I feel so proud to be able to welcome visitors from all over the world to this exciting, lively, vibrant, unique and new born city! Tourism is booming in the city and it is now full of optimism; Jane and I at Self Catering Accommodation Belfast want you to enjoy every part of its renaissance when staying at one of our Central Belfast Apartments
 
All too often guests arrive in Belfast having never visited the city before and not knowing where to go, what to do or how to get there. In our excitement we give them dozens of suggestions barely giving them a chance to take it in or to write them down and most probably forgotten 5 mins after we leave
This guide aims to remedy that and to help inform you of some of our favourite places which we’re happy to recommend and which are generally within easy walking distance from our apartments. There’s also some other information which should be of use but the main difference between this and any other guide to Belfast is that its personalised to guests staying at our apartments and thus uses that locality as a focus
 
It’s also recommended to go to the specific web site of the attraction listed for more information or the Northern Ireland Tourist Boards own websitewww.gotobelfast.com
 
 
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Our favourite places to eat in Belfast Our Favourite Things To Recommend If You Have Children With You On Your Holiday Jane’s Shopping Suggestions Our Favourite Places To Listen To Live Music in Belfast
accommodation belfast accommodation belfast accommodation belfast accommodation belfast
Our Guide To The Main Airports, Train & Bus Stations Our Guide To Free Things To do in Belfast Our Favourite Walks In Belfast Hi-Life Diners Club – 2 meals for the price of 1
accommodation belfast

Our Favourite Festivals In Belfast

 

1 Our Favourite Places To Eat In Belfast

Jane and I are real ‘foodies’ which means we enjoy anything associated with eating, so this is a great place to start. This doesn’t mean it has to be expensive, just really tasty OR really good value OR really different
 
Eating out in Belfast is already great value, but if you can persuade yourself to eat a little earlier or at lunch time, you can save quite a bit of expense. Typical lunch menus at a restaurant are from £5 for 1 course to around £12 for 3 courses and a little bit more expensive in the evening (around 5pm – 7pm) when you can often get a ‘pre-theatre dinner’ or an ‘early bird’ meal Tipping is optional but generally expected.
James Street South
 
Wow! Really high class restaurant with food of such a high standard their chef was part of the TV British Food Competition. Lunch and an early evening menu is available at more affordable prices
 
Their food is more of a work of art with attention to detail really strong here. Having said that, its quality and not quantity, so it might be best to have some ‘side orders’ also
 
Expensive, but worthwhile as a treat every so often – definitely comes under the fine dining category
 
Thankfully, its casual dress
 
This is only 7 mins walk according to Google Maps
 

 
Long’s Fish & Chips
 
Recently voted Number 1 ‘Best Fish and Chips in Belfast’, this is definitely our favourite ‘chippie’
 
Friday lunchtime is Long’s at its busiest with clients from all professions
 
The cod is the best I’ve had anywhere with a home made batter you just don’t get anywhere else
 
They don’t have a website that I’m aware off
 
Its a 10 min walk according to Google maps

The Avoca
 
The Avoca is a shop in its own right with traditional Irish goods on display, but up to the 1st floor and you have a choice of 2 restaurants
 
You can sit and be waited on in the main restaurant but we prefer to queue at the counter and see what specials are on display. Really good tasty Irish food at inexpensive prices. Fresh drinking water is available in jugs which helps keep the cost down
 
They also do a pavlova with fresh cream and fruit which is hard to beat anywhere else in the city
 
If you choose the ‘waited on’ restaurant don’t make the same mistake we did at the start – we ordered a platter for 2 as a starter followed by a main course each. We struggled to finish the starter and had to cancel the main course! Nicest part for me is the home made duck fat fried chips
 
On the way out you can stock up with other goodies; I’d recommend the smoked chicken; a chicken breast
 
Its only 14 mins walk according to Google Maps

Tao’s

 
Tao’s is a Chinese restaurant right across the road from Tesco’s Direct on the Dublin Rd and about 2 mins away from the apartment
 
