Famous for its iconic murals and numerous art exhibitions, Belfast boasts a thriving art scene and offers an impressive array of galleries to check out. Here are 15 of the best exhibition spaces for art lovers with any taste.
Golden Thread Gallery
What is it? A hub for the local arts community, offering a wide range of activities and events in the heart of Newcastle.
Why you should go? The Golden Thread Gallery, housed in a former linen mill, is always among the most popular art galleries in Belfast, and it is easy to see why. Each year it runs six major exhibitions showcasing world-class Northern Irish and international artists. In addition, its smaller Project Space features experimental artwork and promotes emerging talent.
Situated between the Cathedral Quarter and the historic Sailor Town area, the gallery is easily accessible from the city center. It offers free admission, as well as a free tee and coffee.
What is it? A major cultural hub offering an eclectic program of visual art exhibitions, theater performances, and lots more
Why should you go? Since its opening in 2012, the Metropolitan Art Centre (MAC) has become a vital shared space bringing together all types of music, theater, dance, and art under one roof. The semi-abstract state-of-the-art building, located in the heart of the bustling Cathedral Quarter, houses three gallery spaces spread across six floors.
Art pieces on display vary from paintings to monumental sculptures and large-scale installations by both local and international artists. Best of all, all the exhibitions are free to visit.
What is it? Northern Ireland's leading contemporary photography center, showcasing work by world-renowned and emerging artists
Why you should go? Belfast Exposed, conveniently situated in the city center, is an absolute must-visit for those who appreciate photography. Its three-story building houses four public galleries featuring politically and socially engaged works by early-career local artists and world-class art in line with current trends in photography.
Besides galleries, Belfast Exposed holds an extensive bookshop selling classic photo books as well as limited editions and locally produced titles that cannot be found elsewhere.
What is it? A relatively small but arresting family-run gallery that displays contemporary and traditional fine Irish art
Why should you go? The lovely gallery, spanning two floors of an old brick townhouse on the bustling Lisburn Road, is the perfect place to see works by leading Irish artists of the 20th and 21st centuries in a quiet, intimate setting. You can admire paintings by William Conor, Louis le Brocquy, James Humbert Craig, and J B Vallely, to name a few.
Eakin Gallery is a great place not only for casual art lovers but also for those who are starting out their own art collection. Many works on display are for sale, with highly affordable pieces available.
Gormleys Fine Art
What is it? One of Ireland's leading art galleries, specializing in contemporary art, with venues in Belfast and Dublin
Why should you go? Gormleys is one of the very few places in Belfast where you can catch the opportunity to see blue-chip art like the work of Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Keith Haring, and Banksy. Except for such big names, the gallery showcases contemporary paintings and sculptures by Northern Ireland's artists, both established and emerging.
Gormleys has a busy exhibition program throughout the year. Check out its website to see what is on display, and go there to admire important international works or discover new names.
What is it? An art gallery and museum at Queen's University of Belfast with a strong focus on Irish art
Why should you go? The Naughton Gallery, situated on the first floor of the beautiful historic Lanyon Building, is an important cultural institution featuring a wide range of artworks, from paintings to videos and installations. In addition to the rolling program of contemporary exhibitions of local and internationally-renowned artists, the gallery hosts various events, from talks to screenings at the Queen's Film Theatre.
The gallery also showcases the university's permanent art collection, including furniture and a fascinating array of silver items.
What is it? An artist-lead gallery and project space which hosts experimental exhibitions and events
Why should you go? Catalyst Arts, hidden down an alleyway in the city center, is the right place for those who appreciate experimental genres and are tired of traditional art galleries. This small but significant venue in Belfast's art landscape promotes emerging artists. It runs unique exhibitions in its cool, industrial space that can easily turn into a cinema, a jumble sale, a nightclub, and even a wrestling ring.
Go there to delve into the world of contemporary art and see some great experimental and multidisciplinary work.
Charles Gilmore Fine Art
What is it? One of the leading dealers in the Irish art world with a gallery space in the heart of Belfast
Why should you go? Charles Gilmore Fine Art is well-known among art investors and collectors, but you do not have to be one of them to visit this dynamic and vibrant art gallery in Belfast. It mainly focuses on contemporary Irish painters and exhibits their work in a wide range of styles.
