Which to Visit in Ireland: Dublin or Belfast? The Best Attractions, Places To Eat, Stay and More

Dublin or Belfast? Live Map of Ireland

Updated On: April 09, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Are you trying to choose where to visit first between Ireland’s capital cities, Dublin or Belfast? We’re here to help break down what each city has to offer so that you can make the best decision for your upcoming trip.

To answer the question of whether Dublin or Belfast is a unique place in its own right and will, of course, attract different people. However, whether you visit Dublin or Belfast, you’ll be surrounded by culture, history, and welcoming locals.

Dublin or Belfast | Things to do in Belfast

We have spent time in both of these fantastic Irish cities, so we can give you an honest opinion on whether Dublin or Belfast is better to visit, including attractions, pricing, architecture and where to enjoy the best food; we’ve got it all here in this blog.

Scroll down to read through the article, or click on one of the highlighted sections below to jump ahead!

Dublin or Belfast Dubtemple min
Dublin or Belfast | Temple Bar in Dublin

Dublin or Belfast: Which is the Cheaper City to Visit?

One of the most significant factors in deciding whether to visit Dublin or Belfast is the cost of staying there and exploring the attractions. For the same level of quality, Belfast is often a significantly less expensive city to visit and explore than Dublin.

Prices in Dublin for accommodation, eating at restaurants, and visiting attractions tend to be way higher. In contrast, in Belfast, the same experiences are cheaper, meaning you get more for your money, which is essential when on holiday!

You can’t come to Ireland without enjoying a pint of Guinness, which is much cheaper in the Belfast city centre pubs than in Dublin, where you’ll sometimes pay significantly more.

Belfast is the clear winner when it comes to money when deciding between visiting Dublin and Belfast. Nearly every aspect of the city is less expensive, from accommodation and food to entertainment and attractions. However, with the recent increase in the cost of living, the line between which city is the cheapest is becoming increasingly blurred.

It is important to note that each city uses a different currency. Belfast, Northern Ireland, uses Great British Pounds and Dublin, Ireland, uses Euros. Ensure you have the correct currency notes before visiting, and be mindful of the exchange rates!

Dublin or Belfast: Which City Has the Best Attractions?

Dublin and Belfast are incredible cities for tourist attractions, and you’ll not be short of finding something to do in each. Whether you visit Dublin or Belfast, both cities are built on heritage, culture and history.

Around every corner, the cities are brimming with stories to tell and adventures to have. Here are some of the best things to do in Belfast and Dublin:

Dublin or Belfast Dubguinn min
Dublin or Belfast | The Guinness Brewery in Dublin

The Guinness Storehouse – Dublin

Dublin’s biggest tourist attraction is The Guinness Storehouse, which has played a significant part in Irish history. Guinness has become one of the most iconic symbols of Ireland, and nothing is more authentically Irish than visiting the home of where the world-renowned beer was created.

The Guinness Storehouse is an exceptional tourist attraction in Dublin. Inside, guests are taken on a journey to learn about the famous drink through various multimedia exhibitions. The tour is completed with a refreshing pint to drink in the storehouse’s 360° gravity bar.

Dublin or Belfast | A video tour of The Guinness Storehouse

Titanic Musem – Belfast

It is no surprise that the most popular tourist attraction in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is the Titanic Museum. The museum is dedicated to telling the remarkable story of the RMS Titanic, which was designed, built, and launched off the shores of Belfast.

The Titanic Museum has won many awards and is hailed as the “biggest Titanic visitor experience in the world”. Not only is it a tribute to the Titanic but also to the fantastic maritime history in Belfast.

Exploring the exhibits is a sombre but optimistic experience; the museum details the incredible accomplishment of building the Oceanliner, what caused the Titanic’s ill fate, how the tragedy influenced change, and the stories of victims and survivors.

