Our trip to Northern Ireland was focused on the northern coast and the Giants Causeway (read about that part of the trip here!) but Belfast was our home base. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the city, as it has a troubled history, with many of the issues in the not so distant past. As friends and tour guides told us, the Northern Irish may not get along with each other, but they love tourists.
We wandered the city and found trendy restaurants, fun bars and new shopping areas. We walked by the self proclaimed most bombed hotel in the world, the city hall and many monuments. A tour guide told us to note that the new construction was in glass, a sign of faith in the rebuilding and future of the city. During the troubles, a glass shop front was a bad idea.
What Not to Miss
The Titanic Museum:
Like a giant iceberg, this architectural (and somewhat ironic looking) masterpiece sits by the graving docks of Belfast. The museum is set up as a one way trip, and you wander through exhibits on the industrial history of Belfast and the design and construction of the Titanic. There’s even a ride through a “shipyard”. This is followed by exhibits on the ship itself, with interactive displays and walk throughs of the decks. The exhibit about the sinking is interesting as well, and discusses passengers stories and the order of events on that fateful night. After that, they have information on the discovery of the wreck, which was especially cool for me, as the work was based out of Connecticut and Rhode Island. They don’t have artifacts from the wreck, because some consider it to be disrespectful to the grave site. There is also an exhibit on the titanic in popular culture. I thought the museum was great, and not too morbid, considering the subject matter. If you are in Belfast, definitely make a poin of going.
St Georges Market
For a wonderland of food choices, crafts and shopping this is a great destination. We grabbed crepes, breakfast sandwiches, freshly brewed coffee and juice from a few stands, and there are central tables where we ate. The stands range from local artwork to crafts and baked goods and it’s fun to wander the aisles.
We also spent time wandering around Queens University, the Botanical Gardens and shopping areas. Our schedule didn’t work out to take a guided walking tour, but that would have been a good idea.
Eating and Drinking
We found plenty of options for food in Belfast, but we should have made reservations for a Saturday night dinner out. The Cathedral Quarter is filled with trendy restaurants and bars, we had dinner and a few drinks at the Dirty Onion, a barbecue restaurant we thoroughly enjoyed. This was followed by drinks at the Harp and Trinity, all of which were a lot of fun. We were told all bars close pretty early in Belfast (last call around midnight!) so keep that in mind when planning your night out! We had a delicious lunch at a pop up restaurant, and craft beers at local bars.
The city center is compact and mostly walkable, but there are buses available. Two airports, Belfast international and George Best Belfast City Airport (named after the footballer) are close by and easily reachable by bus.
Since our trip was only 48 hours, we definitely didn’t see everything we would have liked to but thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Have you visited Belfast? What else did you do?