Are you looking for a place with history, mystery, fun, and, maybe more importantly, where everyone speaks English? Well, search no more! Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, stands out among the most important cities in the United Kingdom for its mixture of local and British culture. If you decide to travel there, you will find a variety of buildings, squares, museums, parks, and other incredible places. It will not be a matter of what to do in Belfast, but what not to do!
This port city, located on the northeast coast of the Emerald Isle, is home to both a people proud of their language and national identity and a large colony attached to Great Britain.
The city is so wonderful that we have decided to make a special article about everything there is to see in Belfast. We will give you more than enough reasons not to miss this incredible city.
What to See in Belfast | Top 17
In the architecture of Belfast, you will see the result of almost three centuries of historic coexistence.Catholics and Protestants, Irish nationalists, and British Unionists have all learned to live together here. You will find the evidence left by the last armed conflict between these groups, known as The Troubles. These terrible conflicts took thousands of lives between 1968 and 1998.
Most of the wounds have healed, and, today Belfast is an ever-growing city. It aspires to be one of the most developed cities in the United Kingdom and Europe. So, would you like to know more about this fascinating city? So, let’s take a walk through 17 must-see places in Belfast!
Belfast Town Hall
Let’s start our tour at a traditional spot: Belfast City Hall, a neoclassical building from the early 20th century. It is the perfect starting point located in the heart of the city. From Monday to Sunday, there are free guided tours inside. There the fine Italian stained glass stands out.
You can also enjoy a garden dedicated to the memory of the famous Titanic. As you may know, this is the most famous ship built in the Belfast shipyards. It might sound like the shipyards were not that trustworthy. But, at that time, the city was a shipping power in Europe.
Linen Hall Library and Victoria Square
Behind Town Hall, across Chichester Street, is the Linen Hall Public Library, considered the largest in Belfast and Northern Ireland. If you are passionate about literature, this isthe spot for you. Here, you’ll have at your disposal a collection of more than 25 thousand volumes,specialized in Irish and English authors.
Perhaps so much reading and history will whet your appetite. That’s easy to fix! Within walking distance of the library is the Victoria Square shopping center. This is another must-see in Belfast. And you must visit it for its wide range of department stores, cafes, and restaurants.
Saint Ann Cathedral
Going up Donegall Street, 500 meters away, is the Cathedral of St. Anne. An Irish architectural work that stands out for its neo-Romanesque architecture and its mosaics. Its religious figures include one dedicated to St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
This church began construction in 1903, in a parish of the same name from the 18th century. And, it culminated almost 80 years later with the erection of the transverse nave. Of the old building, only a stained glass window with the parable of the Good Samaritan remains. It is worth mentioning that this temple is part of the Church of Ireland, an Anglican community. But among its clergy, there are also Catholic parish priests, which is the largest communion in the country.
St. George’s Market
Every weekend, St. George’s Market, comes to life. It is one of the UK’s most recognized indoor grocery stores. This is due to its wide variety of offerings in groceries, clothing, and crafts. It is located in the center of Belfast.
If you want to visit it, you can find it on the way to the Lagan River, inside a modernist-style building. On Fridays, fruit, vegetables, fish, books, and clothes are sold. On Saturdays, traditional Irish snacks and coffee stands are set up. On Sundays, there is live music and handicraft sales.
Near River Lagan, which runs through the city from east to west, you’ll find the Titanic Belfast. It’s an Irish museum that was built on top of the former Harland and Wolff shipyards. This company gave the city world-renowned as a shipping power at the beginning of the 20th century.
Within its avant-garde structure, you will be able to know the details about the construction of the Olympic, the Britannic, and the Titanic. Furthermore, some of the spaces of the renowned Titanic have been recreated. You’ll find the famous staircase that led to the luxurious first-class dining room. Ready for your own love story?
C.S. Lewis Square
Although sadly, it is impossible to visit the magical land of Narnia here, you can enjoy the C.S. Lewis square. Waltz along the many statues representing the creatures born from the mind of one of Belfast’s most famous sons: the great C.S. Lewis. Spend a fantastic day relaxing, walking, and, of course, letting your imagination roam free!
Belfast Botanic Garden
Following the riverbank to the south, you’ll find the Belfast Botanic Gardens, a glass building nestled in the middle of a vast park. The place has opened its doors to the public every day for 120 years.
Among the facilities, Palm House stands out, a modernist cast-iron structure. In its time,it was the first curvilinear greenhouse in the world. Built by the Irish blacksmith, Richard Turner. You should also see the adjoining Tropical Ravine. It’s a roofed garden, home to a variety of tropical plants and birds.
Within the garden’s area, the Ulster Museum offers visitors a journey through 9,000 years of Irish history. Here, you’ll find as well art and paleontology exhibits. Some interesting objects account for human life about 10,000 years ago, in the Neolithic. Such as axes and jewelry. From ancient Egypt, you will see the mummy of Takabuti, a noblewoman from ancient Thebes.<
Among other curiosities, there are ceramics, textiles, and a piece of meteorite. Also, you'll see something curious. It's a piece of jewelry from a Spanish ship that sank (did it?) on the British Coast. Find here the Nobel Peace Prize medal of Mairead Corrigan, an activist during the Irish civil war.
A few steps to the north, you’ll find the Queen’s University. This is the most recognized institution of higher education in the city. So, of course, it offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs.
It also has various accommodation options for students and employer linkage services. If you want to know more about this institution, you can visit its official pagededicated to international students.
Although the civil war ended more than 20 years ago, the people of Belfast continue to build “walls of peace”.
The most famous is the Peace Wall, another essential place to see in Belfast. Built along Cupar Way Avenue, north of the city. It is covered in street art that commemorates the heroes and martyrs of each side.
Pubs and bars
After a day of culture and history, sightseeing through Belfast cannot end without a visit to at least one pub. There are plenty that livens up the nights in the center of this Irish city. One of the most popular is The Crown Liquor Saloon. The place stands out in the neighborhood for its baroque ornamentation. So, it preserves the “gin palace” style of the Victorian era.
A few steps away is The Perch Rooftop Bar, a place with a more modern and relaxed atmosphere. Settled under a typical 20s roof with varied cocktails and pizza to satisfy hunger. A little further north is The Dirty Onion and Yardbird, a pub with a modern twist, where you can enjoy both a traditional pint, food, and live music.
Victoria Square Shopping Centre
If you’re into shopping, fancy architecture, and crowds, this is your spot! Home of over 70 stores, cafes, and restaurants. This is the perfect place to window shop, either stores or the landscapes that surround it. If you can visit it around Christmas time! The place really shines during the holiday season.
Cave Hill Country Park
To complete your visit to Belfast, we recommend that you spend another day visiting the natural and archaeological sites. These are to the north of the metropolitan area, beginning with Cave Hill Park, a huge open field ideal for hikers.
There you can go hiking on the many paths laid out throughout the countryside. And, from the top of the hill, you can admire or photograph beautiful landscapes. Also, surely Napoleon’s Nose will catch your eye. In the 18th century, inspired Irish writer Jonathan Swift to write Gulliver’s Travels.
At the southern edge of the park sits Belfast Castle. A Scottish-style mansion with Baroque and Renaissance elements. Built-in the 19th century for the Marquis of Donegall, George Chichester. Inside, there are guided tours, an antique shop, and a restaurant. From its gardens, you also get a panoramic view of the city of Belfast.
About 3 kilometers north of the castle, going on Antrim Road, is the popular Belfast Zoo. It has 22 hectares of extension and more than 150 species of fauna of the world. Among the animals that inhabit it are the universally liked tigers, zebras, giraffes, lions, Asian elephants, primates, and friendly lemurs.
If you want to live the experience of being closer to them, the zoo has scheduled times for you to feed them. Create your itinerary!
As the last stop, it is worth visiting the Giant’s Ring, a circular stone-based monument dating from 2,700 BC. Resembling Stonehenge, it is the oldest trace of human settlements in the Belfast area.
This monolith is one of the best-preserved in UK and the Republic of Ireland. It is believed that it was originally a tomb, built with five stones placed vertically and one more on top.
Grand Opera House
Northern Ireland’s most iconic theatre opened its doors in 1895. Since then, it has been the stage for a variety of performances and spectacles. From variety shows to dramatic displays, it is now home to many musical performances. From Mamma Mia and Grease to Oti Mabuse’s, I Am Here. The place is worth a visit for its architecture, history, and performance quality.
How to Get to Belfast
From Dublin, Belfast can be reached in about two hours, either by train or highway. If you come from the island of Great Britain, a comfortable and economical option is to arrive by ferry from Liverpool.
It is worth a visit for its diversity of architectural, cultural and natural attractions. As if that were not enough, you will have a unique opportunity to meet new people and make good Irish friends.
Now that you know all the best places to see in Belfast, you must include it in the itinerary of your next stay abroad!