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, historical library, and lively campus, it’s no wonder that Trinity College in Dublin is on every traveller’s bucket list when visiting Ireland. Founded in 1592, Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest university and is located right in the heart of Dublin.

A visit to Trinity’s Old Library is necessary for any trip to the Emerald Isle. The stunning Long Room, lined with 200,000 ancient texts and the famous Book of Kells, is an incredible and awe-inspiring experience.

Dublin or Belfast | Exploring Trinity College Dublin

Beyond the library, Trinity College’s cobbled quadrangles and archways exude an old-world scholarly charm while also bustling with contemporary student life. The campus merges the past with the present as the great minds of tomorrow begin adulthood.

Be sure to explore Trinity’s Science Gallery, which hosts fascinating science, art, and technology exhibitions. With this blend of heritage, culture, and vibrant campus atmosphere, Trinity College offers an unforgettable experience for any visitor to Dublin.

Belfast Castle – Belfast

Sitting high on the slopes of Cave Hill overlooking the city below, Belfast Castle is 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.

Visiting Belfast Castle allows guests to explore its beautiful antiques-filled interior, stroll through its rose gardens, and admire its panoramic views over the city and Belfast Lough. The castle also houses an excellent visitor centre detailing the site’s long history.

The castle grounds are a joy to explore, with nature trails winding through tranquil woods and along the 19th-century gardens. For family-friendly fun, the adventure playground and café on the grounds are perfect for kids.

With its combination of rich history, stunning architecture, and relaxing green spaces, Belfast Castle is a must-see for a glimpse into Belfast’s heritage.

Dublin or Belfast | A video tour of Belfast Castle

Kilmainham Gaol – Dublin

A visit to Kilmainham Goal provides a sombre 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. Tours of the prison showcase its depressing, cramped cells and other thought-provoking exhibits detailing the struggles of those held within these walls while 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 faced by the prisoners. 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 attraction in Dublin.

Dublin or Belfast | Exploring Kilmainham Gaol

St George’s Market – Belfast

Located in Belfast’s city centre, the historic St George’s market is a must-visit for insight into the city’s 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 showcases the best Northern Irish and Irish food, from fresh seafood and meats to baked goods and chocolate. Regarding food in Belfast, St. Georges Market offers some of the city’s best experiences and flavours. A trip to the market on a Sunday for breakfast just can’t be beat.

In addition to trying some of Northern Ireland’s best food, visitors at St. George’s Market can shop for local handicrafts like textiles, ceramics, unique vintage items, and antiques. Live music from local bands adds to the lively ambience of the market, and the Friday variety market features fascinating stalls selling everything from books to clothes.

Food tours and cooking demos are also offered at the market, making it an interactive experience. With its bustling atmosphere and a 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.

Dublin or Belfast | St. George’s Market

Dublin or Belfast: Who Wins this Round? Which City Has the Best Attractions?

If we had to choose between Dublin or Belfast, when it comes to attractions, we think Dublin has more to offer for tourists. 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!

Even though both cities are worthwhile, Dublin seems to have more renowned tourist attractions than Belfast. Some of the most popular attractions not included here are The Temple Bar, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Phoenix Park.

Dublin or Belfast: Which ccity has the Best Places to Eat?

Another vital factor to include when deciding whether to visit Dublin or Belfast is the restaurants they provide.

The fantastic Irish food scene in both Dublin and Belfast is growing, and each city offers a different experience for visitors to enjoy. There are many hidden gems peppered throughout the cities, but check out some of our favourite spots to dine at below:

Dublin or Belfast | Things to do in Dublin

Common Market – Belfast

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. The market features a variety of food stalls serving up tasty dishes from international cultures, including Filipino spring rolls, Greek gyros, Mexican tacos, and loads more—if your mouth isn’t already watering.

There are also three bars on site, serving up a wide selection of drinks. It is the perfect place to enjoy time with family or a group of friends due to the picnic table-style seating layout. Common Market is dog-friendly and hosts various events throughout the year, making it a great place to eat, drink, and be social.

