Birthplace of the Titanic. Home to Game of Thrones. Rich cultural history. Belfast is one of Ireland’s most overlooked cities. As all the tourists head to Dublin for a pint of Guinness at tourist central, Belfast hides stunning natural vistas, some of the UK’s best museums, and a nightlife that exceeds all your expectations.
From Titanic Belfast, the original home of the RMS Titanic, to the world-renowned museums, like the Ulster Museum and Crumlin Road Gaol, there’s so much to discover. That’s why we’ve compiled this must-read guide, delving into the best and boldest attractions Belfast has to offer.
Where is Belfast, Ireland?
Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland, one of the four nations that comprise the UK. Unlike the other four, Belfast is located on the island of Ireland (try saying that after a pint or two from Bell’s Brewery).
Occupied as early as the Bronze Age, the city has been a key strategic location for centuries. Its location on the banks of the River Lagan made it a major port in the Industrial Revolution; in fact, it hosted the world’s largest shipyard, where the legendary RMS Titanic was built.
While it struggled with violence during the Troubles, it’s now a popular tourist destination, experiencing millions of visitors a year.
What to see in Belfast, Ireland
There’s far too much to see and do in Belfast for one article. But, if you’re only visiting the city once, these are the attractions you don’t want to miss!
- Visit the Titanic Quarter
Built in 2012, Titanic Belfast is one of the world’s top attractions. Located in the Titanic Quarter, it delves into the history of the world’s most famous ship (as well as its sister ship, RMS Olympic). Journey through the tragic tale, from its construction to its catastrophic demise during its maiden voyage.
Whether you’ve watched the movie or heard the story, there’s nothing like experiencing history up close and personal. Best of all, the Titanic Hotel is next door – perfect for an afternoon drink and a bite to eat.
- Marvel at the views from Cave Hill
Like the Giant’s Causeway, Cave Hill is formed from basalt. However, this rock formation towers over the city below. From atop its summit, you can enjoy panoramic views across the city – see if you can spot Belfast City Hall or even further.
The walk begins at Belfast Castle – but be warned, it’s a pretty tough climb. Nonetheless, there’s no better way to soak the city in. You’ll also find Colin Glen Forest Park and Belfast Zoo nearby.
- Do a traditional Irish pub crawl
When in Ireland, drink as the Irish do. Like all parts of the British Isles, Belfast has a legendary pub culture. Famous haunts include The Points, White’s Tavern, The Duke of York, The Dirty Onion, The Crown Liquor Saloon, and The Harp Bar.
If you fancy something up-market, try the Cathedral Quarter. That’s where you’ll find the Duke of York, nestled among the historic buildings and cobbled streets. Of course, there’s also the “Beer Bike” – it’s exactly what it sounds like. Pedal along with up to 15 people and bring your own booze.
- Barter at St George’s Market
St George’s Market is one of the hubs of Belfast culture. Under its roof, you’ll find a thriving market of over 300 traders, crafters, musicians, and food vendors. Built between 1890 and 1896, it’s become a popular spot with locals and tourists alike. The market is open from Friday to Sunday, and you can find lots of local delicacies and delights.
- Stroll around the Botanic Gardens
Built in the 19th century, Belfast’s Botanic Gardens were established following a public fascination with horticulture and botany. Inside the giant glass greenhouse and surrounding gardens, you’ll find an impressive collection of plants from all over the world – including the southern hemisphere.
You can spot the most exotic plants and even Birds of Paradise at the Tropical Ravine. Plus, the Ulster Museum is only a stone’s throw away, where you can learn about the nation’s history (and even see a real Egyptian mummy).
- Experience Crumlin Road Gaol
Crumlin Road Gaol is by far one of the most fascinating sites in Belfast. Known locally as the Crum, it was built between 1843 and 1845, being one of the most advanced prisons of its day. Such was its fearsome reputation that it became known as Europe’s Alcatraz. During the Troubles, it housed many well-known members of the various terrorist factions before closing in 1996.
Today, you’ll receive a guided tour of the prison, hearing about its rich history, from Victorian squalor to political segregation. Thank you for visiting our blog about what to see in Belfast, Ireland.