Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland and birthplace of the Titanic, is one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Europe. With its affordable prices (from flights to food) and plenty of easy to reach attractions, Belfast is definitely a place worth exploring! I’ve stayed in this city multiple times and would certainly go back.
What is the weather like?
Like the rest of the UK, Belfast is generally a rainy city throughout the year. The winters are cold and rainy, bringing frost and often snow. The temperature often ranges from about negative 8 degrees Celsius to 1.2 Celsius (18 to 34 degrees Fahrenheit). Spring brings warmer temperatures, although it still isn’t very warm in the spring yet. Like most countries, Spring also tends to bring a lot of rain. Temperatures can range from 0.1 Celsius to 10.7 Celsius (32 to 51 degrees Fahrenheit). Summer gets much warmer and less rainy (although you can still expect it start pouring on random days). The temperature ranges from 10.5 degrees Celsius to 24.6 degrees Celsius (51 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit). Autumn mostly consists of chilly weather, rain and wind with temperatures ranging from -1 degrees Celsius to 20.3 degrees Celsius (30 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit).
How much will you spend?
Accommodation: Hotel costs range from about 30 GBP (British pounds) to 100 GBP per night depending on the quality of the hotel. Hostels can range from about 10 GBP per night to 30 GBP per night.
Transportation Fares: The typical train fare in Belfast is 4 GBP. The bus fare is about 2.80 GBP and taxis are 3 GBP for the first 3 miles then an extra GBP per mile. Tips: Use buses and trains rather than taxis because most places are within walking distance from train or bus stops. If you must use a taxi, the most affordable company is 24/7 cabs. Avoid black taxis because they tend to overcharge.
Cost of Food: A meal from a pub or cafe would typically cost you about 10 GBP. Purchasing a fast food meal would cost around 5 GBP. A meal from the average Belfast restaurant can cost about 20-30 GBP and purchasing week’s worth of groceries would typically cost 50-60 GBP.
Belfast City Hall
The Belfast City Hall is one of the most iconic buildings in Belfast and the city’s civic building. This is a place that holds a lot of history for Northern Ireland. It was first opened in 1906. This is a must see attraction if you’re visiting Belfast and the best part is that you can tour the inside of the building for free! The tours are available weekdays from 10 am to 4 pm and weekends from 12 pm to 4 pm.
Another popular tourist destination is Belfast’s Botanic Gardens. Established in 1828, this park is a perfect place to simply walk around and enjoy the day looking at beautiful flowers and plants of all kinds. There’s even greenhouses located in the park that contain unusual and tropical plant species. It’s a great spot to soak up the sun on warm days, have a picnic or just sit on a bench and relax. With the exception of any special events, access to the Botanic Gardens is free.
This museum is located in the Botanic Gardens and is the largest museum in Northern Ireland. This is another free attraction for all visitors! Here you can find exhibits displaying the animals of Northern Ireland, botany, fine and applied art, archaeology, geology and even an Egyptian mummy.
Queen’s University Belfast
Located just a short walk away from the Botanic Gardens is Queen’s University. Open in 1849, Queen’s University Belfast is in the top 1% of Global Universities and has a reputation for being a great place to study in the UK. The campus is absolutely beautiful, with classic old-fashioned British buildings and lush green landscaping. Guided tours of the university are provided and plenty of information is given at the Welcome Center. This is an especially must see spot if you’re a student looking into studying abroad, since many students from all over the world study abroad at this university.
Victoria Square is the biggest shopping center in all of Belfast and Northern Ireland. There are over 70 stores, cafes and restaurants located in the shopping center, as well as a cinema, making this place a great entertainment spot. What makes Victoria Square unique is its glass dome, which is also a viewing spot where you can see Belfast’s skyline.
The first peace walls were built in 1969 to divide the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods in Northern Ireland during “the Troubles” (a national conflict between those who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, who were mostly Protestants, and those who wanted Northern Ireland to leave and become a united Ireland, who were mostly Catholic). They are a huge part of Irish history and today they are covered in all kinds of unique street art. You have to hurry if you want to see the peace walls though, as all of them are set to be demolished by 2023.
The Titanic Belfast is a museum dedicated to the famous RMS Titanic ship, which had been built in Belfast. In this museum, you can take a self guided tour or a walking tour with a guide (the tour with the guide does not include the interactive galleries). This museum gives you an inside look at the making of the Titanic, the tragic story of the night it sank, and real artifacts from the ship. It’s a fascinating and very educational experience.
The Titanic quarter is a waterfront quarter full of things to see and do. Not only is it home to the Titanic museum, but it is also where the SSE arena (Northern Ireland’s biggest indoor arena), SS Nomadic (a steamship of the White Star Line), HMS Carolina (a World War I light battle cruiser), different hotels, and restaurants are located. You can easily spend one of your days in Belfast here by taking a museum tour, getting dinner, and seeing a show.
St. George’s Market
St. George’s market is the last remaining Victorian market in Belfast and considered to be one of the best in the UK. It is only open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Here you can find meat, fruit, vegetables, cheeses, books, clothes, pottery, and handmade crafts made by locals. Local artists and bands also perform live music at the market. This is really a unique experience that gives you a glimpse of what it was like in Victorian age United Kingdom.
This is the oldest part of Belfast, named after St. Anne’s Cathedral. The Cathedral Quarter is where Belfast’s art scene is. From Writer’s Square, engraved with quotations from Belfast’s famous writers, to the Black Box, where local performers show off their talent, to the MAC, a multi-arts venue, there’s no doubt that this part of Belfast is full of culture. If you love history and the arts, this is the place for you.
Where to Eat
Castle Street: Castle Street has plenty of places to eat, from breakfast to burgers to cafes and fish and chip shops.
Victoria Square: In Victoria Square, you can find a variety of chain restaurants including Mexican, American, Italian, and Asian cuisine.
Cathedral quarter: In Cathedral Quarter, you can find various bars, pubs, and restaurants. A local favorite here is The Northern Whig, a designer bar that offers a menu of delicious food and cocktails.
Lisburn Road: Lisburn Road is another place full of restaurants and bars. A local favorite here is Ryan’s, a casual restaurant and bar with an international and grill menu.
Bars and Clubs
This is a very traditional Irish pub with live Irish music, dancing, and plenty of Guinness. If you want an authentic Irish pub experience where you can meet friendly locals and drink to your heart’s content, this is the right place to come to.
The Crown Liquor Saloon
This is an 1820’s style pub and one of Northern Ireland’s most famous, known for its old-fashioned interior. This pub has booths made of mahogany, mosaic tiles, gas lamps built by Italian artisan builders. Even if you don’t drink, you should definitely stop by and take a look at what has been called one of the most beautiful bars in the world.
Lavery’s is a traditional style sports bar, complete with a roof terrace and pool table room. This is the ideal place for a casual night out of enjoying good food and drinks, watching a game, and playing a few rounds of pool.
Located in the SSE arena, Box Nightclub is 2 floor club with 6 bars. This is one of Belfast’s more prestigious clubs and is largely popular with young people. It features LED screens, plasma screens, DJ booths, and sometimes live music.
Limelight, a favorite among locals, is a multi-genre club venue. It also hosts live music acts from various artists and bands, both popular and local. This venue is made of two clubs, features a bar with a large selection of drinks and has a rooftop terrace.