Cathedral Quarter – Belfast

Another fantastic thing to love about Belfast is that most of its great restaurants are all located in one area: the historic Cathedral Quarter. The Cathedral Quarter is home to multiple award-winning restaurants offering a contemporary twist on Irish cuisine and typical pub grub. Some of the long-term residents of Cathedral Quarter include:

  • House of Zen
  • Coppi
  • Top Blade
  • Dumpling Library
  • 7 Spice
  • Buba

Wherever you decide to grab a bite to eat in Belfast’s charming Cathedral Quarter, you will not be disappointed with the food, drinks, or welcoming service you receive.

Dublin or Belfast | Cathedral Quarter

Dumpling Library – Belfast

Dumpling Library in Belfast is a Pan-Asian restaurant located in the city’s Cathedral Quarter. It is known for its extensive menu of dumplings and 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. For anyone who enjoys Asian flavours, Dumpling Library is a must-visit!

Red Stables Market – Dublin

Red Stables Market is a charming food market in St Anne’s Park in Dublin. Here, you’ll find a variety of fresh produce and hot meals, and the aroma is a delight to any foodie. If you visit the market, stopping at the French Bakery stand is a must; their range of miniature cakes and soft bread will spoil you for choice!

Red Stables Market is a popular destination favoured by locals and tourists for its vibrant and bustling atmosphere. Besides the delicious food, visitors can also find stalls selling clothes, jewellery, fresh flowers, and more. The market is also dog-friendly, making it an excellent option for family visits.

Dublin or Belfast | St. Anne’s Park

The Woollen Mills Eating House – Dublin

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. Today, the restaurant takes pride in preserving quintessentially Irish heritage, reflecting the local culture and traditions.

Here, guests will find various food options, including Irish charcuterie boards and a plate of long ray and chips. The Woollen Mills Eating House is the perfect spot for a bite of traditional Irish food and a warm atmosphere.

Dublin or Belfast: Who Wins this Round? Which ccity has the Best Architecture?

Deciding whether Dublin or Belfast has the best food scene is brutal. Dublin’s stellar list of restaurants feels like it is on a whole other level; its plethora of venues combines traditional flavours with cutting-edge modernity. Additionally, street food has also become popular in the city. It is truly a foodie’s paradise.

However, Belfast’s food scene is just as spectacular. In recent years, Belfast has climbed the ranks of foodie cuisine, carving out its own identity of unique flavour combinations and styles. With this in mind, when choosing between Dublin or Belfast, we think Belfast’s culture and atmosphere place the city at the top.

Dublin or Belfast BelVicSq min
Dublin or Belfast | The view of Belfast from Victoria Square

Dublin or Belfast: Which ccity has the Best Architecture?

Belfast and Dublin are home to some of Europe’s most remarkable historical and cultural buildings. Built with incredible architecture and detail, these structures will make you stop and admire the craftsmanship and effort.

In our quest to figure out if Dublin or Belfast has the better architectural marvels, let’s start with Dublin. If you want to visit a city just for the architecture alone, Dublin will not disappoint.

Trinity College – Dublin

As mentioned earlier in the article, one of Dublin’s best architectural sites is Trinity College.

Trinity College features a variety of design styles among its buildings, 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. In fact, the library is so beautiful that it even inspired the look of the Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter films.

Dublin or Belfast | Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle – Dublin

Dublin Castle is another stunning site that will surely capture your attention. It features an intricate and historic 13th-century design.

Another excellent example of neo-classical architecture in Dublin is the historic Customs House. There are a lot of Georgian-style houses and buildings in the city that transport visitors back in time, giving them a glimpse into the life of Georgian Dublin.

City Hall – Belfast

Belfast also has many brilliant architectural designs and historic buildings. In the heart of the city, you’ll find the beautiful City Hall. The building is bursting with tales of its fascinating history, but its inside and out design will truly blow you away.

