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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Diaz

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast, Northern Ireland, stands out as the largest city in the region, boasting a myriad of attractions that cater to various interests. From its renowned Michelin Star restaurants to captivating museums, Belfast offers an enticing array of activities perfect for a memorable long weekend getaway. While it may sometimes be overshadowed by cities like Dublin or London, Belfast exudes a distinct charm and ambiance that warrants exploration during your visit to Northern Ireland.



To assist in planning your trip, I'm thrilled to share some tried-and-tested recommendations to enhance your Belfast experience. Our team thoroughly explored the city, sampling its culinary delights and embracing its cultural offerings, all in the pursuit of crafting the perfect itinerary. However, feel free to customize your adventure at your own pace. Remember, the beauty of city breaks lies in the freedom to explore without pressure.


Now, without further ado, let's dive into the best things to do in Belfast.


Getting to Belfast, Northern Ireland

Before diving into the wonders of Belfast, let's talk about how to get there. For international travelers like myself, one of the routes I took was flying into Dublin. We decided to explore Dublin first, so we flew into Dublin Airport. Since we had booked an Airbnb in Belfast for the main part of our trip, we opted for a bit of adventure and rented a car to drive from Dublin to Belfast. It turned out to be such a fun and exciting experience, especially since it was our first time driving on the left side of the road. The journey allowed us to witness the picturesque landscapes of Ireland and added an extra layer of excitement to our trip.



For those flying directly into Belfast, the city offers two main airports: Belfast International Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport. Both airports provide various connections to major cities across the UK and Europe, making it convenient to access this enchanting city.


If you prefer traveling by sea, you can also take a ferry from ports in England and Scotland to Belfast Port. The ferry journey itself is an experience worth cherishing, offering stunning views of the Irish Sea and setting the tone for a memorable adventure in Belfast.


Things to Do in Belfast, Northern Ireland


Cathedral Quarter

Come join me as we explore Belfast's Cathedral Quarter—a place that stole my heart and is an essential stop during your time in this vibrant city. Wandering through the cobblestone streets, you'll encounter colorful umbrellas hanging above brick buildings, creating a picturesque scene straight out of a postcard. This oldest part of the city exudes charm and character at every turn.


But it's not just about the aesthetics—the Cathedral Quarter has also become the cultural heartbeat of Belfast. With art galleries, theaters, and lively festivals, there's always something exciting happening here.



St. George Market

Let me tell you about one of my favorite spots in Belfast – St. George's Market. Steeped in history and always buzzing with activity, it's a place that truly captures the essence of the city.

As soon as you step inside, you're greeted by a vibrant array of stalls, each offering something unique – from fresh oysters to local artwork. Built in 1896, the market has a rich heritage, with around 300 vendors showcasing everything from food to crafts.


I have fond memories of leisurely wandering through the stalls, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of this bustling market. And of course, no visit is complete without indulging in some fish and chips – a true delicacy.


If you're a fan of markets like I am, you'll quickly see why St. George's Market is considered one of the best things to do in Belfast. Trust me, you'll leave with a bag full of treats and memories to cherish.


St. Anne’s Cathedral

St. Anne's Cathedral is a true architectural marvel in Belfast. Built in 1899, it boasts stunning features like its magnificent nave and baptistry ceiling. Even if you only have a brief moment, it's worth stopping by to admire its beauty. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.


Ulster Museum

Just steps away from the Botanic Gardens, you'll find the Ulster Museum – one of my favorite places to explore in Belfast. What I love most about it is the ever-changing exhibitions that cater to all interests. From captivating displays of dinosaurs to ancient Egyptian artifacts and modern masterpieces, there's something to fascinate everyone.


Stepping inside, you're greeted by a treasure trove of history and culture, with collections spanning art, history, and natural science. It's a journey through Ireland's rich past and its connections to the wider world, both near and far.


Whether you're seeking shelter from Belfast's notorious rain or simply looking for an enriching experience, the Ulster Museum offers the perfect escape. Trust me, spending a few hours here is a delightful way to immerse yourself in the wonders of the world – right in the heart of Belfast.


Titanic Belfast

One must-see spot in Belfast is Titanic Belfast. It's relatively new compared to some of the city's other attractions, but trust me, it's a must-visit. Spread across six floors and boasting nine captivating galleries, Titanic Belfast offers an immersive journey into the history of the Titanic – from its construction to its tragic demise and beyond.


