Whether you’re planning a visit and looking at accommodation in Belfast or perhaps live more local and just want to plan a fun weekend – Belfast offers some of the best things to do in Northern Ireland! Offering the perfect mix of culture, history and entertainment, the list below details some of the most popular Belfast attractions.
In this blog, I have listed the Top 10 things you can do when you visit Belfast!
Titanic Belfast is housed in a striking building located on the lough in the exact spot the famous ship was launched from. The exhibitions chart the story from the conception of the Titanic and it’s design in Belfast, all the way through to the launch and of course the sinking and later the discovery of the wreck. Being from Belfast I of course must point out that the ship was fine when it left us!
In 2016 it was voted the world’s leading tourist attraction at the World Travel Awards! The Oscars of tourism. It was actually the first time any attraction in the whole of Ireland had won the award.
Crumlin Road Gaol
The Crumlin Road Jail opened in 1846 and continued to hold prisoners until 1996! Now though the old Victorian jail is one of Belfast’s leading tourist attractions and also hosts conferences and other events. During the tour you will learn all about the history of the jail and the part it played during the infamous “troubles”.
When in Crumlin Road Gaol you will see the underground tunnel that links it to the courthouse across the road. You will even see the condemned man’s cell and later the execution cell where the prisoners would be hanged for their crimes.
As if this all wasn’t creepy enough, Crumlin Road Gaol also holds Halloween ghost tours for people crazy enough to enjoy being haunted by the ghosts of dead criminals.
St George’s Market
St George’s Market is one of Belfast’s oldest attractions. The market building was built in 1890 but a market has been on the site since 1604! It was refurbished and reopened in 1997 and was named the UK’s Best Large Indoor Market 2014.
St George’s Market offers amazing food and produce as well as some unbelievably talented local arts and craft sellers. You will be able to see some of the really creative work in our apartments from the likes of Belfast Times , FlaxFox , Mai Bendy Art and many more! There is such an amazing atmosphere and buzz about the place which is helped by the music from local artists.
The market is only on at the weekends unless you are particularly lucky and come when they hold the Twilight Market . This is on in the evenings and hosts stalls from many of the best restaurants in the city. Some of our favourites include Baker Street and Wood Fired Pizza Company . Oh, and you can get alcohol at the Twilight Market which is awesome ?
The Ulster Museum is a firm family favourite since forever and is a brilliant way to spend a rainy day (It will definitely rain during your trip!). It hosts dinosaur skeletons and an Egyptian mummy as well as artworks and historical pieces from around the world. It is free admission and has loads of stuff to keep kids entertained. The Ulster Museum also houses the Game of Thrones Tapestry which is locally produced or Irish Linen and charts the story of the hit HBO TV show to date.
If the rain stops you can enjoy the Botanic Gardens which the Museum is situated in. The newly renovated Tropical Ravine will certainly warm you up. As will the Victorian Palm House which holds exotic plants from all over the world. Back out in the cold there is also the Rose Garden to explore
Political history tour
This is perhaps the most popular of all Belfast tours. The “troubles” in Northern Ireland raged for over 30 years and claimed the lives of hundreds of people. The news of the violence was spread across the world but most visitors to the city still do not know in detail why exactly the conflict lasted so long and was so intense.
There are numerous political history tours in the city. Some by black taxi and others on foot. They all seek to explain the history of the troubles and the path to peace. It is important to get a balanced, unbiased and historically accurate account of the most turbulent part of Belfast’s history.
The city itself is very safe and is almost unrecognisable to how it was back then with police checkpoints and the army patrolling the streets. Murals still remain in many parts of the city and each holds a different message depending on which community it is in.
If politics isn’t what you want from a Belfast tour, there are also several different sightseeing tours in the city. These all offer a chance to see the main tourist attractions in the city. They include driving down both the Shankhill and Falls roads which are famous streets across the world in the Loyalist and Republican communities. You will get a chance to see the famous murals and peace walls that still divide the communities to this day in parts of the city.
The tours also travel to Titanic Belfast as well as the dock and pumphouse before heading off to the parliament buildings in East Belfast called Stormont. In the city centre you’ll see historic buildings like St George’s Market and Queen’s University. Remember to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times and do not feed the locals!
Giant’s Causeway day trip
The Giant’s Causeway is a completely unique, 65 million year old rock formation. It is a world heritage site situated on the north coast of Northern Ireland. The story goes that it was built by Giants as a way to walk to Scotland. The Giant’s causeway is just one of several great spots to stop at along the coastal route from Belfast.
The Causeway Coastal Route as the name suggests hugs the coastline form Belfast on the east coast all the way up to the north of the island. There is a quicker way to get to the north coast but it’s a boring motorway with not much to see! I would always recommend taking the scenic route up and the quick way home.
The first stop when out of Belfast is Carrickfergus Castle. A stunning 12th century Norman castle on the banks of Belfast Lough. Close to the Gaint’s Causeway you’ll come across Carrick-a-rede ropebridge, Bushmills Distillery and Dunluce Castle.
Everywhere is well signposted but if you don’t have a car or are not comfortable driving along a windy coast road on the opposite side of the road you are used to then there are several bus tours that leave from Belfast that take in all these sites! I recommend McCombs tours
Game of Thrones tour
Game of Thrones has taken the world by storm and has put Belfast (and the 7 kingdoms) firmly on the map. Many of the filming locations are just a short drive from Belfast! If you’re trying to figure out which scenes are shot in Northern Ireland, just look out for the green, wet ones. That’ll be us.
There are many different tours but most take in the North Coast where several key filming locations are located. You can visit Winterfell and learn archery and there is also a Game of Thrones tour where you can meet real Direwolves from the show!
Many of the interior shots such as the throne room are filmed in Belfast too. Titanic studios can be found beside…. Titanic Belfast but it’s strictly off limits to the public. Although sometimes when they leave the hanger doors open you can see some cool props!
If there’s one thing people from Belfast can do it’s come up with a good name for a pub. Some of my favourites are Filthy McNastys , Dirty Onion , Thirsty Goat, Tipsy Bird , and the Spaniard . There are tons of other amazing bars with more normal names dotted throughout the city.
The great thing about Belfast is that there are no real “tourist bars” except maybe the Crown Bar but there is still definitely worth a visit! Everywhere in the city is really authentic and will be full of locals enjoying the craic of a night out.
If you’re a foodie there are plenty of places to eat in Belfast! From Michelin starred fine dining like Ox and Deane’s EIPIC to world food with a Belfast twist like Coppi (Italian) or Zen (Asian) to trendy, relaxed eating like La Taqueria (Mexican) or Nu Delhi (Indian). Or some local gems serving tradtional Irish food like Holohan’s or John Long’s
There really is something to suit all tastes, budgets and occasions.