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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 03 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Nicola Brady

Belfast has shaken off the shadows of its history and emerged as a vibrant, arty and colourful city, with street art around every corner and a healthy smattering of Michelin stars.

And while there’s so much more to the city than drinking, the city’s historic pubs are as charming as they are convivial, with cosy, fireside nooks that are perfect for sheltering from an afternoon rain shower.

This is a place where you can potter around an art gallery, stroll around the botanical gardens and get chatting to the supernaturally friendly locals who cross your path – just be prepared to keep nattering for an hour or more.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Giant’s Causeway

Bushmills, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

Northern Ireland’s most famous natural landscape, this UNESCO World Heritage site is shrouded in legend and folklore.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free

Titanic Belfast

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

Standing where the Titanic was built, this moving, interactive exhibition tells the story of the giant cruiser’s construction and sinking.

Best for ages: 4+ | £20

Belfast’s Street Art

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

Discover Belfast’s vibrant and fascinating street art, and the stories behind them, on tours led by local artists.

Best for ages: 8+ | £15 | 1 hour

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Black Cab history tours of Belfast

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

A fascinating and insightful political tour of the city, led by people who lived through The Troubles – and driving black cabs 

Best for ages: 13+ | £65 | 2 hours

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

A row of flowers in front of a magnificent large white Victorian greenhouse
Experience

Belfast Botanic Gardens

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

A 30-minute stroll from the city, these gardens (and beautiful Victorian greenhouse) cover 28 acres, packed with unusual trees and shrubs – perfect for a picnic on a sunny day.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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External view of the castle during the daytime
Experience

Belfast Castle

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

Built in 1860 and one of the city’s most famous landmarks. If you need a break from the city, go for the city views, landscaped gardens and some local history at the visitor centre.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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External view of the cathedral during the daytime
Experience

Belfast Cathedral

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

This Romanesque cathedral is one of the city’s finest architectural feats – take a tour to admire the stained glass, and the 40-foot glass spire, named the ‘Spire of Hope’.

Best for ages: 18+ | £5

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Side view of the city hall during the day
Experience

Belfast City Hall

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

Take a free tour of Belfast’s baroque City Hall, dating back to 1906, with impressive interiors to match the elegant, Edwardian frontage.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

A History of Terror - Belfast City Centre Walking Tour

A History of Terror - Belfast City Centre Walking Tour

Belfast

Over 2 hours and 30 minutes, our local expert guides will take you on a journey back in time through the city centre of Belfast. You will di...

£20 | Rating 4.96 / 5 [1368 ratings]

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Belfast Bike Tours

Belfast Bike Tours

Belfast

Get outside and join a guide on a bike ride around Belfast. Bike rental is included, so you don't have to worry about bringing one with you,...

£30 | Rating 4.98 / 5 [95 ratings]

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Belfast Political Tour-Conflicting Stories Walking Tour

Belfast Political Tour-Conflicting Stories Walking Tour

Belfast

The opportunity to experience a tour of a lifetime. Understanding Belfast's troubled history with a honestly presented political tour by Re...

£23 | Rating 4.63 / 5 [60 ratings]

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Best of Belfast Walking Tour

Best of Belfast Walking Tour

Belfast

Starting at our iconic City Hall, our Best of Belfast walking tour is your essential introduction to Belfast and its past; an amazing way to...

£20 | Rating 4.98 / 5 [109 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Helen’s Castle

Bangor, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

An enchanting 3-storey stone tower folly that sleeps just 2. Stone walls, spiral staircases, panelled ceilings and single-floor octagonal rooms combine to create a homely, castle-esque atmosphere.

Official star rating:

Grand Central Hotel

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

A smart, modern design hotel with exceptional views of the city, in a great central location.

Official star rating:

Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

Elegant and glamorous yet laid back, this charming hotel pairs suave, retro-feeling interiors with a central location.

Official star rating:

Bullitt Hotel

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

An artsy, lively hotel in the heart of the city, where vibrant style meets excellent value.

Official star rating:

When to go

Summer is always a busy time in the city, and weekends in peak season can book up far in advance – this means tickets for tourist attractions as well as hotels. The city is at its most beautiful in late spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October), when the weather tends to be at its best.

But remember – this is Ireland, and the weather can change by the minute. So dress accordingly!

Getting there and away

There are two airports in Belfast. George Best Belfast City Airport is the more central (right by the Titanic Quarter),  around 10 minutes from the city centre by taxi, or 15 minutes via the Airport Express bus. Budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet use Belfast International Airport, which is around a 30 minute drive from the city centre. The bus takes 45 minutes.

Getting around

The city is so compact that walking is your best mode of transport. For sights that are a little further out of the city (like the Titanic Quarter and Peace Mural) you’re better off getting a taxi than faffing around with public transport – if you’re on a budget, the city’s buses can be slow, but do pass most of the main sights.

To see anything well outside of the city, such as the Giant’s Causeway, your best bet is to rent a car – public transport outside of Belfast is pretty sparse.

Where to stay

If you want to be in the heart of the action, with a wealth of restaurants and bars at your fingertips, the historic Cathedral Quarter is your best bet. While there are a few exceptions (the Titanic Hotel being one), it’s best to keep as close to the Cathedral Quarter as possible, to avoid lengthy taxi rides home.

If you’d prefer to avoid street noise (Belfast likes to party) then opt for one of the taller hotels near City Hall.

Our writer’s recommended itineraries for this destination