Staycation, Staycation, Staycation: Where to Stay, Eat and Shop in Belfast’s City Centre

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Over the course of the last few years the city of Belfast has worked hard to re-establish its tourist scene. With the emergence of various new bars, restaurants and hotels, it’s a destination worthy of a staycation mini-break or weekend away for those further afield. The ease of access from most major cities across Europe and the short flight make it all the more tempting. 

With the addition of a few Michelin stars to the Belfast food scene, Belfast has quickly become a melting pot for fantastic restaurants. In fact, there’s never been a better time for mouth-watering meals in the city. Impressive restaurants aren’t the only thing the city’s got going for itself which was recognised this time last year when Belfast was named Lonely Planet’s top place to visit in 2018 (notably the only UK city to make the list) and when you sit back and take a moment to appreciate our city, it’s easy to see why. 

Whether you’re on a mission to truly enjoy your city of Belfast in all of its glory or you’re plotting a weekend away to Northern Irish soil, this is The Style Edit’s guide to where to stay, eat, drink and of course, shop while in Belfast. 

STAY

The Merchant

Located on Waring Street, The Merchant is set within the original headquarters of Ulster Bank, a Grade A listed building oringally built in 1857. It’s long been admired for its distinctive architectural style. Those originally responsible for bringing the building to life were bank directors Robert Grimshaw and James Heron whose sole goal was that the building should appear elegant, substantial and prosperous. These values have remained since the building was given a new lease of life as The Merchant Hotel in 2006. 

Located in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast, the interiors or the hotel complement the grandeur of the historical building with Victorian and Art Deco inspired rooms throughout. Bert’s Jazz Bar – the Parisian-style bistro within the hotel – as well as the iconic afternoon tea and the five-star dining experience of The Great Room Restaurant are sure to keep you well fed and watered ahead of exploring the rest of the city. 

Make sure you schedule in some R&R at the luxurious spa and rooftop hot tub before your stay is up.

For more information or to make a reservation visit www.themerchanthotel.com

Bullitt

This secret hideaway located right at the edge of Victoria Square, Belfast’s most central shopping location, opens up the world of edgy hotels that have emerged in Belfast. In contrast to The Merchant (though both owned by the Beannchor Group) Bullitt ditches the OTT extras in a bid to “deliver a quality service with no hidden costs.” The hotel is made up of three bars, a rooftop garden, an in-house restaurant and rumour has it, the comfiest king size beds in the city.

With all of the hotel’s amenities you won’t want to stray too far from the hotel itself. The good news is that you don’t have to. Bullitt is located a stone’s throw away from the city’s best bars restaurants and shops – the perfect spot to settle into Belfast for the weekend.

For more information or to make a reservation, visit www.bullitthotel.com

Grand Central 

Grand Central hotel is the latest addition to the Belfast hospitality scene. Located on Bedford Street, it’s the second of its kind, described as a “contemporary reincarnation of a Victorian hotel with the same name that glimmered on Royal Avenue from 1893 to 1979.”

The standout features of the Grand Central Hotel is its story as Belfast’s former social hub in 1960 and its sky high 23rd floor where The Observatory lies, an awe-inspiring cocktail lounge with unique views of Belfast that stretch right across the city.

For more information or to make a reservation, visit www.grandcentralhotelbelfast.com

Titanic Hotel

It wouldn’t be a trip to Belfast without acknowledgement of one of its biggest historical claims to fame. Named Hotel of the Year 2018 at the Ulster Tatler Awards, the Titanic Hotel has transformed Harland and Wolff’s headquarters and drawing offices to offer an unforgettable experience for anyone visiting Belfast. The hotel is situated a mere 15 minute walk from the city centre, one that takes you over the city’s bridges with views of the River Lagan.

Throughout the hotel expect plenty of mesmerising artefacts and insightful stories in the history of the building, the ship yard and the people who spent their working lives there. 

For more information or to make a reservation, visit www.titanichotelbelfast.com

EAT

The Muddler’s Club

Named after the secret society that met there over 200 years ago, The Muddler’s Club is tucked away between Waring Street and Exchange Place. 

Watch as ingredients are transformed into delicious meals and enjoy the sense of theatre created by the open kitchen set up. Expect nothing but a warm welcome from the staff and the atmosphere at The Muddler’s Club.

For more information or to make a reservation, visit www.themuddlersclubbelfast.com

Bunsen Burger

If you’re in the mood for something a little quicker, prepare yourself for the best burger in Belfast and make a stop at Bunsen a priority for your trip. Bunsen keeps it simple with a short but effective menu dedicated to quality burgers. 

Don’t be fooled by the fast food nature of the menu, Bunsen never skips on quality whether that’s their food, their branding or their customer service. Be warned though, chances of entering a food coma upon consumption are likely but so long as you can crawl across the road to the Dirty Onion to cosy up with a pint, the recovery should be quick and painless.

For more information visit www.bunsen.ie

St George’s Market

By far, a highlight of being in Belfast during a weekend is St George’s Market. The market is one of Belfast’s oldest attractions with a Friday market on the site taking place every week since 1604. Both customers and vendor travel near and far to sample and sell Belfast’s best produce. Nothing compares to the lively bustle and friendly environment while rubbing shoulders with the locals at St George’s Market on a Saturday morning.

For more information visit www.visitbelfast.com

DRINK

The National

If there’s one thing Belfast does well, it’s a good bar. The city is bursting with options to grab a drink, many of which are situated minutes away from hotels listed in this article. 

The National plays neighbour to The Merchant. Restaurant by day, as with it’s neighbour The National is also located in a listed building with exposed brickwork interiors to prove it. At night it transforms into a buzzing bar with a stylish nightclub, Sixty6 upstairs. Expect a luxurious 50s themed drinking lounge, a chic rooftop, a beer garden and an intimate cocktail bar all under one roof. What more could you want?

For more information visit www.thenationalbelfast.com

Muriel’s Cafe Bar

Gin Lovers will be in heaven at Muriel’s where they have an entire menu dedicated to gin as well as their extensive cocktail menu. This quirky but classy bar is definitely a favourite among the locals and is located off a quiet side street in Belfast’s city centre, just a few doors down from Bullitt and just across the road from The Merchant. 

Come summer or winter (when blankets and heaters are kindly provided), Muriel’s serves as the perfect people watching spot to soak of the Belfast’s fun-filled vibe.

For more information visit their Facebook page 

Jailhouse

Jailhouse may still be the new kid on the block in the Belfast bar scene but it’s quickly rising up the ranks as one of the most popular. At risk of being forgotten, the building was recently brought to life again as part of the Joy’s Entry project. Through its restoration, the building has retained as much of its original character as possible including brick walls and inscribed beams. Even its lengthy cocktail and drinks menu gives a nod to the building’s history – long thought to be the prison of the entry’s namesake.

For more information visit www.thejailhousebelfast.com

SHOP

At the heart of Belfast’s shopping scene lies Victoria Square which boasts over 60 local and international brands as well as an Odeon cinema and multiple restaurants. Victoria Square is so much more than a shopping attraction and also features the iconic Dome, offering 360 degree views of Belfast including the famous Harland and Wolff cranes and the city hall. 

Head up the Lisburn Road for a more bespoke shopping experience where you’ll find independent designer fashion and homeware boutiques scattered among coffee shops and restaurants including The Albany, Shu and The Chelsea.

Niamh Crawford-Walker

Niamh is a freelance writer covering fashion, beauty and lifestyle articles. Her work has appeared in IMAGE magazine, image.ie and Emirates Woman. Niamh is also a blogger at niamhserena.co.uk and podcast host of Werkin’ On It.

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