Very convenient as they have a ‘bring your own’ policy meaning you can nip into Tesco’s, pick yourself up a nice bottle of wine, beers, etc and then sit and enjoy an inexpensive meal here. I think its an extra £2 charge per wine bottle opened
 
Its not exactly fine dining but the foods pretty good here and its so convenient
 
I’d recommend the ‘boneless chilli chicken wings’ or the ‘chilli prawns’ both are starters and cost around £4

Cosmo

Basically, this is an all you can eat costing anything from £7.99 for lunch, to £13.99 for a weekend dinner, both of which includes a great selection of deserts.It’s a buffet restaurant based in the Victoria Centre so you get to do some shopping before or after.They serve Sushi, Dim Sum, Indian, Teppanyaki, Pizza, Noodles and Asian as well as a ‘live cooking station’.Make sure you’re hungry when you visit them though, as there’s around 200 different dishes to sample.They are based in the Victoria Shopping Centre, about 20 mins walk from the apartments.www.cosmo-restaurants.co.uk/Belfast.php

Deane’s Deli

In my opinion the nicest of his 4 restaurants

Its casual, relaxed and the food is just as good but less expensive

Michael is often seen here helping out the other staff or perhaps just relaxing

There’s a great atmosphere here on a Friday 5-7pm when a live musician plays. From memory, the musician then goes next door to his other restaurant for another couple of hours

Google Maps estimates a 5 min walk to here
www.michaeldeane.co.uk/


Lee Gardens
 
Lee Gardens is a Chinese restaurant serving great food – we came across it one wet winters day while walking to Botanic Gardens and decided to come in out of the rain. It has rather an expensive feel to it but their ‘special lunch’ is only £6.99 for 3 courses. It runs from 12.00 – 4pm and the food is of a high standard
 
Great place to have a Sunday lunch before walking to the Botanic Gardens
 
You know its going to be good when most of their customers are Chinese!
Its a short 3 minute walk according to Google Maps

Nando’s

INando’s is a Portuguese chicken restaurant only 5 mins walk from the apartments on the main Dublin Rd just beside the BBC building.

It’s great for a family meal as well as a quick snack with freshly grilled chicken with various marinades and sauces.

http://nandos.co.uk/restaurant/belfast-bedford-street


Wetherspoons – The Bridge HouseWho hasn’t heard of Wetherspoons in the UK?You simply take your table number to the bar and place your food order, pay an embarrassing low sum of money and wait for them to bring it to the table

Great if you’re on a budget and want a few drinks as well

They’re open first thing in the morning serving ‘Ulster Fry’s’ (until noon) to pretty much near midnight serving both food and drink all day


A short 3 min walk according to Google Maps
 

 

2 Our Favourite Things To Recommend If You Have Children With You On Your Holiday

 
Families often arrive with children of all ages so it nice to be able to recommend some things to entertain them
 

Belfast is a great place for children to visit as they’re so well catered for and made to feel welcome as most establishments

 
Play Park
 
Lets start with something basic for the younger ones
 
Just around the corner from our apartments is a little park with swings, slides and roundabouts. What a great place to take them while dinners being prepared or they want to expend some energy
 
No entrance charge

Belfast Zoo
Kids love animals and Belfast Zoo is just the place to take them for a day out, hopefully on a nice dry day!
Its a bit far too walk (5 miles) but you can get a bus from the side of Belfast’s City Hall which drops you off at the door, or why not just take a taxi, its not that far and 1 taxi fare can be the same price as 4 bus fares
 
There’s a cafe at the Zoo though with a family it can be expensive so why not make up a picnic from Tesco’s and enjoy it on one of the many picnic
 
By car, it should take around 17 mins according to Google Maps

 
W5 at The Odyssey Arena
W5 at the Odyssey is great for kids (Who, What, Why, Where, When) – Interactive equipment helps them to learn and understand
 
There’s a lot of exhibits here and it will keep kids of all ages engrossed for hours
 
If you’ve any energy left why not taking them bowling in the Odyssey also?
 
