Belfast is a very compact city and that’s best appreciated by walking around or taking one of the famous black taxi tours. When you drop your bags off at a budget hotel like Travelodge in Belfast, you can get yourself ready for a few days of fun as that compactness makes Belfast a great city to visit for a long weekend as you can really pack a lot into your few days by the Lagan.
And there are plenty of visitors coming to Belfast, it’s now one of the most visited cities in the UK and second only to Dublin in Irish tourism, shedding its once troubled reputation once and for all. To save you time when you visit Belfast, here are some suggestions on ten of the best places to visit in the city.
The Titanic Quarter contains the world’s largest Titanic themed attraction where visitors can relive the story of one of the world’s greatest ships, constructed in Belfast before it made its ill-fated maiden voyage. And visitors love this attraction as seen by the over 2 million paying customers it’s attracted since it opened in 2012. It’s not just the Titanic Experience that is worth seeing though, with a huge urban regeneration for this waterfront area, there are plenty of restaurants, bars, cinemas and amusements to enjoy as well.
Belfast Grand Opera House
One of Belfast’s most iconic buildings since 1895, the Grand Opera House is also Northern Ireland’s most prestigious theatre and venue of choice for touring West End musical hits. As the name suggests, the theatre also hosts opera and every other type of theatrical experience you can name.
Belfast City Hall
Dubbed the ‘stone Titanic’, Belfast City Hall is quite stunning, its Portland stone building sitting resplendent in the middle of the city’s central Donegall Square, surrounded by the city and a public green area. It’s also a working public building as the headquarters of Belfast City Council and the free tour of City Hall gives a real insight into the history of the city it represents.
To get a great view of the city, get to Belfast Castle in the Cave Hill Country Park in the north of the city. At about 120 metres above sea level this is as pure a view as you could wish for, offering a panoramic view of Belfast and Belfast Lough beyond. It’s a draw for both the committed photographer and a popular family-friendly environment with an adventure playground and an ecotrail for everyone to try out.
Belfast Botanic Gardens
Visitors and residents of Belfast have enjoyed the Botanic Gardens since 1895 and has always been a haven from the busy streets of the city. The Gardens feature an impressive array of exotic plant collections and rare trees from around the world in the Palm House and the Tropical Ravine and are in the beautiful surroundings of College Park near Queens University Belfast. The Botanic Gardens often hosts concerts and opera performances in the summer months to add to the calming atmosphere.
St. Georges Market
St. George’s Market has been around since 1604 and continues to pull in the crowds today. Running Friday to Sunday, the food and craft market draws home-grown and visiting consumers through the sheer quality of the fare on offer. Friday is for food and fresh fish in particular while Saturday is foreign foods and flowers and Sunday for the arts and crafts. Add in some live local musicians and you get a wonderful shopping experience.
Since 1997, the Belfast Waterfront hall has been wowing the crowds and the artists that perform there. Home to the Ulster Orchestra, the Waterfront has built a world reputation as a great venue for major concerts and shows from around the world. So much so that the building has itself become a landmark for the city.
The Ulster Museum’s recent refurbishment has brought it back into the top rank of world museums and made it a must-see attraction for Belfast. There are loads of amazing artefacts to discover like Egyptian mummies and the fossilised remains of a 200-million-year-old seabed but the real treasure trove is more local. The Malone Hoard encompasses a spectacular collection of prehistoric stone and bronze artefacts from Ireland’s most famous archaeological sites.
Stormont Parliament Buildings
Anyone familiar with Northern Ireland’s political history will recognise these parliament buildings. Now working home to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the end result of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, the domineering building is worth visiting in its own right. The tour is best taken while the Assembly is on a break as you can see attractions like the Great Hall and the historic Senate Chamber without interruption.
Formerly the Odyssey, as the largest entertainment venue in Northern Ireland, the SSE Arena is the place to go for large scale musical acts coming to Belfast. Or for sports fans, it’s also home to a professional ice hockey team, the Belfast Giants, and has a major athletics indoor track.