Updated On: November 08, 2023 by Ciaran Connolly
Live music nights are essential to get a true sense of Belfast’s history and culture. Being a social hub with a never-ending buzz of life, the live music scene offers a different kind of night out – from Irish traditional to new artists, you can have a bit of social craic with mates!
So, where exactly can you listen to live music in Belfast – and which nights are best for it? Belfast resident and ConnollyCove guest writer Caitlin Mussen lets you in on everything you need to know.
1, Ye Old Eglantine Inn
If you’re going to look for live music, then why not be the live music? Every Monday from 8pm the Eglantine Inn becomes home to open mic night. Offering a range of local talent this is the perfect spot for aspiring musicians. But it doesn’t stop there, known to locals as The Egg, there’s also live music every Saturday night from 9.30pm. Not quite sold yet? Then check out their 24/7 happy hour!
2, The Belfast Empire
Located on Botanic Avenue, this converted church is a popular spot for locals and a tourist attraction. At the heart of Belfast, The Empire offers a range of events across each night of the week. Since its opening in 1987, the music hall has seen a variety of artists, from locals striving to break into the music scene to bands such as Snow Patrol.
The music hall has been credited with providing many bands with their beginning including Two Door Cinema Club. While concerts and gigs in the music hall have a ticketing fee, the Empire Bar offers many free events across the week including Saturday Live Rock and Soul.
Particularly popular with students, Limelight is known to be one of the best venues for concerts. The Limelight complex, which provides two concert venues, has hosted many legendary bands such as Oasis and Arctic Monkeys. Limelight also welcomes upcoming bands and acts onto its stage. This isn’t all it has to offer either – with the traditional Irish feeling Katy Daly’s joining Limelight one and two and the rock beer garden on the roof the complex caters to everyone. From live shows to club nights, it isn’t difficult to see why this is the place to be.
4, Dirty Onion
While the Dirty Onion’s building itself was constructed in 1680, this authentic Irish Bar still has a modern twist. With one of the largest beer gardens in Belfast, the rustic feel brings traditional Irish style to Belfast seven nights a week with free admission. With a strong focus on authentic Irish music, the Dirty Onion values its partnership with An Droichead to keep this alive.
Over the weekend this spot offers contemporary live bands and acoustic shows. Although the beer garden is a shining feature, the Dirty Onion also houses a peat fire inside – so there’s no need to worry that the weather will impact on your plans!
5, John Hewitt
This popular spot can be found in the Cathedral Quarter Writer’s Square. Named after Belfast born poet and political activist John Hewitt, this bar is home to some of the best live music at least six nights a week. Ran by the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre, the traditional Irish pub is a perfect place to immerse yourself into the culture.
Benedicts has long been a popular spot for those visiting Belfast and locals. With its Gothic Neoclassical interior, you can see why there is such an attraction to the social spot that can be found on the Golden Mile. For the lovers of live music visiting Belfast, this is the perfect place to stay. Benedict’s offers live music seven nights a week until one am in the hub of Belfast’s nightlife.
7, The Points
If it’s traditional Irish vibes you’re searching for in live music then The Points Belfast should definitely be one on your list! Every night of the week The Points offers entertainment from artists all over Ireland. The weekend kicks off on a Friday night with Irish dancers accompanying the traditional bands. But it doesn’t just stop there with live music, the Whiskey and Alehouse also serves Irish stew daily, adding to its homely sense!
Another Irish style bar that is sure to immerse you in a homely feel. The interior of the bar is eye-catching with historical furniture and paintings. Here you’ll find live folk music on a Friday night. In McHughes you can find live sessions of traditional music every Saturday from 3pm – 5pm, they are welcoming in that they are open to letting everyone partake in Irish Trad practice every Sunday.
If you’re visiting here make sure you don’t miss out on their hidden treasure The Basement. Keeping the same Irish vibe of The Old Bar you can frequently find music gigs here. Artists over the years include Kodaline and Wild Youth.
9, The Harp Bar
The rich, luxurious interiors of Belfast’s Harp Bar have long attracted a popular fan base. Lined with red velvet fabrics, The Harp Bar has a Victorian sense to it with its antique furnishings inspired by the headquarters of The Old Bushmills Distillery Company. While being a proper public house, The Harp Bar is home to two floors of live music venues. Talents who have taken the stage here include moon dogs and Van Morrison. With live music every night this is the perfect spot to head out.
If you’re looking for local talent (or you want to be the talent) then Wednesday night open mic nights at Lavery’s Living Room are a must! Lavery’s Back Bar and Beer Garden have been a popular spot for a long time and when you experience the atmosphere of the bar it isn’t hard to see why.
This bar has become known for its focus on live music and entertainment. As an extra bonus If you show your ID seven days either side of your birthday, they’ll help you celebrate! Lavery’s offer something for everyone with the inclusion of The Public Garden, The Pool Room and Roof Terraces- if live gigs aren’t quite your scene they also offer free DJ entertainment six nights a week! And not that you need another reason to visit, but they also host a Pour Your Own Pint challenge – it’s all a bit of craic!
Ever since its opening in 2007, Blackbox has become a highly popular spot for locals and tourists alike. With a range of events including live music, comedy nights, visual art events and more, you’re sure to find something you love here. Taking residency in a 19thcentury Grade II listed building you can really feel a connection to the history of Belfast.
A highlighting feature of Blackbox is its charitable work providing services for those with learning difficulties. This is just one of the reasons that it’s a much-loved venue. From DJ’s to traditional folk and modern, you’re sure to find something to your taste here.
The ultimate place to be if you are the live music. With karaoke every Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting from 9pm. Robinsons’ BT1 is also available for hire for events. In Fibber Magee’s they offer a range of live music entrainment every night. With five venues all under one roof, this has been a standout spot in the heart of the Belfast city.
Pick the one that sounds best to you (or put them all on your list!) grab some mates and immerse yourself in all Belfast has to offer. Don’t forget to let us know which one is your favourite too!
Also, check out some related blogs that you might find interesting:
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