11 Of The Best Pubs In Belfast: A Guide To Historic + Traditional Belfast Pubs

best pubs in belfast
Photo left: Via Whites Tavern. Right: Silvia Franceschetti (Wikicommons)

There’s no end to the number of brilliant pubs in Belfast.

Belfast, like many cities in Ireland, is one of those places whose history is closely tied to its pubs, bars and other diverse watering holes.

A grand old port, Belfast has some of the oldest and most atmospheric pubs to be found anywhere in Northern Ireland.

The best pubs in Belfast

Few are surprised when the city frequently comes out top in polls ranking cities with the best nightlife in Ireland.

In this article, we will take a look at 11 Of The Best Pubs In Belfast, offering an in-depth guide to historic and traditional pubs in the city.

From centuries-old boozers tucked away from the crowds to teeming hives of music and atmosphere, our collection of the best pubs in Belfast has it all.

1. The Crown Liquor Saloon (one of the most famous Belfast pubs)

the crown liquer saloon
Photo via Visit Belfast

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, the Crown Liquor Saloon 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. 

2. Kelly’s Cellars (one of the oldest pubs in Belfast)

one of the oldest pubs in belfast
Photo by Albert Bridge (Wikicommons)

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 Belfast city.

Traveller tip: This is a handy spot to nip into if you’re visiting the Belfast Christmas market (it’s a handy 9-minute walk from City Hall).

3. The Dirty Onion

the dirty onion belfast
Photo via the Dirty Onion

Housed in a timber-framed building dating back to 1680, The Dirty Onion is a pub 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.

4. The Duke of York

the duke of york belfast
Photo via the Duke of York Pub Belfast

Down a quiet cobbled alleyway in the historic Half Bap neighbourhood of Belfast, the Duke of York stands proud as one of the city’s best pubs.

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).

5. Bittles Bar (one of the most unique Belfast pubs)

bittles pub in belfast
Photo by Silvia Franceschetti (Wikicommons)

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 Bittle Bar continues to be a vibrant watering hole that attracts both local and visiting culture vultures. The bar is unmissable due to the building’s distinct flatiron shape, something which is worth seeing in and of itself.

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. 

6. Whites Tavern

one of the oldest bars in Belfast
Photo via 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.

Traveller tip: If you’re after a creamy pint of Guinness, Whites is arguably one of the best pubs in Belfast for its drop of the black stuff. 

7. The Sunflower

outside the sunflower
Photo via Google Maps

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.

They serve their own craft beer alongside major and lesser-known options from across Ireland, Scotland and England. Their McIvor’s cider from Armagh is a treat that shouldn’t be missed.

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 pubs in Belfast. So, if you fancy taking your pooch, you can do so without stress at the Sunflower.

8. McHughs (the oldest pub in Belfast)

mchughs bar belfast
Photo via Google Maps

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 11 of the best restaurants in Belfast (for those of you looking for cheap and tasty eats).

9. The Points

the points pub
Photo via 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.

Related read: Fancy a swanky feed during your visit? Check out or guide to 11 of the best places for afternoon tea in Belfast.

10. Robinsons

one of the many pubs in belfast with live music
Photo via Robinson’s

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.

11. Maddens Bar

cross-eyes Guinness

Between St. Mary’s and Bank Square in the heart of the city, Maddens is known for its frequent traditional live music gigs, which are some of the best in Belfast.

At weekends especially, Maddens teems with atmosphere and is one of those pubs that both locals and tourists flock to.

The pints are perfect and the staff friendly, whilst the decor is just on the right side of Irish pub kitsch. As far as craic in Belfast city centre is concerned, visitors to the city need look no further than Maddens.

Traveller tip: Madden’s is another of the many brilliant pubs in Belfast city centre that boasts a live music session. 

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.

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.

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