pubs and restaurants are buzzing with people.