margaritas, murals and the Montagne Noire

Food

Hip street food destinations such as the Common Market are popular now, but I still think Saint George’s Market, built in the 1890s, is the place to go on a Saturday for a really big Belfast Bap. They’re crispy, but still incredibly soft inside and are filled with sausage, bacon and a runny fried egg. I also encourage any visitor to try the handmade sausage rolls at cafes such as Loaf and The Bobbin: they are huge, a meal in themselves.
A favorite – and great value – restaurant is Morne Seafood: I’ve never had a bad meal there, whether it’s steamed mussels or a fish dish of the day. And I love Buba, owned by a husband and wife team that focuses on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern tapas. The dates wrapped in bacon are amazing, as is the spicy lamb.

Inspiration

Stained Glass Game of Thrones, Titanic Quarter. Photograph: John Eccles/Alamy

The Titanic Quarter has a different feel to other areas and is home to the Game of Thrones Trail, a series of stained glass installations dotted along the Maritime Mile. I also like the area around Queen’s University and the Botanic Gardens, where it’s much more diverse and you get a real feel for the new Belfast that’s taking shape. It’s a bit edgy, but gives a real sense of the vibrancy of the city. There are so many new places to eat opened by people who have moved here, from burger bars popular with students to, say, the new Greek restaurant Tzatziki. Stroll through the Botanical Gardens – the restored tropical ravine is its new botanical greenhouse.

Piece

West Belfast has so much to offer – the people are friendly and the area is rich in culture. You can walk up from the city center, take the Glider bus, or even book a black cab tour to see the many political murals along Falls Road, the Peace Wall on Cupar Way, and the International Wall along of Divis Street and Northumberland Street), dedicated to human rights and the fight against social injustice throughout the world.

Don’t miss the new James Connolly Visitor Center in a beautiful building on Falls Road: it’s an Irish language center with interactive exhibits, a cafe, gift shop and regular live music.

Green space

All of Belfast is within walking distance: you can really walk across the city, although buses are good too. From West Belfast there is a superb grassland hike to Black Mountain, which is also home to a wide range of wildlife. This and the rockier Cave Hill make for fantastic Sunday morning walks to clear cobwebs. Black Mountain is a gradual incline while Cave Hill, with its towering silhouette, is more of a challenge – but both peaks overlook the town and Lough Neagh, and the views are simply stunning.

Night life

For the craic of Belfast, the Cathedral Quarter has everything you need. I met my husband at the Duke of York pub: on a beautiful evening, everyone is in the street. We also hang out, especially in the summer, around Union Street, which is also home to a few LGBTQ+ bars (a new LGBTQ+ club called Libertine has opened nearby).

For cocktails, I love tiny Muriel’s Bar for its coconut margarita. And for live music, Bert’s Jazz Bar is hard to beat: it’s part of the Merchant Hotel but with separate access from the street.

Related: 15 of the Best Dining Experiences in Northern Ireland

Where stay

The Harrison Chambers of Distinction (doubles from £90) on Malone Road is a large, restored townhouse with eclectic, boutique-style rooms and excellent breakfasts. It’s walking distance to everything you need, and next door to Blank, an up-and-coming restaurant where the menu is only revealed when you sit down. The Bullitt (doubles from £89) is reasonably priced, right in the center of town, with DJ nights, pop-ups and a relaxed vibe.

Maeve Monaghan is CEO of Now Group, a social enterprise supporting people in learning disability and autism. He runs Loaf Cafée & Bakery on Grosvenor Road and the Bobbin Cafee at Belfast City Hall

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