The Best Coffee Shops & Cafes in Belfast

Coffee House in Belfast | © Leo McCourt/ Flickr
Coffee House in Belfast | © Leo McCourt/ Flickr
Photo of Niamh McGovern
2 June 2017

Skip the franchises and have your morning coffee in one of Belfast’s local coffee shops or cafes. Withexcellent baristas, funky interiors and, of course, a great cup of Joe, you’ll be starting your morning the right way. Northern Ireland’s capital has hundreds of coffee traders across the city, from the Cathedral Quarter to the bustling Botanic Avenue. Here are the best ones to check out.

The National Grande Café

Bar, Cafe, Restaurant, European, Coffee, Tea , Fast Food, Vegetarian, $$$

Formerly the National Bank headquarters and now a beautiful listed building, The National Grande Café sits between City Centre and the Cathedral Quarter in one of the most accessible locations to tourist in the entire city. If you don’t pass it on your travels, you can access it through Church Street from the main shopping centre, Victoria Square. Much of the original structure has been maintained to give the building a fantastic interior, which is accompanied by long wooden tables, where coffee is served on a stone slate. The building’s four floors include an in-house bar and night venue, Sixty6 (the cafe is situated on the ground floor).

Try the Tiamo Blend coffee, which is brewed by Bailies Roasters, or a flavour from the Suki Tea range if you aren’t a coffee lover.

The Pocket

Coffee Shop, European, Coffee, Tea , Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
Kieran Sands, barista at The Pocket cafe, eats his breakfast outside before he starts work in Belfast city centre as businesses across Northern Ireland reopen their doors following a two-week circuit-breaker lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of corona
The Pocket | © Brian Lawless / PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

The Pocket may be a small, humble establishment adjacent to Queen’s University’s main campus, but it has grown to become one of the city’s most popular places for an afternoon coffee break. Behind the bright yellow door is a quaint setting with exposed brick and group-friendly seating, great coffee and an accompanying pastry and food menu. There is a fantastic view overlooking the Lanyon campus building, which was once named one of the UK’s most beautiful university buildings.

Ethical trading is important to the folks at The Pocket; they only stock 3FE coffee, a single origin coffee sourced directly from independent farmers. The donuts are a great accompaniment to your coffee and come in an array of flavours, including raspberry glaze and salted caramel, with new flavours popping up every month.

Harlem Cafe

Cafe, Irish, European, Coffee, Tea , Fast Food, $$$

If you happen to be visiting the famous Ulster Hall music venue, pop into the Harlem Cafe next door, situated on Bedford Street between South and Central Belfast. It may be hard to call this place cafe, as it’s everything from a wine bar to a bistro. The interior resembles a late Victorian household, from the pillared structure to the candelabras dotted around the coffee tables. Cream tea options (scones and tea) are a favourite, along with milkshakes and pastries.

Since Harlem Cafe has an alcohol license, upgrade to an Irish coffee, a Calypso coffee, or try the Harlem Classico: rich hot coffee and one shot of Amaretto, topped with cream.

Town Square

Bar, Cafe, Contemporary, Coffee, Tea , Dessert, Fast Food, Vegetarian, European, Irish, $$$

Botanic Avenue has more coffee houses, bars and restaurants than you could ever wish for; so why choose Town Square? First, it’s a bar, restaurant and coffee house all in two adjacent venues. Second, the coffee is quite special. Baristas from the Town Square Cafe are number one and number two in Northern Ireland, winning the most recent Northern Irish Aeropress Championships in 2017 for their Aeropress filter coffee. Their coffee blend ‘Roasted Brown’ is sourced locally, from County Wicklow, and is used in the 12 coffee drinks on the menu. For something a little different, try the Chemex filter coffee that serves two and is presented in glass jars, to preserve the perfect temperature of the drink.

Kaffe O

Coffee Shop, European, Coffee, Tea , Fast Food, Vegetarian, $$$

Kaffe O brings a little Scandinavian charm to Northern Ireland — as well as great coffee. This Nordic inspired coffee house — with branches on Botanic Avenue and Ormeau Road — opened in 2014 when a lawyer from Copenhagen changed course and opened a coffee chain. The name is a combination of kaffe, meaning coffee in Danish, and O for founder, Orla. Their coveted blend is the reason for Kaffe O’s success, which is imported from Ricco’s Kaffe bars in Copenhagen. The menu includes some amazing blends, including the flat white and Ecuador 70% hot chocolate. All ceramics are handmade in Denmark and available to buy, which may be tempting as they come in amazing marbled patterns and colours. Those who visit Kaffe O will soon crave the taste of this beautiful Danish coffee blend.

Established Coffee

Cafe, Coffee Shop, American, British, Vegetarian, Coffee, Tea , $$$
© Mark Ashbridge

Established have dominated the coffee scene in Belfast since opening in December 2013. Their 3FE blend comes from nearby Dublin, and the coffee shop often uses guest blenders from around the world. Established Coffee has also designed a special coffee guide to Belfast in the form of a Google Map, which includes the staff’s favourite spots. The accompanying menu is among the best in the Cathedral Quarter district, including a raspberry frangipane with orange pastry, sweet apple pie and a pear and salted caramel pie. The cafe also hosts regular coffee and tea tasting sessions.


Cafe, Restaurant, European, Coffee, Tea , Fast Food, Vegetarian, $$$

YAHI coffee boasts award winning baristas from the the AeroPress Championships in Ireland, and is tucked away at the Europa Bus Station, on Great Northern Mall. The coffee shop is enthusiastic about local produce and supports over 30 local businesses, featuring everything from local baked goods to meat produce on their deli menu. In an unassuming bus station mall, YAHI offers an escape from the bustle of the city in an open spaced, relaxing establishment. Tarts and tray bakes are a speciality here, so make the most of of the local ingredients and flavours.

Cafe 31

Coffee Shop, European, Coffee, Tea , Fast Food

An artists dream, Cafe 31 is a small cafe inside a quaint art gallery, in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter. Talented pianists and musicians occupy the space regularly, making it one of the most alternative music venues in the city. The Fenderesky Gallery, operational since 1983, is upstairs, and specialises in modernist and abstract art. A coffee and cake in this gallery is more than an afternoon cafe visit: you can tour the art gallery, browse the book collection and, if you are lucky, musical entertainment will be provided.

Espresso Elements

Coffee Shop, European, Coffee, Tea , Fast Food, Vegetarian

Espresso Elements is a hot spot for South Belfast coffee and a wonderful place to meet colleagues or friends. The staff make a beautiful cappuccino, latte or piccolo (which resembles a baby latte). The decór is simple wood, and this is a favourite hangout for students and professionals. You can also take a bag of their home brewed coffee to go, which is available to order, or a range of green teas that come in home brewing gift sets. They’ll usually have a range of mixed blends on offer, from Colombian to Brazilian roast, together with the Espresso Elements blend, which gives their coffee its unique taste.

Cafe Le Petit Ormeau

Cafe, Restaurant, European, British, $$$

Cafe Le Petit Ormeau takes the coffee house to a whole new level, and can probably be classed as a restaurant-cafe hybrid. The dinner menu is colourful and popular with locals, but the establishment often goes unnoticed during the earliet hours of the day, from breakfast to brunch. Unlike most casual cafes, the breakfast menu consists of more than cake and pastry, encompassing a range of continental breakfast options: Eggs Royale, a breakfast buttermilk bun and Irish crab sandwich are all on the menu. The breakfast bar has an amazing view of Ormeau Road and there’s a nearby park with a remarkable view of Samson & Goliath in the horizon. A classy way to start the day.

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