Belfast is the largest city in Northern Ireland and is an incredible alternative to Dublin for traveler’s visiting the country. Though plagued with a violent and dark history due to the Troubles, Belfast is a revitalized city filled with beautiful views, historic buildings and lively people. From being the construction location of the world’s most famous ship, to (debatably) inspiring parts in Gulliver’s travels, Belfast truly is an intriguing city offering something of interest for any tourist who visits.
Things To Do in Belfast, Ireland
Titanic Museum, Dock and Walkway
Although almost everyone has heard of the Titanic, and some may know that it departed in Southampton, England, not many know that it was actually constructed in Belfast. Visit the Titanic walkway, a short 500 meter path that connects the Titanic dock and pump house with the museum.
The Titanic Museum, which will give you a peek into the history of the construction and passengers of the boat and is considered to be one of the world’s top tourist attractions. The dock and pump house, where you can either tour the space, take a guided tour, or simply peer into a dry dock that once held the Titanic to get a true understanding of the size of the ship.
Black Taxi Cab Tours
While Belfast is known as the town where the famous ship was built, to understand the complexity of this city’s history it is important to look around half a century later to the time of the Troubles. The Troubles, also known as the Northern Ireland Conflict was a dark time in Belfast’s past, which can not be avoided as it is represented all over the city through murals, statues, museums and peace walls.
During the time of the Troubles, black taxi cabs were used to transport people safely throughout the city. Though Belfast is now very safe to visit, the black taxi cabs are still in operation and now offer tours of the city, so you can begin to understand the important history of Belfast. Tours generally run around 90 minutes, and are generally conducted by drivers who were driving during the Northern Ireland Conflict, so you can learn the history first hand from someone who lives through it.
Many would argue you cannot truly visit an Irish city without hiking through one of the country’s famous and gorgeous landscapes. While in Belfast any hikers or nature lovers must visit Cave Hill and Cave Hill Country Park which has rock formations, caves, ring fort remains, beautiful hiking trails, and best of all a sweeping view of all of Belfast (on clear days you can see all the way to Scotland as well)
On top of being a beautiful spot for a walk, many believe that Cave Hill’s unique rock formations actually inspired parts of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. The hikes range from short, beginner walks to longer and more strenuous ones, so everybody can enjoy gorgeous and inspirational sights Cave Hill has to offer.
St. George’s Market
St. George’s Market which has been in operation since the 17th century, is one of the best spots in Belfast to get to know the atmosphere and vibe of the city. The bustling St George’s market now has over 300 vendors, which sell just about everything from jewelry and art, to food and clothes. Though it tends to be pretty busy on the weekend, the weekend is probably the best time to visit, so that you can soak up Belfast’s lively culture and listen to live music performances.
Crown Liquor Saloon
If you were only to visit one pub while in Belfast, it would have to be the Crown Liquor Saloon. The Crown Liquor Saloon is one of the last remaining and most popular Victorian area gin palaces in the world. If the outer Victorian design, with its ornate and delicate details didn’t sell you, perhaps the eclectic interior which combines objects from a variety of cultures, will. Other than just being a historic and beautiful tourist spot, the Crown Liquor Saloon actually does offer delicious food and drinks. To ensure you get a spot, it is best to make a reservation so that you can enjoy a great meal in the unique slice of history that is the Crown Liquor Saloon.
Crumlin Road Gaol
If you are trying to further your understanding of Belfast’s dark history and the Troubles, you cannot miss out on Crumlin Road Gaol. This prison turned museum offers 75-90 minute guided tours that will take you through prison wings, notable inmates, execution cells and the tunnel that connected the prison to the court house. Though Crumlin Road Gaol was constructed in 1846, it is most notable for its use during the Northern Ireland Conflict. To hear some insane stories of the various inmates and learn more about the history of Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol is a must visit.
While Belfast is now a lively city with a unique and rich culture, it also contains many reminders of the dark history of Northern Ireland. As the largest city in Northern Ireland, it is one of the best locations to learn about the conflicts of the region. However, a trip to Belfast does not need to center around its intriguing but dark history as this city also has a rich arts and culture scene, beautiful ancient buildings. It is the construction location of the world’s most famous ship. Overall, even with its past, Belfast has been revitalized into a joyful, lively city which offers something for everyone.
Read our guide for more things to do in Ireland!