Are you trying to choose where is best to visit first between Ireland’s capital cities; Dublin or Belfast? ConnollyCove is here to help break down what each city has to offer, so you can make the best decision for your upcoming trip.
To answer the question of Dublin or Belfast? It’s important to say they are very unique places in their own right, and will, of course, attract different people. ConnollyCove has spent time in both Irish cities, so we will give you an honest opinion at what each city has to offer; from attractions, to which is the cheapest, the best architecture and where to enjoy the best food – we’ve got it all here in this blog.
Table of Contents
Dublin or Belfast: Which is the Cheapest City?
One of the biggest factors in deciding which city you should visit is how much it will cost you there. Belfast is by far a much cheaper city to visit than Dublin, one uses sterling and the other uses euros. Prices in Dublin when it comes to accommodation, eating out and visiting attractions are definitely way more expensive, whereas, in Belfast, its cheaper and you get more for your money which is really what you want.
You can’t come to Ireland without enjoying a pint of Guinness, which is also a lot cheaper in the Belfast city centre pubs than Dublin; where you’ll sometimes be paying above the odds. Picking between Dublin or Belfast when it comes to money; you have to go with Belfast. However, with the recent cost of living increase, the line between which city is cheapest is increasingly becoming blurred.
Dublin or Belfast: Which has the Best Attractions?
Two incredible cities when it comes to tourist attractions, you’ll not be short of finding something to do in each. Whether it’s Dublin or Belfast, both are built on heritage, culture and history: where every corner you turn there will be a fascinating story to dive deeper into.
The Guinness Storehouse
Dublin’s biggest tourist attraction is The Guinness Storehouse, which has played a huge part in Irish History. Guinness has become one of the most iconic symbols of Ireland and nothing is more authentic than visiting the home of where the world renown Guinness beer was created.
The Guinness Storehouse is an exceptional tourist attraction in Dublin, where you’ll be taken on a journey to learn about the famous black stuff through a variety of multimedia exhibitions that is completed with a refreshing drink in its 360′ gravity bar.
Titanic Visitor Museum
It’s no surprise that the biggest tourist attraction in Belfast is the Titanic Visitor Museum, dedicated to telling the remarkable story of the RMS Titanic Ship which was designed, built and launched off the shores in Belfast.
The Titanic Museum has won many awards and has been hailed as the “biggest Titanic visitor experience in the world”. Not only is it a tribute to the Titanic but the amazing maritime history in Belfast.
Similar to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, the Titanic Museum takes you on a journey through an interactive gallery, bringing to life the unforgettable Titanic story that has captivated many hearts around the world with its tragic ending.
Trinity College Dublin
With its iconic architecture, historic library, and lively campus, it’s no wonder Trinity College Dublin is on every traveler’s bucket list when visiting Ireland. Founded in 1592, Trinity is Ireland’s oldest university and is located right in the heart of Dublin.
A visit to Trinity’s Old Library is a must to see the stunning Long Room lined with 200,000 ancient texts, as well as the famous Book of Kells, an exquisitely illustrated 9th century gospel. Beyond the library, Trinity’s cobbled quadrangles and archways exude an old-world scholarly charm while also bustling with contemporary student life.
Be sure to explore Trinity’s Science Gallery which hosts fascinating exhibitions on science, art, and technology. With this blend of heritage, culture, and vibrant campus atmosphere, Trinity College offers an unforgettable experience for any visitor to Dublin.
Sitting high on the slopes of Cave Hill overlooking the city, Belfast Castle provides an architectural gem in the heart of Northern Ireland. The grand Scottish baronial-style castle was built in 1870 for the Marquesses of Donegall, though a castle has existed on the site since the 12th century.
A visit to Belfast Castle allows you to explore its beautiful antiques-filled interior, stroll through its rose gardens, and take in panoramic views over the city and Belfast Lough. The castle also houses an excellent visitor center detailing the site’s long history. The grounds are a joy to explore with nature trails winding through tranquil woods and along the 19th century gardens.
