Pubs & Clubs
Belfast has a plethora of historic pubs serving friendly local crowds, along with a fast-growing scene of late-night bars for the young and trendy, mostly clustered in the University Quarter. If you’re looking for a traditional pub, several of the best are tucked away in the pedestrian lanes off Donegall Place.
The licensing laws in Northern Ireland aren’t as notoriously strict as they used to be. Pub hours are generally Monday to Saturday from 11:30am to 11pm and Sunday from 12:30 to 2:30pm and 7 to 10pm, but some open until 1am, especially on Friday and Saturday; bars stay open later. Nightclubs tend not to get busy until after the pubs close; admission ranges from a few pounds to about £15.
The Performing Arts
Several sources provide up-to-date listings of shows and concerts. That's Entertainment is free and widely available at tourist offices and pubs, as are the Big List and Artslink. There's always the Belfast Daily Telegraph and the Irish News. You could also try www.gotobelfast.com and www.belfast.net.
With its distinctive bronze dome, the Waterfront Hall dominates the Lagan skyline (Oxford St., Laganside; tel. 028/9033-4455 for credit card reservations, or 028/9033-4400 for program information; www.waterfront.co.uk). The state-of-the-art conference center and concert venue attracts international performers. On the Golden Mile near the Europa Hotel, the Grand Opera House (Great Victoria St.; tel. 028/9024-1919; www.goh.co.uk) first opened its doors in 1895. A central part of Belfast's cultural scene, it offers the finest opera, drama, and musicals in town. The Ulster Hall (Bedford St.; tel. 028/9032-3900 or 028/9033-4455; www.ulsterhall.co.uk) hosts touring music groups, comedy, and drama, and is home to the Ulster Orchestra. The basement of the Empire Music Hall, 42 Botanic Ave. (tel. 028/9032-8110; www.thebelfastempire.com), is home to a varied music program, with regular jazz, blues, salsa, and acoustic sessions nightly. Ticket prices range from nothing to hardly anything (£3). The Odyssey (2 Queen's Quay; tel. 028/9073-9074; www.odysseyarena.com) on the waterfront has a 10,000-seat arena where touring rock groups from Oasis to Destiny's Child have performed. The complex also holds dozens of restaurants and bars, so there's plenty to keep you busy before the show.
Theaters include the Lyric Theatre (Ridgeway St.; tel. 028/9038-5673; www.lyrictheatre.co.uk) for new plays by Irish and international playwrights.
Tickets, which cost from around £8 to £30 for most events, can be purchased in advance from www.ticketmaster.ie. (You can always arrange to have tickets purchased online delivered to your hotel.)
The Gay & Lesbian Scene
The gay and lesbian scene in Belfast is very low-key and always has been. The handful of gay pubs and bars are generally friendly places, though; once you've been around a bit and people recognize you, you'll find a warm welcome. The scene is getting more cosmopolitan all the time.
Widely viewed as the heart of the scene is Kremlin (96 Donegall St.; tel. 028/9031-6060; www.kremlin-belfast.com), a clever, Soviet-themed bar open 7 nights a week but best known for its Saturday-night party, "Revolution." It's split into three areas: a cocktail bar, a disco bar, and a club section, where resident DJs and visiting acts play live. Theme nights encompass everything from the Wizard of Oz to the Kremlin State Fair, complete with games, circus acts, and cotton candy. We're not sure what Lenin would have thought, but it's all in the spirit of open-minded fun.
The gay scene goes public each year in late July or early August for Belfast's small but enthusiastic Pride celebration (www.belfastpride.com). For general information about GLBT life in Belfast check out the Gay Belfast website (www.gaybelfast.net), or search for Northern Ireland on the Gay Ireland website (www.gay-ireland.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.