Exploring Belfast: Top 13 Must-See Attractions and Activities

Belfast is a city to consider when you want to get off the beaten track. The capital of Northern Ireland, known for having encountered significant tensions from the end of the 1960s, is now a peaceful destination, where it is good to discover its history and its architectural and cultural heritage. Belfast, the birthplace of the Titanic liner, gives visitors a warm welcome. It is a capital on a human scale that can easily be explored on foot or by bike, and which comes alive in the evening when you meet to go to the pub for a drink. In order to organize your stay in the best possible way, here are the top 13 must-sees in Belfast.

1. Stroll through the Cathedral Quarter

St. Anne's Cathedral, Belfast
St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast © Nigar – Adobe Stock

The Cathedral Quarter is the bustling area of Belfast. This is where most of the cultural offer is concentrated. A large number of narrow, cobbled streets and alleys are home to pubs, restaurants, trendy nightclubs and other art shops. Of course, don’t miss a visit to St. Anne’s Cathedral, with its impressive spire, beautiful stained glass windows, sculptures and the largest pipe organ in Northern Ireland. Commercial Court is the alley to join at the end of the day to go for a good pint. Very typical with its brick buildings, it is home to many pubs and lends itself to taking beautiful photos.

2. Admire Belfast’s street art

One of Belfast's street art works
One of Belfast’s © street art artworks Angelo D’Amico – Adobe Stock

Beslfast is one of the best street art destinations in the world. This artistic practice is an integral part of her identity. The murals tell the story of the city, unveil political messages, while others are purely aesthetic. The murals are scattered throughout the city centre of the Northern Irish capital. It is quite possible to meet them alone, by wandering through the different districts.

3. Meet locals at the pub

Crown Liquor Saloon, one of Belfast's must-see pubs
Crown Liquor Saloon, one of Belfast © Shawn’s must-see pubs – Adobe Stock

As in the rest of the UK, getting together at the pub with friends is a must in Northern Ireland. The décor alone is an experience in itself, with pretty woodwork, paintings and signs on the walls, not to mention the dim lights. The cathedral district is not to be missed to find good addresses. Crown Liquor Saloon, The Perch, Kelly’s Cellars are pubs to be discovered at all costs to sympathize with locals. In addition to enjoying a few good beers, the pubs are regularly animated by broadcasts of matches or traditional music concerts.

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4. Visit Titanic Belfast

Sunset on the Titanic Belfast
Sunset on the Titanic Belfast © Nataliya Hora – Adobe Stock

The sinking of the Titanic is a story that touched the whole world. Titanic Belfast, a museum with ultra-modern architecture, has become one of the world’s leading attractions dedicated to the world’s most famous ocean liner. Built on the very spot where the ship was built, it unveils a route made up of 9 interactive rooms. The public learns about Belfast’s glorious maritime past, the entire history of the Titanic from its construction to its sinking, as well as reconstructions of cabins and objects that were found after it sank. The museum is really exciting and fascinates young and old alike!

5. Stroll through the Belfast Botanic Garden

Belfast Botanic Garden
The Belfast © Botanic Garden Henryk Sadura – Adobe Stock

The Belfast Botanic Garden was established in 1828. Even if the capital of Northern Ireland remains a city on a human scale, it is good to spend some time there during your stay to browse its alleys, discover its flora and rest for a few moments on a bench. Two spaces are a must-see. This is the Palm House, a greenhouse that houses plants from Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States. As well as the Tropical Ravine, another greenhouse that protects wonderful tropical specimens. Places full of scents and colours that allow you to reconnect with nature in the middle of the city.

6. Check out local produce at St George’s Market

St George's Market in Belfast
St George’s Market in Belfast © Shawn – Adobe Stock

St George’s Market sees locals flocking to its aisles on weekends. This food market offers pure local products. The 150 stalls feature cheeses, meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and local specialties such as black pudding. A few antique dealers are also present to present their pieces. The place is full of life and it is not uncommon for some entertainment to take place, such as concerts. Lovers of good food know where to go to cook up good food between two meals at a restaurant.

