So… You’ve decided to visit Ireland for your upcoming holiday trip? First thing first, you will have to decide where to make your base, either the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland or the capital of the Republic of Ireland – Dublin.
Belfast and Dublin are about 168km apart, and driving would take you about 2 hours. I’ve decided to make my base in Belfast to have a road trip along Causeway Coastal Route.
Belfast is Northern Ireland’s capital, it was also the birthplace of the RMS Titanic! It’s the largest city in Northern Ireland and second-largest on the island of Ireland. Belfast was a popular port in the 19th century, where it played an important role during the Industrial Revolution and one of the key industry in Belfast’s port is shipbuilding where it houses the Harland And Woff shipyard, which built the RMS Titanic.
Belfast has 2 commercial airports – Belfast International Airport (serves domestic, European & International flights) and George Best Belfast City Airport (serves domestic & European flights). I flew KLM into George Best Belfast City Airport, and after collecting my rental car, a drive to the city centre took us only about 20 minutes.
So back to the main point of today’s blog… What the top 10 to-see in Belfast? (You may ask) Read on to know more!
1. Titanic Belfast
You must (I say again) MUST visit the Titanic Belfast! I meant what else would you be doing in Belfast if you don’t visit the museum that showcases the history, the voyage, the ship, and the horror accident of RMS Titanic. This eight-storey building provides 12,000 square metres of space. The centrepiece is a series of interpretive galleries exploring aspects of the building, design, sinking and legacy of Titanic.
2. Belfast City Hall
This iconic building can’t be missed, as it stands in the city centre. It first opened its door in 1906 and is Belfast’s civic building. There are free public tours (3 times a day) led by an experienced guide for you to understand more about the building and explore some of its finest features.
3. SS Nomadic
SS Nomadic is widely known as the Titanic’s sister ship. It’s the last remaining White Star Line ship, which was used to transfer passengers and mail between RMS Titanic & RMS Olympic. SS Nomadic is now on display in the Titanic Quarter, opposite Titanic Belfast building. With four major decks on SS Nomadic, walking on it allows you to experience what it was like to be a passenger on your way to the RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage.
4. St George’s Market
Located in the city centre, St George’s Market is a Victorian market built in the 1890s. This is one of the best markets in Belfast (imagine it’s popularity like Borough Market in London). It’s a food haven and a great place to spend your time during the weekend.
5. Botanic Gardens & Ulster Museum
Belfast’s Botanic Gardens is located near the Queen’s University Belfast, which occupies 28 acres. The gardens’ most notable feature is the Palm House Conservator that features tons of different species of plants. Ulster Museum is located at the entrance of the Botanic Gardens. This free-entry museum tells about the unique human story of Northen Ireland. You will get a chance to come face to face with dinosaurs, get up close with Egyptian mummy and many more in the museum. There is also a gift shop & cafe to enjoy after learning some amazing historical facts.
6. Peace Wall Belfast
Similar to the Berlin Wall, Belfast Peace Wall reminds people of the troubles that ended 20+ years ago that separated communities. The walls are about 6m high, artwork can be seen on either side of the walls. More than 3,500 people were killed during this conflict, with up to 50,000 people injured. The conflict can still be seen on the walls now, with some arguments between Catholics and Protestants, and whether Northern Ireland should be part of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. The Belfast Peace Wall can be seen along Falls Road and Shankhill Road.
7. Belfast Zoo
Located at the outskirts of Belfast on the slope of Cavehill. It contains up to 55 species of different animals. The zoo offers different activities daily (e.g. zookeeper talks, animal shows, feeding times etc). The zoo was opened in 1934 and was one of the most popular attractions in Belfast. A trip to the zoo is definitely a must if you have brought kids along!
8. Victoria Square (The Dome)
Victoria Square is the main shopping centre in Belfast where you could find restaurants (e.g. Nando’s, T.G.I.F, Pizza Hut etc), fashion outlets (e.g. Calvin Klein, H&M, JD Sports, MANGO etc), a cinema theatre and A DOME! Yes, you’ve heard it right, a glass dome at the top of Victoria Square where you can enjoy a 360-degree view of Belfast City in comfort.
9. Ulster Folk Museum & Transport Museum
An hour drive from Belfast City Centre, you will find yourself at the Ulster Folk Museum & Transport Museum. Travel back in time at the Folk Museum, the museum showcase the rural life of the 20th century in Northern Ireland. Various activities are provided for visitors showing how the Irish life was through cooking, printing, and traditional crafts. 2 minutes walk from the Folk Museum, is the Transport Museum where you can find a very iconic Made-In-Ireland vehicle – DMC DeLorean. Visiting both museums would take some time, recommend visiting them as a day-trip!
10. Causeway Coastal Route
THIS IS A MUST-VISIT, though it isn’t particular in Belfast. But you could rent a car from Belfast or book a tour package from Belfast to visit the Causeway Coastal Route! Read more about my blog post on the Causeway Coastal Route HERE.
So, these are my top 10 to see things in Belfast. What are yours? Share them with me and let’s help fellow globetrotters to better plan for their trip to Belfast. Cheers! ~