10 Reasons You Need to See Belfast Now
Whether you opt to eat everything in sight, absorb the enthralling history, or escape to Belfast’s beautiful surrounding areas, this ‘wee city’ is the place to be right now.
It’s a Foodie’s Paradise
As Northern Ireland celebrates their Year of Food and Drink, there’s no better time for foodies to savour the capital’s culinary delights. Chefs are combining local, traditional ingredients to create world class flavours, reflected in the recent acquisition of a Michelin Star by two of Belfast’s top restaurants Ox and Eipic. For a more casual but equally delectable dining experience, visit Salt in the continental St Anne’s Square or indulge in locally sourced eats from Made in Belfast. During the day, head down to St George’s Market to sample home-grown fare and mingle with the friendly locals. Evenings should be spent soaking up the atmosphere of Belfast’s buzzing night-time hub, the Cathedral Quarter. The morning after, dig into a traditional Ulster Fry at Maggie May’s or Harlem Café.
It’s Big on History
One of the best ways to get to know the recent history of Belfast is to hop on board a Black Cab Tour which takes in Belfast’s famous political murals. For an insight into Victorian Belfast, check out the 150-year old Crumlin Road Gaol. Meanwhile, a visit to Titanic Belfast, (recently named Europe’s leading visitor attraction) will immerse you in the city’s fascinating ship-building past.
It’s Choc-full of Culture
Belfast boasts a rich cultural and literary heritage and this legacy is still very much alive in venues such as The Lyric theatre and The MAC. The city’s buzzing art scene is also in full swing, with the Crescent Arts Centre hosting daily exhibitions and recitals, while the Fenderesky Gallery in the city centre showcases artwork from the best of local and international talent.
Its Outdoors are GREAT
They don’t call us the Emerald Isle for nothing! Belfast is filled with spaces where you can enjoy a breath of fresh air in the great outdoors. In the city’s Botanic Gardens, stroll through rose gardens or wander through the Palm House’s lush tropical shrubbery. Alternatively, for a more challenging walking route, take a hike in Cavehill Country Park and experience a stunning panoramic view of the city.
It’s Got a Hip Student Quarter
Belfast is a university city with a young and lively student population. Opened in 1849, the red-bricked Queen’s University Belfast has stunning grounds for visitors to explore. The nearby Ulster Museum, bursting with Northern Irish history, art and interactive discovery zones, is also well worth a visit. This whole area is known as Queen’s Quarter and is home to some of the city’s best cafes, bars, galleries and live entertainment venues. For a cheeky caffeine fix within walking distance, speciality coffee shop The Pocket and the Nordic cool Kaffe O are highly recommended.
It’s a Shopper’s Paradise
Belfast’s compact city centre makes it the perfect destination for a shopping break. Victoria Square, with its open-plan style shopping centre is home to over 70 well-known shops, restaurants and cafes. Tip: Climb to the dome at the top for a bonus birds-eye view of the city. For gifts such as blankets and scarves, ceramics, clothes and everything in between, look no further than Irish family-run business Avoca. And don’t miss the quirky Studio Souk; a bazaar of local arts and crafts perfect for last minute souvenirs.
It’s Surrounded by Stately Homes and Castles
Escape the hustle and bustle of city life with a trip to one of the National Trust’s many historic houses and gardens. The neo-classical Mount Stewart or the exquisite Rowallane Gardens are perfect for day-trips. Nature lovers will also adore wetland reserve Castle Espie in County Down; home to the largest collection of native waterbirds in Ireland.
It’s the Home of Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones® fans have the opportunity to get right into the heart of the Seven Kingdoms on the outskirts of the city. For a dramatic start to your Westeros adventure, head to the rich woodland, hidden caves and gothic-style bridges of Tollymore Forest Park. Here you’ll witness spectacular views of the Mourne Mountains, which are said to have inspired C.S Lewis’ Narnia. North-east of here sits the 800-year old Inch Abbey; the location of some of Game of Thrones’® most memorable moments. Heading west, you’ll find Castle Ward, the home of House Stark: Winterfell. Even if you’re not a fan of the hugely popular television series, the sheer beauty of the classical and gothic architecture of this 18th century property makes it perfect for a road trip.
Its Landscapes are the Stuff of Legend (Literally)
According to a popular Irish legend, the Giant’s Causeway was built by the mythical Irish character Finn Macool as a challenge to a Scottish giant. Less romantic, but no less impressive is the fact that the 40,000 basalt columns that make up this UNESCO site were moulded by volcanic activity around 60 million years ago. After taking in the magic of the Giant’s Causeway, hop over the swinging Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge connecting the mainland to the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede and check out the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean below.
The Craic is Mighty
Above anything else mentioned on this list, it’s the warm, welcoming locals that will make your trip to Belfast unforgettable. There’s no better way to end an action-packed day than relaxing in a cosy pub and striking up conversation with a friendly local. Head to the famous Crown Liquor Saloon (a National Trust heritage site) or to the Duke of York, which has an outside terrace and traditional music sessions twice a week.