LAST UPDATED: 5/5/23 – Belfast, Northern Ireland 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.
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.
Visiting Belfast, Northern Ireland VLOG Episode
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.
|At A Glance|
|How to Get to Belfast|
|Best Times to Visit Belfast|
|Where to Stay in Belfast|
|Top Things to See in Belfast|
|Other Things to See in Belfast|
|Belfast Restaurant Recommendations|
|Top Belfast Tour Recommendations|
|Belfast Photo Gallery|
At a Glance
Before you start making any travel plans, you will want to make sure to take care of all of the passport, VISA, and immunization requirements for your trip. In addition, you will want to make sure you have a clear understanding of what languages they speak in Northern Ireland.
I also cover what currency they use in the UK and what currency they use so that you can exchange currency before your trip if necessary. I have included some of this key information in my Belfast, Northern Ireland guide below for you to review as you start to make your travel plans.
|Passport requirements exist. See below for details.|
|Immunization recommendations are listed below.|
|The official languages in the Northern Ireland are Irish and English.|
|The official currency in the UK is the British Pound.|
When visiting Northern Ireland, your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay in the country. You will also need to have at least one blank passport page in order to be processed into the country. Presently, you do not need to have a VISA if you are planning on staying in the Republic of Ireland for less than 6-months.
You will need to apply for a VISA if you are planning on staying in the country for longer than 6-months. Before you start making your travel plans, I would strongly suggest you review the passport requirements I have laid out in my Belfast, Northern Ireland guide below.
|PASSPORT VALIDITY:||For the duration of your stay in the United Kingdom.|
|BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:||1 Page Required.|
|TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:||Not required for stays of less than 90-days.|
|CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:||None.|
|CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:||None.|
Before you leave for your trip to Belfast, you need to make sure you have all of the proper vaccinations. Not only to protect yourself but to protect others. If you have questions on what immunizations you will need and what to look out for when you go to get them, below are some general guidelines I can pass on to you from experience.
Travel Vaccination Advice
- Most specialized travel clinics will not accept insurance so you will have to pay for your travel consultation and immunizations and then request reimbursement from your insurance company later.
- Some immunizations aren’t accepted by every insurance company, so check with your insurance provider before getting your immunizations.
- Check with your regular doctor first, as often they can do a travel consultation for you and write you the necessary prescriptions for your immunizations, even if they aren’t able to give them to you. This way you can ensure that at least your travel consultant will be covered by your insurance up-front.
- Check with Walgreens or other drug stores that give flu shots to see if they have any of the immunization shots that you require before going to a specialized clinic that doesn’t accept insurance to get them. Walgreens can give you many of the immunizations necessary for international travel, and they accept insurance up-front.
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website can be a great resource for answering any travel immunization questions that you have.
United Kingdom Travel Vaccine Recommendations
You may be wondering what travel vaccinations you might need. In this case, you are in luck. I have compiled a list below of some of what you might expect your physician to recommend.
- Hepatitis A & B (if you haven’t had them).
- Tetanus (if you aren’t current).
- Transderm SCōP Patch (for motion sickness) or at minimum Dramamine pills if you get motion sickness easily and you plan on getting out on the water or doing adventure activities.
- Flu Shot
Outside of taking care of the passport, visa, and immunization requirements so that you can get into the United Kingdom and don’t get sick, there is no more important pre-travel planning task than making sure you pack the right clothing and gear for your trip. To help make sure you are properly packed and prepared, I have included links to some of my Belfast, Northern Ireland guide below.
|The Ultimate Travel Packing Check List|
|The Essential Carry-On Checklist|
|10 Packing Tips That Every Traveler Should Follow|
How to Get to Belfast
Belfast is located in Northern Ireland, which sits in the North-Eastern corner of the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland is a 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.
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 (BFS). 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.
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.
Best Times to Visit Belfast
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.
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.
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.
Where to Stay in Belfast
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.
Top Things to See in Belfast
One thing that the city of Belfast is certainly not in short supply of is amazing things to see and do. Between the museums, historical sites, beautiful cathedrals, and parks, there is a wealth of things to see.
If you are looking for some ideas on what to see during your stay, I have included my top things to see in my Belfast, Northern Ireland guide below. All of these attractions are must-see, and all of these attractions are located within the tourism center of the city of Belfast.
|Albert Memorial Clock Tower|
|Falls Street IRA Murals|
|Belfast City Hall|
|Belfast Botanic Gardens|
|Belfast Pubs – The Garrick|
|St. Peter’s Cathedral|
|St. George’s Market|
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.
Albert Memorial Clock Tower
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.
Falls Street Murals
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.
Belfast City Hall
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
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.
Belfast Botanic Gardens
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.
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.
St. Peter’s Cathedral
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.
St. George’s Market
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.
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.
Other Things to See in Belfast
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.
Elsewhere in Northern Ireland
While the city of Belfast is absolutely incredible, there is a lot else to see in Northern Ireland. For travelers who will be venturing out of the city, I have included some guides for some other top attractions help with your planning. As you start to put together your itinerary, please feel free to reference the guides I have included in my Belfast, Northern Ireland guide below.
|The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Guide|
|The Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland|
|Dark Hedges Visitor’s Guide|
Belfast Restaurant Recommendations
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.
If you are looking for a restaurant or two for your upcoming visit to Belfast, I have you covered. I have highlighted a number of recommended restaurants at different price points for you to review in my Belfast, Northern Ireland guide below.
|The Coffee House Bistro||Irish, Cafe, Diner||$|
|The Lantern||Irish, European, British||$$-$$$|
|Blu Restaurant||European, British, Veggie||$$-$$$|
|The Welcome Restaurant||Chinese, Asian, Cantonese||$$-$$$|
|Holohans Pantry||Irish, Healthy, Veggie||$$-$$$|
|OX||Irish, European, Veggie||$$$$|
Top Belfast Tour Recommendations
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. However, as much as you are able to see in the city on your own, sometimes it helps to book a tour or an excursion to make sure you don’t miss out on an experience.
If you are looking for a tour or an excursion for your visit, I have included links to some great ones for you to review in my Belfast, Northern Ireland guide below.
|Full Day Trips|
|Likely to Sell Out|
Belfast Photo Gallery
Belfast is such a fun city to capture in images. I thoroughly enjoyed taking photos and video in the city. If you would like to see some more of the photographs that I took when I visited Belfast, I have included a gallery for you to enjoy in my Belfast, Northern Ireland guide below.
If you would like to view some more of my top photos from this trip, as well as photos from some of my many other travel adventures, make sure you are following me on Instagram as well!