When you come out, why not have a walk along side the Lagan Weir
 
About 29 mins walk according to Google Maps but if you drive allow for parking charges around £1 / hour

Marlborough Park

Only 5-6 miles from the apartments this is a great little park to let them loose in. Buses run from the Dublin Rd up the Lisburn Road on a regular basis
 
No entrance charge
1.4 miles walk according to Google Maps or 28 mins, though significantly less if driving and parking is on street (if you can find a space)
 

Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon’s Park

Fondly known by locals simply as Lady Dixon’s I have happy memories of coming here as a child

Its a large park with some great rides for the kids and lovely walks around the gardens

No entrance charge

The international rose trials are held here each year

About 4.5 miles away according to Google Maps, its probably too far to walk but easily found by car

The Movie House

There’s always something new on here and with multiple screens there’s generally something you can all agree on

(Don’t forget we’ve left a lot of good movies on DVD in the apartments)
 
About a mins walk from the apartments according to Google Maps

Odyssey Bowling

Kids love bowling and this is just the place to take them. It takes about 30 mins to walk from the apartment, just long enough to tire them a little before the game

There’s also W5 in the Odyssey Arena but maybe that’s too much for one day
 
Google Maps suggest a 29 min walk

www.odysseybowl.com


 
 

3 Our Jane’s Shopping Suggestions

 
This is not on my favourite ways to spend an afternoon but apparently women do enjoy shopping (especially Jane!)
 

The apartments are within easy walking distance to Belfast City Centre Shopping so I’ll list a few of them and also our 2 Outlet Centres out of town which you’ll either need to drive to or get a bus

 

Victoria Square Shopping Centre

The big new multi million complex with House Of Fraser leading the way

A great new fresh complex with restaurants, cinemas, etc all under the one glass dome and accessible from many directions

Apparently there are some very stylish up market shops here and some people (Jane included) can spend most of a day

Opening Hours
 
Monday -Tuesday 9:30 am – 6 pm
Wednesday – Friday 9:30 am – 9 pm
Saturday 9 am – 6 pm
Sunday 1 pm – 6 pm
 
A 15 min walk according to Google Maps
 
 

Castle Court Shopping Centre

The original shopping centre in Belfast and still a draw for both locals and visitors alike

All of the big names can be found here under 1 roof and of course there’s plenty of eating places

 
Its 0.7 mile and Google Maps says you should do it in 15 mins though it might take considerably longer coming back if you’re laden with bags!
 
Opening Hours
 
Monday 9.00am to 7.00pm
Tuesday 9.00am to 7.00pm
Wednesday 9.00am to 7.00pm
Thursday 9.00am to 9.00pm
Friday 9.00am to 7.00pm
Saturday 9.00am to 7.00pm
Sunday 1.00pm to 6.00pm
 

Donegall Place

From the Belfast City Hall to the bottom of Royal Ave this is probably the main shopping area in Belfast

It contains the big High St names like Marks & Spencer’s, Boots, etc

A 10 min walk to the start of the shops here according to Google Maps

Royal Ave

A continuation of the shopping area in Donegall Place soon to be pedestrianised

 
More big names with plenty of places to stop for a coffee
 
A 15 min walk from the apartments will get you into the thick of it according to Google Maps

Corn Market

The hub of the shopping area of Belfast and one of the entrances to the new Victoria Square Shopping Centre

This is pedestrianised and full of cafes, etc

Here you may find a more unusual mix of shops

Only 13 mins away according to Google Maps


The Lisburn Road

The Lisburn Road is home to many up market boutiques and art galleries

Take a stroll along it and ponder which cafe on just about every shop corner to stop at, but be warned it can be expensive

 
About a miles walk or 22 mins according to Google Map – you can walk the length of the shopping area (a mile or more) and then get a bus back (or in our case Jane would ring me for a lift back)
 

 
Junction 1 International Outlet Shopping, Antrim
 
 
I’m afraid you need transport to get out here as according to Google Maps its 20 miles away
 
Some big names here like Bose, Marks & Spencer’s, Paco all apparently selling their wares at heavily discounted prices according to the shops (and Jane)
 
In fairness, you can pick up a real bargain
 
 

 
The Outlet, Banbridge
 
Another outlet centre in the opposite direction from the one above and with similar big names and discounts
 