For some family-friendly fun, the adventure playground and café on the grounds is perfect for kids. With its combination of rich history, stunning architecture, and relaxing grounds, Belfast Castle is a must-see for a glimpse into Belfast’s heritage.
A visit to Kilmainham Goal provides a somber yet enlightening look into Ireland’s history and struggle for independence. This historic prison in Dublin opened in 1796 and housed some of Ireland’s most famous political and military leaders during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Many leaders of the rebellions against British rule were imprisoned and executed here, including those involved in the 1916 Easter Rising, which was a seminal event leading to Ireland’s eventual independence. A tour of the stone prison showcases its depressing cramped cells and thought-provoking exhibits detailing the struggles of those held within these walls fighting for Ireland’s freedom.
The east wing of the prison has been carefully restored to its Victorian-era layout, providing an authentic sense of the harsh conditions. Beyond its history, Kilmainham Gaol is also an impressive example of neoclassical architecture with its striking façade. For its powerful insights into Ireland’s complex history of resistance and patriotism, Kilmainham Gaol is an unforgettable Dublin attraction.
St George’s Market
Located in Belfast city center, the historic St George’s Market is a must-visit for insight into local culture, cuisine, and crafts. This vibrant indoor market has been operating since 1604, making it one of the oldest continuously running markets in the world.
The eclectic mix of vendors showcase the best of Northern Irish and Irish food, from fresh seafood and meats to baked goods and chocolate, when it comes to food in Belfast St. Georges Market, offers amazing experiences to enjoy. A trip to the market on a Sunday for some breakfast also can’t be missed.
Here you can shop for local handicrafts like textiles and ceramics or find unique vintage items and antiques. Live music from local bands adds to the lively ambiance and the Friday variety market features fascinating stallholders selling everything from books to clothes.
Food tours and cooking demos are also offered. With its bustling atmosphere and broad array of unique vendors and items, St George’s Market encapsulates the richness and traditions of Belfast. It’s the perfect place to soak in the city’s energy and culture while hunting for memorable souvenirs and treats.
Who wins this round?
If we had to choose between Dublin or Belfast, when it comes to attractions, we think Dublin wins this round. The Guinness Storehouse is one of the best tours provided in Ireland, and as Dublin is much bigger than Belfast, there is so much more to see and do. You could spend a week in Dublin and still find plenty to enjoy.
Dublin seems to have more renown tourist attractions that include the The Temple Bar, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Phoenix Park; which is also home to a great zoo.
Dublin or Belfast: Which has the Best Places to Eat?
The amazing Irish food scene in both cities is growing and each place offers a different experience for you to enjoy. There are many hidden gems peppered throughout, check out some of our favourite spots to visit below.
Common Market is a street food market, function space, and bar in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. It opened in 2021 and has quickly become a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. The market features a variety of vendors food stalls serving up tasty dishes, including Filipino spring rolls, Greek gyros, Mexican tacos, and loads more – if you’re mouth isn’t already watering.
There are also three bars on site, serving up a wide selection of drinks. it’s the perfect place to bring a small or large group of friends, due to the picnic table style layout of the seating. Common Market is dog-friendly and hosts a variety of events throughout the year, making it a great place to eat, drink, and be social.
Another great thing to love about Belfast is that most of its great restaurants are all located in the one area, the historic Cathedral Quarter. Home to the awarding winning restaurants that offer a contemporary twist on Irish cuisines as well as your typical pub grub. Some of the long-term residents of Cathedral Quarter includes:
- House of Zen
- Top Blade
- Dumpling Library
- 7 Spice
Wherever you decide to visit in the charming quarter, you won’t be disappointed with the food or service you receive.
Dumpling Library Belfast
Dumpling Library Belfast is a Pan-Asian restaurant located in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast. It is known for its extensive menu of dumplings, as well as other Asian dishes such as bao buns, noodles, and rice dishes. The restaurant has a modern and stylish interior, with an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs prepare your food.
