Belfast is a city that is booming right now, and for visitors planning a trip to Northern Ireland’s capital, it has so much to offer. From Michelin restaurants and iconic buildings to a buzzing pub scene and great entertainment venues, Belfast has plenty to offer when it comes to looking for a city break that requires very little travel time. Less than two hours from Dublin, here are 25 reasons why Belfast should be high on your list when it comes to Bank Holiday breaks.
25 Reasons to Consider a Bank Holiday Trip to Belfast
1 Visit the World’s Leading Attraction
Belfast is currently home to the world’s leading tourist attraction after Titanic Belfast was awarded the title of ‘World’s Leading Tourist Attraction’ back in December 2016. This fantastic exhibition and homage to the world’s most famous ship was also voted ‘Europe’s Leading Attraction’, so you know you’re in for quite a treat as you discover the story of Titanic and its fateful maiden voyage. Indeed, Titanic Belfast is second only to the majestic Giant’s Causeway when it comes to the top visitor attractions in Northern Ireland.
2 An Indoor Market Like No Other
While Cork has the English Market and Limerick has the Milk Market, Belfast has a strong claim to the finest market on the island of Ireland with the stunning St George’s Market in the city centre. Open from Friday to Sunday, the market showcases local food and craft producers, with regular music sessions every Sunday. If you’re visiting Belfast for the weekend, this award-winning market is a must see.
3 Enjoy an Award-Winning Tour
One of the best ways to explore any city is with a tour, and the guys at Taste and Tour in Belfast have plenty for you to get your teeth into. From the fantastic Belfast Food Tour to the Belfast Whiskey Walk or Brewery Tour, the team at Taste and Tour offer five wonderfully entertaining tours that take you through the heart of the city, providing a real Belfast taste experience. Find out more at Taste and Tour.
4 Visit a Museum
There are a number of museums to choose from in and around the Belfast area, but the top of the list for anyone visiting the city should be the Ulster Museum. With exhibitions ranging from prehistoric Ireland to the troubles and more modern history, the Ulster Museum provides a great insight into Northern Irish history. The museum is also free to enter.
5 Catch a Show in Stunning Surroundings
The spectacular Grand Opera House on Great Victoria Street is one of Belfast’s most iconic landmarks and has many great shows across the year. From comedy and drama to musical theatre and operatic performances, there are plenty of great shows on at the Grand Opera House across the year. Check out Grand Opera House to see the upcoming events.
6 Relax in the City Hall
Belfast City Hall is another iconic building in the city centre and an area that attracts visitors across the day. Take a seat in the gardens at the front of the building and watch the world go by.
7 Take a Stroll through the Park
Sometimes there’s nothing quite like a refreshing walk through a parked gardens and Belfast certainly has its share of picturesque parks and gardens. Top of the list of parks to visit while in Belfast are Ormeau Park and Botanic Gardens, both located in the southern area.
8 Explore the Grounds of Queen’s University
The red-brick facade of Queen’s University is one of the most familiar sights of Belfast and is located close to popular Botanic Gardens. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the grounds of this impressive building.
9 Scale Cavehill
Explore Cavehill Country Park on foot with a challenging 7km walk and enjoy the sensational panoramic views over Belfast as you reach the top. While exploring Cavehill, be sure to check out the impressive Belfast Castle, a building that dates back to the 12th Century, although the building that stands today opened its doors in 1870.
10 Head to the Zoo
Built in 1934, Belfast Zoo is one of the city’s most popular visitor attractions and is a great place to bring the family. Located on Cavehill, Belfast Zoo welcomes between 200,000 and 300,000 visitors each year, although be sure to bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes as it’s quite a hike to get around.
11 Enjoy a Michelin Experience
The restaurant scene in Belfast is thriving at the minute, and the city is home to some of the finest eateries anywhere in Ireland. With two Michelin restaurants to choose from (Deanes EIPIC and OX), Belfast is certainly making a mark on the world’s food scene, and indeed EIPIC is home to Ireland’s only female Michelin chef, Dani Barry.
12 Hit the Shops
Belfast is a great shopping city, with two of the city’s most popular shopping centres within walking distance from each other. Victoria Square and Castlecourt are home to many household names while the iconic Royal Avenue is home to stores like Disney, Primark, Debenhams and Laura Ashley.
13 An Art Tour with a Difference
While the city bus tour will take you up close and personal with many of Belfast’s famous landmarks and tourist attractions, one of the most popular tours to take when visiting the city is the Black Taxi Mural Tour. This tour takes you through the heart of the city as you learn more about the historic of the troubles while marvelling at these incredible works of art. The tour will see you visit both areas of the community that have been affected by the troubles, and this tour is both educational and eye-opening. A really enjoyable tour, and a journey through the history of the city.
14 Get Behind Bars
Take another trip down memory lane by visiting the Crumlin Road Gaol in the north-west of the city. Discover over 100 years of history by enjoying a guided tour of the jail, or if you’re feeling up to it, join one of the eery Paranormal Tours of the grounds.