Dublin or Belfast | Belfast City Hall

Titanic Quarter – Belfast

Another standout building in Belfast is the unique design of the Titanic Museum, which is located in the city’s Titanic Quarter. Mcity’s purists love to take photos in front of the building due to its interesting shape and beautiful facades.

The Titanic Museum has quickly become an iconic part of Belfast’s landscape. If you’re visiting the city, you must visit it!

Dublin or Belfast | Titanic Quarter

St. Patrick’s Cathedral – Dublin

Constructed between 1220 and 1260, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is dedicated to Ireland’s Patron Saint. It was built in an early English Gothic style and is one of the last remaining buildings from Dublin’s medieval past. Even if you are not interested in the cathedral’s history, it is a marvel to admire.

Dublin or Belfast: Who Wins this Round?

Because both cities have such rich histories, choosing whether Dublin or Belfast has the best architecture is not an easy task. The architecture found in both locations will leave you amazed.

However, if we have to pick a side, we believe that Dublin’s buildings better capture the beauty and history of the city. They meld the past town with the present and showcase feats of design and craftsmanship that cannot be beaten.

Dublin or Belfast: Which city has the Best Accommocityon?

Belfast and Dublin are iconic cities, each with unique charm and history. Whether you’re drawn to the vibrant streets of Dublin or the rich tapestry of Belfast’s past, both towns offer a range of accommodation options to suit every tourist’s needs.

Here, we’ll explore three standout hotels in each city to help you decide whether Dublin or Belfast is the best place to lay your head.

The Merchant Hotel – Belfast

Housed in a former bank building, The Merchant Hotel is a luxurious 5-star property in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The hotel seamlessly blends Victorian grandeur with Art Deco-inspired rooms.

Dublin or Belfast | Merchant Hotel

Guests can enjoy the hotel’s rooftop gym, spa, and jazz bar. The hotel’s restaurant, The Great Room, is renowned for its gourmet cuisine and boasts one of Northern Ireland’s most enormous chandeliers.

Titanic Hotel – Belfast

Situated in the former Harland & Wolff drawing offices, the Titanic Hotel pays homage to the city’s shipbuilding history, the Titanic Oceanliner, built in Belfast. The hotel’s Titanic-themed décor, historical tours, and proximity to the Titanic Museum make it the perfect place for history buffs to stay in Belfast.

Malmaison – Belfast

Malmaison is located in a former seed warehouse turned hotel and offers boutique accommodations with a chic, modern twist. The hotel’s Brasserie serves classic dishes with a contemporary flare, and the trendy bar is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike.

The Dean – Dublin

The Dean is a contemporary boutique hotel in the heart of Dublin known for its quirky design and vibrant atmosphere. Sophie’s, the rooftop bar and restaurant, offers panoramic city views, making it a popular spot for tourists and locals.

The Merrion Hotel – Dublin

Set in a row of beautiful Georgian townhouses, The Merrion is a 5-star hotel in Dublin, Ireland, 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.

Dublin or Belfast BelCity min
Dublin or Belfast | Belfast is a historic city.

Dublin or Belfast: Who Wins this Round? Which city has the Best accommodation?

Whether you’re drawn to the bustling streets of Dublin or Belfast’s historical allure, both cities offer a plethora of fantastic accommodation options. From luxurious 5-star hotels to trendy boutique options, there’s something for every tourist.

The choice ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the kind of experience you’re seeking. However, we think that Belfast wins in this area. The historic appeal of the Titanic Hotel helped the city gain the edge over Dcityn.

Dublin or Belfast: The Final Decision

Dublin and Belfast are two popular destinations on the Emerald Isle, with more to offer than you could ever imagine. Each Irish city provides unique stories to uncover and adventures to be had. You’ll be captivated by the culture and history found in both cities, making it hard to decide where to visit first.

