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An FC United supporter's Guide to Belfast UPDATED 6 July

An FC United fan from Belfast, Laurie Hanna has written the following guide for supporters making the trip over to Ireland to watch the Reds play Cliftonville on Saturday 17th July. Over to Laurie...

This should be considered more of a quick guide to the city than anything, and is all based on my own opinion - so it’s very much an unofficial guide as well! I imagine a fair few of you have visited before, or know people who are either from Belfast or still live there so I’ll spare the in-depth detail.

- Cliftonville FC
- Getting there
- Public transport
- Hotels
- Bars
- Drink
- Places to see
- Shopping and merchandise
- Dos and don’ts
- The game

- Cliftonville FC
The oldest football club in Ireland, Cliftonville are a members-owned club who play their home games at Solitude, north Belfast. A detailed and thorough history of the club can be found at the club website here: www.cliftonvillefc.net/history

Cliftonville have just enjoyed their most successful league campaign in 12 years, finishing second in the Carling Irish Premiership. That was their best position since they last won the league title in 1998, meaning they will play in the second qualifying round of the Europa League. It was a remarkably successful campaign considering the financial constrictions placed on manager Eddie Patterson over the last 12 months.

- What’s on?
For anyone arriving on Thursday 15 June, Cliftonville will play HNK Cibalia of Croatia in the Europa League Second Qualifying Round at Windsor Park in south Belfast. Kick-off is at 7.45pm and there will be a cash turnstile at either £10 for adults and £6 for concessions.

On the evening of Friday 16 June, there will be a traditional Irish music session in the Cliftonville Social at Solitude, followed by DJs Smitty (playing soul, funk and rock) and Cormac (playing reggae, ska and punk). There will also be a stall selling FC United kits and merchandise.

On the Saturday morning, we are delighted to announce that there are seats available for a tour of George Best’s Belfast - taken by George’s sister Barbara McNarry.

The coach will be leaving from behind Belfast City Hall at 11.45am sharp and will travel to the murals of George in east Belfast, to Nettlefield Primary School where George attended, to the Best family home in Burren Way and then to Roselawn Cemetery - George’s final resting place.

At approximately 2pm, the coach will then drop off at Donegal Celtic Park for the friendly.

To cover the cost of the coach hire and to make a small donation to the George Best Foundation, there will be a charge of £5 per person for the tour. This is payable on the day.

As there are only 50 seats available for the tour, it will be first come, first served with a maximum of two places per booking.

Please contact me on laurie_hanna@hotmail.com if you wish to reserve a place, and please ensure you are able to attend if your request is accepted.

Please note that anyone attending will need to make their own travel arrangements for returning to Belfast city centre after the game.

On the Saturday evening, there will be DJs at The Kitten Bar in the city centre where we will draw the charity raffle being held to benefit the FC United Development Fund and the George Best Foundation between 6pm and 9pm. FC United players and management will be in attendance.

- Getting there
There are two airports which serve Belfast - George Best City Airport in east Belfast (about three miles from city centre) and the International Airport at Aldergrove (about 15miles from city centre).

If you are flying into GEORGE BEST CITY AIRPORT: there is a bus which takes around 10 minutes and costs £3 return. A taxi should cost around £10.

If you are flying into INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: there is a bus which takes around 30 minutes and costs £10 return. A taxi should cost around £20/25.

Details and timetables on both are available at: http://www.translink.co.uk/VisitorAirport.asp

If you are coming in on the ferry, it is probably best to take a cab into the city centre (I don’t know of any buses from the port) which should take around 10 minutes and cost no more than £10.

- Hotels
I think most of you have already booked, so this seems a bit unneccessary!

- Drink
I think most of you know what to expect so I’ll keep this brief as well. The Guinness is (mostly) ideal, the local lager is called Harp (worth a try) and try a glass of local produce Bushmills if you like your whiskey.

- Bars
As you might imagine, there are a lot to choose from in Belfast - so I’ve decided to divide it up by parts of town depending on where you might be staying.

It’s worth bearing in mind that every pub can serve until 1am and most close around 1.30am - so drink up when you’re on your last pint! Bouncers are usually very friendly, but some can be a little impatient.

- City Centre/Cathedral Quarter
The Duke of York (aka The Duke), 7 Commercial Court - very popular, very busy, great music and good Guinness.

The John Hewitt, 51 Donegall St - lots of traditional music sessions, good range of continental beers, ales, etc and considered to have very good pub-grub.

White’s Tavern, 2 Winecellar Entry - allegedly the oldest bar in town, has a fantastic old open peat fire and my favourite Guinness in town.

Northern Whig, 2 Bridge Street - a little fancier than your normal Belfast boozer, so be expected to have to be wearing shoes to get in. Beautiful old building though.