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7. Go to the Ulster Museum

The Ulster Museum
The Ulster Museum © AlexMastro – Adobe Stock

The Ulster Museum, which is free to enter, is a museum with a very rich collection and artistic, historical and archaeological dimensions. You can see an Egyptian mummy as well as ancient relics, modern masterpieces, birds, insects and rare plants. In other words, there’s something for everyone! The Ulster Museum is Belfast’s most important museum, best seen for its permanent exhibitions, but also for its fascinating temporary exhibitions and the many activities on offer.

8. Learn about the history of Crumlin Road Prison

La Prison de Crumlin Road
La Prison de Crumlin Road © nyiragongo – Adobe Stock

Built in 1845, Crumlin Road Prison closed in 1996. It is now a full-fledged tourist attraction in Belfast, where visitors go to hear stories of executions, escapes, World War II bombings and deportations. It was here that children from poor families, political prisoners and suffragettes were imprisoned. In particular, you can see the huge C-shaped wing, the cell of the “condemned man” and the one where 17 men were executed. The prison also hosts concerts, conferences and other events.

9. Go to Belfast Castle

Belfast Castle
Belfast © Castle Guilherme – Adobe Stock

This castle, which has undergone several changes over the course of history, is located 6 km from Belfast, on the eastern slope of Cave Hill. Good news for travellers, the visit to the building and its gardens is free. So don’t miss a visit to visit its various rooms, its large dining room, its kitchens and its tastefully landscaped gardens. There is a restaurant on site, but you can also have a picnic in the park. And then, Belfast Castle also offers breathtaking panoramas of the city and its valleys. The camera is a must.

10. Shopping in Victoria Square

Victoria Square Shopping Centre
Victoria Square © Shawn Mall – Adobe Stock

Victoria Square is a large shopping mall with ambitious architecture, mixing metal, glass and bricks. It is a paradise for shopaholics, with many brands in the fields of ready-to-wear, cosmetics, food and technology. Between two shops, cafés and bakeries invite you to take a gourmet break. At the top of the mall, a glass dome offers breathtaking views of Belfast, and access is free. Note that Victoria Square is particularly beautiful at Christmas time.

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11. Take a guided tour of Belfast City Hall

Le Belfast City Hall
Le Belfast City Hall © William – Adobe Stock

It is a monument that cannot be missed during a walk in Belfast, as it shines with the beauty of its Victorian and neo-baroque architecture. It houses the town hall within its walls. Free guided tours are offered throughout the week, and include a visit to three large rooms, the political cloakroom and the council chamber. The architectural details are sublime and it should be noted that the City Hall also has magnificent wooded gardens. For fans of city trips to Europe at Christmas, the entrance to the building is decorated with a huge and beautiful tree for the end of year celebrations.

12. Photograph Belfast’s Big Fish

Belfast's Big Fish
Belfast’s © Big Fish Eric Akashi – Adobe Stock

Visitors strolling along Belfast’s waterfront will discover this 10-metre-long work of art. The Big Fish is a work by Irish artist John Kindness. A sculpture made of ceramic tiles, adorned with images and texts that tell the story of Belfast on their own. The sculpture also pays homage to the maritime past of Northern Ireland’s capital, and refers to the “salmon of knowledge”, a legend from Irish mythology. It is located in the heart of Belfast’s docklands, an area that is undergoing a major modernisation.

13. Escape for a day to the Giant’s Causeway

Sunrise on the Giant's Causeway
Sunrise on the Giant’s Causeway © VanderWolf Images – Adobe Stock

It would be a shame to stay in Belfast without taking the time to visit the Giant’s Causeway, one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ireland. This exceptional natural site is only 1h30 from the city. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this geological formation is distinguished by its thousands of hexagonal basalt columns, some of which reach 12 meters high! Located in Bushmills in County Antrim, this natural wonder is best known for its myths and legends, and simply because it is one of the most surprising places in the world.

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Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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