This is a more recent addition
 
26 miles drive according to Google Maps
 
Opening Hours
Mon – Wed 10am-6pm
Thurs – Fri 10am-9pm
Sat 9am-6pm
Sun 1pm-6pm
 
 

 
Ikea
 
Who hasn’t heard of Ikea; its a great store with a real range of prices and quality for everything needed in the home
 
A 5 mile drive according to Google Maps or you can get a bus
 
 

 
Fultons
 
Fultons are the leading furniture retailers in Belfast and most likely in N.Ireland but be warned, this is not cheap! Their range is very up market, individual and select
 
If you have very deep pockets, then this is the place to shop. If not (like us), then I’d very much recommend their restaurant for a meal
 

 

4 Our Favourite Places To Listen To Live Music in Belfast

 
There’s so much happening in Belfast and so much to see and do that you’re sometimes spoilt for choice, but live music really lifts the spirits and comes in all shapes and forms
 
The following are just some of the venues we like to visit and are happy to recommend

Fibber Magees
 
‘Fibbers’ as its locally known is a little bar situated at the back of ‘Robinson’s Bar’ which coincidentally is next door to the Crown Bar (which you’ve got to call into also). Fibbers play live traditional music 7 nights a week and there’s always a great atmosphere about the place
 
Its a traditional Irish pub and is always busy
 
By the way, there’s a nice little carry out pizzeria literally around the corner called Little Italy to mop up the surplus alcohol before getting back to the apartment
 
A 7 min walk according to Google Maps but probably longer on the way back after a good night
 

Cafe Vaudeville
 
Cafe Vaudeville is a place to visit in its own right; behind a ordinary double door lies a beautiful, decadent and opulent former bank building some would say much too good for a bar and restaurant
Music is on most nights and the foods pretty good, but its definitely the place to pose. No charge for admission but be prepared to stand
 
Most nights they host various live bands focusing on Rat Pack through Jazz & Big Band Sound to acoustic ensembles
 
Google Maps suggest a 14 min walk
 

The John Hewitt Bar

Situated in the Cathedral area this is one of Belfast’s best bars to enjoy live traditional Irish music

Its played most nights and at weekends during the day. Its also the place to rub shoulders with some very famous people who frequent it from BBC TV journalists to playwrights to politicians

 
If you’re into real traditional Irish music this is the place to be. They also serve some fairly decent food and recently won the Best Gastro Pub award
 
Google Maps suggests a 17 min walk, just less than a mile but you can always dance home
 

La Boca

Nice little bar / restaurant with an easy listening guitarist playing from 5-7pm on a Friday night, perfect before a night out

This Argentine bar / restaurant also serves up some really nice food also; look out for the platter to share with a bottle of wine all for £15

Lovely way to spend an early Friday evening

ust across from Belfast City Hall Google Maps suggest a 13 min walk


Auntie Annie’s

This is sneaking in under 2 headings as we list it above for a great little place to stop on the way back to the apartment for a pint outside (weather permitting) and some home made chips, but by night

They often have live music but it tends to be more in the way of rock / heavy music genre – a bit too young for us though

About a min’s walk according to Google Maps

http://www.cdcleisure.net/annies.php


Grand Opera House
 
The Grand Opera House plays host to all types of music
 
One night it may be a live concert from Van Morrison, the next it could be The Sound Of Music. This is a wonderfully restored building with a cafe and restaurant open to the public
 
Check the listings for what’s on
 
Google Maps is suggesting 7 mins should get you there on foot

 
The Empire Bar
 
This not only serves up all type of music but also has comedy nights
 
Admission charges usually but worth checking. Food served early evening & week days
Just a 5 min walk according to Google Maps
 

Spring & AirbrakeGreat sounding music when you’re walking past, but generally for the younger generation. We might get a few odd looksJust around the corner or 5 mins walk according to Google Maps

http://www.cdcleisure.net/spring.php


 
The Limelight
 
Next door to Spring and Airbrake – there’s music most nights but check out the listings on their website
 
This tends to be a slightly older customer so we don’t feel too out of place
 
Just around the corner or 5 mins walk according to Google Maps
 

Katie DalysMore live music but again check out their listings onlinehttp://www.cdcleisure.net/katys.php


 

5 Our Guide To The Main Airports, Trains & Bus Stations

 
Belfast has pretty good transportation links including 2 airports; please just make sure you know which is which particularly if you order a taxi to one of them!
 
