Home » Places » Places to Eat & Drink » Visiting Belfast’s Oldest Pubs
Scotty at the Dirty Onion
Scotty at the Dirty Onion

Introduction to Oldest Belfast Pubs

With lockdown hopefully coming to an end soon, our minds turn to days out with the opportunity to revisit pubs & restaurants. With this in mind, we take a look at some of Belfast’s ‘oldest’ pubs. People debate which is actually the oldest and which is the best. The only way to find out is to sample them yourself.

Crown Liquor Saloon

This pub was originally opened in 1826 as “The Railway Tavern” as it sat opposite the Great Northern Railway Station. It was renamed the Crown Liquor Saloon and renovated in 1885 by Patrick Flanaghan. Patrick employed Italian craftsmen, who had been brought to Ireland to work on churches like St Peter’s, to decorate the pub. Both interior and exterior display colourful mosaic tiling, carved woodwork and stained glass. The Crown remains one of the finest examples of a Victorian gin-palace still in existence. The snugs with their antique bell system for summoning staff are a popular feature. Renowned for its cask beers and premium gins, the Crown also serves seasonal food and afternoon tea.

Contact: Crown Liquor Saloon, 46 Great Victoria Street, Belfast BT2 7BA Tel: 028 90243187

The Dirty Onion

The wonderfully named Dirty Onion is housed in a building dating back to 1780, although there was a wooden construction on the site from 1680. The premises have been sympathetically restored to preserve the original wooden structure, exposed beams and brickwork. Upstairs the restaurant, the Yardbird, serves its special rotisserie chicken. The pub has built up a strong connection with a local Irish music school, An Droichead, and presents nightly entertainment with an authentic traditional theme. The Dirty Onion is also dog friendly with a canine menu and Snuffle Dog beer!

Contact: The Dirty Onion, 3 Hill street, Belfast BT1 2LA Tel: 028 90243712

The Duke of York

The Duke of York is situated down a narrow cobbled entry off Lower Donegall Street, in the historic Half Bap district. This is one of the oldest parts of Belfast, once home to warehouses and industries. The Brown Linen Hall, the iron foundry and the pottery were all close by. It is a traditional pub, said to be located at the site for 200 years (though rebuilt), old-style, crammed with original mirrors and ‘drinking’ ephemera. From Thursday to Saturday there are live music sessions. The Duke of York is a popular meeting and drinking spot renowned for its friendly atmosphere and good craic. The ‘party’ usually spills out onto the picturesque alleyway and courtyard.

Contact: www.thedukeofyork.com 7-11 Commercial Ct, Belfast BT1 2NB

Hercules Bar

This bar was founded in 1875 by Patrick McGlade. Originally called Hercules Wine and Spirit Stores, it takes its name from Hercules Street, now known as Royal Ave. It is an ‘old-school’ pub serving well-priced traditional food on the first floor. It is just around the corner from St Mary’s in Chapel Lane, right in the centre of Belfast.

Contact: Hercules Bar, 61-63 Castle Street, Belfast BT1 1GH Tel: 028 90333905

Hercules Bar - Exterior View 2
Hercules Bar - Exterior View 1

Kelly’s Cellars

Kelly’s Cellars is certainly one of Belfast’s oldest licensed premises, opening its doors on 14th March 1720. It was then owned by Hugh Kelly, a Belfast merchant trading in rum, whiskey and gin. It is famous as the meeting place of the United Irishmen when they were planning the Rebellion of 1798. Situated just behind Castlecourt shopping centre, Kelly’s is a popular venue for drinks, pub food and traditional music.

Contact: Kelly’s Cellars, 30-32 Bank Street, Belfast BT1 1HL Tel: 028 90246058

McHugh’s Bar

Another of Belfast’s Oldest Pubs is McHugh’s. Originally built in 1711 as a private dwelling, this Georgian building was converted into a public house sometime between 1715 and 1725. Its city centre location, beside the Albert Clock, makes it a popular meeting place. It now provides restaurant facilities and live music in the basement.

Contact: McHugh’s Bar, 29-31 Queens Square, Belfast BT1 3FG Tel: 028 90509999

The Morning Star

This pub dating back as far as 1810 was a coaching stop for the Belfast to Dublin post. Set down one of the entries in the heart of the Belfast, this is an old style ale-house full of Victorian charm. It offers all day food from light snacks to lunches and dinner. On the last Saturday of every month the Morning Star hosts Gourmet night. It has won ‘Best Gastro Pub, County Antrim’ from 2015 – 2019.

Contact: The Morning Star, 17-19 Pottingers Entry, Belfast BT1 4DT Tel: 028 90235986

Whites Tavern

The final contender for Belfast’s oldest Pub is Whites tavern. The original building on this site was granted its tavern license in 1630. This is a cosy city centre, white-washed bar tucked down one of Belfast’s many entries. With oak beams, an open fire and traditional atmosphere this pub is a regular with many Belfast folk. In 1868 a local fishmonger and spirit dealer, John Walker, set up a shop in Winecellar Entry, this has now been recreated by Whites as the Oyster Rooms, famous for its Carlingford Lough oysters.

Contact: Whites Tavern. 2-4 Winecellar Entry, Belfast BT1 1QN Tel: 028 90312582

Belfast Entries is a husband & wife hobby website featuring articles on our shared history and entertaining stories of our past. We hope you enjoy visiting the website and would particularly like to thank those who have made a donation through the “Buy Us A Coffee” facility.

If you enjoyed this article...

If you like the Belfast Entries stories and want to see ALL new posts, please add us as Facebook friends by clicking the button to receive notifications of new posts. Remember that we can only post to a specific group if the subject is relevant – no group will see all posts as our topics vary every week.

What are others reading now?

Crumlin Road Jail - Black & White

Elizabeth Gould Bell – A Forgotten Heroine

By P&P / 17 June 2022 / 0 Comments

Sharing Posts

Please share our posts to help us increase readership for future posts. All posts can be shared directly from this website page or can be shared from our Facebook page.

You can also add feedback to the Comments section below every post. Comments will not appear immediately as we have to vet the comments submitted to remove automated adverts/ SPAM. All genuine comments are welcome.

Belfast Entries posts & photos are our intellectual property and copyrighted to us. Where we use photos that do not belong to us, it is because we believe them to be in the public domain or shared under a Creative Commons licence with appropriate attribution. None of our content or images can be used without our consent. Note that a link to our Copyright & Takedown notice is included in the website footer on all pages.


We are a Belfast couple adding information on Belfast and the surrounding counties. Over coming months we will add a range of posts covering the people, places, products and stories that interest us and will hopefully be of interest to you. Over time we hope to build up information of use to locals & visitors alike and welcome your feedback on subjects of interest or stories that might be interest to the wider audience. Let us know what you think.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published.

Sign In


Reset Password

Please enter your username or email address, you will receive a link to create a new password via email.

Would you like notifications of new Belfast Entries posts?    OK No thanks