If you’re studying in the emerald isles or simply paying a visit, then make sure you take some time to see the best of Belfast.
The capital of Northern Ireland is a city full of history, culture, music and craic.
Here is a whistle-stop tour of some of the must-see things to do and see to have a blast in Belfast!
A Voyage Through Time
Whether you’re a fan of the 1997 movie (who hasn’t seen it a million times?!) or are fascinated by the history of the Titanic Belfast, you don’t want to miss out on a trip to the Titanic Museum.
The legendary ‘unsinkable’ ship was the biggest in the world at the time and was built in Belfast before moving on to collect her passengers for her doomed maiden voyage.
The museum is located in the dockyards where the fated steamliner was built, which only adds to the eerie authenticity of the experience.
You can even take a tour around the interior of SS Nomad, the ship that ferried Irish passengers from Belfast to Southampton to board the Titanic.
Nearby you can visit the Titanic Quarter, a district full of life, bars, shops and restaurants. There are even themed Halloween nights in the Titanic Quarter, so if you’re in the area at that time of year, get on board!
Feel like the King (or Queen) of the Castle
Survey your kingdom from the heights of Napoleon’s Nose, one of the distinctive peaks of Cave Hill, and said to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s classic tale Gulliver’s Travels.
In the rolling hills of Cave Hill Country Park, there are enough activities to keep you occupied for hours, and it makes a great escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Here you can enjoy the archaeological sites, Cave Hill Adventurous Playground, and a variety of eco trails and walking routes.
While you’re there climb up to Belfast Castle to take a tour of this historic monument. Soak up centuries of history before going down to the Cellar restaurant for food and drink.
Give the Peace Wall a Chance
Ireland’s history is intertwined with that of Britain, weaving a complex and often tragic tapestry of religion, politics and cultural differences. Even up to the present day signs of this history are tangible and omnipresent, so taking the time to comprehend it is a worthy investment.
Belfast is home to some famous murals which illustrate the tumultuous history particular to that region of Ireland. It’s well worth taking a guided tour of the murals with someone who can explain the symbolism and imagery behind each painting.
The peace wall, which divides the Shankhill Road and Falls Road, the two communities of the city, is where you can see most of the murals.
There are also black taxis that offer guided tours of the city. The well-known Political Taxi Tours are run by informative local cabbies who have lived through ‘The Troubles’ and are happy to give background details about key points of the city, including the murals.
If you’ve got itchy feet then we recommend that you explore some of the surrounding areas close to Belfast.
Mountain goats will love the 10 miles of walking routes available at Divis and the Black Mountain. Enjoy the fresh air and stunning views of the Belfast Lough, as wooden boardwalks take you across marshlands to open countryside dotted with wildlife.
You can also brave the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. As the name suggests, it’s a rickety (but safe) bridge made of rope that connects the mainland to a small island set in the roaring waters of the sea. The bridge undulates from side to side as you cross, making you feel like you’re in an adventure movie. Not for the faint hearted!
A day trip to Giant’s Causeway, situated a stone’s throw away from Carrick-a-Rede, should be in prime position on everyone’s Belfast bucket list.
A truly breathtaking display of nature’s awesome splendour, with views across the rugged Irish Sea, you’ll definitely want to take some pictures (not to mention a raincoat!) This wonder of nature was one of the filming locations that featured on Game of Thrones, so if you’re a fan, this is a must-see!
Game of Thrones Tour
Now that we’ve mentioned Game of Thrones, we just thought we’d point out that Belfast features several times in the series.
As well as the already mentioned Giant’s Causeway, other filming locations included Carrickfergus Castle, the Caves of Cushendun and several others. You will instantly recognise them when you come across them, and there are guided Game of Thrones tours available.
Food fans will be happy to know that Belfast is home to a wide variety of restaurants serving up cuisine for every taste.
In Belfast city centre you’ll find the Cathedral Quarter, which is buzzing with life, street art and a vibrant atmosphere.
It is full of amazing architecture, lively pubs and places to eat. Whether you’re looking for dinner and a few cocktails, or just a quick lunch with your friends, there’s something for everyone here.
One of the most popular restaurants that consistently has people coming back for more is Muddlers Club. Named after a secret society that used to meet there 200 years ago, it’s now a Michelin Star restaurant and has been on the receiving end of many plaudits, so you can be assured that this modern dining experience place will deliver. A great place for a date!
If you prefer something a little less upmarket, then head to Hadski’s. The steaks in there are not to be missed!
Bunsen, which originally began in Dublin, is so popular that when the Belfast restaurant opened there was a queue waiting outside! Bunsen is the one if you want to get your teeth into a nice, juicy burger with no fancy sauces or toppings – pure and simple substance and quality!
For more international flavours, head to 2 taps Winebar, located opposite the Merchant Hotel. 2 Taps boasts a menu crammed with typical Spanish dishes, from patatas bravas to albondigas (meatballs), to padron peppers. Vegetarian options are available and it’s also dog friendly. This one’s like a holiday and a meal in one…enough to make you shout ‘bravo!’ and ask for more.
One of the best activities in Belfast for a sunny day is to take a stroll through the serene Botanic Gardens.
Here you can find exotic flora and fauna of every kind, some of which are over 100 years old, as well as a tropical ravine! Make sure you check out the Ulster Museum which is located here as well.
It makes the perfect location for an Instagram shoot, or to chill out with friends. What’s more, it’s located next to Queen’s University and Novel accommodation.
The lawns around City Hall are one of the preferred locations for the locals to sit and enjoy a picnic on a sunny day. You can do the same, but make sure you enter inside the building of City Hall too as it’s bathed in history and culture.
There are free guided tours and a grand marble staircase which will make you feel like you’ve walked straight onto the set of Downton Abbey!
At Christmastime the award-winning Belfast Christmas Markets set up camp at City Hall, giving visitors a magical run up to Christmas festivities. The stalls are run by a host of international traders who sell everything from crafts to mouthwatering foods – ideal for choosing unique Christmas presents!
Situated close to City Hall, is St George’s Market, Ireland’s only Victorian indoor market. It’s open Fridays to Sundays and is the perfect place to sample some of the local food, buy crafts and look for souvenirs and gifts.
The Irish are famed for their rich musical heritage. One of the most stereotypical images that comes to mind when people speak about Ireland is that of people sitting in pubs singing folk songs.
Well, in this instance, that image rings true. In Belfast, if you step into any of the local pubs that offer live music nights, you won’t be disappointed.
Live music is everywhere in Belfast. Take Temple Bar, for example, where locals and tourists alike gather to enjoy the traditional live folk music played by local bands. You are encouraged to join in with the ballads and shanties, and if you’re feeling brave enough even step up to take the mic…though you might want to get a pint of Guinness or two in you before you step up!
Other types of live music are available throughout the city, the Grand Opera House being one venue that stands out.
Guinness is Good for You
That’s one of the slogans that was used in an advertising campaign for Ireland’s famous ‘black stuff’, Guinness.
It’s brewed in Belfast, so you can sample it in the many bars and pubs that line the city.
Even better, you can do a guided tour of the Guinness factory and see how it’s made. Just go steady on the samples!
All of this adventuring and excitement means you’ll need a comfy place to chill and put your feet up at the end of the day.
So come home to Novel Belfast, put the kettle on, sit back, relax and have a scroll through all the photos of amazing Belfast you’ve taken!