In the sights, sounds, flavours and creativity of Belfast, tastemakers can easily find bold new thinking, craftmaking excellence rooted in artistic heritage, and unique ideas inspired by the people and the landscape in the city and beyond
Art inside and out
You only have to look about you to see Belfast’s eye for visual beauty. The city’s waterfront is a great place to start, where the striking ‘Beacon of Hope’ sculpture stands over Queen’s Bridge. From here, it’s only a short step to the Golden Thread Gallery, which shows contemporary homegrown and international art. The gallery has a busy programme that includes drive-in and open air cinema screenings. See if you can spot ‘Samson and Goliath’, too. These two towering Harland and Wolff cranes are monuments to the city’s industrial past, but they add a beauty to the landscape in their own distinctive way.
Golden Thread Gallery
84- 94 Great Patrick St
St George’s Market
Spend Saturday morning at St George’s Market exploring the creative talents of the local artisans. Browse all things handmade, from clothes to candles to jewellery, while live music from the street entertainers fills the air. You can pick up something delicious for lunch too, because Saturdays are dedicated to the Food and Craft Market. On Fridays the Variety Market offers everything from fresh veg to antiques, and the Sunday Market is a mix of crafts, wellbeing lotions and potions, and foodie treats like handmade chocolates and chutneys.
St George’s Market
12-20 East Bridge St
Made in Belfast
When you’re hungry, you’ll want to eat somewhere that looks as good as the food tastes. The original Made in Belfast restaurant on Wellington Street is for you – decked out in recycled chic and serving up a modern take on rustic classic meat and fish dishes. They take the provenance of the ingredients super-seriously and the cooking is excellent. No surprise, then, that its success has seen a second branch open, on Talbot Street in the Cathedral Quarter. For more local cuisine at its best, the nearby Home Belfast is another five-star choice.
Made in Belfast
1 & 2 Wellington Buildings
This leafy area with its street sculptures and arts scene is a district to wander and feel inspired. Its little galleries and venues are complemented by vintage shops and boutiques crammed with new crafts, fashions and furnishings. Head for Avoca, a great store with branches here and around Ireland, selling a funky mix of fashions, homeware and gifts, as well as foodie delights – get a taste for them in the in-store café. And for more unusual and wonderful treats, there’s nearby Utopia, dubbed ‘Alice’s Wonderland for gifts’.
41 Arthur St
For shopping or just for creative inspiration, Belfast's great markets are a must, and this is a native treasure that you won't find anywhere else. Set in the area that has become known as Folktown – a community-oriented district around Castle Street, King Street, Berry Street, Marquis Street, Bank Square and Chapel Lane – the market champions local sellers and fairtrade businesses. Check out dynamic, contemporary creativity at Space Craft, a city-based craft and design collective, and Steensons jewellers.
Fancy playing a game of guess the ingredient? I went off-menu at Scout and sampled a red-hued drink made from... wait for it... beetroot. Scout’s mantra is: ‘Live off the land.’ Cocktails are crafted from items foraged in the UK in the bar’s quest for sustainability. Never mind the British Isles, the menu reads like a whip around the aisles of Waitrose, with Parsnip, Asparagus and Knotweed among the names of drinks. One drawback is that it’s not clear what booze is in each. Ask those questions when ordering. That beetroot tipple was a subtle, almost chocolatey nightcap with only a faint whiff of earthy veg. More conventional was the sea buckthorn, a long, citrussy gin drink using coastal berries as a substitute for lemons. They’re also cultivating yeast to make their own ‘ferments’, brewing a range of Scout beers and applying wine-making techniques to fruity ingredients. All the trickery happens below in a metallic lab. But nerdy stuff aside, the ground floor is kitted out in Scandi pine with terrariums perched on ledges – I wish my front room looked like this. Hunky staff sit down to chat through the menu for more of those hygge vibes. Don’t worry though, those adventurous, often edgy drinks will keep you from getting too comfortable.
Venue says: “Just opened in Shoreditch – come and try the new bar from the man behind Peg+Patriot, Purl, and Worship St Whistling Shop.”