Categories: Belfast

Belfast is a city with a talent for reinventing itself. What was once an industrial powerhouse is now a top-of-mind destination for visitors from all over the world. Some are drawn by Belfast’s thrilling food scene or buzzing pub culture, others by its riveting history or its musical pedigree. So, whatever’s inspired your weekend in Belfast, it’s sure to be a good one. In fact, the only challenge might be how to fit everything in.

What’s your itinerary? 

First things first - somewhere fabulous to base yourself.  Belfast’s Merchant Hotel (5*), in the Cathedral Quarter, rocks glamour with a capital ‘G’ - and a Victorian and Art Deco twist. It also has a rooftop hot tub and a reputation for exceptionally fine cocktails. The city-centre budget-friendly Maldron (4*) has everything on its doorstep. Or try the very authentic Titanic Hotel – the one-time Harland & Wolff Headquarters and Drawing Offices. Handy for the world-famous Titanic Belfast attraction, you’d think. And it is. Just step outside and you’re there. 

Explore the Titanic Quarter 

At Titanic Belfast, a world-leading visitor attraction, you can walk the decks, travel to the depths of the ocean and learn all there is to know about the ill-fated ship in the city that built her. While you’re here, visit HMS Caroline too – the last survivor of World War I’s Battle of Jutland.  

Seafood and Shopping 

At the Titanic Hotel, you can dine in ‘Drawing Room 2’ where the original Titanic plans were drawn. Or head to the Mourne Seafood Bar, the only restaurant here to source shellfish from its own shellfish beds. And that’s not easy to say out loud.

If retail therapy calls, Victoria Square has all the answers. Or, if this is a seasonal trip, visit the famous Belfast Christmas Market for a cup of Glühwein and a whole lot of Christmas spirit.  

Check out Belfast’s vibrant art scene  

The Mac - or the Metropolitan Arts Centre - is the striking world-class venue in the Cathedral Quarter. It’s home to all kinds of exhibitions, theatre performances, experimental works and more. Plus there’s the Grand Opera House and Lyric Theatre. Or go leftfield at Black Box with its eclectic programme of cabaret, music, comedy and film events. So definitely worth seeing if there’s something going on that appeals to you. 

Alternatively, join a gently paced, two-hour guided street art walking tour to see the incredible street art currently adding to the atmosphere of Belfast city centre.  

A night on the town 

Dinner at Ox, one of Belfast’s two Michelin-starred restaurants (the other is Deanes Eipic) showcases some of the finest local food. But always in an unforgettable way. Or try Coppi, where the 'stonking duck pasta dish' got rave reviews from critic, Jay Rayner. 

A nightcap, and a singalong, at the Harp Bar or a visit to Muriel’s Bar to try the local gins make a perfect end to the day. Though watch your head at Muriel’s. She tends to leave her underwear hanging from the ceiling. 

Wake up to brunch 

St George’s Market is foodie central and a Belfast institution. Speciality stalls range from Northern Ireland staples like soda bread and Belfast baps to Asian and South American-inspired dishes. Of course, Saturday’s the day when locals and live music come out to play here. And, if you want to arrive like a local, hop on a Belfast Bike for an easy cycle through the city. 

If you’ve a taste for more foodie experiences, Taste and Tour NI promises to take you ‘off the eaten’ track on a fun, four-hour guided walk, visiting the city’s traditional bars and shops, before finishing up in one of Belfast’s top restaurants. Or, if you like drama with your dinner, join Chef Barney on Belfast’s one and only theatrical food tour Belfast Bred to recreate the Titanic’s iconic first class banquet.  

Culture vulture time 

Head out of the city centre to follow in the footsteps of Belfast’s famous sons. Soul sensation Van Morris, football legend George Best and Narnia novelist C.S. Lewis were all born in East Belfast – a cultural tour will fill in the details for you. 

Or make for the city’s leafy Queen’s Quarter and a treasure trove of shops, cafés, gardens and other attractions, such as the Ulster Museum. With art zones, science zones and history zones, you’ll find something of interest here – whatever your interests.  

Dinner is served 

If you’ve a taste for more great food, leading foodie light, The Muddler's Club serves up dishes as fascinating as their history. Go casual-brasserie at Hadski’s or try bistro, with a New York vibe, and a touch of fine dining, at local favourite James St.  

A good night before it’s goodnight 

For a buzzing beer garden, try the trendy National Grande Café or the photogenic Duke of York – where every moment is Instagrammable. Bert’s Jazz Bar serves exquisite cocktails or you can go for boisterous live music at the Dirty Onion. 

Time to rise and shine 

And we do mean rise. Take a bracing walk up to the top of Cave Hill to see Belfast’s own ‘sleeping giant’, thought to have inspired Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. It is a challenging climb, though the panoramic views across the city, all the way from Belfast Lough to the Mourne Mountains, make it so worth it.  

Lower down the slopes, you’ll find Belfast Castle where you can grab a very welcome drink in the cellar restaurant. 

To gaol and the gardens 

A guided tour of Crumlin Road Gaol, one of Belfast’s most historic buildings, reveals the daily lives and routines of prisoners and prison officers. It’s for anyone with an interest in history, and includes tours of the hanging cell and courthouse tunnels. 

If you stop for Sunday lunch at the welcoming Barking Dog, check out their signature shin burger, though the tapas go down a treat too. Then take a stroll through the Botanic Gardens to see the stunning Victorian Palm House and the Tropical Ravine, Just the place to imagine you’re in sunnier climes, if it happens to be one of Belfast’s rainier, though always beautiful, days. 

This is a city where there’s always something more to do. So, if you’re left feeling the weekend wasn’t long enough, plan a comeback and see what your next itinerary has in store.