20th Dec 2018 in Arts

When you plan a visit to Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, there are certain places that jump to mind immediately.

In the Google Map of your mind, you’ll probably see a big red pin somewhere between The Merchant, The Black Box and Belfast Cathedral itself – and with so many fantastic options close by for food, drink, arts, culture and entertainment, it’s easy to forget that the CQ stretches beyond Writers’ Square and Hill Street.

Here’s our list of the popular places you know and love – but you might not realise they’re in the CQ Belfast district…


Bittles Bar, Victoria Street

The famous flat-iron shaped bar has stood on Victoria Street for 155 years and is well known for its walls full of artwork, its gorgeous red brick facade and its friendly proprietor John Bittles, who you’ll frequently find working behind the bar. The pub has maintained its beautiful traditional Victorian aesthetic into the 21st century, and it’s just as popular with tourists and first-time visitors as it is with its loyal band of regulars. Just… don’t sit in yer man’s seat, yeah?

Bittles Bar, Cathedral Quarter Belfast
Pic: John Bittles


OX, Oxford Street

The riverside restaurant is as well-known for its pared-back minimalist simplicity as it is for its fine dining credentials. Its owners have a wealth of world-class cuisine experience behind them, and chef-owner Stephen’s glittering CV includes Parisian eateries with Michelin stars. OX opened its doors in March 2013, and rave reviews followed shortly after, with respected critics including Jay Rayner, Joris Minne and Trish Deseine giving OX a thumbs up. Its sister wine bar next door, CAVE, holds special seasonal monthly wine nights.



The National Grande Cafe, High Street

Set in the historic surrounding of one of Belfast’s oldest buildings – the former National Bank Building on High Street – The National boasts an industrial modern interior. Its beer garden has its very own apple tree, direct from the Magners Cider orchard in Clonmel. It’s a popular brunch spot in the city, but serves a varied menu of food and drink all day and into the evening, as well as hosting DJs, live music and events. Between The National and its sister club Sixty6, there’s something on every day and night of the week in this little corner of the CQ.

The National Grande Cafe Belfast


Custom House Square

As well as being a popular outdoor concert and events venue, the historic Belfast location is home to some old favourites and some already-popular newcomers.

McHugh’s is the city’s oldest known building, dating from around 1710, and there has been a licensed bar on the premises since at least the 1840s. It’s had many owners and guises over the years, but for many decades it has been known as McHugh’s, maintaining its reputation for great food, drink, live music and – of course – the craic.


Cafe on The Square occupies the other end of the scale, age-wise, but although it only opened in November 2018, this vibrant eatery is already proving to be a popular addition to Custom House Square. Breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner are all on the menu, and there’s a strong commitment to fresh, locally-sourced produce. This rustic-chic space is also available for event hire.

Cafe on the Square
Cafe on The Square


Smithfield Market

From boxing supplies to bicycle repair, comic books to carpets, dolls to dressmaking… Smithfield Market is more than just a feature writer’s alliterative dream-come-true. This characterful trading hub isn’t just a treasure trove of quirky shopping options – it’s a piece of architectural and social history.

The original Victorian market was destroyed by a bomb in the 1970s and rebuilt in the late 1980s. Many traders have come and gone over the years, but the arrival of a few millennial favourites – e.g. Doughzy Doughnuts, Coffee and Heroes – coupled with renewed public appetite for local independent retailers seems to be breathing fresh life into one of Belfast’s oldest retail districts. Click here for the current full list of traders.


Coffee & Heroes


Golden Thread Gallery, Great Patrick Street

The gallery opened in 1998, which means 2018 marks 20 years of bringing contemporary art into the lives of as many people as possible in a meaningful way. They engage with a broad spectrum of people in a range of innovative ways, including a regular guided literary reading club, free tours, events, exhibitions and workshops, and lots of accessibility options, including audio description and braille, and the Gallery is fully wheelchair accessible.

Golden Thread Gallery


Direct Wine Shipments, Corporation Square

The famous Belfast wine merchant is run by the third generation of the McAlindon family, who are internationally-renowned wine experts and educators, and even sell their own wine – sourced from their own vineyard. As well as buying by the bottle or the case, vino enthusiasts can join the DWS wine club, attend wine tasting events and if you’re really keen, you can even study for an internationally recognised qualification!


Direct Wine Shipments Cathedral Quarter Belfast


What did you think – did any of those surprise you? Are there any you think we missed out?

Join the conversation over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and email features@cathedralquarterbelfast.com if there’s anything you’d like to see featured on the site.

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