Follow us on our Discover Belfast journey to find out what others love to get up to in Belfast and hopefully you’ll get some inspiration to try something new, whether that’s a place to visit, a restaurant to eat in or a venue you’ve never even heard of!
Guest Belfast Times blogger, Anne Hailes, tells us some of her favourite things in Belfast in the first of our guest articles about favourite places in the City.
Discover Belfast with Anne Hailes:
Favourite Restaurant. Harlem, Bedford Street, Belfast
When it comes to eating out I have a few favourites but I love Harlem, its quirky and good value. I took visitors there recently and they were charmed, not only with the menu, huge variety of dishes and big portions, but also for the decor, the ambiance and the service.
Lots of staff, young and helpful, smiling and willing to chat you through food and drink. Harlem is like a dining room in a gracious mansion, 1920s feel, chandeliers, and silver teapots. Round tables and brick-a-brac. My favourite time is breakfast, easy to get a park at 9 a.m. Creamy porridge, with maple syrup, apple and cinnamon, honey or fresh fruit. Their ‘special’ consists of eggs, poached scrambled or fried, gilled bacon, roast tomato and crusty bread. Gluten free options, vegetarian dishes and an all day fry, sausages, potato bread, mushrooms and black pudding. You can have beans on toast or a variety of scones. Wise to book a table as often there is a queue at this popular spot.
Favourite Place. Linen Hall Library, Donegall Square North
For an infusion of local history I like the Linen Hall Library whether for research, buying gifts relating to Northern Ireland or for a cup of coffee and a snack, the Linen Hall is perfect in every way. We talk about ‘ambiance’ and the word fits this library like a suede glove. Now over 225 years old, there’s a special atmosphere, the big old clock, thousands of books on millions of subjects, mahogany bannisters and desks polished through the years by hands of literary giants and thousands of us, people who admire them and want to learn from them. The political section is world famous and the history of local theatre fascinating. Membership is an important way of retaining this little jewel in our crown and cherishing all it stands for.
Favourite shop. Apple Store, Victoria Square
When it comes to my favourite shop I have to confess it is also my saviour. The Apple Store in Victoria Square is always packed – all ages graduate to this power house whether it’s to buy a laptop, iPads or smarty pants phones.
There you’ll find the geniuses of this world, young men and women who thrive on our internet problems and can even unblock your ‘plug-ins’. This is strictly a confidential service so it’s not possible to discover the inner workings of the company. Except applications for work that is. I was told by a manager that these are welcomed from people with enthusiasm, an interest in IT and a good manner with the public. No university qualification necessary just talent – Apple will do the rest by way of training. I like being in this shop and I always come away a satisfied costumer.
Favourite Tour – Friars Bush Graveyard, Stranmillis Road.
Tucked in beside the Belfast Museum Stranmillis Road is Friars Bush graveyard. What a history dating back to the 1600s maybe earlier. I first came across this haven of peace years ago when making a film and I was fortunate to hear the history from Eamon Phoenix along with Gerry Ward who now lives in one of the gate lodges, a man steeped in the traditions that he too learned from the marvellous Eamon. Gerry is happy to take people around and show them the actual Friars Bush and the tombs around the walls holding the newspaper barons of the day and Barney ‘The Bap’ Hughes amongst the list of greats. Just to the left inside the heavy iron gates, a raised area of grass marks the cholera pit, or Plaguey Hill, where thousand of victims of the disease, and years later of Typhoid, bodies first burned and then interred in a lime filled mass grave. It’s thought that there are up to 3000 bodies lying beneath the grass.
If you’ve ever wondered why the road narrows at this point, it’s because no one will give authority or take the change of excavating the pit to move the wall back a few feet for fear the terrible disease is let loose again.