Located on Great Victoria Street, across from the famous Europa Hotel sit the crown jewel of Belfast pubs. The Crown Liquor Saloon (or known locally as The Crown) is both ageless and priceless, a gem of Victoriana and one of the great bars of the world.
Originally opened by Felix O'Hanlon in 1826 and known as The Railway Tavern, the pub was bought and transformed by Michael Flanigan. Flanigan's son Patrick renamed it “The Liquor Saloon in Great Victoria Street”. The Crown owes its elaborate tiling, stained glass and woodwork to the Italian craftsmen whom Flanigan persuaded to work on the pub after hours. These craftsmen were brought to Ireland to work on the many new churches being built in Belfast at the time. It was this high standard of work that gave the Crown the reputation of being one of the finest Victorian Gin Palaces of its time. Today the National Trust, the British organization that looks after 300 historic houses and gardens and other buildings of national importance, owns The Crown and has sympathetically restored to its full splendor over the years.
The Crown remains a unique visual gem, a veritable masterpiece in bar architecture, which has the distinction of being known to millions the world over. The exterior facade of the bar is a riot of polychromatic tiles that clearly hint at the box of delights to be found within. At first sight the outside is so exotically overwhelming that one has difficulty registering the fine detail work.
The Crown Bar is unbelievably rich in color and design that each time you go in you'll find something new to catch your eye. Where else would you find a burnished primrose yellow, red and gold ceiling, a floor laid in a myriad of mosaic tiles, brocaded walls, ubiquitous highly patterned times, vigorous wood carving throughout, ornate mirrors, wooden columns with Corinthian capitals and feather motifs in gold with painted and etched glass everywhere you look?
Vivid in amber and carmine painted shells, fairies, pineapples, fleurs-de-lis and clowns (incidentally the colorful decorative windows fronting the bar was originally intended to shield customers from inquisitive passers-by). The long Balmoral Red granite topped altar bar is divided by columns and faced with gaily colored tiles and a heated footrest! Check out the huge casks with their polished brass taps that are now filled with Belfast Lager.
Another great delight in this magical place is the ten uniquely shaped cozy and elaborately carved wooden boxes--lettered from A to J. In these snugs you'll find gunmetal plates for striking matches, and an antique bell system--very common in Victorian houses, where servants were employed, which alerted bar staff to your liquid needs! “Drinking snugs”, according to old records, were not originally built for comfort but to accommodate those people who preferred to drink quietly and unseen!
The Crown Liquor Saloon handpicks their ales from some of the best breweries across Britain – so you can savor an unrivalled range of expertly conditioned brews right here in Belfast. This pub is ‘Cask Marque’ accredited so it goes without saying that they are a bit obsessed with quality—even having their own in-house ale expert, known as our Cask Master.
After a pint (or three!) make your way upstairs for a bite to eat. There’s no finer place in Belfast to enjoy traditional dishes like Steak & Guinness Pie, Crown Bar Irish Stew, Beer Battered Fish & Chips or English Mustard Slow Braised Beef. Finish your meal with Sticky Toffee Pudding or Black Forest Gateau--just remember to raise a toast to Mr. Patrick Flanigan, the man who first created this jewel of a pub!
Great Victoria Street
(Credit- Visit Belfast)