15 Grab a Pint (or Cocktail)
Belfast is a city that has always enjoyed a great reputation for its pub scene and today is no different. From traditional pubs like Kellys Cellar, The Crown, The Duke of York and The John Hewitt to modern gin and cocktail inspired bars like Love and Death, Rita’s and The Merchant Cocktail Bar, Belfast really does have something for everyone.
16 Catch a Gig
When visiting Belfast you’ll never have too far to look for a music gig. Music is steeped in the heritage of the city, and whether it’s an open mic night or live bands, you’ll usually find something in Belfast to suit your taste. While many bars around the city have music across the week, venues like The Black Box, The Oh Yeah Music Centre, The Empire, Limelight, Morrisons and Mandela Hall have become synonymous with their live music sessions, highlighting that it’s not just big venues where you can hear great live music. Indeed, these venues have been graced by the likes of Divine Comedy, Super Furry Animals, Snow Patrol, Oasis, Artic Monkeys, Elbow and Primal Screen, and for many, they’re the heartbeat of Belfast’s music scene.
17 Join the Folks on the Hill
A short drive out of Belfast lies Stormont Estate, the home of another iconic building Stormont House, Northern Ireland’s parliament buildings. Better known as ‘Stormont’ the grounds of the estate are also home to the majestic Stormont Castle and are open to the public to visit across the year. You can look forward to enjoying wonderful views over the city when you scale the hill to reach Stormont House, while there is also a weekly park run in the grounds of the estate which is enjoyed by many, so if you’re feeling energetic on your trip north, join in.
18 Get a Photo with a Fish
No trip to Belfast would be complete without a picture in front of the 10-foot-long, ceramic salmon better known as ‘The Big Fish’. Once you’ve taken your photo, take a walk around the area, enjoying views out to the River Lagan, and Titanic Quarter.
19 Hope Onboard
At the end of the 19th Century, Belfast was one of the world’s leading shipbuilding centres, with the Harland and Wolff Shipyard central to this growth. In its prime, the shipyards employed over 30,000 and built some of the biggest sea liners in the early 20th Century. While the iconic Harland and Wolff cranes are still in use today, shipbuilding in the city began to decline in the 1950s. Find out more about the city’s shipbuilding past by visiting the museum at SS Nomadic (Titanic’s sister ship) or by getting onboard the Lagan Boat Tour.
20 Have a Jumping Good Time
Whether you’re travelling with kids, with friends, or perhaps just visiting Belfast with your better half, one place you simply have to get along to is the popular We Are Vertigo. Home to an indoor ski centre, adventure park and spa, We Are Vertigo is best known for its trampoline park – the largest indoor trampoline park in Europe – a space that brings you a bouncing experience like no other. Advanced booking is recommended and different sessions are available for different age groups. Find out more at We Are Vertigo.
21 A World of Discovery at W5
Located in the Odyssey Arena in the Titanic Quarter, W5 is an interactive discovery centre with over 250 exhibits in four popular areas. A must see if you’re visiting Belfast with kids, W5 has a daily programme of live science exhibitions and plenty of areas just waiting to be explored.
22 Get on Your Bike
Explore the city at your own leisure with the Belfast Bikes, with 40 docking stations across the city allowing you to easily get about. Indeed, if you’re a registered user you can get the first 30 minutes of each trip for free. If you want to enjoy a guided tour of the city, the Belfast City Bike Tours have two fantastic tours to consider.
The three-hour, 15km tour of the city will take you around its most famous sights, while the alternative four-hour and 20km Hilden Brewery Bike Tour will take you through the Cathedral Quarter and Titanic Quarter, before heading along River Lagan towpath to visit Ireland’s oldest independent brewery, Hilden Brewery.
23 Explore the Cathedral Quarter
From the stunning St Anne’s Cathedral and variety of restaurants in St Anne’s Square to the popular bars of Hill Street, Commercial Court and Waring Street, the Cathedral Quarter is a hub of activity across the week, and an area to visit over the weekend if you want to experience the best of Belfast’s nightlife.
24 Enjoy an Art Exhibition
Belfast has a number of popular art galleries to explore with the Golden Thread Gallery on Great Patrick Street and the Higgin Gallery at Malone House providing a mix of contemporary and sculpture art pieces from local and internationally acclaimed artists. Both galleries are free to enter.
25 Walk the Ridge Trail
The Ridge Trail is a picturesque walk just under 7km that takes you through Divis and Black Mountain, giving you amazing views over Belfast, and on a good day as far as the Mourne Mountains, Scotland and the Isle of Man. A great walk to just escape from it all and enjoy Belfast in a different light.
Plan Your Bank Holiday Break to Belfast Today
With Bank Holidays coming up at the start of May, June and August, Belfast offers plenty for you to consider when planning a Bank Holiday weekend break. Check out the latest Belfast hotel deals.
Images via Tourism Ireland