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Top ten Northern Ireland pubs and bars of the year

Edwin McFee compiles his list of the most memorable bars he's visited in 2019

Tutti Frutti Belfast
Tutti Frutti Belfast
tHE gUILDHALL tAPHOUSE
qUINNS
Ulster Sport Club
cUCKOO
Crosskeys
The Empire
Friels
The Jeggy Nettle
The Goat's Toe

By Edwin McFee

This past year was definitely a roller-coaster full of plenty of highs and lows for the people of Northern Ireland.

One thing we could all rely on, however, was our wealth of great pubs to help us either celebrate or forget all about the events of the past 12 months.

So, without further ado, we present to you 10 of the best and brightest bars that 2019 had to offer.

Tutti Frutti

43 Franklin Street, Belfast

Best described as a bit of a speakeasy for millennials, if you love cocktails and pizza then this is most certainly the place for you.

Found inside the space that used to house Chinawhite, Tutti Frutti is an explosion of colour and tastes and is fresh, modern and, perhaps most importantly, fun.

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There are '50s diner-style tables, graffiti and posters covering every wall, and an ice cream van beside the bar, too, should you fancy a wee poke.

The Crosskeys Inn

40 Grange Road, Toomebridge

Proudly claiming to be the oldest thatched pub on the island, the hostelry has been happily serving its thirsty patrons since 1654 and as soon as you step inside the cosy spot you, too, will be instantly smitten by its old-school charm.

A winner of multiple awards (including BBC Countryfile's Country Pub Of The Year), this spot is untarnished by time or trends.

The Empire

42 Botanic Avenue, Belfast

One of Belfast's most iconic and best-loved pubs, this Botanic Avenue boozer is an evergreen place that's eternally popular with skiving students, professionals, comedy lovers, footie fans and more.

Highly recommended for all ages and walks of life, the Empire is definitely pound-for-pound one of the best places for entertainment in the country and regardless of whether you're a local or a socialite from further afield, you're guaranteed to love it here.

Guildhall Taphouse

4 Custom House Street, Londonderry

Occupying the former site of the dearly departed Monico, this bar offers a fresh and fun alternative to some of the city's more traditional boozers. A happening hybrid of hip music venue, chic cocktail spot and hearty bar and grill, the Guildhall Taphouse bristles and buzzes with invention and modernity.

Ulster Sports Club

96-98 High Street, Belfast

First opening its doors in the spring, this reborn bar may have retained the moniker of its previous owners, but that's about it, as the place now leans heavily to the left of centre.

Offering an alternative to the more fashion-conscious spots in the city centre, the watering hole provides a much-needed refuge for arts fans and those who feel like they're round pegs in square holes and have nowhere to lay their hats.

The Goat's Toe

53 Main Street, Bangor

Near the beginning of the decade, Bangor boozer The Goat's Toe 're-established' itself and quickly became the toast of the town.

Cannily catering towards a more cultured, clued-in clientele while also serving as a homely, good old-fashioned pub, the spot has rarely put a foot wrong over the years and is a must-visit.

In fact, even Loki himself, Tom Hiddleston, loves it here.

Cuckoo

149 Lisburn Road, Belfast

The self-proclaimed "geekeasy, arcade and club" known as Cuckoo is arguably one of Belfast's most enjoyable boozers.

Quirky, alternative and kitsch, the pub is a veritable nerd-vana inside - fans of comics, video games, '80s/'90s nostalgia and the like will think they've died and gone to the Batcave.

Quinns

62-64 Main Street, Newcastle

Ever since the 1920s, Quinns has been delighting the denizens of Co Down and beyond.

Initially serving as both an alehouse and grocers, over the decades the hostelry has matured to become one of the more in-demand haunts for Newcastle natives who are young at heart.

Popular with tourists, day-trippers and local revellers, if you love a pub with a party atmosphere, you'll adore it here.

Friels Bar And Restaurant

2-4 Kilrea Road, Swatragh

When it comes to history-steeped hostelries in NI, there aren't many that can hold a candle to Friels. Founded in 1837 and once famously used as a soup kitchen during the famine, the spot has been at the very heart of the south Londonderry social scene for nearly two centuries and is a defiantly old-school place with an endearing 'if it ain't broke' ethos.

The Jeggy Nettle

12 Stranmillis Road, Belfast

Boasting an eye-catching green colour scheme, this dog-friendly watering hole is the brainchild of the good people who brought us exceedingly popular hostelries such as The Spaniard and Muriel's and is a great place to while away the night in. A bar that offers a warm welcome (which is thanks, in part, to their roaring fire), the owners offer a new twist on traditional pub staples and all walks of life will love it here. Plus, if you time your visit right, you may even be treated to a free Tayto bap, too.

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