If we had to decide, we believe that Belfast has really proved itself as a great tourist destination in the past couple of years. Home to the award-winning Titanic Museum and the filming locations of Game of Thrones series, Belfast has taken the world by storm.

More than ever, people are visiting Belfast over Dublin, and we certainly see why! However, that doesn’t mean you should forget about Dublin completely, as it’s still a wonderful Irish city that will capture your heart on any visit.

Which would you instead visit, Dublin or Belfast? Share what you love about each city in the comments below!

Dublin or Belfast DubCity min
Dublin or Belfast | Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland.

Can’t Decide Between Dublin or Belfast? Choose Both!

If you can’t decide between visiting Dublin or Belfast, why not plan a holiday to both cities? They are relatively close, and public transport across Ireland is frequent and reasonably priced. Below, we’ve explored the different ways to visit both Dublin and Belfast on one trip:

How far apart are Belfast and Dublin?

Dublin and Belfast are approximately 141 miles (227 kilometres) apart by road, depending on the specific route. Although this may seem far, it’s not! If you are spending a week on the Emerald Isle, you can make a day trip out of visiting Dublin or Belfast.

How to Get From Dublin to Belfast By Car

The most direct route to Belfast from Dublin by car is via the M1 motorway. The journey typically takes around 2 hours, depending on traffic conditions. Before reaching Belfast, this route takes you north from Dublin, through Drogheda and Dundalk.

Along the way, you will drive by many scenic areas. If you have the time, why not make a few stops on your road trip?

Dublin to Belfast Coastal Route

The coastal route from Dublin to Belfast offers travellers a scenic journey through some of Ireland’s east coast’s most picturesque landscapes and charming towns. While it’s a longer drive than the direct M1 motorway route, the coastal road provides a more leisurely and visually rewarding experience.

Dublin or Belfast BelHall min
Dublin or Belfast | Belfast City Hall

How to Get From Dublin to Belfast By Train

Irish Rail and Translink operate the Enterprise Train service between Dublin’s Connolly Station and Belfast’s Lanyon Place Station. The journey usually takes 2 hours, and multiple trains provide this route daily.

The comfortable trains offer free Wi-Fi, power sockets, and onboard dining. Plus, guests can admire the scenic vistas out of the train’s windows and do not need to worry about driving.

How to Get From Dublin to Belfast By Bus

Several bus companies, including Bus Éireann and Aircoach, operate services between Dublin and Belfast multiple times daily. Depending on the specific service and number of stops, the journey can take 2 to 3 hours.

Whether you 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 significant events.

Dublin Belfast Tours

If you want a guided experience of Dublin and Belfast, consider taking a group 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 politcity’sites.

Some tours might also include a trip to nearby attractions, such as the Giant’s Causeway or Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, though this makes for a more extended day. Specific themed tours are also available, including a journey across Ireland to visit many filming locations for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Popular operators of Dublin Belfast tours include Paddywagon Tours and Wild Rover Tours.

Dublin or Belfast | Bus Tours

Dublin or Belfast: Discover More Across Ireland

Both Dublin and Belfast offer unique and captivating experiences for tourists, making it challenging to declare one as the ultimate choice definitively. Each city boasts distinctive city, history, and cultural attractions, catering to diverse interests and preferences.

Ultimately, choosing between visiting Dublin or Belfast depends on what you seek from your travel experience. Dublin’s lively atmosphere and bustling streets may appeal to those seeking a more cosmopolitan experience. At the same time, Belfast’s deep-rooted history and natural beauty might captivate those seeking a more tranquil and historically significant destination.

No matter whether you visit Dublin or Belfast, both cities offer a warm Irish welcome and a chance to explore the unique culture and heritage of this enchanting island. So, consider your interests and preferences, and plan your visit accordingly, as both cities promise an unforgettable journey through the heart of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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 Castles to Enchanting Landscapes

If you want to see the attractions throughout Dublin or Belfast, check out our video guides on our official YouTube channel!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *