10 Best Things to Do in Belfast in a Day

What is Belfast Most Famous For?

Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveller
18 Sep, 2018

Depending on your age, Belfast might represent shipbuilding, turbulent politics or a vibrant city with great restaurants, tourist attractions, and nightlife. In truth, the capital of Northern Ireland still retains all 3 of these alter egos in its charming streets and in the hearts and minds of the friendly locals.

One thing which is rather surprising to many visitors is that parts of the city are separated by large walls. These were erected back in the 1970s when the city was a very different place. Thankfully, these days Belfast is a thriving, multicultural city and this recent history is a fascinating addition to your trip.

1

Start the day at Belfast City Hall

Tour the magnificent building and check out the Titanic Memorial Gardens

Belfast’s City Hall is the city’s most impressive landmark, and it’s a great place for you to start your day. In the warmer months, you can find cafés and restaurants in Donegall Square in front of the civic building. During the festive season, the whole area is transformed into a winter wonderland, with a Christmas market and decorations.

As well as enjoying the grand building’s exterior, you can visit the museum inside City Hall and there are regular tours of the hallowed halls, all for free. The tour lasts 1 hour and you can just turn up and register at reception.

Location: Donegall Square, Belfast BT1 5GS, UK

Open: Monday – Friday from 8.30am to 5pm, Saturday from 10am to 4pm

Phone: +44 (0)28 9032 0202

  • History
  • Photo
  • Budget
2

Learn more about the world’s most famous shipwreck/love story

The legendary RMS Titanic was built in Belfast in 1912

Titanic Belfast is a fascinating museum dedicated to the ill-fated vessel which was largest ocean liner of its time. She was built in Belfast in the early-20th century and captivated people across the world, both for her size and her promise of luxury. When she sunk on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic, it created a furore. Over 1,500 people perished in the icy waters, and the stories of those on board are told in dramatic detail at this museum in the docklands of Belfast, close to where the ship was originally built.

Location: 1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Belfast BT3 9EP, UK

Open: Daily from 9am to 6pm

Phone: +44 (0)28 9076 6386

  • Families
  • History
  • Photo
3

Shop at St George’s Market

Famed for its fresh fish and weekend craft market

This Victorian market is a cherished relic of times gone by. You’ll find 300 traders here, selling fresh produce, arts and crafts, antiques, and freshly prepared food. It’s most fun on Saturdays thanks to live musicians and a festive vibe. The fresh fish section is especially praised, and you should certainly seek out some Irish oysters to try. A free shuttle bus runs from Royal Avenue in the city centre to St George’s Market every Saturday from 8am to 3pm.

Location: 12-20 East Bridge St, Belfast BT1 3NQ, UK

Open: Friday from 6am to 3pm, Saturday from 9am to 3pm, Sunday from 10am to 4pm (closed Tuesday – Thursday)

Phone: +44 (0)28 9043 5704

  • Shoppers
  • Food
  • Budget
4

Explore the Cathedral Quarter

Walk the old streets of Belfast and see many beautiful buildings

Walking the streets is a great way to soak up the real spirit of a city, and in Belfast, that means heading for the Cathedral Quarter. Top landmarks include St Anne’s Cathedral, the Albert Memorial Clock, the Opera House, and several museums, including the powerful Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum. If you get thirsty after all that walking, you should seek out The Duke of York pub on the narrow, cobblestoned Commercial Street, next to the Open Air Museum.

  • History
  • Photo
  • Budget
5

Take photos with the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe in CS Lewis Square

See the incredible sculptures based on CS Lewis’s literary creations

The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of fantasy novels written by Belfast-native CS Lewis in the 1950s. These cherished novels are firm family favourites, and this public square in east Belfast allows you to get photos with many of the characters, such as the White Witch, Mr Tumnus, and Aslan the lion. This public square is next to the East Side Visitor Centre, which has some interesting tourist information and displays. You can walk here from Titanic Quarter train station.

Location: 402 Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 1HH, UK

Phone: +44 (0)28 9046 3820

  • Photo
  • Budget
  • Unusual

photo by Paul Bowman (CC BY 2.0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

6

Smell the flowers in the Botanic Gardens

Enjoy many plants and flowers sourced from every continent

Belfast Botanic Gardens are a fantastic spot for a sunny day in the city. Located next to Queen’s University, you’ll see many students relaxing on the grass and enjoying the wide range of plants and flowers. Check out the Palm House enclosure with its exotic species from across the world. The Ulster Museum is in the north of the garden.

Location: College Park, Botanic Ave, Belfast BT7 1LP, UK

Open: Daily from 7.30am to 9pm

Phone: 44 (0)28 9031 4762

  • Couples
  • Budget
7

Check out the famous murals and urban art along the Falls Road

Urban art pieces from Belfast’s troubled past

During the political troubles of the 1970s, Belfast was a different place to the thriving multicultural city we see today. These urban art pieces are important remnants from Belfast’s troubled past, when the 2 halves of the city were directly opposed about the sovereignty of Northern Ireland. The ongoing conflict was between the mainly Protestant unionists who wanted to remain part of the UK, and the mainly Catholic nationalists who wanted a united Ireland.

The best place to see these important artistic expressions is along the Falls Road, a short drive west of the city centre. You can take the 10-minute taxi ride there or book a guided tour with an experienced guide to give context to the art you see.

Location: Belfast BT12 4PY, UK

  • Budget
  • Adventure
  • Unusual
8

Must-See: Crumlin Road Gaol

A grim reminder of recent troubled times

This former jail hosted many of the main protagonists from the infamous Northern Ireland conflict, known locally as The Troubles. The Victorian-era building closed as a jail in 1996 and has been repurposed into a museum documenting the plight of the men who were sent here. The guides are terrific and present facts clearly and without bias. You can also visit the section of the prison where prisoners were once hanged, so it’s not recommended for kids.

Location: 53-55 Crumlin Rd, Belfast BT14 6ST, UK

Open: Daily from 10am to 5pm

Phone: +44 (0)28 9074 1500

  • Unusual

photo by William Murphy (CC BY-SA 2.0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

9

Eat Irish stew (washed down with a pint of Guinness)

Ireland’s iconic winter dish that tastes as good as it smells

Irish stew can be made with lamb or beef, simmered in meat stock with lots of chunky root vegetables thrown in. You’ll find this dish on menus across Belfast and it’s particularly satisfying if you need warming up on a cold winter’s evening. To make your meal even more authentic, you should order a pint of Ireland’s most famous ale to go along with your stew for a nutrient-rich meal (just don’t count the calories).

  • Food
10

End the day in a traditional Belfast pub

Listen to the live band and make new friends

Irish pubs are a cultural experience not to be missed. Many of the best pubs in Belfast have live music, great food, and a range of Irish beers and whiskies. Head to the Cathedral Quarter for a nice selection of bars and pubs to choose from, many of which have been serving ‘a drop o’ the black stuff’ for centuries. Recommended pubs include The Dirty Onion, Duke of York and The John Hewitt Bar.

  • Food
  • Nightlife

photo by Ardfern (CC BY-SA 3.0) cropped, calibrated, blurred

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