A small city with a big heart, Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, has overcome an armed conflict that cruelly tormented this beautiful part of the Old Continent for centuries.
Today, it is a city brimming with attractions, including noteworthy pubs. These gathering places have become institutions in a country where music, beer and whiskey are fundamental parts of its culture. Two traditional pubs that can’t be missed on a visit to Belfast are the Duke of York and the McHugh’s Bar & Restaurant.
Duke of York
Located in Commercial Court, a rustic and storied cobbled stone pedestrian street, the Duke of York is one of the most famous pubs in the city. It’s situated in what was the original Belfast, when the metropolis consisted of only five streets protected by earthen embankments.
The area housed the iron foundry, a ceramics factory and whiskey traders. The interior of the pub is decorated with mirrors, framed football programs and vintage whiskey ads. An homage to bygone times, when several city newspapers also had their headquarters in this street, the decor includes artifacts from the Belfast press industry.
This Irish pub offers a traditional Belfast welcome, with live music Thursday through Sunday. In fact, it’s the venue of the first concert offered by the famous band Snow Patrol in 1998. Additionally, a very young Gerry Adams—one Northern Ireland’s most famous politicians–used to serve beers here as a waiter in the 1960s.
The Duke of York boasts the largest collection of Irish whiskeys in Northern Ireland. According to local connoisseurs, you’ll find no better place to sample the true flavor of Belfast, from a creamy Guinness Stout to a classic whiskey.
McHugh’s Bar & Restaurant
Located at number 29 Queen’s Square, where the Belfast Cathedral is situated, McHugh’s is in the oldest building in the city, dating back to 1711. It has been protected and restored to its original Georgian style. McHugh’s has seen Belfast flourish from a small settlement to a thriving industrial center during the 18th and 19th centuries. It took weathered civil unrest and an industrial decline to make this place the center of Belfast’s gastronomic nightlife.
Within the three floors occupied by McHugh’s, you can enjoy a festive and musical environment and sample local and international beers, select whiskeys and traditional Irish fare with a modern, creative touch, using products from local suppliers.
A grand time is guaranteed every Saturday when the best folk, rock and pop bands are presented on the ground floor. With a superb selection of premium Irish whiskeys, in cozy period lounges with fireplaces and plush seating, this pub exudes Old World charm and transports guests to another time.
Undoubtedly, if you are looking to find an authentic Irish experience when visiting Belfast, you mustn’t forget it is in its pubs where you’ll find the true taste of Ireland. ■