Castles

Belfast Visitor’s Guide

Until I visited Belfast, I didn’t truly realize just how amazing the city really is.  It is a city that is steeped in history, and so much of that history can still be explored.  When I visited, I felt like I was taking a trip back in time thru some of Europe’s most historical moments.  This is one of the things that makes the city of Belfast so special.

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The city of Belfast, which is currently the island of Ireland’s 2nd largest city, played a large role in the Industrial Revolution.  In fact, this is where the legendary ship the Titanic was built, and the city is very proud of being a part of that history.

Belfast has also seen its fair share of troubles over its lengthy history.  Starting in the 1960’s, and lasting until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the island of Ireland was locked in a bitter and often bloody conflict known as “the Troubles”.  The dispute over whether the land in Northern Ireland would be part of the Republic of Ireland or the United Kingdom cast a dark cloud over the region, and Belfast was at the epicenter of the conflict.

In this visitor’s guide, I am going to provide you with all of the resources you will need to explore this wonderful city and all of its amazing history.  I will be providing you with tips on the best way to get to Belfast, when the best times of the year are to visit the city, and where to stay while you are in town.

I also outline the top things to see and do in the city, including the best tours and excursions and my top Pub\Restaurant recommendation (though it was hard to choose because there are so many great options).  Finally, I provide you with some additional resources that you can use to make sure your visit to Belfast is a memorable one.

How to Get There

Belfast is located in Northern Ireland, which sits in the North-Eastern corner of the island of Ireland.  Northern Ireland is territory of the United Kingdom, so although it is part of the island of Ireland it is technically British soil.  Belfast, which is the capital of Northern Ireland, sits on the Eastern coast of Northern Ireland.

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If you are visiting Ireland, you have a number of different choices on how to get to Belfast.  If you are just visiting Northern Ireland, your best bet is to fly into Belfast International Airport.  Once you land, you can use public transportation to get around, or rent a car if you want to have more flexibility.

When we visited, we flew into Dublin first, and then drove to Belfast.  It’s only a two hour drive between the two cities, and the border crossing from Ireland to Northern Ireland typically doesn’t involve any formalities.  In fact, it is much like crossing between states in the United States.

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If you are traveling to Belfast from Scotland or anywhere else in the UK, I would strongly suggest flying.  If you book your flight far enough in advance, you can get a one-way flight from Edinburgh for £30-£80 and from London for £50-£130.  However, if you are feeling more adventurous, you can also take a ferry boat from Scotland to Belfast.  The ride from Cairnryan to Belfast takes roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes and will cost between £90 and £155 for a one-way ticket.

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When to Visit

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If you are adverse to either too hot or too cold of temperatures, then Belfast is a pretty safe place for you to visit.  The temperatures are pretty consistently mild year round, though the area does get a ton of rain every year.  You are going to want to take that into account when planning your visit.  I have included the average monthly high and low temperature, as well as the average monthly level of precipitation below for you to review when planning your trip.

Temperature (°F)

As I mentioned above, the average temperature in Belfast is typically very mild year round.  The average high temperature typically doesn’t get above the upper 60’s or lower 70’s, and the average low doesn’t get much cooler than the upper 30’s.  While the summer months of June thru August are more pleasant, there isn’t enough variation in the average temperature to make it a large factor in when to plan your trip.

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Precipitation (Inches)

Belfast gets a lot of rain year-round.  In fact, on average, it rains 157 days a year in Belfast.  In some months, Belfast gets over an inch of rain.  Because of the amount of rain that the city gets, the weather can be a big factor in when you should visit Belfast.  The best window for visiting is in the late winter thru late spring.  The months of February thru May see far less rain than the months of July thru January.

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Accommodations

One of the most important decisions you can make when planning any trip is your choice in accommodations.  Where you choose to stay can have a big impact on how easy it is for you to visit the places you want to visit and how much money you will spend on transportation.

In order to keep you close to the top attractions in Belfast, and save you some money on transportation costs, I have provided a number of different hostel and hotel recommendations that are all within the general vicinity of Belfast’s tourism center.

