Bell and I were recently in Belfast a couple weeks ago. It was my second 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!
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 homemade 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.
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