Belfast Skyline - Courtesy of Christopher Heaney
Belfast is one of Europe’s most exciting cities, from its Michelin-starred restaurants and legendary nightlife to a phenomenal Titanic history. There’s a palpable buzz and a fantastic line up of things to see and do – here are some to get you going.
1. Experience Titanic Belfast
You can’t visit the Titanic Quarter without doing the world's leading tourist attraction Titanic Belfast, the biggest and best experience of the most famous ship in the world. Walk the decks, travel to the depths of the ocean and uncover the true legend of Titanic in the city that built her. Don’t forget to step aboard Titanic’s little sister, SS Nomadic, which carried passengers to the mighty ship. She has a million poignant stories of authentic Titanic history to tell.
2. Step on board HMS Caroline
HMS Caroline is a beautifully restored treasure trove of maritime history it’s like the crew only left yesterday. Explore a unique survivor from World War I, soak up her original features on the bridge, living quarters and engine rooms, and don't miss the chance to eat and drink in the First Rates Mess Café.
3. Peek into Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall is beautiful from the outside – but it’s highly recommended that you take a closer look inside. A free public tour of the vibrant interior highlights the building’s many connections to the Titanic and explains its most remarkable features – stained glass windows, artworks, historical artefacts and memorabilia among them.
4. Tipple in the Crown and see a show
Opposite the Grand Opera House, a Belfast cultural and architectural gem, you'll find the spectacular Crown Liquor Saloon, a masterpiece Victorian gin palace. Famous faces such as Brad Pitt have been in, Jimmy Nesbitt and a host of other stars who have appeared at the Opera House. The Crown is the perfect spot for a drink before taking in a show.
5. Discover the Queen’s Quarter
Belfast’s leafy Queen’s Quarter is a treasure trove of shops, cafés, bars, the Ulster Museum and the beautiful Botanic Gardens. A wander here could include the Naughton Gallery in Queen’s University, a stroll around the elegant Victorian Palm House in Botanic Gardens or even a stop for an art-house film at Queen's Film Theatre.
6. Get behind the scenes at Stormont
Mix political intrigue with excellent outdoor adventure at Stormont Parliament Buildings in the east of the city. Magnificent inside and out, you can ramble for hours in the extensive estate or go inside to be awe-struck by the Great Hall, historic Senate Chamber and the Assembly Chamber. Afterwards, have a coffee in the Members' dining rooms.
7. Dine out in the Cathedral Quarter
For lively cultural experiences and a vibrant social and restaurant scene, one of the best spots in Belfast is the cobbled streets of the Cathedral Quarter. Head here to also discover the inscriptions in Writer’s Square, the galleries at The Mac, a performance at the Black Box, and even the famous Big Fish sculpture, known as the Salmon of Knowledge, where every scale is a tile, and every tile tells a Belfast tale.
8. Reflect on the Belfast murals
As giant artistic mirrors to the city, Belfast’s murals are well worth looking into. Political, historical, sporting, industrial and literary, these pieces of public art give real insights into the local culture and traditions. The best way to see them is to take a dedicated Black Taxi Tour with great commentary from a local, you could even take a hop-on hop-off bus tour or even walk.
9. Zoom around the zoo
With more than 1,000 animals to see, Belfast Zoo is a fab day out for families of all ages. There’s the chance to find out all about the animals at the daily demonstrations, talks and feeds, and you can also go for special giraffe, penguin and lemur experiences, where you can meet the keeper and feed the animals.
10. Eat and drink Belfast
Get to know Belfast through a fun filled tour of its food and drink. Starting at the world-famous St George’s Market, the Belfast Food Tour lets you meet local producers, visit traditional bars, check out top foodie spots and munch your way through gourmet goodies. No need for breakfast, nor will you need lunch, and you should leave the car behind.
11. Conquer Cave Hill
See Belfast's natural setting from the heights of Cave Hill. There are quite stunning views of Belfast Lough, County Down and even Scotland just a short distance away from the city streets. You can conquer this mountain by various routes, but leave via the Belfast Castle car park and you can celebrate with a whiskey, tea or a meal at its tavern or restaurant when you get back.
12. Unlock Crumlin Road Gaol
Visit Belfast’s infamous Victorian prison, Crumlin Road Gaol and explore over 150 years of history with a guided tour. You can stand in the underground tunnel that connects the gaol to the Crumlin Road Courthouse, sit in the governor's chair, see the condemned man’s cell and be chilled by the execution cell where the majority of the 17 men were hanged.