What to See in Belfast, Northern Ireland
Updated On: September 13, 2023
Welcome to Belfast, a city abounding with history and culture. Located in Northern Ireland, Belfast is a vibrant and dynamic city that offers visitors an extraordinary blend of history, culture, and natural landscapes.
With its fascinating industrial heritage, stunning natural wonders, and thriving arts and cultural scene, Belfast is a destination that truly has something for everyone. From the iconic shipyards that built the Titanic to the vibrant streets of the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast is a city that is full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
So whether you’re interested in history, art, food, or nature, Belfast is sure to captivate your imagination and leave you with lasting memories. So, let us take you on a tour of what to see in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Titanic Belfast Museum
The Titanic Museum is an essential stop for history enthusiasts or those seeking an engaging day trip while visiting Belfast. This modern museum is dedicated to chronicling the tale of the Titanic, the famous ship that was built in Belfast and sank on its maiden voyage in 1912.
The museum is located on the former Harland and Wolff shipyard site where the Titanic was originally built, and its artistic design is inspired by the shape of the ship’s hull.
Inside the museum, you’ll find a collection of exhibits and interactive displays that recount the story of the Titanic ship. You can explore a replica of the ship’s deck and experience what life was like on board, learn about the design and construction of the ship, and discover the stories of the people who were on board during its doomed voyage.
One of the museum’s main features is the Ocean Exploration Centre, which uses the latest technology to take visitors on a virtual journey to the depths of the ocean. You can also see some interesting findings, including a piece of the hull and a Titanic survivor’s suitcase.
Black Cap Tour
For an immersive and one-of-a-kind journey through Belfast, consider embarking on a Black Cab Tour. This tour offers a stunning insight into the history of the city, as well as the political conflict that has shaped its past and present. During the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the city’s famous political murals, which artistically portray the divided communities of Belfast.
Your knowledgeable guide, a local driver who has lived through the conflict, can take you to the most significant areas of the city and explain the history and cultural significance behind each one. You’ll learn about the city’s industrial heritage, the impact of the Troubles, and the ongoing peace process.
One of the key spots of the tour is the visit to the famous peace walls, which still divide Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods into parts of the city. You’ll also have the chance to visit Falls Road and Shankill Road, two areas that were at the centre of the conflict.
A Black Cab Tour is a powerful way to gain a deeper understanding of Belfast’s complex history and politics. It’s an unforgettable experience that will give you a greater appreciation of the city and its people. So, if you’re looking for an authentic and educational way to explore Belfast, be sure to consider taking a Black Cab Tour.
Belfast Botanic Gardens
For a scenic and peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital city, a visit to the Belfast Botanic Gardens is a never-miss spot. This amazing public park is located in the heart of the city and allows visitors to explore stunning gardens, greenhouses, and more.
One of the main displays of the Botanic Gardens is the Palm House, a stunning Victorian glasshouse that is home to a range of exotic plants and flowers from around the world. The Palm House is a remarkable feat of engineering and architecture and is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in horticulture and design.
Another notable attraction of the Botanic Gardens is the Tropical Ravine, a recently restored glasshouse that is home to a range of tropical plants and trees. The ravine features a series of walkways and bridges that wind through the lush foliage, making it a peaceful and serene place to explore.
Beyond the greenhouses, the Botanic Gardens also boasts a range of other features, including a rose garden, a Japanese-style garden, and a children‘s playground. The gardens are popular spots for picnics, walks, and relaxing afternoons and are free to visit year-round. Residing in the heart of the Botanic Gardens is the Ulster Museum, which we will explore next.
It is home to an impressive collection of exhibits that tell the story of Northern Ireland’s past and present. The Ulster Museum features galleries dedicated to everything from art and design to geology and natural history.
You can explore interactive displays that demonstrate the region’s diverse flora and fauna, learn about the political and social history of the area, and see rare artefacts from ancient times to the present day.
One of the remarkable exhibits of the museum is the Armada Room, which houses a collection of antiquities recovered from the wreck of the Spanish Armada in 1588. A must-see is the Belfast Room, which displays some fascinating artefacts and rare pieces dedicated to the city’s history and culture.
The Ulster Museum also offers a range of educational and cultural programs, including workshops, lectures, and special events.
