From intimate gigs and traditional jams to world-famous names who started out right here in Northern Ireland, we know great music and continue to celebrate it in many forms. Belfast has been awarded the prestigious UNESCO City of Music title 2021 and with a buzzing music scene, it’s easy to see why.
City of Music
Belfast is only the third city in the UK to become a City of Music, with Liverpool receiving it in 2016 and Glasgow in 2008. Over the next few years now, Belfast – as a holder of the title – will deliver a series of high profile music events, aim to build its infrastructure to further support music creators, and will see music woven into public spaces and places to ensure the power and benefits of music can be felt by all who live, work in or visit the city.
Belfast Music Patrons
Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Emmy-nominated composer Hannah Peel have been appointed official Belfast Music patrons.
“Music is woven into the DNA of Belfast. We have so many incredible bands and artists – and more every single year. I’ve watched in these last 25 years of relative peace the music scene grow and then thrive and now burst at the seams with fearless and limitless talent.” – Gary Lightbody
“Belfast is an alive, vibrant and a musically powerful city. Now is the time to celebrate those that are making a difference in music, in culture.” – Hannah Peel
Music is one of Belfast’s greatest exports. Our biggest claims to fame include Van Morrison, from east Belfast as well as Snow Patrol, Two Door Cinema Club, Stiff Little Fingers and more recently Ryan McMullan.
Delve into Belfast’s musical heritage with a trip to the EastSide Visitor Centre, just a short distance from the home of Van Morrison, where you will find a wealth of information about his life and links to the city.
And exciting artists are emerging all the time, including EDM favourites Bicep who headline the annual AVA festival in Belfast and the indie-folk stylings of Jealous of the Birds and Ciaran Lavery.
Traditional Irish folk music has a home in Belfast and on any given night you’ll find locals and visitors alike toe-tapping to trad in a crowded pub. Discover the rhythmic sounds in venues including The Dirty Onion, Whites Tavern & more. Don’t forget to check their websites and socials to see what days they are hosting live music. Grab a pint and immerse yourself in the sounds of Irish trad in these bars and venues.
Despite our traditional roots Belfast has plenty of places to enjoy world music and discover something new. Lose yourself in a tropical party at Revolución de Cuba with live samba music and salsa dancing; or be transported to 1930s New York at Bert’s Jazz Bar. For a taste of culture experience the breath-taking Ulster Orchestra at one of their frequent performances in the Ulster Hall and Waterfront Hall.
Did you know that Nashville is Belfast’s sister city? Belfast has had links with Nashville for over 20 years, which has benefitted Belfast singer-songwriters such as Triona Carville who regularly makes the trip to Nashville to pursue her music career. The Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival also takes place annually, with concerts, workshops and musical events throughout the city.
It’s not just about the music but how you experience it. Belfast has some incredible live music venues, so whether you’re looking for an intimate gig or bagging tickets to international artists you’ll find yourself in the perfect surroundings. Venues include The Oh Yea Music Centre, Limelight, the historic the Ulster Hall, which, dating back to 1862 is one of the oldest purpose-built concert halls in the UK and Ireland. It’s also where Led Zeppelin famously took to the stage to debut Stairway to Heaven. For larger events, there’s Waterfront Hall on the edge of the River Lagan or the SSE Arena.
Enjoy a festival atmosphere in summer with annual outdoor events taking place in Custom House Square, Ormeau Park and the Boucher Road Playing Fields. Alternatively, hop aboard a Belfast Music Tour Bus, and discover Belfast’s music through the years.
Music & Concerts
Belfast resonates to an ever-changing soundtrack of live music. Browse our guide to music festivals, concerts and gigs in Belfast as well as traditional live music and soothing jazz.