If you’re in search of the best pubs in Belfast, you’ve landed in the right place!
From old-school, traditional Irish pubs to Victorian-style watering holes with gorgeous interiors, there’s some brilliant bars in Belfast.
In the guide below, you’ll discover the best pubs in Belfast, from the very old Crown Liquor Saloon to the very unique Bittles Bar and more.
Our favourite bars in Belfast
The first section of our Belfast bars guide is wedged with our favourite pubs in the city. These are places that one or more of The Irish Road Trip Team have been to over the years.
Below, you’ll find some of the more popular Belfast pubs, like Bittles, along with some often-missed gems, like Madden’s.
1. Madden’s Bar
I’d argue that Madden’s is one of the most overlooked bars in Belfast. However, for those in the know, this is the spot to be.
Especially if you ramble in on a cold winters day and the stove is blazing! Madden’s is a fine, traditional Irish pub with a friendly atmosphere and top-notch service.
The wall is dotted with murals and interesting pictures and artifacts, too! It’s also only a 5-minute ramble from the Belfast Cathedral Quarter!
The fact that they also pour a drop of some of the finest Guinness in Belfast (see photo above…) is the icing on the cake.
2. Bittles Bar
A long-time hub for the movers and shakers on Belfast’s theatre scene, Bittles Bar dates back to the 1860s when it was originally named The Shakespeare for this very reason.
Fast-forward to the 21st century and Bittles is still one of the most unique bars in Belfast, thanks to the building’s distinct flatiron shape.
Inside, Bittles Bar remains true to its roots with plenty of niche Irish whiskeys on offer in addition to all of the classic ales.
Owner John Bittles is far from regressive though, ensuring that his bar has one foot in the present with a range of modern craft beers.
3. The Duke of York
Down a quiet cobbled alleyway in the Cathedral Quarter, the Duke of York is regarded by many as one of the best pubs in Belfast.
The walls are adorned with countless pieces of memorabilia celebrating the city and its characters, whilst the pints here are as expertly poured as anywhere in Belfast.
In an area that is quickly gentrifying, the Duke of York continues to fly the flag for old-school values like warmth, humour and the unmistakable Belfast craic.
Related read: Check out our guide to 25 of the best things to do in Belfast at any time of the year (walks, hikes and the finest tours).
4. Kelly’s Cellars
One of the oldest pubs in Belfast, Kelly’s Cellars dates back to 1720 and remains largely unchanged since.
With low arches, an open fire and bags of ambience, Kelly’s Cellars is the kind of place you come for a pint or three and an old-fashioned sing-song.
For those looking to enjoy a traditional Irish culinary experience, this place is known for their Irish Stew (best accompanied by a pint of the Black Stuff).
You can find Kelly’s Cellars located on Bank Street in the heart of the city. If you’re after one of the best bars in Belfast for a live Irish music session, check this place out.
Other popular Belfast pubs
Now that we have our favourite bars in Belfast out of the way, it’s time to see what else the city has to offer.
Below, you’ll find everywhere from the popular Whites Tavern and McHughs to the lively Dirty Onion and much more.
1. Whites Tavern
The oldest tavern in Belfast is officially named Whites Tavern & The Oyster Rooms and dates all the way back to 1630.
A recent renovation has brought this cultural institution back to life and now it packs out most days of the week with locals and tourists sipping perfectly poured Guinness alongside freshly caught seafood from just down the road.
This is also a great spot for sports buffs in town, with plenty of big screens showing all of the major national and international events.
Related read: Check out our guide to the best pubs with live music in Belfast (trad music, that is!)
2. The Sunflower
Similar to Madden’s, the Sunflower is one of the more overlooked Belfast bars. The Sunflower is a historic venue in central Belfast that’s instantly recognisable due to the security cage that remains intact around the pub’s front door.
Although no longer necessary for practical reasons, the cage serves as a poignant memory of the city’s social and political history and provides visitors with an insight into the past.
