48 hours in Belfast
Featured in Lonely Planet's guide to the world’s best regions for tourism in 2018, the city of Belfast has harnessed its rich history to reinvent itself as a major tourist attraction.
Having visited Belfast for the first time last December, I have put together some suggestions for anyone who wants to make the most of Belfast in 48 hours. Although Belfast is a relatively small city, the city centre is divided in quarters reflecting its cultural heritage, and historical diversity.
Start your day at the Queen’s Quarter and head over to the Botanic Gardens, Ulster Museum, and Queen’s University. This was the first quarter I explored when I visited the city.
It is easily explored by foot, where you can observe the fascinating Victorian architecture of Queen’s University (created in 1849), and the Botanic Gardens. It’s worth spending some time at the gardens where you can take a break, and explore the Tropical Ravine, and the Palm House.
The Ulster Museum offers anyone interested in natural history the opportunity to learn about the rich history of Northern Ireland, and world history more generally.
Head over to the cathedral quarter, and spend some time observing St Anne’s Cathedral: a majestic example of Victorian Gothic architecture.
After this, some lunch is in order. Here there are many pubs and restaurants to choose from in this quarter. This is the time to try some typical cuisine and drink that Northern Ireland has to offer: soda and potato bread, Guinness, an Ulster fry, a fish supper (fish and chips in Northern Ireland are supposedly the best in the country), and of course, Tayto Crisps.
After spending some time in the Cultural Quarter, use the rest of the afternoon to go on a bus tour of the city to see the peace murals where you will learn more about Belfast’s complex history during the Troubles. This is a great opportunity to see first-hand the ways in which art has been used represent harmony and understanding during challenging times.
Seeing these murals in person, I was fascinated not only by the physical scale of these walls, but also by the artistry and care that has gone into these works. Being in a place of such historical significance is also an incredible and inspirational way of witnessing history in person.
Start your day at the Titanic Quarter where iconic ships such as the RMS Titanic were built. Anyone interested in film and television will enjoy visiting the Titanic Quarter. Home to the Titanic Museum, the Game of Thrones studios, and the iconic Samson and Goliath cranes built by Harland & Wolff, this is probably one of the most ‘instagram-able’ parts of Belfast. There’s no right or wrong way to work your way through this quarter.
At the Titanic Museum you will immerse yourself in the fascinating history of the construction of the Titanic, and discover what life on board the ship on its first and only voyage was like. A trip to the SS Nomadic, the last remaining White Start vessel in the quarter is also worth making, especially as James Cameron spent time there researching for Titanic. Architecture lovers will also be able to admire the building itself, built by Texan architect Eric Kuhne. The Samson and Goliath cranes are worth seeing up close as they are impressive in scale and beauty.
Before calling it a day, it’s worth heading up to Belfast Castle for unparalleled views over the city. Depending on what time you get there, you can enjoy some well-deserved time in nature by strolling through the greenery which surrounds the castle.
End your day at the Gaeltacht Quarter, an area rich in Irish culture and language. Here you can settle down for dinner, and embrace many Irish cultural traditions such as language, dance, and music.