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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Drink Up and Rock Out in Belfast

5. Oddball Day

Browse through (and buy) the work of local lithographers and printmakers at Belfast Print Workshop.  

Set aside bar-hopping for a day exploring the city beyond its stately landmarks. Start the day at student favorite Maggie Mays, a brightly lit café on Botanic Avenue; fuel up with the Ulster fry, a heaping plate of eggs, sausages, bacon, potato bread, tomatoes, and baked beans ($10). Then walk it off by heading toward the city center on foot for a bit of disaster tourism, popping into the posh Europa Hotel, the most bombed hotel in Europe during the Troubles. Stroll north past the shops on Great Victoria Street to the colorful Café Wah for a taste of beatnik Belfast. A vintage clothing and record shop, it’s frequented by the city’s arts and philosophy students and serves coffees, sandwiches, and cakes for under $8 in an atmosphere combining tie-dye and punk. Once you’ve scored that '70s leather jacket and an album or two, go around the corner to the Sunflower, a charming old-school pub that’s been reclaimed from Belfast toughs (though there’s still a cage around the door) and re-staffed with friendly bartenders who will serve you a heaping bowl of Irish stew and a pint of Tennent’s lager for $8.25. It’s worth a revisit at night, too: You’ll catch an eclectic range of entertainment, from Spanish lessons, comedy nights, and pub quizzes to legendary local DJ Duke Special spinning with two gramophones. In the late afternoon, stroll the cobbled streets of the Cathedral Quarter, the city’s most newly gentrified artsy area. Stop for a Chemex- or Aeropress-brewed coffee ($4) at the brand-new Established café. Check out the latest exhibit (a new one every two months) from local and international contemporary photographers at the Belfast Exposed photography gallery, then stop into the nearby Belfast Print Workshop, housed in a former warehouse, to see colorful work from local lithographers and screen-printers. Book ahead for dinner at the Potted Hen, tucked into St. Anne’s Square, and tuck into innovative European fare like roast chicken breast with polenta fries, buttermilk puree, pomegranate molasses ($25). Then settle in for a chilled evening with a craft beer or three at the John Hewitt; go for a pint of small-batch Yardsman lager from Belfast’s own Hercules Brewing Company ($6.50), and rest assured that you’re drinking for a good cause: This pub is run by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre, so it’s just about proper pints and a general feeling of goodwill towards your fellow man.

Published on Oct 30, 2014 as a web exclusive.