The Belfast Cathedral Quarter is hard to bate.
As the creative and cultural heart of the city, a visit to the Belfast Cathedral Quarter is a must (especially if you like stunning architecture, great food and lively pubs!).
Known for its street art, buzzy atmosphere and vibrant character, this little hub in Belfast is home to cultural organisations and art galleries, plus countless good pubs and dining experiences.
Below, you’ll discover everything from the best bars in the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast to the various attractions to check out.
Some quick need-to-knows about the Belfast Cathedral Quarter
A visit to the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast is nice and straightforward when you know 1, what to look for and 2, where the best spots are to eat and drink. Here are some need-to-knows:
The Belfast Cathedral Quarter is centred around St Anne’s Cathedral in the middle of the city. It’s a 15-minute walk from Crumlin Road Gaol and a 25-minute walk from the Belfast Peace Wall and both Titanic Belfast and the SS Nomadic.
2. What it’s all about
The Cathedral Quarter is the beating heart of Belfast, home to historical buildings, trendy art galleries and top class pubs and restaurants. It’s the perfect place to uncover the culture and character of the city, both new and old alike.
3. A fine spot for a night out
If you’re looking for a fun night out in Belfast, it’d be hard to pick a better place to head. There’s some great restaurants and bars in the Belfast Cathedral Quarter plus, there’s many live events on all year round, so there’s plenty to make your night a memorable one.
About the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast
The Belfast Cathedral Quarter is so named because it’s centred around the stunning St Anne’s Cathedral. It’s considered the cultural, creative and nightlife hub of the city of Belfast, with a vibrant atmosphere and plenty of great things to see and do. However, it also has a rich history with some of the original architecture from the early days.
History of the Cathedral Quarter
Back in the good old days, the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast was the trade and warehousing part of the city. Many of the original buildings from these times still stand today, including a few of the oldest buildings in Belfast from the 18th century, particularly along Waring and Hill Street.
Cultural hub of the city
The Cathedral Quarter is widely considered to be the cultural heart of Northern Ireland, because of the more recent growth of art galleries and cultural-based organisations in the neighbourhood.
It’s been the home of the Belfast School of Art since the 1960s and is now home to a range of art galleries, music centres, a circus school and cultural events throughout the year.
Things to see in the Belfast Cathedral Quarter
One of the big attractions of this corner of the city is that it’s home to plenty to see and do, with a bit of something to tickle most fancies.
Below, you’ll find our favourite things to do in the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast, from stunning buildings to colourful street art.
1. The Merchant Hotel
This gorgeous building is a standout for its 19th century architecture and is worth dropping in to check out. The historic place is now a five-star hotel and restaurant, but you don’t have to be staying there to appreciate its incredible beauty and past.
You can pop in to admire the Great Room, with Ireland’s largest chandelier, and then have a cocktail at the bar, which is considered to be one of the oldest in the country. This is one of the best 5 star hotels in Belfast for good reason.
2. Street art galore
On Talbot Street, you can find a brilliant urban street mural by Dan Kitchener as well as an image of a boy and a dove by MTO meant to represent the city’s past conflict.
On Hill Street there are a number of murals and portraits, including the Duel of Belfast by Conor Harrington and skateboarder Jay Adams by the artist, Psychonautes. Wherever you wander, you’ll find plenty of colourful images to look at.
3. St. Anne’s Cathedral
St Anne’s Cathedral, which was constructed in the stunning Romanesque style characterised by its semi-circular arches, attracts its fair share of visitors thanks to its wealth of interesting features.
Visitors to St Anne’s can gaze up at the Spire of Hope, the Titanic Pall and the Tomb of Lord Carson along with some of the best architecture.
There is an excellent visitor guide that you can buy that will explain all these features as you admire them, and many people enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the cathedral’s beautiful interior.
This is the most famous landmark in the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast and the tour is well worth doing (more info here).
4. Commercial Court
If you’ve seen photos of the Belfast Cathedral Quarter online, the chances are it was either the now-famous umbrellas or the area above in Commercial Court.
It’s in Commercial Court that you’ll find the Duke of York – arguably one of the best bars in the Cathedral Quarter.
On a fine day, you can grab a seat on one of the benches that line the walls outside and watch the world go by. When it’s cold, the interior of the Duke of Yoke is nice and cosy.
4. The Game of Thrones Doors
If you’re a GoT fan, you’ll likely know that there were several Game of Thrones filming locations in Northern Ireland but, did you know about the 10 intricately carved doors each showcasing a scene from the television series?!
While the doors are now scattered around Northern Ireland, you can find one in the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast. At the Dark Horse bar and coffee shop tucked down the same street as the well-known Duke of York pub, you’ll find Belfast’s Game of Thrones door.
Depicting an overview of where everything stands at the end of season six, it’s meant to represent all the filming that took place in the city.
