A thriving city that caters to all budgets and tastes.
It’s bustling with boutiques, designer hot spots and high street stores as well as local crafts and food.
But don’t just take our word for it, according to Lonely Planet, “Belfast has a dynamic young population that keeps the city on trend” (Lonely Planet, 2017).
A stroll down Royal Avenue in Belfast City Centre is the perfect way to start your day’s retail therapy.
This wide, pedestrian friendly, avenue is home to all the biggest fashion brands like Zara and H&M as well as stunning landmark architecture from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. For serious shoppers, Victoria Square and Castle Court are two key destinations.
The beautiful, partially open air, Victoria Square includes brands such as Topshop, Mango, Hollister, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Guess, Ted Baker, All Saints as well as House of Fraser which stocks over 900 different brands. Victoria Square also features a cinema, a variety of eateries and the iconic “Dome” which offers stunning 360-degree views of the city. Nearby, Castle Court is home to Debenhams, and other high street favourites such as New Look and Dorothy Perkins.
Belfast’s real charm lies in the fact big retail stores are nestled amongst independent and alternative retailers.
Take Fresh Garbage, which first opened its doors in 1969 and has faithfully supplied Belfast’s alternative crowd since. Or Sawer’s, a family run haven of foodie delights which can be found after a short wander through the Queen’s Arcade, a passageway of luxe shops and boutiques dating from 1910.
Another Belfast institution is St George’s Market. Built 1890-1896, it’s the only surviving covered Victorian market in Belfast and was named the UK's Best Large Indoor Market 2019 by the NABMA Great British Market Awards. With street food, live music and 248 stalls featuring anything from fresh food to antiques and local crafts- it’s a perfect reason to get up early on weekends.
Bargain Hunters can swap Lisburn Road for nearby Botanic Avenue with its host of vintage and second-hand shops.
The British Heart Foundation shop specialises in vintage and retro clothing. Here, if you’re willing to rummage, you can often pick up a designer labels for as little as £2. Even better, its proximity to campus makes it perfect for popping in after lectures.
Alternatively, head back into the city centre where you’ll discover Octopus’s Garden, a two-floor vintage wonderland packed with everything from 90s Levi’s to 50s tea dresses as well as an extensive vinyl collection. Then explore Young Savage, a stylish and curated vintage shop offering up clothing, vinyl and books.
Read: The Best of Vintage and Retro Shopping in Belfast
The island of Ireland is famous for its high-quality craftsmanship, from Aran knitwear to Belfast Linen.
If you want something with a local flavour, then there are some must shop destinations. Avoca, Ireland’s oldest business, is located on Arthur Street and is known for its handwoven, high-quality woollen items. Nowadays, it is also a perfect place to shop for lesser known brands, homewares and great gifts. Don’t forget to explore the delicatessen and make sure to check out the stylish café too.
Nestled in a quiet lane near Victoria Square is Born & Bred. This delightful, independent shop stockis crafts from local artists, like macramé wall art from ASTRL Fibres. It’s also the perfect place to get custom art, candles and even a miniature Harland & Woolf Crane to decorate your room with.
Belfast has a wide selection of independent and global book shops.
No Alibi’s, a local legend to generations of Queen’s students, is a dedicated Crime Fiction book shop on Botanic Avenue. It also stocks a wide range of books and course materials as well as hosting a regular programme of author events. Further down Botanic Avenue you’ll find Oxfam Books and War on Want Bookshop two excellent places to find second hand, collectable and antiquarian books.
Blackwell’s is also perfectly placed near campus and even offers a buy-back scheme for students. So don’t worry about carting those first year course books around with you forever! Further into town, on Fountain Lane, is the multi-story Waterstones that stocks a huge range of books, gifts and even has a cosy café upstairs. Keep an eye out for their frequent events and pop along to one of their genre specific book clubs.
Comic book, gaming paraphernalia and collectable enthusiasts, have no fear; Belfast is ready for you!
Head straight to Forbidden Planet a multi-story paradise for fans of anything from manga (they’re Northern Ireland’s biggest stockists) to Dragon Ball Z and Magic the Gathering Cards. Nearby you’ll also find Belfast’s dedicated Warhammer store, the best place to go for news from the 41st Millennium and the Mortal Realms!
Just a stone’s throw away is CeX, a second-hand chain specialising in technology, computing, video games and technology repair. As well as GAME, the UK's leading games retailer stocking video games, consoles, accessories and more.
Of course, it’s not just about Gaming. Belfast is home to Northern Ireland’s biggest Apple store, located in Victoria Square as well as a wide variety of specialist tech shops. Looking for DJ decks? You need to head to Dawson’s Music or Electronic Centre Sound & Light on College Square.
Beloved by students the world over, Ikea is probably the highlight of the home décor scene in Belfast.
Famed for its wide range of simple, well-designed and affordable home furnishings, it’s a great place to go to get stocked up on student essentials. Another highlight for home furnishing is Søstrene Grene, with an ever-changing stock of creative delights, you’ll find anything from velvet desk chairs to hand painted tea strainers at budget prices.
At the other end of the spectrum is Anthropologie which stocks a unique assortment of boho chic home décor items, including frequent artist collaborations. The store is the first on the island of Ireland and cements Belfast’s reputation as a major shopping destination.
You'll probably be hungry after all that shopping but don't worry- all the essentials are close at hand.
Mace, located in the Treehouse at Elms BT9, has general grocery items, a deli, ready meals, frozen goods, and essentials like stationery and toiletries.
There are two SPARs in the University area, catering for all essentials. One is on University Avenue in the Holylands area, and the other is located at the BP garage, right next to the Elms BT9 entrance on the Malone Road.
Centra has three branches in the Queen’s Quarter – Stranmillis, Malone and Botanic. Renowned for its deli counter’s fresh sandwiches, it’s also great for grabbing a few items to tide you over.
At the bottom of Eglantine Avenue and only ten minutes’ walk from Elms BT9 you'll find a Tesco superstore. It's a good bet for a bigger shop, especially if you and your housemates are all chipping in together. It’s a good idea to bring a backpack or your own bags for the journey back!