Red Stables Market
This charming food market is located in St Anne’s Park, Dublin. Here you’ll find a variety of food produce and hot meals on offer – the aroma of cooking foods is a delight to any foodie and if you do happen to stumble here, a visit to the French Bakery stand is a must, the range of small cakes and soft breads will have you spoilt for choice.
Red Stables Market is a popular destination known for its vibrant and bustling atmosphere. Apart from food, visitors can also find clothes, jewelry stalls, fresh vegetables and fruits, flowers, and much more. The market is also dog-friendly, making it a great option for family visits.
The Woollen Mills Eating House
The Woollen Mills Eating House is a renowned dining spot in Dublin with a rich history of over 100 years. The famous writer James Joyce once worked there, adding to its historical allure, and today it continues to take pride in preserving quintessentially Irish heritage, reflecting the local culture and traditions. Here you’ll find a range of food options to pick from, including Irish charcuterie boards and a plate of long ray and chips.
Who wins this round?
Now Dublin is a whole other ball game with it comes to the food scenes, a place with a wealth of restaurants that combine traditional treats with cutting edge cuisines. Street food has also really taken off, becoming a foodies paradise for a visit.
But Belfast is also the same standard. In recent years Belfast has climbed the ranks of foodie cuisine, carving out its own identity of unique flavor combinations and cuisines. I would say it’s hard to pick a winner in this round, so it’s a draw.
Dublin or Belfast: Which city has the Best Architecture?
Belfast and Dublin are home to some remarkable historic and cultural buildings with incredible architecture that will make you stop in your tracks. First, let’s start with Dublin, if you want to visit just for the architecture alone, Dublin will not disappoint.
One of its rich architectural sites is Trinity College, offering a variety of design styles such as its neoclassical old library. The library is one of the most impressive libraries you’ll ever see as if it came straight out of a movie set.
Dublin Castle is also a stunning site that will surely capture your attention with its 13th-century design. Another fine example of neo-classical architecture is the historic customs house in Dublin. There is a lot of Georgian styles houses and buildings in Dublin that take you back in time, giving you a glimpse into the life of Georgian Dublin.
City Hall Belfast
Belfast also isn’t short of brilliant architectural designs, located in the heart of the City you’ll find the beautiful City Hall Belfast. Filled with a fascinating history but its design both inside and out will truly blow you away.
Then there is the unique design of the Titanic Museum which stands out dramatically in the Titanic Quarter. Many tourist love to get photos in front of the building, it has quickly become an iconic part of the Belfast landscape.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Constructed between 1220 and 1260, this cathedral is dedicated to St. Patrick, Ireland’s Patron Saint. It’s built in an early English Gothic style and stands as one of the last remaining buildings from Dublin’s medieval past, definitely worth the visit for both historical and architectural appreciation.
Who wins this round?
The architecture found in both cities will leave you amazed but we feel Dublin takes the lead on this one, the city has brought to life some unique designs that you won’t quickly forget.
Belfast vs Dublin: Places to stay
Both Belfast and Dublin are iconic cities, each with its own unique charm and history. Whether you’re drawn to the vibrant streets of Dublin or the rich tapestry of Belfast’s past, both cities offer a range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs. Here, we’ll explore three standout hotels in each city to help you decide where to lay your head.
The Merchant Hotel
Housed in a former bank building, The Merchant Hotel is a luxurious 5-star property located in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The hotel seamlessly blends Victorian grandeur with Art Deco-inspired rooms. Guests can enjoy the rooftop gym, spa, and a jazz bar. The hotel’s restaurant, The Great Room, is renowned for its gourmet cuisine and boasts one of Northern Ireland’s largest chandeliers.
Titanic Hotel Belfast
Situated in the former Harland & Wolff drawing offices, this hotel pays homage to the city’s shipbuilding history and the Titanic, which was built in Belfast. The hotel’s Titanic-themed décor, historical tours, and proximity to the Titanic Belfast museum make it a must-stay for history buffs.
