Belfast is a city that surprised me. I knew very little about the city prior to our trip and unfortunately our two days in Belfast were not blessed with the best weather, regardless we had a fantastic time!
We visited as part of a week long road trip starting and ending in Belfast, seeing plenty of sights along the Causeway Coastal Route including Derry – you can read my full itinerary here. If you are hoping to visit Belfast and have more than a weekend to spare, I highly recommend completing as much of the road trip as you have time for.
If you only have one day to spare outside of Belfast, I’d recommend taking a day trip to the two most popular spots on the route – Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-A-Rede Bridge.
Chances are that you will take a wander into the main city centre on arrival in Belfast. In doing so, you can’t miss Belfast City Hall, a beautiful white ornate building topped with turquoise domes.
After walking around the perimeter, taking photos of the outside, we noticed there was a sign for free tours of the inside of the building which run three times a day (you can check the time of tours here). We quickly signed up for the next tour!
The inside is every bit as grand as you would imagine, so makes for an great tour – especially when you consider that it’s free!
Even if you don’t have time for a tour, you should definitely check out the exterior of the building, especially the various memorials in the grounds – the two most notable being the Cenotaph memorialising those who died in the First World War and the Titanic Memorial Gardens which list the names of all that lost their lives in the sinking of the Titanic.
If there’s one reason to take a free walking tour of Belfast, it’s to find out all of your tour guide’s favourite places to eat and drink. Belfast has a great foodie scene, so you’ll want a local’s recommendation of where is new and interesting! Although if you are ever in any doubt, head to Cathedral Quarter (the street pictured above) for a drink!
We opted for a tour with this company who offer both a traditional Free Walking Tour and a paid-for Political Conflicting Stories Tour which, I would have definitely signed up for if we had enough time. The tour is three hours long and you will spend time with both Republican and Loyalist ex-political prisoners and soldiers who will share their their own personal stories from The Troubles, meaning you get to hear both “sides of the story”. It sounds like a truly unique experience that you won’t ever get from a history book.
While we didn’t expect the weather in Northern Ireland to be glorious in March, I had underestimated quite how windy our time in Belfast would be (thankfully we met the sun later on our trip along the Causeway Coastal Route). So, we ended up spending some time in The Victoria Square shopping centre buying me a nice bobble hat – remember this fact for later on…
What I didn’t realise in our frantic dash to get a hat is that you can go up into the Victoria Square dome (for free!) for 360 degree views of the city! I imagine that the views are brilliant in the evening when the city is lit up!
The dome even hosts yoga sessions on one Sunday each month – check here for dates and times.
Cremlin Road Goal is an unused (other than for tourism purposes) jail which saw over 250,000 prisoners in it’s 150 working life.
Booking a tour of the jail will lead you through the halls, cells, tunnels and offices of the building, learning about the history of the prisoners and officers who were once housed there.
Executions did take place at Cremlin Road Goal, and you’ll learn all about them. The hairs on my arms were standing on end when we reached the chilling conclusion of the tour (which I won’t spoil for you here) – I was certainly surprised!
St George’s Market is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, so be sure to check in if you’re visiting Belfast on any of these days.
The market has a range of artwork and crafts alongside fresh produce and street food. Obviously, I was there for the street food, and yes I did have a portion of the gloriously cheesy pasta in the picture!
In my excitement for the cheesy foods, I managed to put my lovely new bobble hat down on a table and leave without it only to realise after we had made the bus ride to our next stop… R.I.P. bobble hat.
Hopefully I don’t need to explain what the Titanic is, and if you’re unsure, I’m sure you’d prefer to hear the story from Leonardo Di Caprio than me.
I’m not a huge museum fan, but the Titanic Exhibition is really well done. In your self-guided tour of the exhibition, you’ll learn all about the ship, the people that built it and those who were on it’s tragic maiden voyage.
The exhibition is fairly big, so you should have a few hours spare if you’re planning on visiting (of course, you can whizz through as quickly as you want – but you’ll be sure to miss something interesting if you do)!
Included in the price of your ticket is entrance to the SS Nomadic, a smaller vessel built to shuttle passengers to and from The Titanic from Cherbourg Harbour.
We booked a Black Cab Tour on a bit of a whim to pass some time before our flight home. Little did I know that it would be one of my favourite experiences in Belfast.
Your Black Cab driver will escort you through more residential areas of the city that you may not have visited otherwise, including the famous Falls Road and Shankhill Road. In these areas, buildings are often covered in political/religious murals and street art.
The stories of the conflict in these areas left me quite emotional – and it’s very rare that a tourist experience would do that to me!
During the tour, you will also get the opportunity to write a message on the Peace Walls, alongside the likes of Nelson Madela and The Dalai Lama.
While the weather may not have been great during our time in Belfast, we need not worry, whenever there’s a spot of rain, there’s always a nearby pub (or café if you prefer) that you can hop into until the rain passes! Also, it would be rude not to sample some Guinness while you’re there!
If you have more than 2 days to spare, there are a whole host of other things that you can do in Belfast:
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