As you explore, you'll encounter fascinating exhibitions, including an underwater cinema and gantry rides that transport you to the heart of the Titanic's story. And here's a little insider tip: don't miss out on the musical afternoon teas right within the Titanic Belfast itself – they're a delightful experience you won't want to skip.


While you're in the area, make sure to swing by SS Nomadic. Originally designed to ferry first-class passengers to the Titanic, it's now a museum where you can delve deeper into the history of the White Star Line and witness the last remaining vessel of its kind. It's a piece of history you won't want to miss. Trust me, a visit to Titanic Belfast and SS Nomadic promises an unforgettable journey through time.



Belfast Castle

When you're ready to venture beyond the city center, a visit to Belfast Castle is an absolute must. Nestled just outside the bustling streets, it's a serene escape with breathtaking gardens and a truly enchanting building.


Take a moment to wander through the stunning grounds – it's the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll and a chance to soak in the beauty of the surroundings. However, keep in mind that the real charm of Belfast Castle lies in its exterior. While the inside has been redeveloped as a venue, the true magic is found in its picturesque facade and the views it offers.


So, if you're looking for a brief yet memorable stop as you depart Belfast, don't miss the opportunity to visit Belfast Castle. Trust me, it's a delightful way to bid farewell to the city and embrace the beauty of its outskirts.


Botanic Gardens

If you're a nature enthusiast like me, you'll absolutely adore the Botanic Gardens in Belfast. Tucked away conveniently near downtown, these gardens have been a cherished spot since their establishment in 1828. Situated alongside Queen's University and close to the Ulster Museum, it's a natural oasis just waiting to be explored.


With its diverse collection of plants and trees, including the majestic hornbeam-oak, the Botanic Gardens offer a tranquil escape where you can wander for hours on end. Don't miss the chance to step into the enchanting Palm House and explore the lush wonders of the Tropical Ravine – they're truly magical. Trust me, a visit to the Botanic Gardens is an absolute must for anyone seeking solace in the beauty of nature.


Belfast City Hall

City Hall, a true icon of Belfast, holds a special place in my heart. Its grand doors first welcomed visitors in 1906, and to this day, it remains a testament to the city's rich history and culture. Stepping inside, you'll be greeted by a magnificent art collection and stunning stained glass windows that adorn its interiors. Exploring its halls offers not just a glimpse into its past but also a deeper understanding of its significance to the community.


I highly recommend joining one of the tours offered most days; it's an experience not to be missed. Remember, it's first-come, first-served, so be sure to check their website for updated tour times and arrive early to secure your spot. And the best part? It won't cost you a penny! Trust me, visiting City Hall is one of the absolute highlights of any trip to Belfast.


Albert Memorial

As you leave City Hall, head towards the Cathedral Quarter, using the Albert Memorial Clock as your guide. Nestled on Queens Square along the banks of the River Lagan, this clock tower holds a special significance. Built in the late 1860s, it stands as a tribute to Queen Victoria's beloved husband, Prince Albert. It's a poignant reminder of Belfast's history, as it was Queen Victoria herself who bestowed city status upon the vibrant metropolis.




Where to Eat in Belfast, Northern Ireland


The Dirty Onion

The Dirty Onion, a modern pub tucked in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter. Housed in a historic building dating back to 1780, its interior boasts charming wooden beams and exposed brick decor, complemented by an extensive bar menu of beers and ciders.

Outside, the beer garden offers a relaxed setting with picnic tables and unique sculptures. Upstairs, Yardbird serves up delicious barbecue chicken and ribs at an affordable price. With nightly Irish music, there's no need to look elsewhere for a lively atmosphere.


You'll find The Dirty Onion at 3 Hill St, Belfast BT1 2LA, United Kingdom, with Yardbird just upstairs. Trust me, it's a must-visit spot for a memorable night out in Belfast.



Established Coffee

Being a self-professed coffee addict, stumbling upon a coffee shop was inevitable! On our first morning in town, we discovered Established Coffee and instantly felt at ease among the hipster crowd sipping pourovers and tapping away on their Apple computers. While we may skew a bit older to be labeled hipsters, we certainly fit the bill when it comes to our love for good coffee and tech gadgets.



