Arrive at Belfast Airport and you’ll soon discover that Northern Ireland’s capital is an exciting city on the up. As a major port town with its roots in shipbuilding, there’s heaps of history to soak up. It’s also a proud place with a strong identity, where you’ll find thought-provoking politics and wood-panelled pubs full of storytellers. And of course, it’s all topped off with a good old dash of Irish charm.
English / Irish
Belfast’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s the birthplace of the RMS Titanic. You can go behind the scenes of this ill-fated ship at the Titanic Experience by the docks. Stick the green-domed City Hall on your to-see list too, along with the fantastical sculptures at CS Lewis Square, and a stroll around the Botanic Gardens.
Under the Victorian arches of St George’s Market, a mixed bag of traders put Belfast’s fine food on the map. Elsewhere, the city’s love of cuisine continues through a mix of Michelin-starred restaurants, on-the-go street eats and foodie festivals. Drinks-wise, you’ll get a taste of the past when you stop at the Crown Liquor Saloon for a pint of Guinness, Victorian-style.
You’ll be spoilt for choice with the amount of out-of-the-city adventures. Just an hour north of Belfast is Giant’s Causeway, one of Northern Ireland’s top-visited attractions. This UNESCO-protected cluster of coastal rocks is shrouded in legend, and definitely worth a day trip. It’s also been a setting in the hit TV series Game of Thrones, along with the eerie Dark Hedges and Cushendun Caves nearby.
Built back in 1906, this grand civic building has a beautiful Baroque Revival style surrounded by neat green gardens dotted with monuments. Step inside to admire the gleaming Italian marble and colourful stained glass windows. You can also find out more about the city’s history in the Visitor Exhibition.
Built back in the 12th century, this Norman castle has a lengthy and illustrious history. It was under siege by King John in 1210 and was also used during the American War of Independence, the Napoleonic Wars and the First and Second World Wars. Inside, you can see the historic great hall, as well as cannons overlooking the coastline.
One of the UK’s greatest natural wonders, the Giant’s Causeway consists of around 40,000 interlocking columns. This lava-sculpted plateau is a stunning sight, placed at the edge of the coastline overlooking the sea. You can even walk over some of the columns before you reach the entrance to the site.