The Spaniard, 3 Skipper Street - tiny little pub but very popular with late-20s, early-30s crowd due to decent soul and funk soundtrack.

The Kitchen, 1 Victoria Square - busy, old-fashioned style pub, recommended.

Robinson’s, 38 Great Victoria Street - directly opposite the Europa Hotel (the most bombed hotel in Europe!), three rowdy floors of partying so a very popular late-night spot for all ages.

The Crown, 46 Great Victoria Street - owned by the National Trust, a breath-taking old building with an exceptional interior. Worth a visit simply for a look inside, but get a snug and have a pint as well.

Kelly’s Cellars, 30 Bank Street - one of the oldest pubs in town, where the Society of United Irishmen met in 1791. Great Guinness and worth a look if you’re into Irish history.

- South Belfast
Auntie Annie’s, 44 Dublin Road - live music venue, very popular with students but a nice little pub close to the centre. Live music upstairs on most weekends.

The Kitten, 1 Bankmore Square - this is where the Development Fund/George Best Foundation charity raffle will be held. Also has a busy nightclub attached (for anyone into their music, Craig Richards from Fabric is playing the night of the friendly.)

Lavery’s, 12 Bradbury Place - one of Belfast’s best-known and busiest boozers, populars with students, drinkers and pub philisophists.

Benedict’s, 7 Bradbury Place - popular spot with the older crowd, has a nightclub downstairs.

The Empire, 42 Botanic Avenue - another interesting old building worth a look, has lots of live music events.

The Bot/The Eg, 23 and 32 Malone Road - two pubs facing each other on Malone Road, known for their chaotic, drunken atmosphere.

- West Belfast
The Red Devil, 196 Falls Road - also known as An Diabhal Dearg (Irish name), a Manchester United bar and worth a visit if you’re visiting the West. All (Red) Mancunians welcome.

- North Belfast
The Cliftonville Social, Cliftonville Street, Solitude - come up and have a look at the ground and a pint. Cassidy’s, 347 Antrim Road - the most popular pre-match Cliftonville bar (along with the Social), stop in at any time to share a pint with other Reds.

- Places to see
There are a few spots of interest in and around Belfast, and plenty more nearby.

I would recommend a black cab tour up and around the west of the city (which usually follows the route up along the Shankill Road, then through the ’Peace Wall’ and down the Falls Road), especially if you are curious about Belfast’s recent history.

I can personally recommend Pat who runs ’The Original Tour’ on 07751 565359. He also organises special discounts for large groups.

For families, the recently reopened Ulster Museum in Botanic Gardens in south Belfast is recommended. See here for opening time and details on exhibitions: http://www.nmni.com/um

The Belfast Zoo is situated in north Belfast, and information on opening times and admission prices are all available here: http://www.belfastzoo.co.uk/

The Odyssey Arena in east Belfast has a cinema and also houses the W5, a science and discovery centre which will keep the kids entertained for a few hours! More details here: http://www.w5online.co.uk/

The official tourism website for Belfast is here: http://www.gotobelfast.com/

If you have time, a trip to the north coast is great - it probably takes about an hour-and-a-half to get up there by car from Belfast. The Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge are fantastic places to visit if you want to venture further afield. Bushmills Brewery is nearby too.

- Shopping and merchandise
As you might expect, the majority of shops are remarkably similar to the ones in Manchester and everywhere else in England. Victoria Square and Castle Court are the two main shopping centres in the city.

We have produced t-shirts, badges and scarves for the friendly - please only buy from the FC United stall or the Cliftonville shop to ensure any profit directly benefits the clubs! We are aware that unofficial merchandise has been produced, so please take a look at the FC United shop to see the official gear.

There will be opportunities to buy from an FC United stall at the Friday night event in the Cliftonville Social, and again at the Development Fund/George Best Foundation charity event on the Saturday night in The Kitten Bar.

- Dos and don’ts
Belfast has changed and progressed a lot in the last 10 to 15 years, but I would say it’s still probably best to avoid the question of politics unless you are amongst friends.

Stick to talking about football if you want to make friends as many are fascinated by FC United and what we stand for.

Mostly, it’s like any other modern, young European city - it’s a lot of fun, lively, welcoming and you’ll all love it.

- The game
Finally, to the reason everyone will be in Belfast - the game itself. Due to the pitch work at Solitude, the game will now be played at Donegal Celtic Park in west Belfast. The full address is Donegal Celtic Park, Suffolk Road, Belfast BT11 9PE.

Admission will cost £8 for adults and £5 for concessions.

A taxi journey to the ground from the city centre should cost no more than £10 per car, so £2 each in a car of five. I hope everyone enjoys the game and has a great weekend!

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First Posted ~ 10:11 Mon 12 Jul 2010
News ID ~ 2925
Last Updated ~ 12:36 Mon 21 May 2018