Exploring the River Lagan
If you’re looking for a scenic and relaxing way to experience Belfast, strolling along the River Lagan is definitely your go-to destination. The River Lagan runs through the heart of the city, offering stunning views of the city’s architecture and natural surroundings.
As you walk along the river, you’ll have the opportunity to see some of Belfast’s most famous landmarks, including the Harland and Wolff cranes and the Titanic Belfast Museum. You’ll also pass by the Lagan Weir, an impressive engineering construction that helps to regulate the flow of water through the river.
The Lagan Weir is an important part of Belfast’s industrial heritage, which offers visitors the chance to see the city’s engineering prowess up close. The weir is also a popular spot for fishing, and you’re likely to see anglers casting their lines as you walk by.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also take a boat tour along The Lagan, which provides a unique perspective of the city and its surroundings. Alternatively, you can rent a bike and explore the river on two wheels.
More on What to See in Belfast, Northern Ireland
The Giant’s Causeway is a must-visit attraction in Northern Ireland, famous for its unique natural wonder of over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. These columns were formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity and are mostly hexagonal.
According to legend, the columns were built by the giant Finn McCool, who created them as a pathway to Scotland to confront another giant. When he saw the size of his opponent, Finn ran back to Ireland, tearing up the pathway behind him to prevent the Scottish giant from following.
The site is located on the coast of County Antrim, and visitors can reach it by walking along the scenic coastal path from the nearby town of Bushmills. Along with its natural beauty, the Giant’s Causeway is also home to a visitor centre that offers exhibits and interactive displays about the history and geology of the site. The area also comprises a wide range of unique plant and animal species, including the rare pygmy shrew and the Greenland white-fronted goose.
The Crumlin Road Gaol
It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to learn about the darker side of the city’s history. The Crumlin Road Gaol is a former prison, now a museum, that offers visitors a unique insight into the lives of the prisoners who were once held here.
During your visit, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the various cells and corridors of the prison, as well as learn about the daily routines and experiences of the prisoners who were housed here. You’ll also have the chance to hear stories about some of the prison’s most infamous inmates, including political prisoners during the Troubles.
The museum offers a selection of tours, including guided ones led by former prison guards who can provide a firsthand account of what life was like inside the walls of the prison. You can also explore the prison on your own and learn about the history of the site through interactive exhibits and displays.
One of the intriguing elements of the museum is the execution chamber, which has been preserved to offer a chilling reminder of the prison’s dark past. You’ll also have the opportunity to see the underground tunnel that connected the prison to the courthouse across the street.
The Cathedral Quarter
It is one of the destinations that should be on top of what to see in Belfast, Northern Ireland list. The Cathedral Quarter is one of Belfast’s most vibrant and bustling neighbourhoods. Walking around the Cathedral Quarter, you’ll find various street art, murals, and several theatres and music venues, making it a popular spot for live performances and events.
A focal point of the Cathedral Quarter is St. Anne’s Cathedral, a stunning piece of architecture dating back to the late 19th century. The cathedral is open to visitors and offers guided tours that provide an appreciation of the history and significance of this beautiful building.
Another popular attraction in the Cathedral Quarter is the MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre). This contemporary arts venue showcases a bunch of exhibitions and performances throughout the year. The area also encompasses several galleries and studios, making it a city’s artistic community hub.
Restaurants and Cafes
Feeling peckish? Don’t worry; there are multiple options of excellent restaurants and cafes that offer something for every taste and budget. For traditional Irish cuisine, you can head to The Duke of York or The John Hewitt, both of which are known for their hearty pub grub and cosy atmosphere.
In the mood for something a bit more upscale? Try Hadskis or The Muddlers Club and enjoy the delicacies of contemporary cuisine made with locally-sourced ingredients. For a casual coffee or light bite, check out Established Coffee or The National Cafe, very popular spots for locals and tourists alike.
In summary, Belfast is a captivating city that leaves an enduring impact on all who visit. Boasting a rich history, iconic landmarks, scenic landscapes, and a lively arts scene, Belfast offers a diverse range of attractions for every interest. Whether your passion lies in history, art, cuisine, or nature, this city promises a memorable experience. As you plan your trip to Northern Ireland, be sure to add Belfast to your itinerary and immerse yourself in the extraordinary sights, sounds, and tastes that this remarkable city has in store.