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 Vagabonds Belfast ($)
 Lagan Backpackers ($)
Premier Inn Belfast Titanic Quarter ($)
 Wellington Park Hotel ($)
 The Gregory Belfast ($)
 Botanic Rest ($)
 Maldron Hotel Belfast City ($$)
 Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast ($$)
 Clayton Hotel Belfast ($$)
 Ten Square Hotel ($$)
 Bullitt Hotel ($$$)
 AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast ($$$)
 Holiday Inn Belfast City Centre ($$$)
 Radisson Blu Hotel Belfast ($$$)
 Park Inn by Radisson Belfast ($$$)
 Europa Hotel ($$$$)
 Titanic Hotel Belfast ($$$$)
 Hilton Belfast ($$$$)
 Malmaison Belfast ($$$$)
 The Merchant Hotel ($$$$$)

Top 10 Must See Sites

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There are plenty of amazing things to see and do in the city of Belfast.   I have included some additional resources at the end of this visitor’s guide to help you get the most out of your visit.  I have also listed my Top 10 Things to See in Belfast below for you to review.  All of these attractions are must see, and all of these attractions are located within the tourism center of the city of Belfast.

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 Titanic Quarter
 Albert Memorial Clock Tower
 Falls Street IRA Murals
 Belfast City Hall
 Belfast Castle
 Belfast Botanic Gardens
 Belfast Pubs – The Garrick
 St. Peter’s Cathedral
 St. George’s Market
 Cathedral Quarter

Titanic Quarter

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Without a doubt, the Titanic Quarter is the top must-see attraction in Belfast.  This large-scale waterfront regeneration project includes a magnificent museum on the building of the Titanic.  On the Titanic Experience, you can explore the ship deck, visit the shipyard, and learn how the ship was made and how it ultimately sunk.  This is an amazing family experience that the kids will absolutely love.

In addition to the museum, there are other attractions in the Titanic Quarter that are worthy of exploring.  Between historical maritime landmarks, film studios, boat rides, and restaurants, the area is a lot of fun.

Recommended Time To See:  3-4 hours

Albert Memorial Clock Tower

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Completed in 1869, the Albert Memorial Clock Tower is one of the best known landmarks in the city of Belfast.  It is a beautiful clock tower that resembles in many ways Big Ben in London.  The clock tower stands at 113 feet tall and can be seen from many locations around the city.

Like most things in the city of Belfast, there have been some fairly significant historical events involving the Albert Memorial Clock Tower.  In January of 1992, the clock tower was damaged by a bomb placed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army outside the nearby River House on High Street.  If you are interested in learning more about this amazing clock tower and the history behind it, you can book a tour thru Viator.

Recommended Time to See:  1-2 hours

Falls Street Murals

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Nothing brings out the history and emotion of “the Troubles” more than the murals on Falls Street in Belfast.  These painted murals vividly tell the story of the conflict and the pain that it caused in Ireland.  One of the most moving murals is that of protester Bobby Sands (shown below), who died while in custody in 1981 while on a hunger strike.  I strongly recommend you take a stroll down Falls Street and check out some of these moving memorials.

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Recommended Time to See:  1 hour

Belfast City Hall

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Ever since its doors opened in 1906, the Belfast City Hall has been one of Belfast’s most iconic buildings.  It really is a stunning building, but that isn’t the limit of its allure.  There are many fun things to do and see in and around the city hall, which I have listed below.

  • Free Tours of City Hall
  • The Titanic Memorial Garden
  • Belfast City Hall visitor exhibition
  • Lighting display at night

Recommended Time to See:  1-2 hours

Belfast Castle

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The Belfast Castle is one of the more impressive castles that you can see in Northern Ireland.  Situated on Cave Hill, the castle dates back to 1870 and is one of the more impressive buildings in Belfast.  There are some absolutely spectacular views of the city of Belfast from the Belfast Castle, and the mix of parkland and woodland provides a lot of wildlife viewing opportunities as well.  Among the different types of wildlife you might spot include long-eared owls, sparrowhawks and Belfast’s rarest plant, the town hall clock.

