5 Great things to do in Belfast

Bell and I were recently in Belfast a couple weeks ago. It was my 2nd time training up to the capital of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Last summer my dad and I visited by train. If you’re coming to Ireland for a city hop between Dublin and Belfast, you definitely don’t need a car. Irish Rail will get you between the two cities in 2 hours and 10 minutes and is very comfortable. If you book online a week in advance you should be able to get tickets for under 15 euro ($20 USD) each way. Belfast is very navigable by foot as it isn’t so large. On both visits to Belfast we stayed at the Ibis City Center– we don’t normally advocate staying at big chains but the hotel is central, clean and good value for money. Along with this advice, here are 5 great things to do in Belfast.

1) Political murals Many Irish people do not like the murals because they believe it keeps the conflict of “The Troubles” alive. They have a point, but they are wonderful for political and cultural junkies. Irish Republicans and British Loyalists each have their own murals, on sides divided by a massive “peace wall.” To the outside observer, the murals are colorful, passionate and facilitate in sharing two sides of history. The Republican murals can be viewed on Falls Roads and the Loyalist murals can be found on Shankill Road. You can also book black cab guided tours of the area. But in Belfast, do not discuss politics with locals, it’s a sensitive subject and not your battle!

Political mural near James Connolly's house in Belfast, things to do in Belfast
2) Queen’s Quarter – Queen’s University is a gorgeous example of Tudor architecture and beautiful for a stroll. At the foot of the campus is the botanic gardens, from 10am- 5pm you can visit the lovely and massive greenhouse in the Palm House for free and check out some exotic flora and fauna. The Ulster Museum is great for a lesson in Irish art and history and is also free. Queen’s Quarter is home to some great cafes. Check out Maggie Mays where you can get Bailey’s and other spirits in a variety of milkshakes! Every high school kids dream…

Queen's University, things to do in Belfast
Queen’s University

3) St. George’s Market (Fri, Sat, Sun) – The last Victorian era market in Belfast is a fantastic place to sample Irish treats and more. It’s been around since 1890 when the local government decided that farmers had hard enough lives and should be able to sell their goods in an enclosed area, protected from the frequently harsh weather.

I was actually extremely hungover at the market and tried to be healthy by grabbing some home made Thai red curry from one of the stalls. That didn’t do the trick so I then bought a massive fresh cooked burger. It was the most food I’ve scarfed down in a long time. FYI, Guinness at the end of a big night of drinking is a bad idea…speaking of which, you can grab fresh Guinness cheese at St. George’s market! Though I of course could not.

St. George's Market things to do in Belfast
4) Crown Liquor Saloon – The incredibly ornate woodworking, tiling and stain glass windows make the Crown Liquor Saloon a cathedral to pubs. Originally founded in 1885 and designed by Italian craftsmen, this old Victorian gin palace is as beautiful a pub you will ever set foot in. The National Trust owns it and spent £500,000 ($776,000 USD) in 2007 to be sure it stays lovingly true to its old glory. Grab one of the snugs if you can- one of 10 enclosed ornate booths formerly reserved for the elite of Belfast. They’re open to everyone now, if you’re lucky to have one available. Nicholson’s Pubs manages the Crown and has been brewing a nice pale ale for the past year. If you’re a fan of pale ales I definitely recommend ordering a Nicholson’s Pale Ale, it’s a pretty smooth one.

Crown Liquor Saloon, things to do in Belfast
5) Cathedral Quarter – A stroll through perhaps the most architecturally beautiful part of Belfast will lead to more than just great cathedral’s like St. Anne’s. The Cathedral Quarter is packed with great restaurants and pubs. Established in 1711, McHugh’s Bar is one of the oldest pubs in Belfast and a great place to grab a pint, they even have a few micro brews on tap if you want something other than a Guinness or mass produced lager. And thumbs up to the Big Ben lookalike!

Cathedral Quarter, things to do in Belfast

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