Here are a few of Alan’s favourite things to do in Belfast…
Queen’s Film Theatre offers a brilliant variety of independent and world cinema, films that will challenge you and make you think as well as entertain you, and ones that you’ll often not find at the big cinema chains. The QFT frequently tie their programme into local festivals. The bar opens at 6pm every night and serves tea/coffee as well as local beers and packets of giant chocolate buttons that will last to the end of any film!
Discover hot chocolate
If you’re looking for a spot to meet a friend and enjoy drinking a comforting hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows floating in it, then the Canteen at the MAC (open from 10am) serves the best in Belfast. Grab a booth or sit upstairs overlooking St Anne’s Cathedral. (Check out the galleries while you’re there – and if you’ve small people with you, there’s a well-stocked reading area.) Clements on Botanic Avenue offers a good hot choc alternative with jumbo-sized marshmallows.
Belfast and good food go together. Little Wing Pizza is hard to beat – go half and half with a friend and share Giardino and Spinaci & Pancetta pizzas. Watch out for Dizzy the light-headed moose on the wall too! There’s a wonderful new Cibo Pasta Bar tucked into a side street half way between the City Hall and the Waterfront and not far from the (11-13 Gloucester Street). The gnocchi and ravioli are particularly good. If you’re in the area and St George’s Market is open, the Sizzle and Roll stall does a great Cran-Brie Burger, or ask them to throw in a fried egg on top of an ordinary burger and then enjoy the yolk oozing out … heavenly!
Discover the great outdoors
Get your mind cleared and the cobwebs blown away by heading up to the National Trust trails over Divis and the Black Mountain. The most recently opened circular 4.2 mile Ridge Trail is relatively flat and takes in spectacular views as you walk above the city and look out to the Docks and Titanic Quarter in the distance. The car park is open from 9am until 8pm, and the site is served by the 106 Ulsterbus (Crumlin) from Europa bus station (jump off at Divis Road). If you go up at the weekend during the winter, the Divis Coffee Barn opens between 11am and 4.30pm to warm you up after a breezy walk.
Lastly, you may want to settle down with a good book to relax after all that hot chocolate, food and walking. No Alibis bookstore up at 83 Botanic Avenue specialises in crime fiction as well as American studies books (fiction and non-fiction). The Linen Hall Library periodically opens a shop on Fountain Street to sell off surplus stock. The Oxfam second hand bookshop on Ann Street is well stocked, though for range and value, nothing compares to the Keats & Chapman second hand bookshop on North Street with an impossible number of books crammed into and on top of bookcases that stretch up the ceiling and down to the back of the store.