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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Drink Up and Rock Out in Belfast

3. What to Do

Sip a craft cocktail at Aether & Echo, or join one of the bar's outdoor parties in balmy weather.  

Make like a local and party hard, checking out the numerous venues now hosting great DJs and live music every night of the week. Start your evening with a performance at the Black Box, an arts venue with the most innovative and lively shows in Belfast, with performers like the Old Dance School turning out energetic, fiddle-filled contemporary folk music. The space itself is nothing fancy, but it’s the best spot for cabaret, stand-up, and album launches that are less than mainstream, like the latest from local melancholic singer-songwriter Robyn G. Shiels. Dip into Love & Death Inc., a dimly lit cocktail bar atop a pizzeria, to check out the DJs spinning house, disco, and hip-hop on weekend nights, and order a Sol Ardiente cocktail made with rum, homemade pineapple-and-pink-peppercorn purée, and pineapple syrup ($9.75). Finish up the night at Lavery’s, a family-run pub/club whose three floors are always packed with an eclectic crowd ranging from students to elderly barflies. Friday night is "Gigantic," an alternative club night playing Prince and Daft Punk; Saturdays the pool tables are cleared away and the entire space becomes a multiroom nightclub packed with enthusiastic clubbers dancing their pants off.

Embrace Belfast’s latest boozing trend: outdoor drinking, increasingly popular in the last couple of years despite the city’s gloomy weather. In the Cathedral Quarter, join the youthful skinny-jean-wearing crowd sitting among the potted trees in the yard in front of the Dirty Onion, a timber-faced pub that makes a good backup if (when) it rains. There’s live “trad” (traditional Irish) music seven days a week and a nice offering of local beers like the Clotworthy Dobbin, an Irish red ale brewed in nearby Newry ($7). Down the street, while away an afternoon at Duke of York, a traditional pub with a lively alleyway filled with benches and flowers. In the "sun doesn’t set until 10 p.m." summer and early fall, join the block parties on Lower Garfield Street thrown by Aether & Echo, a cocktail bar that opened in late 2013 with mixologists in suspenders pouring elaborate drinks like the Martinez, made with Bombay Sapphire, vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and a juniper tincture ($11.25).

Catch the newest music acts on the Belfast scene. Limelight, an unpretentious and always packed venue, is known as an incubator for future stars: It hosted Jeff Buckley and the Arctic Monkeys before they were household names, and Primal Scream, Slayer, and Public Enemy have all played in the last year. Shows this autumn include La Roux and the Hold Steady; arrive early to pre-game in the cozy, adjoining Katy’s Bar. For a more highbrow show, head to the Ulster Hall to catch the Ulster Orchestra (from $16.50) in a beautifully refurbished Victorian music hall. Charles Dickens gave readings here, and music nerds should note that the hall hosted the first-ever performance of Led Zeppelin’s "Stairway to Heaven." For a more rough-around-the-edges experience, head to Voodoo, one of the newest spots for emerging bands of all genres, or to Menagerie, a clandestine venue in south Belfast’s Holyland neighborhood that’s part-owned by superstar DJ David Holmes.

Published on Oct 30, 2014 as a web exclusive.