George Best might have left Belfast at the tender age of 15, but his heart continued to belong to the Northern Irish city long after he’d departed.
Born in east Belfast on 22 May 1946 to a working-class family, there are spots all around the city that were touched by a little bit of George Best magic throughout his life.
Many of the places the legendary footballer frequented are still around today, and easily accessible for fans to enjoy.
So, we’ve pulled together the everyday places and special spaces that shaped George Best, giving you the opportunity to explore Belfast through his footsteps.
The Cregagh Estate
16 Burren Way, on the Cregagh Estate, was the Best family home from January 1949 onwards.
George moved there when he was two with his parents, Dickie and Ann, and his sister Carol. Brand new at the time of opening, the Cregagh estate was the height of luxury as the properties all had inside bathrooms!
Today, the estate is still standing and you can rent out the Best’s old house as a holiday rental. George’s room has been restored to look as it would have in the 1950s. There’s even a Wolverhampton Wanderers football kit (one of the teams he supported as a youngster) laid out on the bed!
Head to 89 Donard Street to see the house where the George’s maternal grandparents lived. The Manchester United striker lived here for a year before the family moved into Burren Way.
Interestingly, this was probably the first place that the legendary footballer got his feet on a ball. The famous image of a young George playing football in his nappy was taken just outside his grandparent’s house.
Ravenhill Presbyterian Church
George’s Grandad would take all his grandchildren to Ravenhill Presbyterian Church on Sundays for the regular service. The children used to attend the Sunday school inside the impressive Gothic building.
The Church is still open today, and welcomes visitors.
Spences Chip Shop
Situated on Beersbridge Road, Spences Chip Shop is a famous east Belfast eatery. Legend has it that the tastiest chips in Belfast are served from its counter.
The Bests certainly thought so – the oldest chippy in the city was their local and they visited regularly. George’s favourite snack from Spences was the crispy scrapings salvaged from the fryer.
If you want to indulge in a local delicacy, try a pastie supper. This delectable dish includes a battered pie, served on a bed of chips. Recipes vary but the most common ingredients in the pastie are minced pork, onion, potato and seasoning formed into a ‘round’ which is then covered in batter and deep friend.
Desano’s Ice Cream Parlour
Situated on Newtownards Road, Desano’s Ice Cream is a firm favourite in Belfast. And it’s still open today!
Serving up traditional Italian ice cream in a cone or as a ‘slider’ (between two wafers), this iconic parlour was somewhere that George always loved visiting whenever he was in the city.
Italian gelato has been a firm favourite on Newtownards Road since the 1950s when there were no fewer than six parlours in the area. Thanks to an influx of migrants from the Mediterranean country throughout the 20th century, Belfast has never been short of a slider.
The parlour held a very special place in George’s heart. His sister, Barbara, even managed to bring some of Deasno’s ice cream to London when George was in hospital and nearing the end of his life.
As a young boy, George supported Glentoran Football Club. They played at The Oval on Mersey Street, near the Best’s home.
George was a keen ‘Glens’, watching matches regularly with his father and grandfather.
The Oval has had a tumultuous history, including being bombed in the Belfast Blitz of World War II, and now needs continuous maintenance to keep it in working order.
But it was recently used as the host of the Irish Cup final and remains a well-known landmark in east Belfast.
George Best passed away at the age of 59 in London’s Cromwell Hospital in 2005. His body was brought back to his home city and laid to rest in a private burial at Roselawn Cemetery on Ballygowan Road.
George was buried beside his mother at grave S295, with a simple headstone marking his final resting place.
The George Best Hotel
The George Best Hotel is opening in the Scottish Mutual Building at the end of 2018. Featuring luxurious accommodation and a stunning wedding and events space, this boutique hotel will celebrate the life of the iconic footballer, both on and off the pitch.
The hotel will be the ultimate accommodation for any George Best fans exploring the city of Belfast.
Part of the spectacular restoration by Signature Living will be an extensive museum showcasing fascinating George Best memorabilia that has kindly been donated by the Best family.
In a video revealing an exclusive first look at the hotel, Signature’s Chairman Lawrence Kenwright emphasized how the venue will capture the spirit of the famous footballer.
“As a man, George Best was extreme, so we want this building to reflect that,” he said. “I don’t think there will be anything like it in the world, never mind in Belfast. I’ve never seen a hotel like ours.”
To keep up to date on developments at the The George Best Hotel, follow our Facebook page.