Voted the Best UK City award by The Guardian last year, Belfast is quickly becoming famed for being a trendy city with a youthful, European vibe.
I’m ashamed to say that up until recently, I’d actually never been. Heading up for an impromptu weekend trip, I had zero-to-none expectations, and the entire city impressed me instantly.
The days of The Troubles are left behind, and in its place is a vibrant and exciting buzz that’s left me feeling Dublin could do with a bit of an upgrade. A city for foodies, culture buffs and fans of the finer things in life, Belfast has become my new favourite city destination in Ireland.
What to do:
A stroll around St George’s Market is a lovely start to any weekend trip, with 248 market stalls selling a variety of products including: fruit, vegetables, antiques, books, clothes and fish in an old warehouse.
The Belfast Black Taxi Tour is a must – it’ll take you from east to west, north to south taking in both sides of the community and how they depicted their civil war efforts through amazingly detailed murals.
And of course, no trip is complete without a visit to Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic experience.
What to eat:
From the Michelin starred OX restaurant to street food truck Wolf & Devour, Belfast’s food scene has something for every budget, and blows most of Dublin’s restaurants out of the water when it comes to innovation.
Breakfast –Bullitt Hotel
I very tenderly made my way downstairs to the lobby of the hotel where I was staying for some brekky, expecting the usual hotel buffet fare. Instead, I found a gourmet menu with incredible local ingredients.
Their Veggie Breakfast was hands down one of the tastiest breakfast dishes I’ve ever had, beating many a Dublin brunch spot. Poached eggs, chargrilled mushrooms, grilled haloumi, hash potatoes and sourdough taste (£9 for non-hotel guests). A side of bacon and Hollandaise sauce ‘cos I’m a savage sealed the deal.
Lunch – Home
What started off as a temporary pop-up is now a fully fledged restaurant in the heart of Belfast city, with a Michelin Bib Gourmande under its belt, too.
Home serves feel good food with a Middle-Eastern-ish vibe, while upcycled interior items (available for purchase) and sleek wood add a stylish edge to the restaurant itself.
The lunch menu includes delish options such as Vietnamese shredded duck & mango salad, hot and sour dressing, Roast Persian chicken breast, kale tabbouleh, smoked aubergine puree & mint yoghurt, and Gluten Free, Vegan and Vegetarian menus too.
Dinner – Coppi
Taking inspiration from the Venetian tradition of small snacks (cicchetti), Coppi is a haven of droolworthy Italian-style tapas alongside larger plates.
Impressively sized, the cicchetti are ideal for a mix ‘n’ match starter, with stand out choices being the Feta Fritters with truffled honey, Crab Crostini with Tarragon, and Smoked Duck and candied fig.
Silky smooth pasta will transport you to a sleek trattoria in Italia – I had the Porcini Mushroom Ravioli with a duck ragu and truffle and it was h.e.a.v.e.n.
Where to party: Babel
Ireland’s newest (and, might I add, arguably the prettiest) rooftop bar is Babel, a plush indoor bar with an open-air terrace with panoramic views and a retractable roof; and a cosy corner VIP room.
Taking inspiration from 1950s and ‘60s design, the rooftop bar and garden is the largest in Ireland. Inspired by the eclectic design of the Mad Men era, plush velvet and leather interiors in a deep green, ocean blue and bubble gum pink colour, while food is Asian-inspired.
The cocktails all use ingredients taken from a live shrub wall behind the bar. Innovative, stylish, and oh-so perfect for a night on the town.
Where to stay: Bullitt Hotel
A trés sleek hotel in the city centre, staying in Bullitt is like staying in a boutique hotel you’d find in Brooklyn, or somewhere equally as cool. Every little detail has been thought of – from the style inspiration from a Steven McQueen film to the clever “Go Away – We’re Having A Moment” Do Not Disturb sign, this is a hotel the likes of which Dublin could do with.
Rooms are industrial and on the small side, but with huge plush beds and slick rails to hang clothes on instead of wardrobes. From the outdoor courtyard (which was buzzing on the Friday night), to their excellent Taylor and Clay restaurant, you won’t want to leave this place.
Toasted Wagyu beef and cheese sambos and a mini bottle of red wine ordered to the room at 2am was the perfect end to a night out in Belfast city, and brekkie can be had either downstairs or to-go with a little brown paper bag stocked full of healthy goodies.
Bullitt does weekend breaks with real style.
Hop on the train, and escape for a weekend in a city that’s absolutely thriving right now. You’ll fall in love with it.