5. Food, drink and atmosphere galore
This corner of the city is buzzing all day and night with a contagious atmosphere. There are loads of good places to eat in the Belfast Cathedral Quarter, plus live entertainment galore, so you know you’ll always have a good night out.
It can get pretty busy on the weekends, so you may want to book your favourite restaurants before heading out. Keep reading below for some of our favourite spots.
Our favourite bars in the Cathedral Quarter
If you’ve read our guide to the best pubs in Belfast (trad pubs, that is!), you’ll know that there’s stiff competition for the top spot.
However, the bars in the Belfast Cathedral Quarter pack a punch and there are several that we’ve found ourselves returning to over and over again.
Housed in one of the oldest buildings in the city, McHugh’s Bar and Restaurant is a traditional bar with live music and modern Irish food. The building itself dates back to 1711, having survived throughout many ups and downs of the city’s history.
Their dining room has a cosy open fireplace and high-quality Irish favourites, all made from locally sourced products. You’ll also get live bands during the week showcasing traditional Irish music and local rock bands. It’s certainly a memorable place to head for a drink.
2. The Dirty Onion
Another great pub located in an old building, the Dirty Onion is one of the most popular pubs in the city. Dating back to 1780, the building was used as a bonded spirit warehouse originally and it still has its distinctive structure inside and out with exposed wooden beams.
Throughout its history its seen thousands of Jameson barrels and crates pass through the door, so it’s only fitting to have a large barrel sculpture in the lively beer garden. You’ll also find live music playing every night of the week, with local musicians offering a varied program of music depending on the day.
3. The Spaniard
Located just across from the Merchant Hotel, the Spaniard Bar is an underrated spot for a drink. It has a very cosy and intimate vibe, so it’s perfect for a drink with friends.
They get rave reviews for their cocktails and pint of Guinness, with many people finding themselves returning again and again. They don’t serve food though, so it’s best to head in after dinner or for a quiet pre-dinner drink.
4. Duke of York
The Duke of York is a much-loved Belfast Cathedral Quarter institution. Tucked down a cobbled alleyway it’s known to have excellent atmosphere every day of the week, often with live music playing in the background.
The interior is covered in mirrors and old signs and artwork, and it’s known for a wide selection of Irish whiskeys. It’s also conveniently located on Commercial Court, so you can pop in for a drink after admiring all the street art on display.
Our favourite restaurants in the Cathedral Quarter
Now that we have the pubs out of the way, it’s time to have a nosey at what restaurants in the Cathedral Quarter are worth exploring.
Below, you’ll find some of our favourites, like Coppi and Hadskis to Buba and what’s arguably one of the fanciest restaurants in Belfast.
If you’re craving some hearty Italian food, Coppi Restaurant should definitely be on the menu. This contemporary restaurant on St Anne’s Square has a modern industrial interior with beautiful wooden tables perfect for large groups and family outings.
Serving up delicious cicchetti or small dishes, pizza, risotto and mouth-watering ragu, it’s authentic Italian at its best. They also have a surprisingly good vegan range as well, so it can suit a range of people.
A modern European restaurant inside an old 1760s iron factory, this is a very chic place to head for a nice meal. Widely considered to serve up some of the best food in the city, you’ll find all your favourites including steak, fresh fish, gnocchi and creamy polenta on the menu.
There are also a range of daily specials, which are always worth considering. Open for lunch and dinner during the week and even earlier for brunch on the weekend, you’ll find this popular place on Donegall Street.
3. The Great Room Restaurant
If you’re after a more elegant fine dining experience, then look no further than the Great Room Restaurant inside the historic Merchant Hotel. Often considered one of the best places to eat in Northern Ireland, you can dine under one of the largest chandeliers you’ve likely ever seen and feel like true royalty.
The menu changes frequently but is best as a three-course meal, with incredible presentation and service. They also offer some perfect wine pairings, so it’s the place to go for a special occasion.
For a more casual affair, Buba is a Mediterranean restaurant on St Anne’s Square in the Belfast Cathedral Quarter. As a more recent addition to the dining scene in the city, it’s fast gathered a great reputation for delicious food, including small plates of charred squid and halloumi fries to a grill menu with lamb kofte and cauliflower shawarma.
While you’re deciding on what to eat, many people rave about their cocktails, so it’s worth checking out the drink’s menu at the same time.
FAQs about visiting the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what is the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast famous for to where’s best for a bite to eat.
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 the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast?
You can check out the different buildings, like St Anne’s Cathedral, see the street art, sample the food or kick-back in one of the pubs.
What are the best bars in the Cathedral Quarter?
In our opinion, the best bars in the Cathedral Quarter are McHugh’s, the Duke of York, the Dirty Onion and the Spaniard.
What are the best restaurants in the Cathedral Quarter?
The best restaurants in the Cathedral Quarter are Buba, The Great Room Restaurant, Hadskis and Coppi.
Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.