Please remember there are 2 airports in Belfast – Belfast International Airport (sometimes locally called Aldergrove) approx 31 mins drive away according to Google Maps and Belfast City Airport recently renamed George Best Airport which is only around 14 mins drive away according to Google Maps
 
Both run buses to the Europa Bus Centre in Great Victoria St which is only around the corner and a 7 min walk says Google Maps
 
Belfast Central Station is the main rail station and according to Google Maps its only a 17 min walk, but that’s not much good if you’re arriving with luggage; Our advice is to ring a reputable metered taxi such as Value Cabs on 02890 809080. This is also the handiest train station to get a train to Dublin which only takes around an hour and a half and saves you having to change trains though you can go to Botanic which is just around the corner but you will have to change trains at Belfast Central Station
 

 

6 Our Guide To Free Things To do in Belfast

 
Going on holiday anywhere is not cheap and costs mount up so why not do something for free in the city?
 
There’s a lot happening that won’t cost anything and the following are some of our suggestions –

Belfast City Hall Tour
 
Its not so long ago you wouldn’t have got into the City Hall without good reason and then only after a thorough search but thankfully those days have gone and Belfast City Council now welcomes guests from all over the world (including us locals) by offering free tours of this beautiful historic building
 
The tours started after the building was reopened after a massive £11 million refurbishment project
 
There’s also a lovely little cafe called the Bobbin Coffee Shop which has various exhibitions displayed
 

Public tours are available at the following times:

  • Monday to Friday – 11am, 2pm and 3pm
  • Saturday – 2pm and 3pm.

They are available on a first-come, first-served basis (no booking needed) and leave from the reception area inside Belfast City Hall.

There are no tours on Sundays, bank holidays or public holidays.

 
On a 9 min walk to Belfast City Hall as per Google Maps and you never know which politician you might run into
 

St Georges Market
 
I make no apologies for mentioning this again under ‘free things to do in Belfast’ as there’s such a great buzz about the place
 
It runs Friday, Saturday & Sunday and there’s always plenty of free samples of food on offer
 
A band plays on a Saturday and its lovely to just sit and soak up the atmosphere

Ulster Museum and Botanic Gardens
 
Strictly speaking these are 2 different venues but in the same grounds
 
This is a world class museum recently renovated with exhibits to amaze both young and old
 
Botanic Gardens is also a beautiful place to visit and more recently has began hosting gigs with international guests
 
On a Sunday morning after perhaps too much indulgance on the Saturday night why not stroll up to Botanic Gardens and delve into history. The museum has just reopened after a years closure for renovation. Its also a great place for a coffee
 
A 15 min according to Google Maps
 

Crown Liquor Saloon

It’ll cost nothing to go into the bar though of course you’ll have to pay for your drinks, but its still worthwhile visiting one of Belfast’s landmarks.

 
7 mins will walk you round there according to Google Maps

The Albert Memorial Clock
 
Why visit Pisa when you can see our own leaning tower! There is a distinctive lean to the clock which has already been structurally strengthened but which continues to move
 
Custom House Square is beside it and there might even be an event on
 
Just a 17 min walk according to Google Maps
 

http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/Albert-Memorial-Clock-Belfast-P3434


Cupar Way Peace Wall

The Peace Wall still divides both communities but hopefully its only a matter of time before it comes down

In the meantime people from all over the world visit including Bill Clinton. You are welcome to sign your name and a message on it

As its nearly a couple of miles away it might be best to take a taxi and hear some of its history, but be careful to try to hear it from both sides of the divide!


