We heart Belfast.
ST GEORGE’S MARKET
A true Belfast icon, this local treasure beat off the likes of Spitalfields and Billingsgate to be voted the UK’s Best Large Indoor Market in 2014 – it’s a foodie dream, and a real slice of local history, considering that there’s been a Friday market on the site since 1604. These days, you’ll find the cream of Northern Ireland’s organic growers, alongside the finest cuts from local producers fish landed at Portavogie, pork from Cookstown and beef from Armagh – not to mention a plethora of talented craft makers.
Go for a coffee and take it all in, belfastcity.gov.uk/ stgeorgesmarket.
THE MERCHANT HOTEL
Sure, there are plenty of great places to stay in Belfast, but if you’re going to do Belfast right and proper, then you have to do The Merchant at least once. Smack in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, and rocking an inspired fusion of Victorian grandiosity and Art Deco-ish modernity, The Merchant is a five-star experience, and then some – they also play home to exclusive boutique Harper, Northern Ireland’s only stockist for the likes of Valentino, Céline and Louboutin.
Plus: a kicking jazz bar and rooftop hot tub, themerchanthotel.com.
If you’re bringing kids to Belfast, then you’ve simply got to do W5. This Interactive Discovery Centre, located in the same complex as the Odyssey, is both educational and fun, with over 250 interactive exhibits as well as events, shows and exhibitions.
March 7-8 sees it play host to a Star Wars gathering, hosted by fan army the Emerald Garrison. Bring your own lightsaber, w5online.co.uk
Located on Oxford Street, the current (high) watermark for fashionable fine dining in Belfast is run by Stephen Toman, former head chef at another local must-dine, James Street South, and Brittany-born Alain Kerloc’h–together they’ve made culinary magic, oxbelfast.com.
That said, there are sooooo many good places to eat in Belfast. Add to your must list the likes of Zen, Coppi and the much loved Mourne Seafood Bar, plus a trio of winners from prolific local legend Michael Deane, Elpic, Love Fish and Meat Locker, not to mention a great Avoca Café on Arthur Street.
THE CROWN LIQUOR SALOON
Some of Belfast’s finest architecture heralds back to the Victorian era, and this legendary hostelry, located smack across the road from the iconic Europa Hotel, is a rather fine example of what they used to call a gin palace.
Built in 1826, and refurbished to a high standard back in 1885, it’s been used as a location for classic movies like 1947’s Odd Man Out, has ten snugs, and is worth a visit for the stunning décor alone. Once notorious as Belfast’s most bombed bar, like the city itself it survived, and today thrives. Oh, and they do a lovely pint, too.
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