In the centre of Belfast, in the oldest part of the city, lies a series of narrow cobbled streets and alleyways known as Cathedral Quarter, named after St Anne’s Cathedral whose Spire of Hope rises impressively on the city skyline. Steeped in history and with a strong literary tradition, its old red brick warehouses now form the backdrop to what is arguably Belfast’s social and cultural hub.
But it wasn’t always so. Back in the 1980s, the area didn’t even have a name, it was largely forgotten and Belfast itself was a very troubled city. The idea of the city having ‘quarters’ was some way in the distant future. We never had much cause to visit there, except maybe for a trip by my 10 year old self to the stamp shop in Skipper Street (when stamp collecting was my hobby du jour).
It took another two decades or so for this part of the city to renew itself, thanks largely to a businessman called Bill Woolsey who transformed the old Ulster Bank building into the gloriously sumptuous 5 star hotel that is The Merchant. This sowed the seed for the area’s renewal. Fast forward to today and Cathedral Quarter is a hugely popular part of the city, with both locals and tourists drawn in by the trendy cafes, bars and restaurants that have made this part of town their home. Maybe I’m biased, but Belfast does do a good bar – the standard is exceptionally high and I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed !
Here’s a few of my favourite things to do in Cathedral Quarter …
1.Wander the streets, enjoy the architecture, read the quotes from local writers carved in the paving stones at Writer’s Square.
2. Warm up with coffee and a sweet treat at The Curated Kitchen, whose menus are ‘curated’ each week from a different cookbook.
3. Then cross the road to step inside and enjoy the peaceful interior of St Anne’s Cathedral. My maternal grandparents were married here in 1927 !
4. Pop in for a browse at ‘Unique’, an art and design shop selling the work of students and alumni of the University of Ulster whose campus sits next to the cathedral.
5. Wander down the cobbled streets to Commercial Court and join the crowds for a drink at The Duke of York pub or my preferred option, the nearby Harp Bar. Get your photo taken amongst the colourful umbrellas and murals.
The interior of The Harp Bar…
The view of Commercial Court from the first floor of the Harp Bar
6. Enjoy lunch at Coppi – Belfast’s first cichetti restaurant (Italian style tapas) inspired by those found in Venice and named after Italian cycling legend Angelo Fausto Coppi.
7. Round off your tour of Cathedral Quarter with a visit to The Merchant Hotel. The spectacular Great Room is the perfect venue for afternoon tea, but if that’s not your thing, enjoy a cocktail in the quiet luxury of the bar while the world whizzes by outside. Granted, it’s on the pricey side but Belfast is not the warmest or driest city to visit and an expertly prepared cocktail served by the cosy fire will have you feeling restored in no time.
The façade of The Merchant Hotel..once the home to the merchant division of the Ulster Bank…
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of Cathedral Quarter.
Have a lovely Sunday and happy St Patrick’s Day to you all x