Belfast Free TourThis is a walking tour which leaves the front of Belfast City Hall and is free – however a tip to the tour guide is expectedWe haven’t actually taken the tour ourselves as yet; maybe you can enlighten us

www.belfastfreetours.com


Visit An Art Gallery
 
There are many art galleries in Belfast all (to our knowledge) free
 
I’ll try to do a listing on them further down the page
 

Visit Titanic Dock and Pump House
 
Its free to look around the dock and you can see the Pump House but there are guided tours which will cost
 
Its about a mile’s walk or 23 mins according to Google Maps
 

 

7 Our Favourite Walks In Belfast

 
Belfast has some lovely walks, some of our favourites are along the river Lagan and are within easy walking distance from the apartments
 
Others are also beautiful but getting to them with a car is the easiest. They include walks along the Cavehill and many of the other open spaces in Belfast

Lagan Walk
 
Its less than a couple of miles but the walk starts at the apartments, goes through the old gas works and then meets the Lagan. It passes a bird sanctuary and eventually ends at the Lagan Weir. At the end of it, you might even be tempted into McHugh’s Bar for refreshments (Google Map)

 
The Lagan Towpath Walk
 
Ideally if you have access to a car you can drive to the starting point which is the end of Lockview Rd, just off the Stranmillis Rd. Again, this is less than 2 miles but is a beautiful walk along the rivers edge; the only problem is that you have to walk all the way back (Google Map)

Botanic Gardens Walk
 
Botanic Gardens really is a lovely place to walk and the whole route is less than 2 miles
 
On the way back there are some great little cafe’s along Botanic Ave to stop for a coffee or something more substantial (Google Map)

Barnett Demense Walk
 
Starting at the Malone House car park, keep to the paths which lead around the gardens and then down to the towpath
 
This is a short walk (Google map)

Ormeau Park
 
Situated a short walk from the apartments you can have a nice afternoon stroll around the perimeter
 
This is another short walk (Google map)

 

8 Hi-Life Diners Club – 2 meals for the price of 1 in many of Belfasts top restaurants

Part of the joy of a trip away (be it business or vacation) is the excitement of experiencing new cuisine and eating at new restaurants. Although often expensive, the costs can be drastically cut by the use of the ‘Hi Life’ card by enjoying 2 meals for the price of 1. Jane and I have been using this card for the last 5 years and it allows us to eat out on a regular basis without ‘breaking the bank’

The Hi Life card allows diners to enjoy up to 3 free courses when they eat with at least one other person. Basically, the cost of the cheaper meal is free for up to the 3 courses. For example, 2 diners order 2 starters (one at £5 the other at £6), followed by 2 main courses (one at £11 the other at £13) and finishing with 2 deserts (one at £3, the other at £4)

The final bill (excluding drinks and side dishes which are both excluded from the offer) means you pay for only –

£6 for the most expensive main starter
£13 for the most expensive main course
£4 most expensive desert

Total saving is £19 and the bill which would otherwise have been £42 is now only £23

The Hi Life is generally only available for a full 12 month period at a cost of £69.99 but we at Self Catering Accommodation Belfast have negotiated a very special deal which allows you to purchase a card for only £10 and covers a rolling 31 day period in any of their member restaurants in Ireland (north or south). Furthermore, if you are from the UK or Ireland and like ourselves are amazed by the benefits of using the card, Hi Life will allow you to extend your 1 month for your own region to a full years membership with a £10 discount

There are around 60 restaurants in Belfast city centre to choose from which are on the scheme, most of them shown on our map within easy walking distance from the apartments or just a short taxi ride away. A full list is available at http://www.hi-life.co.uk/Search.aspx?Area=Belfast%20City%20Centre .You even have the opportunity to read their reviews and sort them by ‘Food’, ‘Service’ and ‘Decor’. It’s then your choice whether to add your own review or not, but be warned that these are censored and not all reviews are posted. These restaurants range from small family run cafes and wine bars to Michelin star establishments

We do recommend that you read the How It Works and FAQ’s on their website. If you would like to take the opportunity to avail of this offer, please contact Alison from Hi Life by emailing her at alison@hi-life.co.uk or please quote promo code SCA15 on their website.


 

9 Our Favourite Festivals In Belfast

 
There are quite a few organised festivals in Belfast each year. The following is a list of some of our favourites