Admission to Belfast Castle is free, but if you would like to get a guided tour of the castle, there is a great tour available thru Viator.

Recommended Time to See:  2-4 hours

Belfast Botanic Gardens

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Established in 1828 and occupying 28 acres of beautiful land, the Belfast Botanic Gardens offers a beautiful collection of exotic tree and plant collections.  This is a great place to visit on a rainy day, or if you want to get some colorful pictures.  If you are lucky, your visit may coincide with the dates of one of the many festivals or concerts that are held at the botanical gardens.  For information on tours and tickets, check out this tour offered by Viator.

Recommended Time to See:  2-4 hours

Belfast Pubs

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It is no secret that they love their beer in Ireland and the UK, and nothing is more symbolic of Ireland and Northern Ireland’s love affair with beer than the pubs.  If you haven’t been to a pub in Ireland or the UK, then I strongly suggest that you check one out on your next trip.  Belfast certainly has its fair share of great ones.

Recommended Time to See:  2-4 hours

St. Peter’s Cathedral

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Located near Falls Street, St. Peter’s Cathedral is a beautiful Roman Catholic Church.  St. Peter’s Cathedral, like many places in Belfast, was historically significant in “the Troubles” that plagued Ireland and Northern Ireland in the 1960’s thru the 1990’s.  Inside the church, there is a memorial (shown below) to two priests (Father Hugh Mullan and Father Noel Fitzpatrick) who were killed while administering to dying parishioners as a part of this struggle.

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Recommended Time to See:  2 hours

St. George’s Market

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There has been a market on Fridays on St. George’s Street dating all the way back to 1604.  The most recent market, which started in the late 1890’s, is one of Belfast’s oldest attractions.  I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love visiting markets when I travel.  There are few things more useful when learning about a different culture than browsing thru a market.  If you have the time, I strongly suggest you check out St. George’s Market.

Recommended Time to See:  2-4 hours

Cathedral Quarter

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If you are looking for an active nightlife when visiting Belfast, then look no further than the Cathedral Quarter.  The Cathedral Quarter is a developing area near Royal Street that contains many different pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, and other areas of interest.  It’s a fun area that really comes to life at night.

Recommended Time to See:  1-2 hours

Other Tourist Sites

I have highlighted my favorite sites in Belfast above, but there are many other fun things to do and see in the city that I have not outlined in this visitor’s guide.  Below is a list of some of the other attractions that are worthy of exploring during your visit.

Top Restaurant Recommendation

Belfast is a fairly large city, so you have quite a few restaurant and pub options to choose from in the city.  I strongly recommend that you try the pub experience during your visit as it is an experience unlike anywhere else outside of Ireland and the UK.

The Garrick

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The Garrick on Chichester Street is a pub that I recommend.  It’s central location makes it very easy to access and the food, drink, and atmosphere were fantastic.  The pub even has some outside seating, should the weather be nice when you visit.

Trip Advisor Reviews

Top Tour Recommendations

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There is so much to do in Belfast and the surrounding area that it really isn’t hard to fill out your itinerary during your visit.  I have listed a number of fantastic tours available from Viator below for you to review.  Of these tours, the Titanic Experience museum (pictured above) and the Giant’s Causeway and Dark Hedges (Game of Thrones Tour) were my favorites.

More Belfast Excursion and Tour Recommendations from Viator

Other Resources

In order to make sure your visit is as memorable as possible, I have included some additional resources below that you can use to plan your trip.

Recommended Length of Visit

Belfast is a great city with a lot of history to see and explore.  If you are visiting Belfast in Northern Ireland, I would recommend that you spend at least a full day in the city.  If you plan to spend some time exploring the attractions on the Northern coast of Northern Ireland, then you will probably want to plan an extra day to explore that area.

Recommendation:  1-2 Days

Photo Gallery

Belfast is such a fun city to capture in images.  I thoroughly enjoyed taking photos and video in the city.  Below are just some of the pictures that I was able to capture during my stay in Belfast.

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7 replies »

  1. Thank Josh! I love all your reporting, pictures, and reviews. I don’t know that I would make it to Belfast but your review gives me that vicarious visit pleasure 😉

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