Image of a couple playing a guitar and a fiddle. The text beside them reads 'Northern Ireland: A Thriving Cultural Scene'
Northern Ireland - A Thriving Cultural Scene

Move to Northern Ireland: for its vibrant food & culture

Think you know Northern Ireland? Think again!

Forget what you know about Northern Ireland. Over the last decade, our country has changed dramatically. In fact, National Geographic magazine hails Belfast as a ‘must-see destination.’ More people than ever are choosing to move here, drawn to the region’s unique lifestyle, compact size and excellent quality of life.

A member of our diaspora, John Harkin moved back to Northern Ireland to set up his Tech business in the North-West. He shared his reasons about why he loves living in Northern Ireland again: “It’s a marvellous environment to live and bring up your children in. The facilities, countryside, the sea – it’s just second to none… It’s a vibrant environment going through exciting change.”

Northern Ireland is going through a period of regeneration with independent brands and visionaries, pouring soul into every part of the region. From culinary paradise to a booming film sector, Northern Ireland is a vibrant location that has plenty to offer.

Thriving Arts & Music Scene

Anyone who has ever been to Northern Ireland will recall that our country is steeped in culture and history – and there really is something for everyone.  If you have fond memories of listening to Cool FM while cruising through country hills, you’ll be thrilled to know that Northern Ireland’s music scene is still thriving. In 2021, Belfast earned the prestigious title of UNESCO City of Music. It joins Liverpool and Glasgow – the only two other UK cities to receive the highly coveted award. UNESCO status recognises the city’s rich musical heritage, and the importance music has on its future. Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Emmy-nominated composer Hannah Peel have been appointed as the city’s music patrons.

Not only a success in the charts with the likes of than Van Morrison and The Undertones, if undiscovered hits are more up your street then Northern Ireland offers a dynamic independent music scene. Derry musician SOAK represented Northern Ireland at the UK Independent Venue week 2022 – a festival that celebrates the spirit of independence and the culture of live music.

For book lovers - in literature, the gender gap is closing. Male voices have always been celebrated in literature and poetry, but now – for the first time ever – female voices are just as popular as their male counterparts.

There are no shortages of delight in Northern Ireland’s silver screen either. Following the legacy created by Game of Thrones, the local film sector is booming. Two of the biggest dramas Line of Duty and Bloodlands aired on television screens in 2021 – both filmed in Northern Ireland. The popular BBC drama Hope Street was also filmed in the picturesque seaside town of Donaghadee. Sir Kenneth Branagh’s cinematic masterpiece Belfast brought the city to the big screen, wowed critics and boomed at the box office, winning Branagh an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.  

Northern Ireland continues to prioritise art and culture over the coming years. A new five-year blueprint has been developed for NI’s art and cultural organisations sector. The initiative aims to build long-term financial strength within the sector, so the arts continue to flourish.

Bustling Social Scene

For many, a thriving nightlife is a key consideration when relocating. Northern Ireland is famed for its lively pubs and vibrant nightclub scene, both in its capital city and its smaller coastal towns too. Portrush was named as one of the top 15 best Irish towns for nightlife in 2020. Unsurprisingly, Belfast’s Kelly’s Cellars and Derry’s Blackbird were named among the best bars in the UK.

However, checking your account balance the morning after can sometimes be a sobering experience. Luckily, a night out in Belfast won’t break the bank. The city makes the top 10 for the cheapest night away, offering more value for money than other UK capitals. A 2-person one-night stay in a 4-star hotel will only set you back £105 compared to £233 in Edinburgh and £168 in London. The number of 4-star hotels has more than tripled in the last 20 years meaning you’ll always find somewhere to rest your weary bones.

What’s more, taxi fares in Belfast are the 3rd cheapest in the UK. And if you love a dry martini, you’ll find stirring prices in Belfast as this boozy beverage is the 2nd cheapest in the UK.

Belfast’s student-friendly prices make it the perfect location for anyone considering moving here for educational purposes. It makes the top 10 list for the UK’s cheapest student night out - the price of a pint, a cocktail, a fast-food meal and a 5-mile taxi fare costing nightly revellers a mere £30.

Mouth-watering Food Scene

Discovering favourite places to eat is at the top of many people’s to-do-list when moving to a new place. Thankfully, Northern Ireland is a smorgasbord of excellent restaurants; from fine dining to experiential to the niche, the city is a foodie’s dream. Belfast is driven by independent restaurants and bars, not major national brands, making it a cuisine capital ripe for the tasting.

Three Belfast restaurants have Michelin stars: Ox on Oxford Street, Muddler’s Club in the Cathedral Quarter and Eipic on Howard Street. A further five establishments have a Bib Gourmand status including Balloo House in Killinchy and Wine & Brine in Moira.

Northern Ireland is famed for its superb local provenance. At the Quality Food Awards – the most prestigious awards ceremony for food and drink in the UK – 4 NI companies went on to bag 10 awards. NI Food and drink producers won 70 awards at the Blas Na hÉireann virtual award ceremony – 30 of which were gold.  They also went on to win a further 215 awards at the Great Taste Awards.

Diversity and Inclusion

Inclusivity was never something Belfast was known for - until now. The country has come a long way in celebrating diversity. Belfast City Council is now looking into creating an LGBTQ+ hub that will promote Belfast as a ‘city for all.’ Belfast bursts into spectacular rainbow colours every August for the annual Belfast Pride Parade to celebrate Pride day. Over 50,000 people attend Belfast’s Pride parade making it Ireland’s largest and one of the top 10 largest in the UK.

The city also hosts multiple events and programmes throughout the year. The Outburst Queer Arts Festival weaves together theatre, film, music, visual art and discussions, offering the best in queer talent. Multiple LGBTQ+ venues like Kremlin and Maverick Bar run everything from clubbing to karaoke, cabaret to open mics.

Northern Ireland is a fantastic destination for movers, shakers and relocators. The region is a cultural tapestry boasting a thriving arts & entertainment scene, lively pubs, and delectable cuisine – all wrapped up in a warm, inclusive environment. It’s a thriving social hub with competitive prices and a rich cultural scene, making NI an enviable location to live. If you’re thinking of moving and putting down roots, look no further than Northern Ireland.

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