In addition, the gallery features the work of award-winning international contemporary artists. You can see screen prints by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, hand-inked photogravures by Damien Hirst, and mixed media works by Mr. Brainwash.
Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich
What is it? An arts and cultural center dedicated to preserving and promoting the Irish language, culture, and heritage
Why should you go? Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich invites you to delve into Irish culture and get a unique and diverse experience. This vibrant creative space, based in a former Presbyterian church, houses a theater, bookshop, restaurant, classrooms for language classes and cultural workshops, and an art gallery named after local artist Gerard Dillion.
Get there to explore the exhibitions, listen to traditional and contemporary Irish music, enjoy a meal, and get an insight into the development of the Irish language and culture.
Queen Street Studios
What is it? An array of studios for emerging artists and two galleries to showcase their creations
Why should you go? Queen Street Studio (QSS) is one of the best places where you can enjoy a creative atmosphere and see diverse artworks, including some as works-in-progress. This venue comprises dozens of small studio spaces occupied by professional artists working in various mediums and two galleries for group and solo exhibitions.
Despite the title, QSS is not actually located on Queen Street and can be found in EastSide, a post-industrial area in Belfast with stylish bars, cafés, and attractions.
What is it? A 40-years-old gallery representing the works of living Irish artists as well as talent from abroad
Why should you go? The Fenderesky Gallery is a long-established contemporary art gallery known for its challenging staircase, which is nonetheless always worth climbing. You will enter a bright, airy space where you can see some of the city's best artwork and soak up the refreshingly unique atmosphere.
The gallery runs one-person and theme-based exhibitions on a regular basis. There is also a lovely café downstairs, where you can drink a cup of coffee, look through plenty of books, and enjoy the tranquility.
The Hallows Gallery
What is it? A picture frame shop and a gallery showcasing a diverse selection of traditional and contemporary Irish art
Why should you go? The Hallows Gallery occupies the first floor of a striking old red brick building on the bohemian and vibrant Ormeau Road. It specializes mainly in Irish and Ulster art, and the collection is constantly changing, with new pieces being added every week.
The exhibition space, divided into three rooms, is always filled with beautiful oil and watercolor paintings ranging from classical landscapes to abstract pieces. There is also a small selection of award-winning limited-edition prints and photography.
What is it? A two-story gallery with a friendly and fuss-free atmosphere and an array of works by emerging and established artists
Why should you go? ArtisAnn gallery, located in East Belfast, is a bright and vibrant space showcasing a great selection of works by Northern Irish and internationally renowned artists. The first floor is arranged salon style, displaying as many amazing artworks as possible, while the second floor holds rotating exhibitions.
Get there if you want to see plenty of interesting paintings, sculptures, prints, and collages and learn more about the exciting young local art scene.
Engine Room Gallery
What is it? Centrally-located contemporary art gallery with a strong focus on works by local artists
Why should you go? The Engine Room Gallery, hidden right beside the City Hall, is usually a bit under the radar. Still, it can be a great addition to your stroll around the city center and an excellent retreat from the hustle and bustle of the street outside.
The gallery features a wide variety of contemporary works, mostly by Belfast-based and Northern Irish artists. It runs diverse exhibitions and other events, such as artist talks, to give you deeper insight into the local art scene.
What is it? The largest museum in Northern Ireland, which houses, among others, a great collection of art
Why should you go? Despite the fact that there is no art museum in Belfast, you can easily find a place with an excellent art collection housed under the same roof as dinosaurs and ancient Egyptian mummies. The Ulster Museum features plenty of Irish and Ulster art, dating from the late 17th century to the present day, as well as works of UK and international artists in a wide range of styles and media.
Get there to see the work of Dutch, Flemish, and Italian Old Masters and contemporary pieces by Francis Bacon and Henry Moore.
What are the most popular art galleries in Belfast?
Golden Thread Gallery
What are the best family-friendly art galleries in Belfast?
Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich
What are the best free art galleries in Belfast?
Nearly all art galleries in the city offer free general admission but may charge entry fees for select events. Here are just a few of the many exhibition venues that you can visit for free: