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Nightlife in Belfast

Make a night of it in a city famous for its pub and music scene

Time Out in association with Tourism Ireland
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Belfast’s pub scene is legendary, and steeped in history, from Gerry Adams pouring pints at the Duke of York in the late 1960s to Mumford and Sons playing their first gig in the same venue 40 years later. Wherever you go, the beer, music and staff are all top notch – even the bouncers are nice!

woodworkers tap room, pub, belfast

Woodworkers Tap Room

The huge, friendly Woodworkers Tap Room offers a great night out if you like your craft beers with a few games of pool (in the upstairs bright, spacious poolroom and rooftop terrace). From a blackboard listing some ten rotating taps you can choose beers from Northern Ireland and the UK, or sample a generous flight of four while you watch – and smell – the recently installed brewing tank. The Hudson is another great craft beer spot spread over three floors and a huge beer garden, and if you’re in town on the last Saturday of the month, the co-operative brewery Boundary is definitely worth a visit.

Woodworkers Tap Room

Aether and Echo

According to Imbibe, the excellent team behind Aether and Echo, this sedate, beautiful space ‘combines the divinity of belle époque and the squalor of Irish charm’. Its understated interior belies a hip approach to night-time revelry – and daytime revelry too; the weekly Unholy Gospel Brunch, held every Sunday from 1-4pm, is a gorgeously soulful affair fronted by Cormac Neeson from County Down rockers The Answer. Grab one of the lovely booths for excellent food and drink or head for the club space upstairs, either way you’ll have a grand time. For equally alluring but decidedly more tourist-filled booths, don’t miss the Crown Bar, owned by the National Trust and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful pubs you will ever see.

Aether and Echo

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the perch, belfast

The Perch

The clue’s in the name – the pretty rooftop Perch is reached via a staircase decorated with bird and bird motifs, and once you’ve made it to the gorgeous space, you’ll feel as though you’ve discovered a little garden of paradise. Here are big wicker chairs, trees, fairy lights and open sky, all filled with happy groups imbibing pretty cocktails or manly beers. In the basement, the more refined but equally enjoyable Rita’s Beer and Cocktail Bar feels more like a French boudoir and takes the mixology to greater heights; start at the top and work your way down is our advice.

The Perch

john hewitt, belfast

The John Hewitt

Proper old-school blokey pubs are plentiful in Belfast, but top of our list is the gorgeous John Hewitt. Partly because it’s owned by The Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre, and partly because it’s an open, appealing space with old floors and wood panelling, and a tiny raised area for its excellent live gigs. Friendly staff and a fine range of beers on draught complete its appeal. The Dark Horse, just round the corner from it, is an equally expansive and appealing space – and features a 'Game of Thrones' door… for more on which, see ‘A Stone’s Throw’.

The John Hewitt

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Duke of York

Live music is a feature of many Belfast pubs, with genres ranging from traditional to rhythm and blues, jazz and Oasis covers. At lively spots like the Duke of York, it's likely to be the first of those, with locals paying rapt attention to bands like Mumford and Sons, who played their first gig here (for pints). If crusading journalist Jim McDowell is in, get him to tell you the more sombre history of the pub and the city. For raucous ribaldry in the form of singalongs and dancing, pop into The Harp just round the corner, or Fibber Magees in Blackstaff Square.

Duke of York

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