I must admit, Belfast was initially not high on my list of places I wanted to travel. But when the opportunity came up, we decided to spend some time there and ended up really enjoying the city! Belfast has a long history of political tension, but don’t let that put you off visiting. You can see the history in the streets, and it makes them all the more interesting for it.
Here’s how to spend the day exploring the best of Belfast:
Head to Maggie Mays for breakfast to start your day out right. There are two locations, but the one on Botanic Avenue is your best bet as it’s more centrally located. It’s a busy spot and you may have to wait for a table, but it’s well worth it. Go for the bumper fry, one of the biggest and best cooked breakfasts I’ve ever had. At just £6.10, it’s fantastic value. If you can somehow find room for anything else after that (not surprisingly, we usually do), they have a selection of excellent milkshakes to choose from. It’s cash only, so don’t forget to bring some with you.
After breakfast, wander over to St George’s Market (open Friday to Sunday and for special events). Built in the 1890s, the market is one of Belfast’s oldest attractions and has a growing list of awards and accolades. There’s an assorted mix of local food, arts and crafts, antiques, books, and clothes. Spend some time looking at the eclectic stalls and trying delicious free samples. Sometimes there are live performances showcasing upcoming musical talent.
Next up is exploring the city’s history. If you have room in your budget, take a black taxi tour of Belfast, starting around £35 for two people. Lasting approximately 1½ hours, the tour will take you through West Belfast where there is an abundance of political murals and memorials. It’s home to the infamous Peace Line, a wall constructed as a barrier between Catholic and Protestant communities in the 1970s during ‘The Troubles’.
If you’re on a budget, it is possible to walk to the Peace Wall – factor in about an hour to walk there and back, as well as the time you spend reflecting and reading some of the peace messages left by visitors from all around the world. Alternatively, visit Belfast Exposed in the city centre, a photography gallery showcasing work by artists and photographers from Northern Ireland and across the world.
After lunch, head towards the river. On your way you’ll pass the Albert Memorial Clock, built in the 1860s to memorialise Prince Albert. Also look for a giant ceramic sculpture of a salmon – known as the Big Fish or the Salmon of Knowledge – commissioned to celebrate the regeneration of the River Lagan in the 1990s.
Over the river, turn left to enter the Titanic Quarter. The highlight of this area of development is Titanic Belfast, a shining example of modern architecture built to commemorate the location where the ill-fated RMS Titanic was constructed. The museum, somewhat expensive at £18.50 for an adult ticket, is home to high-tech interactive displays that explore every detail of the construction of the Titanic. However, even if you choose not to go in the museum, it’s worth exploring the impressive architecture and surrounding area.
Next walk back along the river and into the city centre to visit Belfast City Hall. The majestic building is gorgeous, and it looks stunning lit up as the light starts to fade. Make sure you are there before it closes at 5pm if you want to go inside.
There are several great options for dinner in Belfast. Fans of burrito chains Chipotle or Tortilla will love Boojum, an excellent value create-your-own burrito bar that has locations throughout Ireland. For an Irish twist on modern dining, check out the menus at The Muddlers Club, The Ginger Bistro, or The Barking Dog.
After dinner, grab a drink at The Crown Liquor Saloon, one of the most famous pubs in Belfast. It is Grade A Listed Building and owned by The National Trust. It still retains many of the historic decorations and features, including gas lighting, stained windows, and several cosy snugs. It’s a lively, popular spot where you’ll be drinking with locals and tourists alike.
It’s been a long day of sightseeing, and you’ll need somewhere comfy to put your feet up. We opted for the Hotel ETAP. It has a friendly atmosphere, great location, and simple rooms – perfect for those travelling on a budget. If you are looking for something more glamorous, check out the Titanic Hotel for a room with stunning views over the Belfast Waterfront.
Other things to remember
- Belfast is part of the UK, which means that they use GBP(£) and UK power sockets.
- The weather in Belfast can be unpredictable, so it is wise to be prepared. Expect rain or sunshine and heat or cold any time of the year.
Do you have any tips for making the most of a city in a short period of time? Let us know in the comments!
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