Inside, the Sunflower is a no-frills city-centre boozer that’s nonetheless refreshingly clean and modern. Out in the back, the Sunflower boasts a cracking beer garden complete with a wood-fired oven, where staff fire out some of Belfast’s finest pizza.
Traveller tip: The Sunflower is one of the few dog-friendly bars in Belfast. So, if you fancy taking your pooch, you can do so without stress here.
This establishment is housed in a Georgian building dating back to 1711 which retains much of its original charm. McHughs is actually split into three parts; the old bar, the basement and the restaurant.
In the bar area, patrons can enjoy expertly poured ales around open fires and art-clad walls in a cosy atmosphere, whilst downstairs in the basement is where McHughs frequently host excellent nights of live music.
The restaurant at McHugh’s serves traditional Irish grub with a modern twist, using products from local suppliers and sources.
Related read: Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Belfast (from fine dining to cheap and tasty eats in the city)
4. The Crown Liquor Saloon
This Great Victoria Street pub is one of the most famous pubs in Belfast thanks to a cracking atmosphere and vintage decor that remains true to the pub’s 1820s roots.
The design of this place really is something special, with the striking polychromatic tiles of the exterior the first thing that strikes visitors.
Inside, is packed with colour and texture. The floor is inlaid with mosaics, the walls heavily brocaded and the bar itself is topped with striking Balmoral Red granite, not to mention more beers than most pubs stock in their lifetime.
You’ll often see the Crown Liquor Saloon referred to as one of the best bars in Belfast by some, but as a tourist trap by others. You’ll have to visit to make your own mind up on this one.
5. The Dirty Onion
Housed in a timber-framed building dating back to 1680, The Dirty Onion is one of a handful of Belfast pubs that blends traditional and modern to perfection.
Whilst the decor is very much in line with the classic Irish pub aesthetic, the presence of the Yardbird chicken restaurant and more than a few craft ales on the menu make The Dirty Onion a hipster haven in central Belfast.
That’s not to say that this place is without a soul, as it is also known as one of the finest places to catch some traditional Irish live music any night of the week.
Traveller tips: This is one of the best pubs in Belfast if you’re visiting with a group – get in for a bite to eat and then spend the evening kicking back with some live trad.
6. The Points
Boasting one of the finest selections of Irish whiskey in town, The Points is a vibrant pub where locals and tourists rub shoulders.
Yes, you will find Jameson and Bushmills here but it’s worth branching out a little (and shelling out a little) to sample some delicious Irish whiskeys like Redbreast 15 and Powers whilst here.
The decor is classic Irish pub but never strays into cliché territory, whilst they also serve up a cracking bowl of Irish stew to line stomachs before some serious whiskey tasting.
Since 1895, Robinsons has been serving up delicious ales and local food to the Belfast public and this pub remains more popular than ever today.
Packed with Titanic memorabilia, Robinsons is a relaxed and friendly pub that’s ideal for a game of pool and a pint or for catching your team’s latest game on one of the many large screens.
Live music is played regularly and upstairs, the bistro serves delicious meals such as Steak and Guinness pie or Battered Cod with chips and mushy peas.
What great Belfast pubs have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally missed out on some brilliant Belfast pubs that are well worth dropping in to.
If you’ve a favourite haunt in the city, let me know in the comments section below and I’ll check it out.
FAQs about the best bars in Belfast City Centre
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what are the best Belfast bars for live music to which are the best Irish pubs in Belfast.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best bars in Belfast?
In our opinion, the best pubs in Belfast are Madden’s, Bittles and The Duke of York, however, any of the Belfast bars mentioned above are worth a look.
What are the best pubs in Belfast for live music?
The John Hewitt, Fibber Magee’s and Kelly’s Cellars are three of the best bars in Belfast for traditional Irish music sessions.
What is the oldest pub in Belfast?
The oldest tavern in Belfast is officially named Whites Tavern The Oyster Rooms and dates all the way back to 1630.
James Connolly is a professional writer based in London. Having lived in cities across the world including Mumbai, Medellin and Barcelona, he uses his expertise to write articles showcasing the best of global travel.