Belfast is the cultural, historic, artistic and culinary hub of Northern Ireland. It’s the largest city and the capital of this constituent country of the United Kingdom. Meaning there is no shortage of things to do in Belfast.
The city is a place with a tortured past but with a bright future ahead of it, and although many people may associate the city with the not so distant violence of The Troubles, the reality today is that Belfast is a happening place that is working to transform its image for the better.
And tourists are coming around to this transformation, realizing that actually, there is actually plenty to see and learn about in the city.
It’s fast becoming a popular destination within the UK, attracting visitors who are interested not only in the recent history of the city and but also for the vibrant nightlife, the emerging culinary scene and the outstanding scenery that is found within a short drive of the city’s fringes.
To help you to plan your getaway to the Northern Irish capital, we put together this detailed city guide, to show you the best things to do in Belfast.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Ireland (Travel Guide)
10 Best Things to do in Belfast, Ireland
From intriguing museums to tours of ancient castles and more modern murals, there are a lot of things to do in Belfast, and here are our favorites. Before you start your sightseeing, be sure to pick up a pass for the Hop on Hop off bus.
This will get you 48-hour transportation to all of the iconic places within the city. The pre-set route allows you to jump off where you want to see more and then re-board when you’re ready to move on.
For an even better deal, buy this Belfast Combo Ticket that gives you admission to the Titanic Museum in combination with a 48-hour HOHO Bus Pass.
1. Take a Look at the Belfast City Hall
Take a tour of the city’s centerpiece, the iconic and architecturally beautiful Belfast Town Hall.
This stunning building is open to the public, and you can wander through select areas of the extensive corridors and rooms. There are exhibitions and a lasting memorial to the sinking of the Titanic.
Our top recommended tours of Belfast City Hall:
2. Visit the Ulster Museum
The Ulster Museum is the best place in Belfast to learn more about the long history of this part of the world.
The museum takes visitors through informative exhibitions, that range from the story of the dinosaurs who once roamed the land here, to the first humans who walked through Ireland.
It’s a great mixture of science, nature, and history. Not to mention that the building features a unique exterior too.
3. Take a Black Cab Tour
The Black Cabs are the local taxis which are synonymous with the city. Many of these can be hired out for the whole day if you book in advance, and the local drivers will show the more unusual sides of Belfast.
Many of the drivers were caught up in the Troubles, and they can take you to the places of historic importance, to the murals and old barricade sites, while giving you a real, first-hand perspective on what actually happened here in Belfast for several decades.
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4. Learn about the Titanic
The infamous Titanic was designed and built in the Belfast shipyards and has become an enduring historical symbol of the city. Titanic Belfast is a huge exhibition that takes visitors through everything related to the Titanic.
Focusing on how it was built here in Belfast, and just why exactly, it sank on its maiden voyage. There are walk-through exhibits, interactive displays and much, much more await visitors at Titanic Belfast.
Our top recommended tours of Titanic Belfast:
- Entrance Ticket: Titanic Visitor Experience Including SS Nomadic
- Combination Ticket: Titanic Belfast Admission and 48-Hour Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
- Sightseeing Cruise: Titanic Quarter and River Lagan
5. Go to the Belfast Castle
The Belfast Castle Estate is located to the north of the city center and offers visitors a timeless look at the city’s long history.
There has been a castle here since the 12th century, but today, visitors will be rewarded with a grand mansion and lavish palatial grounds to explore that dates to the most part from the 19th century.
The estate is found on top of Cave Hill, which is one of the city’s highest points, and the vistas from the grounds are absolutely stunning.
6. Take a Day Trip to Giant’s Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic natural attractions. It’s found just an hour and a half away from Belfast center and makes for a great day trip away from the city.
This beautiful area of coastline is renowned for the unique array of stepping stones that have formed naturally on the seafront, and that resembles a Giant’s Causeway.
