Often overlooked by other nearby cities such as London and Dublin, the historic city offers a charming atmosphere alongside a plethora of places to explore and enjoy! Belfast is a compact and vibrant city, just 2 hours from Dublin making it for a perfect weekend away or stop off when travelling around Ireland or the UK itself.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve most likely heard of the Northern Irish Capital, but not quite sure where to start. Queue this blog post where I share my favourite places to visit within 24 hours.
8:00am – Breakfast at Maggie May’s
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially before exploring a new city such as Belfast. There city is filled with a number of cafes and eatery’s but if you’re not sure where to start, head to Maggie May’s breakfast cafe. Not only does Maggie May’s provide a mouth watering breakfast and freshly brewed coffee, but it is also conveniently located in the city centre.
9:00am – Explore the city centre
While you’re in the city centre, you may as well explore it right? Offering a mix match of charming architecture, independent boutiques and bustling bars, there is something here for everyone to browse and enjoy.
Whilst being cosmopolitan, Belfast is also compact in size and remains authentic to its historic roots and culture. Keep an eye out for the cobble stone alley ways throughout the city centre. Although they may appear exactly as a quiet and unassuming snickets, the streets all intertwine into a number or courtyards that shelter hidden gems from the Main Street. This includes Belfast’s umbrella street, located in Commercial court alongside of the Duke of York pub.
Another hidden gem being Joy’s entry which is a favourite Irish pub to the locals and tourists alike. It also was the 18th century prominent home to Francis Joy, the founder of the Belfast news letter, who the pub is named after. Henry Joy McCracken, a republican politician and rebel, was also marched down this alley way in 1798 before being hung for his rebellion.
11:00am – Tour Belfast city hall
Also located in the city centres Donegall square is Belfast city Hall which can be distinguished by its grand Victorian architecture and lively gardens. The city hall was originally founded in 1888 when Belfast was awarded city status by Queen Victoria, making it a significant icon.
This was in recognition of Belfast’s ever so quickly growing and thriving shipbuilding, linen and rope- making industries and during this time as it briefly overtook Dublin as the most populated city in Ireland.
You can visit the grounds Monday to Friday between 9:30am-5pm of Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm which I recommend. If you think the exterior is grand than the luxurious and regal interior will take your breath away.
12:00pm – Lunch at Bittles Bar
By the time you have finished exploring the city centre and town hall, you will most likely want some time to sit down and enjoy a drink and meal. There’s no better way to do this than at one of the hundreds of of pubs in Belfast – one of the most iconic being Bittles Bar.
Being built in 1889, Bittles bar is one of the most distinctive bars in all of Northern Ireland due to it’s unique flat iron shape. Beyond its shape the bar is celebrated for its inspiring selections of of artwork and and quirky yet moorish atmosphere and interior.
More importantly, it has always prided itself on its extensive drink options such as a vast whisky selection from across the globe which includes Scotch, American, Japanese and if course Irish.
Note: Due to the bar being popular, it is best to either arrive early to steer clear of peak hours or book online to avoid waiting in a lengthy queue.
1:00pm – Stroll River Lagan harbour-side
Once you have warmed up on some whisky, head East toward the Lagan River. Here you can cross the bridge and follow the harbour-side which makes for a scenic stroll. Here you can admire the boats and rustic wooden bridges that link either side of Belfast together.
1:30pm – Visit Titanic Belfast
About 20-30 minutes walk North of the harbour is the Titanic Belfast museum. The building can be easily identified by its contemporary architecture and docks. If you’re a history lover, this is a must visit location! Here you can learn everything from building of the Titanic, until it’s final hours and everything else in between.
The museum also homes virtual tours and recreated rooms that resemble the interior of the original ship in addition to show casing the symbolism and importance of the ship and the tragic stories of passengers that are forever intertwined in the legend. It takes around 1.5 – 2 hours to see the museum. Tickets cost 10 pound per adult which can be purchased at the museum or online.
Located just outside of the museum is a grave dock that the HMS titanic itself was built in! The boat that sits in the dock is a sister ship to the HMS titanic – the SS Nomadic, which was a letter ship that sent mail to and from Britain to the Titanic herself. It has been restored and is now on display as pictured below.
4:30pm Visit Belfast Botanical Garden
As you walk back into the city centre and further south, you will find Belfast Botanical gardens, which is best visited in the warmer months when the grass is fresh, the blooms are vivid and there is still enough day light to walk around the grounds.
Established in 1828, the scenic garden and greenhouse (Palm house) homes exotic plant species from the Southern Hemisphere that were grown by horticulturalists and botanists in the Victorian period.
Admire the street art
There isn’t a specific place or time to visit for street art, but it is something to keep in mind as you walk around the city and titanic museum. Northern Ireland depicts a number or murals and detailed art works that show past and present political and religious devisions that paint the cities story.
In fact Belfast and Londonderry have had over 2000 murals documented since in the 1970’s which is the most populous in all of Europe!
5:30pm – Check in and dine at Grand Central Hotel
Located in the heart of Belfast, the soaring Grand Central Hotel is an impressive jewel that fuses glamour and grandeur with the traditional Belfast spirit. As the name suggests, the city centre at the buildings door step and only minutes from Belfast train and bus station.
Despite having a plethora of restaurants within minutes from the hotel, the Grand Central Hotel homes the seahorse restaurant which is a dining experience in itself – all with the comfort of not leaving the building. This makes for the perfect accomodation to sit back and relax before continuing on your journey the next day.
I’m an Australian blogger based in Central West NSW who has spent the last few years exploring the four corners of the globe, living as an expat and falling in love with the world just a little bit more everyday. Here you can find my tips, guides and experiences to help inspire you for your next trip!
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