Take the pulse of Belfast’s creativity with an exhibition of contemporary Irish art at the Fenderesky Gallery and the image archive at Belfast Exposed. Look around you when you’re walking through the cultural districts – see outdoor art, hear music floating from Good Vibrations record shop and make a date with the Lyric Theatre for new drama
The Ulster Museum has its fair share of ancient artefacts, but the main focus offers a thoroughly contemporary view of classic and 21st century arts. Stroll through the galleries and lose yourself in bucolic painted landscapes by Irish artists like Thomas Bate and William Ashford, or come face to face with a more baffling beauty in the modern sections. Events include Slow Art Sundays – a relaxed chance to take a closer look at highlights in the galleries – and there are three different explorer guides which take a look at the collection from more quirky angles, including the ‘rock ’n’ roll’ experience and the ‘nearly scary guide’.
Any city-savvy visitor knows the best way to feel immersed in a new place is to just go for a wander. Get the measure of the best of Belfast with a stroll around the beautiful and reassuringly hip historic quarter. There are plenty of stunning old buildings here, but it’s not all about the past – there’s an emerging cultural scene, too. Custom House Square is the focus for outdoor festivals and entertainment and there’s a feast of good eating at St Anne’s Square in front of the MAC, including Asian flavours at House of Zen, seasonal classics at Salt Bistro and Modern Irish at The 4th Wall.
Northern Ireland’s leading gallery for contemporary photography reflects the people and passions of Belfast in modern times. In its exhibitions and its archive, Belfast Exposed builds up a fascinating portrait of the city and its people, but to get the full picture, see Belfast from a very different visual angle – on one of the black cab tours which take you round the city’s famous murals while you hear local stories from your driver. Then, for contrast, end the day with a well-earned pint in the Crown Liquor Saloon on Great Victoria Street, a beautiful Victorian pub that retains all its original features like etched and stained glass, panelled snugs and tiled floors – a magical place.
Belfast Exposed Photography
The Exchange Place
23 Donegall St
Oh Yeah Music Centre
Belfast has a passion for music and its heritage dates back generations, rocking from blues boom to punk and into the present. Oh Yeah, set in an old whiskey warehouse and established by the band Snow Patrol and the local music industry, rings with sound day and night. A learning resource, a studio space and a venue that welcomes all ages, Oh Yeah nurtures upcoming creativity and celebrates current success – and with Gary Lightbody as Oh Yeah’s president and former NME writer Stuart Bailie as its CEO, this is a place with seriously cred credentials. This is the home to the Belfast Music Exhibition, too, and the climax of the Belfast Music Bus Tour, which cruises around the city visiting notable places to a fabulous onboard soundtrack (book via the Oh Yeah website).
Oh Yeah Music Centre
15-21 Gordon St
Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC)
The MAC is a must-visit to surf the latest cultural stories being told in the city. The galleries champion contemporary international artists and the crowd is a mix of local art lovers and mates meeting up to see everything from dance and new fringe drama to comedy and burlesque. It’s a good place to refuel, too: Native is open daily, serving a menu created by local artisan food company Yellow Door. Post-show, discuss the merits of that gallery exhibition or bravura performance over seafood chowder or a hot deli sandwich.
10 Exchange St West
Costa Azul Mexican Bar & Grill
An Old Kent Road Mexican restaurant and bar, Costa Azul offers a mix of Mexican classics and Tex-Mex staples, with burgers and children's meals available, too. That means a menu including enchiladas, nachos, jalapeno poppers, tacos filled with beef, slow-roasted pork, or shredded chicken, quesadillas, fajitas, chimichangas, burritos and platters of meat and seafood. Desserts include flan de leche and a fried burrito – filled with vanilla ice cream and banana, and served with chocolate sauce.
Venue says: “WKEND DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY! LIVE MUSIC every Sundays from 6PM. Happy hour 7-10pm on Fridays on all our cocktails, plus four Coronas for £10.”