For those of us who are lucky enough to experience this beautiful city on a daily basis, it is no surprise that leading travel media company, Lonely Planet, recently declared Belfast and the Causeway Coast as the ‘Number One Region in the World to Visit in 2018’ (Lonely Planet, October 2017). The ideal destination for romantic getaways, a relaxing weekend of culture, or a girls’ trip abundant in shopping, exquisite food (and cocktails), Belfast is a ‘must-see’ this year for culture queens, cocktail connoisseurs and fierce foodies alike. I’m here to share with you this city’s top-spots for the ultimate luxury city break.
Heading up my top picks list of luxury watering holes is the ever-popular Bert’s Jazz Bar. Located in the heart of Belfast’s thriving Cathedral Quarter, Bert’s boasts the ultimate combination of culture and class. Its elegant art-deco style creates the perfect glamorous setting for soaking up cool Jazz music and indulging in an extraordinary array of both classic, and contemporary, cocktails including the smoothest ‘Clover Club’ I have ever tasted. Bert’s even offers a separate Gin menu so guests can explore its individual selection of Irish gins, sourced from eight carefully selected distilleries across the North and South of Ireland.
The Perch is another divine location to begin your evening in style. Its exclusive rooftop bar treats guests to stunning views of the Belfast skyline whilst they enjoy a delicious selection of spirits, beers and beautifully crafted cocktails. To me, the charming décor mimics a fairy garden and is abundant in shabby-chic birdcages, hanging baskets, and flower-filled trellises. This rooftop bar sits in a prime location just off Great Victoria Street – a short walk (even in heels) from The Grand Opera House and the ever-famous Crown Bar.
For a more authentically Irish vibe, The National is a very fitting location to absorb live music and, of course, classic Irish beers, spirits and liqueurs. Its sizeable beer garden, upstairs club and regular ‘Drink of the Month’ offers entice guests of all ages through its doors– particularly on weekends. Housed in a listed Victorian building (previously The National Bank) in the heart of the city, The National is the ideal setting to become one with the city’s history whilst enjoying an Irish Whiskey – or two!
For those of you who are keen foodies – you’re in luck! Belfast is bountiful in an exceptional variety of eateries. So, as you can imagine, picking my top three was challenging, to say the least. The first restaurant that could not be missed from my ultimate eatery list is my personal favourite, Villa Italia. Offering the most authentic Italian cuisine I’ve ever tasted in Belfast, this gem of a restaurant is a ‘must go’ when visiting the city. The rustic, Italian décor of terracotta tiles, hanging grapevines and stunning artwork mimics the authenticity of the menu, which offers an alluring selection of pastas, pizzas, antipasti, meats and salads. For those of you who enjoy the mouth-watering combination of chicken and chorizo as much as I do, give ‘Pennette Marcantonio’ a try – my all time favourite dish! This Italian family-run restaurant is a popular spot among locals so ensure you arrive early, or book in advance, to avoid disappointment.
For the ultimate fine-dining experience, none can compare to James Street South. For a modern setting, focused on classic cooking, James Street boasts an impressive and luxury menu of locally sourced produce, a variety of signature dishes and fine wines. James Street offers diners a pre-theatre menu, tasting menu for keen foodies, and an A La Carte menu including its renowned Peppered Irish Venison – a personal favourite of mine at this time of year. Adjacent to the stunning City Hall, James Street is a popular location for a romantic meal for two, or a foodie feast for friends.
Last, but by no means least, is The Barking Dog. Its gastro-pub-style menu offers first class cuisine, all within a cosy and relaxed atmosphere. With a menu that boasts luxury fish pies, delicious burgers and various tapas selections, The Barking Dog is the ideal location for a light snack or a three-course meal. Located in the stunning area of South Belfast, The Barking Dog is set on the beautiful, tree-lined Malone road, just a stone’s throw from Queen’s University and a short walk from many boutiques, salons and cafes on Belfast’s popular Lisburn Road.
Naturally, at the end of a thoroughly enjoyable day, you’ll need somewhere to rest, refresh and recharge your batteries. Luckily, Belfast is blessed with a number of luxury locations to lay your sleepy head. Top of my ‘Where To Stay’ list is the new Titanic Hotel. Housed within the original Harland & Wolff headquarters, this boutique hotel provides a unique, memorable, and wholly authentic, Titanic experience for its guests. The hotel offers seven types of rooms, an in-house restaurant led by a team of award-winning chefs, and stunning views of the historic shipyard where Titanic and her sister ships were constructed.
Overlooking the equally historic Donegal Square and Linenhall Street, Ten Square Hotel provides a prime, central location for both Belfast’s Victoria Square Shopping centre and its top restaurants. Built in 1862, this beautiful building pre-dates Belfast City Hall and offers an impressive selection of boutique rooms, classic rooms and signature suites as well as two (soon to be three) in-house bars. Its restaurant, Josper’s Steakhouse, serves delicious and locally sourced meat which, I’ve been reliably informed by the head chef, is so flavoursome thanks to its particular style of Spanish Charcoal Oven which is regarded by chef’s worldwide as the most effective method to produce the most tender steaks possible.
Neighbouring the famous Grand Opera House, the Fitzwilliam Hotel is a perfect five-star favourite following a night at the theatre. The Fitzwilliam is home to 130 recently upgraded rooms and suites, boasting marble detailing, luxurious Egyptian cotton bed linen on king-sized beds and a Nespresso machine in each room for that added element of comfort – perfect for a luxury weekend away.
Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway, a luxury girly trip or a weekend of culture, Belfast truly is the answer to all of your city break prayers.
Bert’s Jazz Bar : 16 Skipper Street, Belfast, BT1 2DZ; 028 9023 4888
The National : 62 High Street, Belfast, BT1 2BE; 028 9031 1130
The Perch : 42 Franklin Street, Belfast, BT2 7GE; 028 9024 8000
James Street South : 21 James St. South, Belfast, BT2 7GA; 028 9043 4310
The Barking Dog : 33-35 Malone Road, Belfast, BT9 6RU; 028 9066 1885
Villa Italia : 39-41 University Road, Belfast, BT7 1ND; 028 9032 8356
Fitzwilliam Hotel : Great Victoria Street, Belfast, BT2 7BQ; 028 9044 2080
Ten Sq. Hotel : 10 Donegall Square South, Belfast, BT1 5JD; 028 9024 1001
The Titanic Hotel : 6 Queens Road, Belfast, BT3 9DH; 028 9508 2000
Grand Opera House : 2-4 Great Victoria Street, Belfast, BT2 7HR; Box Office: 028 9024 1919
Titanic Museum : 1 Olympic Way, Titanic Quarter, Belfast, BT3 9EP; 028 9076 6386
Victoria Square : 1 Victoria Square, Belfast, BT1 4QG; 028 9032 2277
Blush Boutique : 166 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 6AJ; 028 9066 1101
MaxMara Belfast : 723 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7GU; 028 9038 2796
Monet Hair : 338 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 6GH; 028 9068 2323
Nails Inc : House of Fraser, Victoria Square, Belfast, BT1 4QG; 028 9032 2277
Peter Mark Hair: 23a Arthur Street, Belfast, BT1 4GH; 028 9023 9655