Belfast is a city enjoying a remarkable renaissance. The dark days of its troubled past are long gone and the city is now one of the UK’s most attractive visitor destinations. Belfast is a great location for a short stay, it’s compact, easy to get around and the locals are incredibly welcoming. There’s so much to do in Belfast you’ll never be able to pack it all in.
Where to Visit
Here’s our whistle stop guide to some of the best things to see and do.
Titanic Belfast is an absolute must. This amazing visitor attraction stands on the very spot where the famous Titanic ship was constructed and launched back in 1912. The building houses an incredible multi-faceted exhibition which tells the story of Titanic from its design to its fateful maiden voyage. The building is full of hidden nods to the ship, for instance, the building’s unusual shape is designed to replicate the bow of the Titanic. The building is the same height as Titanic and has the same maximum capacity. Titanic Belfast has won countless awards and was named the world’s leading tourist attraction in 2016. No trip to Belfast would be complete without a visit.
The building is located in the Titanic Quarter which is a little outside the city centre. You can get there on foot (if you don’t mind a thirty minute walk) or by taxi. The hop-on hop-off bus tours stop there. You can also get there on the Glider – a regular bus service that runs across the city.
The exhibition takes anywhere between one and two hours to explore fully. A ticket costs £19.50 and £15.50 for seniors. You can pick them up at on the Titanic Belfast website or at the venue.
St. Georges Market
There’s lots of great shopping in Belfast. All the usual high-end stores can be found in the Victoria Square complex in the city centre. But for a taste of something a little more authentic you have to check out St. George’s Market, one of Belfast’s oldest attractions and one of the best markets anywhere in the UK. There has been a Friday market on the St George’s site since 1604. The present market is housed in a beautiful Victorian building completed in 1896. St. George’s is an incredibly vibrant space with music, food, art, fashion and just about everything you can think of. It’s a great place to grab a quick bite to eat and soak up a bit of local colour.
The market operates on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s located in the city centre. If you want to find it just ask any of the locals who seem to take immense pride in giving directions; they might even offer to come with you!
The Cathedral Quarter
The Cathedral Quarter is Belfast’s cultural epicentre. The area was once incredibly run down and derelict but has, in recent years been transformed, first by artists and cultural organisation and then more recently by a slew of trendy new hotels, restaurants and bars. It’s a great place to wander around or to do a spot of bar hopping. Join the crowds literally spilling out of The Duke of York to enjoy the authentic Irish pub experience. There are some great walking tours of the area covering everything from food, to street art, to local history. For a more cultural experience The MAC is one of Belfast’s best theatres while The Black Box has an incredibly diverse programme of entertainment every night.
The Cathedral Quarter is located near to the city centre. The majestic Belfast Cathedral with its incredible floating spire is the gateway to the area and the signal you’ve arrived in the right spot.
A visit to Botanic Gardens is well worth including in your itinerary not just for the beautiful rose garden but for the host of fascinating things to see and do nearby. Within the gardens are the Tropical Ravine and Palm House, two splendid Victorian buildings that celebrate that era’s love for and fascination with the natural world.
Also within the grounds is the Ulster Museum, which houses an incredible collection covering history, art and the natural world. The museum is hugely popular and can get a little crowded at the weekends. For a little peace and quiet head straight for the art galleries on the top floor where you’ll find works by renowned British, Irish and international artists. J.M.W. Turner’s “Dawn of Christianity” is a real highlight!
Before you leave make sure to take in the magnificent architecture of Queens University, which is located right next to the gardens. The University’s impressive Lanyon Building is the centrepiece of the estate and is named after its renowned architect Sir Charles Lanyon.
The University and the Gardens are located just a short walk from the city centre. If you don’t fancy walking you can grab a cab or hop on one of the many busses that go there.
Where To Stay
Whether you’re on a limited budget or splashing out Belfast has some great hotels to suit everyone’s style. There are plenty of excellent accommodation located right in the city centre and on a short visit it really doesn’t make sense to stay too far out. Here are a few suggestions.
The five star Merchant Hotel is simply stunning. Set in a Grade A listed building that was once the headquarters of the Ulster Bank. The décor is sheer opulence with renaissance and art deco influences. The hotel boasts a stunningly beautiful restaurant, spa, cocktail lounge and a swinging jazz bar. It’s located right in the city centre next to the Cathedral Quarter, so you’ll be in the middle of the action from the moment you step outside.
With rooms overlooking Belfast’s iconic City Hall, Ten Square is a great choice for a short stay in the heart of the city. The hotel has a sophisticated, cosmopolitan feel with rooms that are stylish and comfortable. Downstairs, the bar and restaurant are a thriving hub of activity for locals and tourists alike. While upstairs, the rooftop Loft Bar is an oasis of calm. Ten Square is a mid-range offer that feels distinctly top-end.
Belfast has a great selection budget accommodation. All the familiar brands are represented and in some terrific locations too. If you’re visiting Belfast you’ll probably be arriving in the city centre by train or bus, even if you’re coming from the airport. Jury’s Inn is a very short walk from the train station and in a great spot for you to explore the city. The rooms are compact but well decorated with quirky Belfast themed artwork that adds a nice touch of originality.
Where To Eat
The people of Belfast love their food! The city’s got everything you could wish for from Michelin Star restaurants to quirky cafes. The choice is superb but if you’re visiting on the weekend you’ve got to book in advance! The restaurants fill up very quickly and you don’t want to miss out.
The Muddlers Club
Tucked away in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, the Muddlers Club is sheer culinary heaven. Head chef & owner Gareth McCaughey serves up a Taster Menu that will take your breath away. Using hand-picked ingredients from the best homegrown Irish produce the open kitchen creates a sense of theatre while serving up a selection of incredible dishes.
Hoolahans at The Barge
For a dining experience with a difference you’ve got to try Hoolahans. Set on a barge resting gently on the Lagan River this restaurant achieves the seemingly impossible, serving five star fayre from a simple galley kitchen. The menu is influenced by the best traditions of Irish cooking that combines a dazzling array of produce from the land and sea.
Established in 1897, Sawers is Northern Ireland’s oldest deli and a veritable Aladdin’s cave of culinary delights. As well as an award winning deli they serve the finest cheeses, olives, charcuterie, Italian pastries, oils, game, preserves, marmalades, teas, coffees & much more. Stop in for lunch and pick up a little something to bring home.
Hints and Tips
Belfast is a wonderfully compact city and getting around is a snap. If you are staying in the city centre then almost everything is accessible on foot. For trips to the Titanic quarter the Glider is your best bet. Taxis are also pretty cheap and there are no rip-offs to watch out for. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals for directions or even tips on where to go, they are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people in the world.