Photo Credit: Cathal Harnett
If you follow me on snapchat [@tarmarz] you’ll already know that I’ve been on the Emerald Isle for just over a week. It’s already gone by so fast that I’m really happy to have made the decision to take an extended break here until February, splitting my time between my hometown of Cork & my lover’s city of Belfast. Speaking of Belfast – thats where this journey begins! After two flights & a bus, nothing made me happier than to see my partner in crime after another six months apart – although checking into one of Belfast’s most esteemed hotels (with an extensive celebrity clientele ) ‘The Fitzwilliam’ came in close second! I was blown away by how pretty is was that I had to take some photos.
Speaking of warm welcomes, The Fitzwilliam does them to a tee. After landing on the 7th floor lined with chic mirrored black doors and a dimly lit ambiance I can’t tell you how lovely it was to arrive at our deluxe corner-view room (room 702) – classical music and pistachio macarons waiting to greet us. After the most stressful & anxious couple of months (or year if I’m being really honest) it was so nice to just stop worrying for a few hours and relax with people that I love. I gotta’ say Belfast looks like a match for New York from the 7th floor! Before dinner I turned up the music & had a long pruning session in the bath before dinner at the in-house restaurant. The dinner menu was to-die-for, a hearty daube de-boeuf with good ‘ould Irish potatoes & caramelised root veg followed by one of my personal favourites desserts. I honestly could have stayed in that blush pink bed for another week, the decor of the hotel was so pretty & inviting without being overly-girly & the staff were so courteous!
Since I stopped working in retail this time of year has become one of my favourites to spend in Belfast, and after being away from it for a year I’ve come back with a new sense of excitement, a longing to visit all my old haunts from the previous three years.
Like most Irish cities, there are no shortage of great places to grab a drink in Belfast, so after dinner we headed across the road for a drink at ‘The Perch’, an odd little bar you need to take a manned-elevator to get to. It’s a small but trendy enclosed rooftop bar, perfect for wintery lowkey chatty-drinks that isn’t super packed and has a good vibe for all ages (by all ages I mean over 21, because I noticed very out of place 1st year college student there and it made me feel dead old at 24). Oh did I mention the drinks? The cocktails are awesome, I opted for a Baileys hot chocolate.
A trip to Belfast in December means the Christmas continental market is inevitable. Most people from Belfast are sick to death of the Christmas market as it doesn’t change much from year to year but it wouldn’t be the same without it, and it does have some pretty good offerings… The last two years theres been this pizza stall serving up gorge wood-fired pizzas and the dutch pancakes with nutella are just a must!
I have to say Belfast has a certain Christmassy vibe about it that makes it really fun to do some festive shopping in and over the years felt like I always got great deals shopping in sterling, especially in shops like Topshop & Zara & Primark. The Belfast Zara is probably one of the best one’s I’ve been to in Ireland and it’s such an upgrade from the tiny one we have in Cork!
It’s safe to say I desperately miss the food scene in Belfast too. If your feeling a bit fancy Malmaison, the new Taylor & Clay or Cafe Vaudeville, but it’s hard to have a bad meal in Belfast. My favourite though are the affordable food-fast type places. The only burrito I will eat is from popular chain ‘Boojum’ which is becoming well known all over Ireland, but originated in Belfast and you can’t beat a good fish & chips from student favourites the ‘Chip Co.’ on Botanic Av or ‘The Chippie’ in Stranmillis. I absolutely love the coffee scene growing in Belfast too – Established, the National & Kaffe O are some of my favourite hipster spots!
If you’ve never been to Belfast, after your done at the Titanic museum (just named ‘best attraction in Europe’) head over to St. Georges market. It’s super festive at this time of year with artisan craft makers, fresh produce, sweet treats and food made on the spot! Also I don’t know why but Belfast has some great hills/small mountains to hike & theres nothing like a chilly winter walk to make you feel invigorated. I like the Divis & Blackmountain because it’s an easy drive and has a cute cafe at the base where you can re-fuel after pretending your dead fit after climbing that hill! Also you’ll see loads of cute dogs on this nature walk…
So that’s it! There is my little basic guide to Belfast at this time of the year. I can’t wait to spend January back here again. A big thanks to The Fitzwilliam also for hosting me, it was such a treat!