For when it is safe to travel again or for local explorers when allowed – updated September 2020 – live music venues may not be operating as before COVID-19 – Please check with the venue
Music loving visitors to Belfast are in for a treat! The live music pubs and venues in Belfast are literally bursting at the seams with an ever-evolving eclectic array of talent across a wide range of genres. Whether you want to do a Dad dance to some favourite rock tunes, or discover new musical talent that leaves a mark in your music memory, Belfast has got you covered.
In a way what makes this even more exciting is that for those of us who knew Belfast in the 1970’s, it is verging on unbelievable to see the music scene in Belfast today. The only downside of this exciting music city full of intimate charm and character is choosing which live music pubs to go to in order to get the best out of your trip to Belfast. Below we have done our very best to help you with that with what we believe is the most extensive list available. (Please note that these venues are not listed in any order of preference).
8 of Belfast’s best live music pubs
1. The Belfast Empire Music Hall
42 Botanic Avenue
A great favourite in Belfast, this live music venue is actually a converted church situated right in the heart of Belfast city. Not only does the Belfast Empire host gigs but it is also part of an International comedy circuit.
Going for over thirty years now, this is undoubtedly one of Belfast’s most enduring spots for top quality live entertainment. Live music is on many nights of the week with brilliant acts such as the blues artist, Rab McCullough on a Thursday night. Music offerings combine local artists with international talent, across several genres.
Phone: 028 9024 9276
11A Fountain Street
A relative newcomer to the Belfast music scene, the vibrant, vivid red Voodoo opened its doors in 2011.
Split into two distinctive bars, the bottom bar is where to go if you just want to enjoy a drink and a chat, and food inspired by America’s deep south. Upstairs is where the music and entertainment buzz is happening. This Belfast music venue and club hosts anything from open mic to blue grass, and hard rock to hip hop. Live theatre and comedians have also performed at Voodoo.
Phone: 028 9027 8290
3. The John Hewitt Bar
51 Donegall St
The John Hewitt is a bar with a wonderful story! It was opened to honour the ideals of justice, opportunity and equality back in 1999. Named after Belfast’s late socialist and poet, John Hewitt, the bar was set up by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre. Profits are poured into worthy causes, making a drink in this Belfast institution taste even better than normal.
Live music in on six nights a week and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons as well. The weekly line up covers a range of genres such as blues, folk and Irish traditional music. You won’t find any televisions or gaming machines in this great bar.
Phone: 028 9023 3768
4. Hatfield House
130 Ormeau Rd
If you are visiting Belfast then you won’t want to miss one of the city’s oldest bars: The Hatfield House. Over 145 years old, this Belfast live music pub boasts ornate ceilings, fine craftsmanship and lots of lovely original features.
This busy bar has live entertainment every night of the week. It is also known for its cocktails and sports bar. This atmospheric historic bar is a good spot to enjoy some live traditional Irish music while in Belfast.
Phone: 028 9043 8764
5. The Dirty Onion and Yardbird
3 Hill Street
Don’t miss out on one of the most unique experiences you could have when visiting Belfast!!! The Dirty Onion is based in one of the city’s oldest buildings and offers not only great live music seven nights a week …but wait…free lessons on the traditional Irish instrument, the bodhran. The heartbeat of Irish music – you can come along on a Tuesday evening from 8 om til 10 pm and learn how to play for free. Bodhrans are provided.
This Belfast music venue boasts a special relationship with a local music school, which means that the pub brings you a unique selection of wonderful acoustic acts and Irish music.
Phone: 028 9024 3712
6. The Points Bar, Belfast
44 Dublin Road
As a visitor to Belfast, the Points Bar should definitely be on your things to do in Belfast list. Live music is on here seven nights a week with a great selection of Irish folk bands visiting from all parts of Ireland.
A bar that preserves Belfast’s history, The Points is also well known for its Irish stew and superb selection of more than 80 local ales and whiskeys.
Phone: 028 9542 3340
7. Duke of York
7-11 Commercial Court
Lurking down a cobbled alley is a bar that oozes character and Belfast phrases beg to be read, all around this fascinating iconic place.
Live music is played in a location that has served as a pub for more than 200 years, but was blown up in 1972. The mirrored whiskey bar adorned with vintage advertising wasn’t actually targeted to be bombed. What happened was that the terrorists were en route to bomb the High Court when to flee a security checkpoint, they headed up the alleyway but the bomb detonated prematurely.
Owner, Willie Jack, bought the Duke of York back in the 1980’s. Since then he has passionately ensured that the characters and life of Belfast are celebrated by creating outstanding murals and displaying old photos, street signage and memorabilia. The Duke of York is now a must see place in Belfast.
With great live music seven nights a week, free of charge, and lovely friendly staff, what’s not to like at the Duke of York?
Phone: 028 9024 1062
8. Menagerie Bar
130 University Street
This former-paint shop located in the student south of Belfast city, Holylands, has been converted into a buzzing bar and live music and club venue. During the 2000’s, the red-brick building was a dimly lit party dive, fitted out with funny second hand furniture and vintage lampshades, as eclectic as its music mix.
Its 2017 relaunch somehow succeeded in giving the venue a face lift without losing its undeniably charming dive vibe! Feel the walls vibrate to the beat of all sorts of sonic genres. Menagerie not only promises a great night of music but also a memorable night out in Belfast city.
Phone: 028 9023 5678
All photos are courtesy of the venues’ Facebook pages and have been compiled into collages.