Belfast's Central District, immediately north of the Golden Mile, is not geographically the center of the city, but it's the old heart of Belfast. It's a frenetic place, where both locals and visitors shop. Cafés, pubs, offices, and shops of all kinds occupy the redbrick, white Portland stone, and modern buildings that line its narrow streets. Many streets are pedestrian-only, so it's a good place to take a leisurely stroll, browse the windows, and see some sights to boot. It's easy to get waylaid shopping and investigating sights along the river when taking this walk, so give yourself at least two hours to cover the area comfortably.
The Central District contains what locals call the Cathedral Quarter: radiating out from the new, mock neo-Palladian development of St. Anne's Square. Small privately owned art galleries, alongside the Black Box—a major performance venue—line the side streets and are crammed in alongside a new wave of bars and lively bistros, making it the new restaurant central. Crowning it all is the dramatic Metropolitan Arts Centre, Northern Ireland's flagship location for the arts.