A guide to Northern Ireland’s creative capital for enthusiasts of art, design and music.
Belfast is a beautiful city, bursting with creativity; you’ll find an abundance of design-lead independent sellers, the sounds of live music escaping from every pub and street art on every corner. Check out House of Coco’s suggestions to satisfy your taste for good design…
What to do:
The streets of Belfast are a colourful place with fascinating street art popping up all over the city, particularly in the Cathedral Quarter. You’ll struggle to walk 50 metres without seeing a new piece of art under an arch, adorning a whole wall or hiding up high. Many pieces have an interesting story behind them, be it a political message or personal statement, that you would never know as an average viewer walking the streets, so a great way to find out more is to take the Street Art Walking Tour by Seedhead Arts. This two-hour tour will see you strolling the city, stopping at the best pieces of art and delving into the background of each one.
The MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) is an epicentre of creativity in the Cathedral Quarter. Housing many different art exhibitions, theatre performances and unique activities and events. The ground floor café has plenty of cosy booths – perfect for freelancers looking for a quiet place to get some work done! It’s free to enter, so there’s no excuse not to pop in for a browse and a coffee.
The Black Box is an arts and entertainment venue hosting a multitude of events from live music to theatre to comedy and everything in between. They also serve food and drink.
Though it’s probably the world’s most famous ship many people don’t know that the Titanic was built in Belfast, but the Titanic Quarter is striving to change that. The riverside development is bringing residential, commercial, tourism, education and retail projects to the site where the Titanic was built and highlighting the importance of shipbuilding to the area.
At the centre of this is the Titanic Museum; a striking building on the side of the river designed by Eric Kuhne. Take The Discovery Tour to learn about the hidden features buried within the architectural design of the museum building. You will uncover clever elements of the construction, such as that the roof is shaped like a star to honour The White Star Line company who owned the Titanic.
Taking place in November, Belfast Design Week is an annual festival showcasing the best of design through events and exhibitions throughout the community. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting the city between 4 to 10 November 2019 be sure to check their website for a schedule of events.
Belfast’s Late Night Art scheme takes the pressure off fitting all the design goodness into regular opening hours, with dozens of galleries remaining open until 9pm on the first Thursday of every month.
Where to shop:
Belfast Underground Records is a three-story music lover’s heaven. They have over 20,000 records for sale and two floors containing recording studios and live music rooms that are available to hire for budding music talent in the city.
Studio Souk is an independent shop bursting with handmade goods from both small and big businesses. As well as the ground floor retail space – selling everything from mugs, to pins, to painting to chutneys – Studio Souk contains ten studio spaces used daily by local creatives. Stand back and watch a painter getting stuck into a canvas or a technical knitwear designer working away at their machine.
One of the city’s oldest attractions St. George’s Market is a vibrant gathering of local traders housed in an authentic Victorian building. Open Friday to Sunday visit the market for food, gifts and souvenirs.
Where to stay:
The AC Hotel Belfast is the perfect place for design lovers to stay. Each room is beautifully designed to be functional but luxurious, with a focus on minimising fuss and maximising necessary features. You’ll find king size beds, Nespresso coffee machines and roomy double showers in every room, along with handy USB ports for charging, cosy waffle robes and essentials like an iron and a kettle.
The lobby area offers stations to sit and get some work done, as well as cosy couches and chairs to sit and relax with a cocktail or the Signature AC Gin & Tonic. An outside seating area is the best place to take in views of the river and see the iconic Titanic Museum from a new angle.
Where to eat and drink:
Whether you stay at AC Hotel Belfast or not, you should visit their restaurant Novelli. As the first riverside eatery in the city Novelli, a restaurant by Rosette and Michelin chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, is turning the typical hotel restaurant stereotypes on their head.
Say goodbye to a mediocre menu and hello to delicious Mediterranean-inspired dishes with stylish presentation. The signature dessert Jack In A Box is a must-order for chocolate lovers.
For coffee and cake try Coffee Yard. Located in Hollywood, around a 15-minute taxi ride from the centre, this coffee shop has creativity at its core. The owners of Coffee Yard, Jim and Nicki, are self-confessed design lovers and hired architects Hackett and Hall (who also designed MAC) to build their café. They now serve handcrafted coffees and fresh food Monday to Saturday. The brand also extends into the Yard Gallery, a bright and airy art gallery attached to Coffee Yard exhibiting and selling prints, jewellery, accessories, cards and homeware.
The Dirty Onion is a traditional Irish pub and is in Belfast’s oldest intact timber-framed building. The pub oozes history making full use of the outdoor area by creating a huge beer garden with a Jameson Barrelman statue in honour of the many bottles of Jameson that passed through the building when it used to be a warehouse. The cosy pub now offers live music seven nights a week and is the starting point for the Belfast Traditional Music Trail (Saturday evening tours exploring traditional Irish music starting May 13). Upstairs in The Dirty Onion you’ll find Yardbird, serving tasty rotisserie chicken.