Monday, July 7, 2014

Living like a local in Belfast

Enjoy today's living like a local post from the well-traveled Els of My Feet Are Meant to Roam. If you're interested in contributing to the series, hit me up!

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Belfast is a city that is rising from its ashes: years of sectarian violence during "The Troubles" have no doubt left its mark on the place, but nowadays Belfast is slowly but surely recovering and looking towards a much brighter future.

I have been living in Belfast for over a year now, and the city has been growing on me ever since. It is not the obvious city-trip destination... yet! But every month there are new restaurants and pubs opening, art galleries are booming, and all the visitors I've showed around are overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people. Give it a few more years and Belfast will be THE place to visit - so enjoy some tips on how to spend a fantastic day!

Belfast's historic City Hall



Eating Your Way Around Belfast


Breakfast


The typical Northern Irish breakfast is called "Ulster Fry": sausages, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, potato bread and soda bread, all fried. Not exactly a favourite amongst cardiologists!  The best place to go is Maggie Mays: it's a Belfast institution, visited by students as well as locals, situated on the bohemian Botanic Avenue.

Maggie Mays is a breakfast tradition in the city.


Food sampling


Elected as UK's best large indoor market 2014, make sure not to miss St George's Market: on Saturdays this market offers a huge range of local and continental foods, as well as handmade crafts and local photography. Enjoy some free samples and a cup of coffee while listening to live music performed inside the market. It's always busy and one of my favourite things to do on a lazy Saturday!

St. George's Market


Lunch


My favourite lunch place would have to be Avoca  It's a store and café all in one. At the store you can browse through cookbooks, homewares, gifts ... and in the café you can enjoy some tasty dishes or drinks!

Another great place is The Dock. It is a café with a difference: instead of a till, they have an honesty box. There are no menus or prices, you choose your food and drink from what's on offer and in the end you give whatever you feel like giving in the honesty box. It completely relies on people's trust and honesty, which I think is a brilliant idea! The Dock has great teas, scones and cakes, but lunch options are usually limited (e.g. soup of the day). If you can't find what you're looking for, you are more than welcome to bring your own and enjoy it in here!

Coffee


No problem finding a coffee place, Belfast is full of it!

Cafe Wah is a great, quirky place in the city center. Apart from the quirky decor, what makes it special is the attached "Good Vibrations" record shop. It is legendary in the sense that its owner was responsible for launching Belfast's punk scene during "The Troubles". As you can imagine quite an achievement in those difficult times!

More south is Jenz Coffee Company, a coffee place and milk-shake bar all in one! I absolutely love its 60's comic-book decor!

Dinner


No lack of choice for dinner-time either: whether it's Irish you're after, Indian, Italian, Japanese or Thai: you name it, Belfast has it!

I really like Molly's Yard. As a veggie, I don't always have lots of options, but the food in here is original and excellent value! They don't only cater for veggies though, everyone is welcome in this cosy, small restaurant on Botanic Avenue.

Molly's Yard is a great spot for vegetarians.


Another great place is Mourne Seafood Bar, in the city centre. Reservations are highly recommended to enjoy the fresh local seafood!

Archana is my favourite Indian, it has been rewarded with the title of "Best Indian restaurant in Belfast 2013"


Drinking Your Way Around Belfast


Ah, finally Belfast's legendary pubs! Historic pubs, modern cocktail bars, clubs… the choice is yours!

Here are some of the most popular venues…

Filthy Mc Nasty's is part of a whole complex called "The Filthy Quarter." It's comprised of the main bar (Filthy Mc Nasty's) , a beer garden, a club and a cocktail lounge. Come early on weekends, there are huge queues to get in! 

The Duke of York: Situated in one of the most beautiful alleys of Belfast, this crowdy pub has a very warm and welcoming feeling to it! The interior is nicely decorated with beautiful antique mirrors and all kinds of artefacts. On warm evenings, the crowds spill out into the alleyway!

The Duke of York pub


The Spaniard: a small and narrow bar with a cosy, retro decor complete with candles and ornaments. It offers a good selection of beers and has over 50 different rums!

Yeah, I think I trust this guy to pick out some rum for me.


Cutters Wharf: bar and restaurant mainly known for its big outside sitting area, next to the Lagan river.  Hard to beat on a summer's eve!

For more on Belfast's historic pubs, click here.


Shopping Your Way Around Belfast


High-street fashion can be found along Donegall Place and Royal Avenue, or in the main shopping centres, namely Castlecourt and Victoria Square.

For something a bit different, I like to go to Arthur Street, more precisely to Avoca (see lunch, above) or to Cath Kidston for original dresses and quirky gifts.


A Bit of Culture and History

The MAC gallery


·        The Ulster Museum, which houses a great exhibition about "The Troubles."

·        The MAC: theatre, dance, and art exhibitions, all under one roof!

·        Titanic Museum: oh yes, few people know this, but the Titanic was actually built in Belfast. The interactive museum, opened in 2012, explains all about its history.

·        Belfast Exposed: Belfast's photo gallery with ever-changing exhibitions.



About Els: I’m a thirty-something travel-addict, born in Belgium and living in Northern Ireland for over a year. I’ve travelled to 30 countries, and spend my free time browsing through travel guides and magazines, looking for ideas for my next trip. I love independent travelling: riding local buses, eating local cuisine, meeting new people… I am convinced that every country has something to show or teach us, therefore there is not a single place I wouldn’t want to visit! 

Come hang out with mt at My Feet Are Meant to Roam, or on Facebook or Twitter!





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