Our top recommended tours of The Giant’s Causeway:
- Giant’s Causeway Day Trip
- Game of Thrones and Giant’s Causeway Full-Day Tour
- Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge Day Trip
- Northern Highlights Guided Tour – The Best of Northern Ireland
7. Explore the Best Places to Eat in Belfast
Belfast has a fast-growing and ever exciting culinary scene. With more Michelin Starred restaurants than ever before, an international selection that can be comparable to anywhere else in Europe and a vast array of charming pubs to eat and drink in, now is a great time to immerse yourself in Belfast’s foodie scene.
8. Eipic: This is one of Belfast’s newest Michelin Starred restaurants, and it’s owned and run by one of the city’s best known and most expansive chefs, Mr. Michael Deane, who owns much other high quality, high-end restaurants around the city. The tasting menus aren’t cheap of course, but the local and international flavors combine for a wonderful eating experience.
9. Molly’s Yard: This place sells classic Irish dishes in an antiquated but converted stable yard. It’s a rustic setting, and perfect for those looking for both character and charm to accompany a wide selection of local dishes.
10. Long’s Fish and Chips: This place has been serving up deep-fried delicacies for over a hundred years now. Locals will say this is one of the best chip shops in the United Kingdom, and they may well be right. It’s great value too and makes for an excellent British style takeaway.
Belfast, Ireland Travel Tips
How to Travel to Belfast
Belfast is found on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland on the banks of the River Lagan, overlooking the bay where this wide river empties into the Irish Sea.
The Northern Irish capital is found just a two-hour drive from Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland, which lies to the south and the city is well connected domestically and internationally to the rest of the United Kingdom and to many European destinations.
There are two airports that can act as your gateway to Belfast. The George Best Belfast City Airport, named for the famous Northern Irish footballer George Best, is the closest airport to the city center.
It’s found just a few miles away along the coast towards Bangor and has regular domestic connections to other UK cities. There are a few international flights from Belfast City Airport, however, these are mostly to a few select European cities with low cost, budget airlines.
From this airport to the city center, there are trains running every half hour, and buses even more frequently. If you are arriving internationally, then you are more likely to end up flying into Belfast International Airport, which is larger than the Belfast City Airport but located further away.
There are regular flights to British cities, to a huge selection of European destinations and even across the Atlantic to the east coast of the USA. From Belfast International Airport, it takes at least an hour to travel to the city center, and there are regular buses and taxi services available on arrival.
Visitors may also want to travel overland from Dublin to Belfast, as the airport at Dublin can have great flight deals from Europe and from the US.
Journey time is two hours, and there are regular buses linking the airport, or the city of Dublin itself, to Belfast. If you would like to arrive by boat, then this is entirely possible too.
There are regular sailings across the channel between Belfast and several Scottish locations, while overnight ferries run frequently from as far away as Liverpool.
The Best Time to Visit Belfast
Belfast can be visited any time of year, as regardless of the weather, there are plenty of indoor activities to be found even when it rains.
In summer, the city is at its most vibrant, and the beautiful coastline close to Belfast is at its best.
In winter, it can be cold and miserable outside, so make sure you pack warm clothes and carry around a raincoat when you’re out exploring the city.
Don’t forget this: Lonely Planet Ireland Planning Map
The Best Places to Stay in Belfast
Belfast has a great selection of accommodation for visitors, from cheap hostels to high end, luxury chains. Here are a few options to help you choose where to stay in Belfast.
- Top luxury hotel we recommend in Belfast: Merchant Hotel
- Top mid-range hotel we recommend in Belfast: Titanic Hotel Belfast
- Top budget hotel we recommend in Belfast: Ramada Encore Hotel Belfast
- Top hostel we recommend in Belfast: Premier Inn Belfast Titanic Quarter Hotel
Read reviews and check prices with our Hotel Search Engine, that gives you the best hotel deals found on the web. Our search engine pulls results from all of the major booking places, including Expedia, Hotels, Booking and more. All the options, all the deals, all in one place and just for you.
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