Every year there’s an outcry from some about the Belfast Continental Market. Like a pantomime villain it raises its head outside City Hall to boos and hisses because it’s full of, well, continental-ness (were such a word to exist).
You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why… Santa Claus is coming to town… and shopping centre… and street corner and, heck, anywhere he can squeeze his sizeable belly into.
If like this festive-fatigued parent, the roar of Santa appearing in every nook and cranny fills you with dread, then fear not, I’m here to tell you which ones are on the good list.
Part of the joy of public art is that it sits all around us every day. Sometimes like a picture hung to disguise the bareness of a wall, we stop noticing it. We walk past things that we barely register. There are many pieces of art around Belfast, placed in many of the thoroughfares, which we are unaware of. The pieces, like the ship masts that decorate Royal Avenue, or the functional penny barriers in the Cathedral Quarter seem to be on the periphery of public awareness.
In the 18th Century, the passageways (The Entries) of Belfast were buzzing with commercial and residential premises and are often regarded as the area where Belfast was born. The Entries are now a network of historic lanes running off some of the city’s main shopping streets High Street and Ann Street. High Street was once the Farset River, so these passageways would have been the main area of the city for sailors and merchants. Today they are also home to a few of Belfast’s oldest pubs.
When it comes to things to do in Belfast, this vibrant city is brimming with social and cultural experiences...
Residents and visitors to Belfast will have noticed that over the last few years the city centre is looking different. It’s no coincidence of course - multiple initiatives have been in place since the Belfast Agreement and St Andrews Agreement (1998 and 2006 respectively) to create a new shared environment.
Belfast City Hall is the centre of the city - its white domineering stucco sits atop Royal Avenue like a vigilant watcher. Many residents of the city have never set foot inside and therefore don’t know it’s secret - City Hall is home to artworks by some of the most influential Irish artists of the last one hundred and fifty years.
Victoria Square is Belfast’s premier shopping centre and is somewhere you could easily spend a day shopping, eating and relaxing. There is plenty to keep you occupied for the day with lots of top brand shopping, coffee shops and restaurants, a cinema and a viewing gallery in the iconic Dome.
Visiting the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is a place often visited when you’re a kid and on a school educational trip. As an adult it just isn’t on the radar as somewhere you’d think to visit, which is a shame, because this treasure of a museum is packed full of our local history.
The Lyric on Ridgeway Street has been synonymous with theatre in Belfast since the 1950s. Entertaining the residents of South Belfast and further afield, it brings both new and established theatre to the stage. The Lyric was originally established in 1951 by Mary O’Malley and her husband Pearse as the Lyric Players in their home on Derryvolgie Street. Visitors to the theatre can see a bust of Mary O’Malley in the upper levels of the theatre just outside the studio space.
Heritage and character is a disappearing facet of many modern cinemas, so The Strand, occupying the corner site at the Belmont and Holywood Road intersection in East Belfast is a ‘must-see’ for arts enthusiasts.