Top 10 Things to do in Belfast
How to spend your time in Belfast, Northern Ireland
If it isn’t on your list already, Northern Ireland’s capital city, Belfast, should definitely be added as a must-visit city. Jam packed with culture and history, Belfast is a unique city that offers visitors plenty to do. Belfast has risen beautifully from a period of political turmoil, and in the years since has developed into an up and coming tourist destination. It offers a bustling city feel while being closely situated to all of the scenic destinations of Northern Ireland (think Giants Causeway and Game of Thrones filming sites!)! There is so much to do in Belfast, making it the perfect weekend study abroad trip, and below are ten things you must do when visiting the city!
Start your trip to Belfast with a stroll through the beautiful Botanic Gardens. The gardens are part of one of Belfast’s public parks, and are free to visit! Take a walk around the park before heading into the Palm House to view and array of seasonal flowers, hanging baskets, and exotic plants.
After your trip to the Botanic Gardens, be sure to pay a visit to the Ulster Museum. Like many of Belfast’s attractions, the Ulster Museum offers free admission to its visitors making it the perfect place to spend the day. The museum has a diverse selection of exhibits including costume design, fine art, natural sciences, ancient history (dinosaurs, mummies, etc), and modern history. To learn more about the history of Belfast and Northern Ireland, the museum’s ‘The Troubles’ exhibition is a must see.
Finish off your time in Belfast’s Queen’s Quarter by visiting the nearby Queen’s University. Just a short walk from the Ulster Museum, Queen’s University Belfast is a public university with roots that trace back to the early 1800’s. The stunning architecture of the University’s main building provides fantastic photo opps.
The infamous ship that struck an iceberg back in 1912 was built in Belfast. Relive the ‘Titanic Experience’ with a trip to Belfast’s extensive Titanic Museum. The interactive museum gives you the opportunity to see how the ship was built, walk the decks, tour the boat, and experience survivor accounts of the iconic Titanic. With 9 galleries and so much to see and read, it is easy (and totally worth it) to spend a day exploring the Titanic! After your museum visit, walk along the gorgeous waterfront of Belfast’s Lough and shipyard.
Get your fix of nature by making the trip up to the top of Belfast’s Cavehill. This easy hike through Cavehill country park is the perfect way to see the whole of Belfast from above, as the hill is situated on the outskirts of the city providing spectacular views. For the best Cavehill experience check the weather and be sure to pick a clear day
Before you make your way up Cavehill, stop midway to check out the very beautiful Belfast Castle. The castle dates back to the 12th century, though was burned down in the 1700’s. The new, reconstructed castle was built in the 1800’s and today is commonly used for weddings, conferences, and other functions. The castle and grounds are free to visit and provide gorgeous clear views of Belfast and Belfast Lough.
Get your shop on in Victoria Square, Belfast’s premier shopping center. The gorgeous open air shopping venue hosts a variety of retailers from H & M to Ted Baker and it’s the perfect place to satisfy all of your shopping needs. When you’re all shopped out, grab a bite at one of the numerous restaurants, and be sure to make your way up to the Dome at the top of the building for more beautiful city views.
Belfast is famous for ‘The Troubles,’ the period of political conflict that rocked Northern Ireland during the 20th century. The Political Murals located around Belfast document the conflict of the era and are a must see for visitors to Belfast, especially those with an interest in history. The murals can be found all over the city, and remain some of the most famous murals in Europe, documenting significant political changes and events in Northern Ireland.
You can’t miss City Hall when exploring Belfast. Located in the heart of the city center, City Hall is a stunning building with unique architecture. It is the civic building of Belfast City Council. Experienced city hall guides offer free tours of the building two to three times most days. The tour lasts about an hour and is packed with history. The grounds of the city hall are beautiful and the perfect place to enjoy on a nice day. If you find yourself in Belfast’s around Christmas time, make sure to visit the Christmas market on the grounds of the City Hall.
Eat and Drink
Obviously when you pick a city to visit the food and drink are at the top of the list of importance. And Belfast will surely not let you down in the category! The nightlife is unparalleled with plenty of bars and clubs to enjoy (for more see my article 17 places to go for a night out in Belfast). Take a break from exploring to a drink at Laverys or Filthys and relax. Enjoy a delcious breakfast at Harlem Cafe or Rhubarb Cafe (try the filled soda!) For a laid back dinner, grab some pub grub, or for a more classy night try the exquisite Made in Belfast– the cocktails and the steak and prawns are to die for! For a midday break, enjoy afternoon tea; the Merchant, the Europa Hotel, and AM:PM offer delicious afternoon tea specials served with tasty biscuits in gorgeous, chic dining rooms
Belfast might not have been on your list of cities to visit before, but it certainly should be! With so much to do and see it is perfect for any length of trip, be it a day trip from Dublin, a long weekend, or a week! It’s location gives you all the pluses of a city with tasty restaurants, an abundance of bars, and fun, free daytime actives; however it is still so close to nature and the iconic scenery of Ireland! Cavehill can be enjoyed from Belfast, and travelling a bit further brings you to Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, and The Dark Hedges (featured in Game of Thrones) to name a few. So buy your ticket, pack your bags, and head to Belfast; you definitely won’t regret it!