Located in a former seed warehouse, Malmaison offers boutique accommodations with a chic, modern twist. The hotel’s Brasserie serves classic dishes with a twist, and the trendy bar is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike.
The Shelbourne, Autograph Collection
A contemporary boutique hotel located in the heart of Dublin, The Dean is known for its quirky design and vibrant atmosphere. The rooftop bar and restaurant, Sophie’s, offers panoramic views of the city, making it a popular spot for both guests and locals.
The Merrion Hotel
Set in a row of Georgian townhouses, The Merrion is a 5-star hotel that exudes elegance and charm. The hotel’s garden, indoor pool, and the 2-star Michelin restaurant, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, make it a standout choice.
Whether you’re drawn to the historical allure of Belfast or the bustling streets of Dublin, both cities offer a plethora of accommodation options. From luxurious 5-star hotels to trendy boutique options, there’s something for every traveler. The choice ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the kind of experience you’re seeking.
Dublin or Belfast: The Final Decision
Both Dublin and Belfast are two popular destinations, with more to offer you than you could ever imagine. Each Irish city offers its own unique story to uncover. You’ll be captivated by the culture and history found in both, making it hard to decide where to visit first, but we think Belfast in the last couple of years, has really proved itself as a great tourist destination.
Home to the award-winning Titanic Museum and the filming locations of Game of Thrones series have helped take the city by storm. More than ever, people are choosing to visit Belfast over Dublin and we certainly agree. However, that doesn’t mean you should forget about Dublin completely, as its still a wonderful Irish city that will capture your heart on any visit.
Which would you rather visit? Dublin or Belfast? Share what you love about each city in the comments below.
If you can’t decide between Dublin or Belfast why not plan a trip to both of them? They are relatively close to each other and public transport is frequent and fairly priced. Check out what you need to know below.
Dublin Belfast Distance
Dublin and Belfast are approximately 141 miles (227 kilometers) apart by road, depending on the specific route taken.
How to Get There
The most direct route by car is via the M1 motorway. The journey typically takes around 2 hours, depending on traffic conditions. This route takes you north from Dublin, through Drogheda and Dundalk, before reaching Belfast.
Dublin to Belfast coastal route
The coastal route from Dublin to Belfast offers travelers a scenic journey through some of the most picturesque landscapes and charming towns of Ireland’s east coast. While it’s a longer drive than the direct M1 motorway route, the coastal road provides a more leisurely and visually rewarding experience.
Irish Rail and Translink operate the Enterprise train service between Dublin’s Connolly Station and Belfast’s Lanyon Place Station. The journey usually takes just over 2 hours. Trains are comfortable and offer amenities like free Wi-Fi, power sockets, and onboard dining.
Several bus companies, including Bus Éireann and Aircoach, operate services between Dublin and Belfast. The journey by bus can take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, depending on the specific service and number of stops.
Whether you choose to drive, take the train, or hop on a bus, the journey offers scenic views of the Irish countryside. Always check schedules and book tickets in advance when possible, especially during holiday seasons, weekends or major events.
Dublin Belfast Tour
These tours typically start early in the morning from Dublin and return in the evening. They often include guided tours of Belfast’s main attractions, such as the Titanic Belfast museum, the Belfast Murals, and the city’s historic and political sites. Some tours might also include a trip to other nearby attractions, such as the Giant’s Causeway or Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, though this makes for a longer day.
Popular operators of Dublin Belfast tours include: Paddywagon Tours and Wild Rover Tours.
Dublin or Belfast: Discover More
Still deciding between Dublin or Belfast? Check out Famous Bars in Ireland – The Best Traditional Irish Pubs| Arthur Guinness: The Man Behind the World’s Most Famous Beer| Reasons to visit Ireland; From Medieval Castle’s to Enchanting Landscapes
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