The vibe at Established Coffee immediately reminded us of the great coffee spots we frequented in Dublin, which makes perfect sense since they proudly serve Dublin’s excellent 3fe coffee. You'll find Established Coffee at 54 Hill St, Belfast BT1 2LB, United Kingdom. Trust me, it's a haven for coffee lovers like us.


Fish City

If you're anything like me and have a soft spot for a classic fish and chips, you're going to fall in love with Fish City. This place is a gem, where they're serious about serving up the dish exactly as it should be. They stick to locally-sourced, seasonal fish that's fried to perfection. Every bite takes me back, making Fish City a must-visit for that authentic taste of tradition.


The Cloth Ear

I had the pleasure of enjoying the Fish & Chips (£11.95) at The Cloth Ear in Belfast – a delightful dish featuring beer battered Ardglass haddock fillet served with peas, tartare sauce, lemon, and hand-cut chips.



Nestled within The Merchant Hotel, The Cloth Ear is my go-to spot for a cozy and stylish pub experience. Its warm and welcoming atmosphere, adorned with vintage clothing items, wooden moose heads, and classic sheet music, instantly makes me feel at home.


The food here is just as comforting as the surroundings. With a menu inspired by homemade favorites and crafted from locally sourced seasonal produce, every bite is a nostalgic delight. Whether I'm dining solo or with friends, The Cloth Ear never disappoints, leaving me eagerly anticipating my next visit.


Darcy’s

Darcy's on Bradbury Place is a real Belfast gem. This cozy, family-run spot has been serving up delicious, traditional dishes with a local twist for over 20 years. It's like stepping into a warm hug, with its friendly service and a menu that features everything from succulent honey roast ham to crispy whole tail scampi. The walls are adorned with nods to local heroes like George Best, adding to the welcoming atmosphere. Every dish here tastes like it's made with love, making Darcy's a must-visit for a truly heartwarming dining experience in Belfast.


Neighbourhood Cafe

Tucked away at 33 Donegall St in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter is Neighbourhood Cafe, it's become my favorite spot for a cozy and welcoming experience. Their specialty coffee is a must-try, always delivering rich flavors and a comforting aroma. And when it comes to brunch, they've got you covered with delights like the indulgent French Toast (£11.00) or the classic Eggs Benny (£11.00) served on a sourdough croissant.



For lunch, their Potato and Leek Soup (£6.00) hits the spot, especially when paired with a tasty Irish cheese toastie (£4.00).

But that's not all – they also have some adorable merch available. During my visit, I couldn't resist picking up a cute t-shirt as a memento to remember my time in Belfast.Neighbourhood Cafe isn't just a place to eat – it's a place to feel at home, surrounded by delicious food, friendly faces, and a little piece of Belfast to take home with you.


And that's just scratching the surface of Belfast's culinary scene! There are so many more restaurants and pubs out there waiting to be discovered, and you bet I plan to explore them all. Belfast, with its vibrant food and drink culture, always has something new and exciting around the corner. So, here's to many more delicious adventures in this city!


Where to Stay in Belfast, Northern Ireland

From luxury hotels to budget-friendly options, Belfast offers a variety of accommodations to suit every type of traveler. Though in my case, I opted for an Airbnb for a more local and personalized experience, it truly depends on your travel style and what you're looking for in your stay. Here’s a curated list to help you decide where to stay in Belfast, categorized from luxury to budget-friendly:


Luxury

  1. The Merchant Hotel - A grand and luxurious hotel located in the heart of Belfast's Cathedral Quarter. This 5-star property combines Victorian grandeur with art deco inspired elements and offers an array of high-end amenities, including a rooftop gymnasium, a luxury spa, and fine dining options.

  2. The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast - This stylish and contemporary hotel is situated right next to the Grand Opera House, providing guests with a luxury stay in a prime location. With its chic rooms, exceptional service, and a renowned restaurant, The Fitzwilliam stands out for those seeking elegance and comfort.



Mid-Range

  1. Malmaison Belfast - Set in a former seed warehouse, Malmaison offers unique, boutique accommodation with a distinct style and charm. Its central location, close to the waterfront and city center, makes it a great base for exploring Belfast. The hotel's brasserie and bar serve great food and drinks in a cozy atmosphere.

