No longer a destination far removed from most travellers’ must-do lists, Belfast has transformed itself into a hip, buzzing hotspot, home to some of Europe’s best nightlife and a fascinating history away from the hordes of tourists you’ll find in other well-known cities.
With 48 hours spare, push aside all your preconceptions and enjoy a whirlwind city break in Belfast.
To get your holiday off on the right foot, make sure you try at least one Irish fry-up for breakfast, complete with soda and potato bread, and black pudding.
Built between 1890 and 1896, St George’s Market is one of Belfast’s oldest attractions and every Friday, Saturday and Sunday you’ll find fresh produce and ready-to-eat treats, as well as crafts, arts and souvenirs.
More than just a memorial to the ill-fated ship, Titanic Belfast is a monument to the city’s history, industry, and its people.
Opened in 2012, the exhibition extends over nine galleries, drawing together special effects, full-scale reconstructions and interactive features tracing Titanic’s history from the dockyards of Belfast in the early 1900s to its construction and launch, the infamous maiden voyage and sinking, and finally its discovery and lasting cultural impact.
Making your way around on your own you could easily spend a couple of hours taking in all the displays. Add on the optional audio guide and you’re looking at a two to three hour visit.
The surround Titanic Quarter is a beautifully designed open space that hosts various Titanic and shipbuilding attractions including SS Nomadic, Titanic Slipways, Drawing Rooms and Pump House.
Ticket to Ride
Belfast is a city filled with a vibrant living history, but you’d miss a lot of it without someone on hand showing you where to look.
For an in-depth, educational, and entertaining history lesson we turned to taxi driver Billy Scott, owner-operator of Touring Around Belfast.
Starting at Belfast Titanic, Billy chauffeured us through dock area over to the Cathedral Quarter and our first stop of the day: a pub.
Located on the easy-to-miss cobbled Commercial Court, the Duke of York is popular with visitors and locals alike, drawing large crowds in the evening and even bigger crowds on the weekend.
The pub walls are covered in gilded signs and mirrors, but what you really come for are the pints, extensive range of Irish whiskies and the craic.
Music, Murals & Mayhem
A few steps from the Duke is a small alley with a colourful hidden treat – murals depicting Belfast’s local characters and the city’s music scene painted in the same style as the cities more well-known political works.
By chance we ran into a legend of the Belfast punk movement, Terri Hooley (the man behind the Undertones and Good Vibrations record shop and label and recently the subject of a biopic of the same name) who took a bit of time to talk us through some of the artworks.
From jovial bar scenes and famous faces, we moved on to murals of a very different kind.
While North Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ are largely a thing of the past, the murals of East and West Belfast make sure the turmoil of those years is not forgotten.
There are hundreds of these poignant artworks around the city, new and old, political and historical, religious and secular. Billy guided us around a mixture of famous and less well known paintings, weaving his local knowledge with big-picture history, politics and the present day situation.
Night on the Town
When the sun goes down – that’s when Belfast really comes alive!
Belfast’s compact city centre makes bar hopping a breeze. Whether you’re dolled up or dressed down there are dozens of venues to choose from.
Top taxi driver tip: if you’re after the best nightlife of the entire year, come for the last weekend in November. Everyone is in the silly season mood and it’s the last payday before Christmas!
Getting Into Town
- City Airport: approx £10 each way
- Belfast International: approx £30 each way