Where’s the craic – the OWASP pub crawl

21 March 2017 by AppSec Team

If you’re still pondering whether you will come to AppSec Eurpe 2017 in Belfast, there’s something you should bear in mind beyond the excellent learning and networking opportunities at the conference.

In Ireland it is known as “the craic”. It’s an Irish term that encapsulates fun, enjoyment, entertainment, enjoyable conversation and general socialising that puts a smile on your face. It is something we have in abundance in Belfast – a city with a thriving social scene, great restaurants and buzzing bars and clubs.

When people think of craic it is usually all of the above, mixed with alcohol and music. So, with that in mind, here’s your guide to some of our favourite watering holes in Belfast – call it the OWASP pub crawl if you like. You’ll find plenty of other options but these will get you started when you arrive in May.

The Crown Bar

Belfast’s most famous pub, the Crown Bar is a good place to start any tour around the city’s hostelries. Yes, it’s a tourist hotspot but for good reason. The bar’s ornate decoration and beautifully crafted interior is a throwback to Belfast’s Victorian glory days, the booths and snugs – which have bells to call staff – are definitely worth taking in over a pint of Guinness and the food is decent too. Best visited early before it gets too busy.

The Duke of York

One of the most popular bar’s in Belfast, The Duke of York is to be found at the heart of the Cathedral Quarter down a narrow cobbled alley way known as Commercial Court where people pour out to on busy Friday and Saturday nights. With its own whiskey bar and live music, the Duke is an authentic slice of old Belfast, replete with mirrored walls, locally made furniture and artefacts from some of the city’s long gone hotels. It is a great place to sample a real taste of the city, with a warm welcome, good craic and humour, it’s a traditional Belfast pub you simply shouldn’t miss.

Harp Bar

A few short steps across Hill Street from the Duke is The Harp Bar, a lively pub with a reputation for live music almost every night of the week. Owned by industry veteran Willie Jack, the Harp Bar was once a hangout for Belfast’s punks, but the clientele is a little more diverse these days. Inside, the bar is packed with memorabilia (you’ll struggle to find more whiskey themed mirrors anywhere), it’s loud and it’s packed full of atmosphere. Turn up early if you’re venturing in at the weekend.

Dirty Onion

A little further along Hill Street is another recent addition to Belfast regenerated Cathedral Quarter, The Dirty Onion, part of Bill Wolsey’s pub empire. The bar is in one of Belfast’s oldest buildings – a bonded warehouse for spirits from 1700 and something – which gives it an authentic feel. The crowd is young, hip and the open air garden area behind its eye-catching wooden entrance is usually to be found packed with the city’s bright young things on any given weekend.

The Spaniard

The last of our Cathedral Quarter haunts is the smallest bar on the list but one of the most enduringly popular Belfast pubs. The Spaniard provides a little bit of the exotic in a city that sometimes needs it, with a huge range of rums behind the bar, friendly staff and an atmosphere that’s both hip and fun. Across the road from Belfast’s swanky Merchant Hotel, there’s also the chance of running into an a-lister or two out for a sneaky beer.

The John Hewitt

Long considered one of the best pubs in Belfast, The John Hewitt is named after one of the city’s best loved poets. It’s quieter at times than some bars on this list, but relatively small, so it gets lively quickly when the regular traditional music sessions get underway. Long a favourite spot for the city’s journalists, it’s a classic Irish pub in the best sense, with a good range of beers, art by local artists on the walls and really enjoyable live music most evenings.


One of the trendiest bars, the Sunflower is tucked away up a back street on the north edge of the city centre. A favourite with the craft ale crowd and lovers of folk music, this funky pub was brought back from the brink in recent years and revitalised into a welcoming, character filled bar with a very friendly crowd. Make a beeline here if you’re keen to try several beers you’ve never heard of!

The Hudson Bar

Located in a soon to be a revamped area of the city which next year will be bunged with students, The Hudson is only a few minutes from Cathedral Quarter and well worth a visit. Housed in an old warehouse, over three floors and with an outdoor area, it’s a sprawling, busy, lively addition to the Belfast bar scene which also serves very good food. Likely to be packed on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Garrick

Another ornate bar with carved wood and tiled interiors, The Garrick is an excellent pub, with a great selection of beers and good bar food. There are traditional music sessions there several times a week and it’s a favourite stop for workers keen to sink a couple of pints after a busy day, so worth getting in early if you want to soak up the atmosphere without being elbow to elbow in a crowd.

Kelly’s Cellars

Walking into Kelly’s Cellars feels like walking back in time. Opened in 1720 by a Belfast merchant by the name of Hugh Kelly it has a rich history and must be one of the least changed pubs in the city, with an open fire, worn walls and a vaulted ceiling that gives off the feel of another age. Regular traditional music sessions take place in Kelly’s and it is definitely worth stopping in to rest your elbows on a bar that once hid Henry Joy McCracken, at least for one pint.