  2. Titanic Hotel Belfast - Located in the former headquarters of Harland & Wolff, builders of the Titanic, this hotel is steeped in history. It offers comfortable, nautically themed rooms and is situated in the Titanic Quarter, a short distance from the Titanic Belfast visitor attraction.


Budget-Friendly

  1. ETAP Hotel Belfast - This is a smart choice for budget travelers, offering compact, modern rooms at affordable prices. Located in the city center, it’s within walking distance of many of Belfast’s main attractions, including the shopping district and the Belfast City Hall.

  2. Belfast International Youth Hostel - For those really watching their wallets, this hostel offers both dormitory beds and private rooms. It's a clean and friendly option with shared kitchen facilities, making it perfect for backpackers and younger travelers.

Personal Preference: Airbnb

For my stay, I chose an Airbnb. This option provided me with a unique, local experience and the flexibility to choose a property that suited my specific needs and preferences. Belfast has a wide range of Airbnb accommodations, from cozy apartments in the city center to quieter, residential neighborhoods. Opting for an Airbnb can also be a more budget-friendly choice, especially for groups or families.


Remember, the best place to stay in Belfast ultimately depends on your personal preferences, budget, and the type of experience you want to have in the city. Whether it's luxury, mid-range, budget-friendly, or the unique charm of an Airbnb, Belfast has something for every traveler.


Best Time to Visit Belfast, Northern Ireland

Exploring Belfast in late November was a leap of faith for me, but it turned out to be a fantastic decision. Though it might not be everyone's first choice, here's a little insight into the best times to visit Belfast, with a personal touch:


Spring feels a bit like Belfast is shaking off its winter coat, especially early on when it can be quite brisk and damp. But trust me, by April, the city begins to bloom beautifully, and the temperature nudges up to a more comfortable average of 14°C (57°F). Yes, you'll dodge rain showers, but that's all part of the charm. And if you're around in mid-March, you're in for a treat with St Patrick’s Day celebrations. The city comes alive with an infectious energy, splashed in green and buzzing with festivities.


Summer in Belfast is subtly delightful. We might not get those scorching heat waves, but the climate is milder, the days feel longer, and there's this gentle, pervasive warmth. With temperatures floating between 18-24°C (64-75°F), it's perfect for exploring without needing to layer up too much. Just remember, evenings can be cool, so a cozy sweater should be part of your packing list.



Fall brings a palette change, with days getting shorter and a crispness in the air as temperatures hover around 16-18°C (61-65°F). The city wraps itself in grey clouds more often than not, with a frequent chance of rain. However, late autumn is when Belfast turns magical with its Hallowe’en celebrations. Think vibrant festivals, elaborate fancy dress, and a genuine embrace of the spooky season that captivates both locals and visitors.


Winter is when Belfast invites you to enjoy its indoor treasures, thanks to the chilly embrace of rain, snow, and fog. The cold, often amplified by the wind chill from the Irish Sea, rarely dips below freezing but demands warm, waterproof clothing. It’s a season for cozy pubs, engaging museums, and warm Belfast welcomes.


Despite visiting in late November, at the cusp of winter, I found Belfast utterly enchanting. The weather was part of the adventure - crisp air, the occasional shower, and early evenings that invited exploration of the city's glowing pubs and vibrant indoor scenes. Whether you're considering a visit in spring's bloom, summer's gentle warmth, fall's festive spirit, or winter's cozy charm, Belfast holds something special in every season. It's all about what you're looking for in your journey.



Belfast is its multifaceted allure. Beyond surface-level tourism, the city beckons visitors to delve into its industrial legacy and maritime roots, offering a compelling narrative of its past while also confronting its challenging history with resilience and candor. Moreover, Belfast's proximity to stunning natural landscapes adds another dimension to its appeal, providing opportunities for both urban exploration and outdoor adventures.


As we wrap up, remember that Belfast caters to all kinds of travelers, whether you're here for a short visit or planning to stay a while. Whether you're fascinated by its history, intrigued by its culture, or simply seeking some warm hospitality, Belfast has it all. So, whatever your interests may be, dive in and experience the city's charm for yourself. Here's to making unforgettable memories in Belfast!


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Hi, Thanks for stopping by!

I'm Samantha! A photographer and I believe that every picture has a story. As a blogger, I share my travel stories with everyone. I think it's important to document my travels and share my experiences with others. I've been to some amazing places and I've seen some incredible things. I want to share my stories and photos with the world.

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