Belfast and indeed, much of Northern Ireland is overlooked by many visitor to the island, but Belfast is a vibrant and modern city with an industrial past worthy of spending a day or more to experience the city's many sites and charms. Belfast's industrial past dates from the 19th century with a history of being a hub for the linen and shipbuilding industries. The iconic Belfast City Hall in the center of the city is a fine example of Baroque revival style. Nearby, one finds St. Anne’s Cathedral, a Romanesque style structure boasting many fine mosaics, including one of St. Patrick surrounded by stunning Irish landscape. And, the great ocean liner, Titanic, was built in Belfast at the Harland and Wolff shipyards where the great cranes can still be seen and where visitors can tour the finest exhibition of the Titanic in the world today.
A very peaceful and thriving city today, Belfast has at times had a troubled and violent past, remnants of which can still be seen throughout the city. Belfast’s many murals portray sectarian scenes from both Protestant and Catholic perspectives and are constantly changing. Many portions of the peace wall, built to keep sectarian neighborhoods apart, can still be seen today separating the Catholic Falls Road from the Protestant Shankhill Road in West Belfast.
Best Things to Do and See in Belfast
1 - Titanic Belfast
Probably Belfast’s most famous attraction is Titanic Belfast, located beside the very dry docks where the ship was built. Their exhibition boasts nine interactive galleries telling the story of the ship, along with the people who built her. Visitors earn about the ship’s final hours and stand in the very dry docks where Titanic once stood. This attraction is the most authentic Titanic exhibition anywhere in the world and not to be missed when visiting Belfast.
Take a peek into the dark history of this infamous prison. Here, at Northern Ireland’s last remaining Victorian era prison, you will learn about the prisoners and officers, along with tales of escape and executions. Many of the most important figures in Ireland’s struggle for independence and during the Troubles were at one time imprisoned here, including Éamon de Valera, Martin McGuinness, Michael Stone, Bobby Sands, and some 25,000 other prisoners – both Republican and Loyalist alike.
The popularity of The Game of Thrones brings thousands of visitors to Northern Ireland each year. Located in nearby Banbridge, catch a shuttle from Belfast to see the Iron Throne itself, along with many original props and costumes used during the filming. St the museum, visitors can delve into the many special effects used and wander the Great Hall of Winterfell before attending a royal audience with House Lannister.
Why limit yourself to just a tour of the studio? Board a luxury coach and take in a full day visiting the many spectacular sites in the Antrim area where Game of Thrones filming actually took place. Your day includes many scenic and spectacular filming locations on the North Antrim coast such as Carnlough Village, Cushendun Caves, Fullerton Arms, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant's Causeway incl. the Visitor Centre, Dunluce Castle, and Dark Hedges.
Hop on board with your guide who shares personal experiences from the Troubles as you venture into the former no-go zones of west Belfast, passing through the gates of the peace wall between the unionist and nationalist neighborhoods of Falls Road and Shankhill road. Discover the stories behind the many murals from both sides of the conflict, which are continually being revised and evolving. Listen to live commentary from someone who has lived through the Troubles and learn how the experience impacts Belfast life today.
After seeing the Titanic exhibition and taking a Black Taxi Tour learning about the Troubles, why not spend some time seeing the thriving heart and soul of the real and living Belfast?
Over a two-mile walk through historic streets with an expert, local guide, hear the stories of people who have called Belfast their home for many centuries. Quickly discover that there is so much more to discover in Belfast!
There are over 800 years of history leading up to the Troubles which began in the 1960’s. On this walking tour, experience that period from the perspective of local guides who lived through the experience of those turbulent times.
The Troubles touched communities and touched many lives in a very real way. On this two and a half hour walk, your guide takes you through an historically accurate and yet unbiased account of the period known as the Troubles, eventually leading to the story of reconciliation, peace, and the challenges Belfast faces today and in the future.
Find some peace and quiet in the middle of Belfast at St. Anne’s Cathedral, taking in the beautiful mosaics, stained glass windows, and Romanesque arches on this self-guided audio tour.
See the Spire of Hope, a striking landmark in Belfast’s skyline. Visit the Titanic Pall with 1500 crosses and stars of David remembering the souls lost when the goat liner sank. Visit the Tomb of the only person to ever be buried at the Cathedral, Lord Carson who led the anti-Home-Rule in Westminster and came to dominate the Unionist cause in Ulster
Not sure where to begin your Belfast experience? Treat yourself to either a 24 or 48 hour pass to ride the 90 minute loop visiting 19 sites around Belfast. Tour includes a free onboard audio guide and discounts to many shops and restaurants.
Just a few of the highlights include Queen’s University, the Botanic Gardens, Ulster Museum, the Titanic Visitor Centre, Belfast City Hall, the Grand Opera House, Belfast Castle and much more!
10 - The Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle
The Giant’s Causeway is an amazing natural wonder and UNESCO Heritage site. Here, you can take in fresh sea air and marvel at over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Learn about the legend of Fionn mac Cumhaill, a major figure in Irish mythology who is said to have built the causeway to cross the Irish Sea to fight a Scottish giant known as Benandonner.
Then on to a walk through the Dark Hedges, a beautiful avenue of beech trees planted by the Stuart family as an impressive feature of the driveway to their Gracehill Manor.
And, not to be missed is a stop for one of the most picturesque views on Antrims’s coast at Dunluce Castle, a now ruined medieval castle built in the 13th century and majestically perched along the cliffs overlooking the sea.