The Best Ways to Spend Your Evenings in Belfast, Alcohol Free!
It’s a popular misconception that a lot of social life at university revolves around alcohol - medical student Kathryn is here to suggest some ideas for sober fun in and around Belfast.
If college movies are to be believed, every night at university is a massive rager of a party at a frat house - this is obviously not the case! However, the perception of uni life as one big party can still remain, and you can feel the pressure for your experience to live up to the hype - or worry you’re missing out on something if you’re not a big fan of alcohol.
While I do love a good night out, I promise, at university you don’t have to drink to have fun. Belfast is a big and busy city, which means there’s lots of activities to get up to with friends, whether you don’t drink, are taking a night off or are just looking for something a little different!
Festive fun at the Belfast Christmas market
The cinema (QFT, Odeon Victoria Square)
Whether you’re a fan of the biggest blockbusters or the latest indie darling is more your speed, the cinema with friends is a great way to spend an evening. The Queen's Film Theatre is located right on campus and shows lots of unique and artsy movies from around the globe. They offer student prices and a free membership scheme called LUMI, which lowers prices even further! With so many great restaurants nearby on Botanic, why not catch dinner and a show with your mates?
If the latest major films are more your scene, the Odeon cinema is located in Victoria Square in the city centre, and is the handiest place to head to catch a movie - load up on popcorn and enjoy all the major titles hitting cinemas for a great night out.
Heading out to the cinema with new friends, all the way back during Fresher's week!
Similarly, there are lots of great places to check out live theatre and music in Belfast - Zoe covers how to do this without breaking the bank in another blog. This can feel like a really unique and fancy way to spend an evening, and will create nice memories with friends as you get dressed up and feel cultured for the night.
For the perfect activity to combine time to chat and catch up as well as having some fun, check out a bowling alley near you! Hollywood Bowl in the SSE Arena hosted many of my favourite birthday parties over the years, and it is just as much fun as an adult - it’s fun to let your competitive streak come out and enjoy some wholesome fun!
Visit Hollywood Bowl and let out your competitive streak!
In a similar vein, challenge your friends to a round of mini golf and catch up as you complete the course. My two fave spots for this in Belfast are Lost City Adventure Golf and the innovative scrapyard mini golf. While they’re located further from campus, they’re worth the trip - far from ordinary mini golf, these courses are filled with fun bonuses and excitement.
If you and your friends fancy a teamwork challenge, check out Prison Island escape rooms on the Boucher Road! Here, you can be in your very own episode of the crystal maze, as you move from room to room and complete challenges that test teamwork, puzzles, and agility. You’ll be exhausted by the end, but it’s well worth it and a great way to bond with new friends especially!
Work together and bond with friends in escape rooms
Okay, hear me out on this one. When someone suggested this as an activity, I was uncertain - and worried they were secretly a psychopath - but it’s actually a lot of fun! There’s a few spots around Belfast to give this a go, and a session includes chances to learn the skill of axe throwing and participate in fun team challenges. If you’re feeling the stress of exams, this is certainly a great way to take out your frustrations as a group!
"Who says the kids are the only ones who can have fun? Evening sessions at popular attractions like We are Vertigo and W5 are a great way to channel your inner child."
Who says the kids are the only ones who can have fun? Evening sessions at popular attractions like We are Vertigo (the inflatables park) and W5 (a popular kids science centre) are a great way to channel your inner child and have some wholesome fun with friends. Look out for these on their website and prepare to have the best time - on a placement elsewhere in Northern Ireland, my friends and I even rented out an inflatable park one evening, and it was by far the most fun we had in a long time!
During lockdown, this was a wildly popular activity - why not rent out some Belfast bikes (they’re located in several spots around campus and across the city) and take yourselves on your own group tour of the city? Belfast is small enough that you can cycle round the city centre and check out some of the main sights, as well as spending time together in a unique way.
Belfast bikes are now available at Elms BT9!
Grab some desserts
The university area has lots of great places that stay open late when you’re after a sweet treat. I recommend trying out Cafe Mauds and Sticky Fingers on the Lisburn road, Nugelato and Rhiannon’s Cakes and Bakes on Stranmillis, or the new Al Gelato on Botanic - all tried, tested, and delicious. Plenty of places to explore and catch up with friends over yummy ice creams, traybakes, waffles or more - you’ll be spoiled for choice!
Belfast has plenty of places to visit if you have a sweet tooth
Check out clubs and societies
Queen’s boasts a huge range of clubs and societies that cover everything from sports to arts. They run a huge range of events for members and non-members alike - have a look at a few you may be interested in and see what’s going on! Some societies host quizzes or art nights - this could be the perfect way to try something new and make new friends, all while staying sober for the night.
Hopefully this gives you some new ideas for things to check out in and around Belfast. It’s really lovely to make the most of the evenings and the city when you get the chance, and I hope this inspires you to try something different to a regular night out!
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Medicine| Undergraduate Student | Lisburn, NI
I’m in my final year of Medicine at Queen's - I love my degree because it combines caring for people, learning fascinating things and working as a team. When I’m not busy surviving placement and exams, you can find me in one of Belfast’s great coffee shops with a friend, going to concerts to get my fix of live music, or curling up to read a book with a carefully curated Spotify playlist on in the background!