Belfast has numerous excellent pubs concentrated in the city centre and the club and music scenes continue to thrive on Fridays and Saturdays, although Sundays can be quiet, with many bars closing early or remaining shut all day. To tap into the city’s pulse, your best bet is to wander around the Entries or up and around Donegall Street, while there’s plenty of action at each end of the Golden Mile. For the latest information on what’s going on, the monthly listings freesheet The Big List is essential, though the Belfast Telegraph also features extensive, if somewhat disorganized, listings.
As always in Ireland, the pubs are the heart of the city. The liveliest in the evenings are on Great Victoria Street, on and near Donegall Street, and around the university, and if you start drinking at the famed Crown Liquor Saloon you can manage a substantial pub crawl without moving more than a few hundred yards. Several of the finest pubs also offer regular traditional music sessions, usually free with your pint. If you’re short of time, you could always join the Historical Pub Tour, covering six of Belfast’s best-known bars. For pub reviews, check wwww.belfastbar.co.uk.
As well as the traditional music on offer in pubs, Belfast also benefits from a thriving indie and rock scene. There are always good up-and-coming bands playing in the city, just waiting to get noticed and the number of visiting international performers has increased dramatically since the opening of the Waterfront Hall and Odyssey Arena. Rock venues may charge between £5 and £20 depending on the act’s reputation. Pre-booked tickets for the biggest names will usually cost much more – between £15 and £75.
Clubs and DJ bars
Belfast’s club scene isn’t what it was ten years ago, but there are still plenty of dance dens, as well as pre-club DJ bars around. Check The Big List for who’s on when; you’ll find most venues run different clubs on different nights. Venues are scattered fairly evenly around the city centre; students – not surprisingly – tend to dominate those closest to the university area. Admission may be free early in the week (and at some places all week) and as low as £2 or £3 up to Thursday nights, while weekend prices are usually around £5 to £15. Many places stay open until 1am Monday to Thursday and till 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Classical music, opera and theatre
Almost all classical-music concerts take place in the Ulster or Waterfront halls, while opera fans are catered for by the Grand Opera House. Most of Belfast’s theatres are concentrated in the south of the city. Although the choice is relatively limited, there is still enough to please most tastes.