Since I was studying abroad in Dublin, I knew that I’d have to make a trip up to Belfast at least once. There’s so much history in Northern Ireland and I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, so it just had to happen. Plus, it’s one of the best places to visit in the UK that aren’t London and one of the most romantic places in the UK. Here’s how I chose to spend my weekend, which I highly recommend!
Since Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, it’s not that difficult to get to and it’s easily connected! I was coming up from Dublin so I took the train from Dublin Connolly station to Belfast. It costs about €38 for a round trip ticket, which isn’t bad at all. Plus, you get some great views out your window! I highly suggest sitting on the right side of the train so that you can see all the coastal views.
Another option is to take a bus which is a relatively cheap option. However, I’ve had my own mishaps with how unreliable buses are in the past, so I’m not sure I’d suggest this option unless you have a lot of time on your hands or you really need to spend very little money. You could also rent a car and drive there yourself if you’re somewhere else in Ireland, which could get you some pretty lovely views, but might cost more. If you are flying into Belfast, be sure to fly into Belfast International Airport.
Now, there are a lot of options of places to stay in Belfast. Some hotel options include Jury’s Inn Belfast (£69-100), Hotel ibis Belfast City Center (£47), or the Titanic Hotel Belfast (£99-149), which are all centrally located. You could also stay at a hostel if you wanted. My friend spent the night at the Belfast International Youth Hostel and said it wasn’t that bad.
However, one thing that I always suggest is to double-check with the prices of Airbnb. Sometimes you can snag an amazing deal for an Airbnb, plus then you can also save money and cook your own meals! Since I was going to Belfast with myself and two friends, this is the route we chose. We stayed at a great Airbnb near Queen’s University and it was within walking distance of almost everything we wanted to see!
If you’d rather get around yourself, you could also consider doing a Northern Ireland road trip.
We woke up around 7:30 and walked over to one of the Wetherspoon’s branches: The Bridge House. I’m honestly not sure what opinion British or Irish people have on Wetherspoon’s, but if you’re looking for something cheap and okay to eat when you’re in a rush, I think that it’s a great option. The Bridge House is only a short 7 minute walk from the Irish Tour Tickets pick-up location, which is great. Breakfast didn’t cost any more than £7 and I was able to get a coffee and a delicious breakfast. After eating, we made our way over to the pick-up location. All we had to do was walk into the Irish Tour Tickets office, where they directed us to our bus and showed our tickets. It was so easy! Then… we were off.
This is such a great way to spend your day. Your whole day will luckily be planned out for you from 8:45 to around 6:45. It’s great! The day starts at Carnlough Harbour, which was featured in season six of Game of Thrones. Next, there’s a stop at Cushendun Caves, which is my favorite part of the tour. This area is absolutely beautiful and is fuel for your camera!
Though lunch is not included, the tour stops at Fullerton Arms Restaurant where you can eat Game of Thrones inspired food! Everything costs about £10-15. Plus, there’s a room that you can get photos with the Iron Throne in! It was a lot of fun.
If you’re interested in learning more about Fullerton Arms, check out this link. Not only is it a restaurant, but you can also stay at this location if you’d like!
In the afternoon, the tour makes stops at Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, Larrybane Limestone Quarry, Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, and the Dark Hedges. That’s right… there’s so many stops! Make sure you bring your camera, because you’re going to be snapping pictures absolutely everywhere.
My friends and I made a quick walk to a local grocery store and picked up a bunch of food to make for dinner. We ended up having spaghetti, dinner rolls, and meat sauce. What a treat! If you stay at an Airbnb, it’s super easy to save money by cooking your own meals, which is one of my suggestions!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know there are better places to eat for breakfast, but this place was closest to where we were staying. We also knew that it was affordable since we’ve eaten there before in Dublin. If you’re looking for a more local experience, try checking out Alan’s Causeway Cafe or Established Coffee, which both have high ratings on Yelp. Unfortunately I’ve never eaten at either of these places though.
Belfast City Hall is a must see when visiting Belfast. If you’re looking to go inside, you can go between the hours of 8:30 – 5, 7 days a week. There are also public tours at 11 AM, 2 PM and 3 PM Monday – Friday or 12 PM, 2 PM and 3 PM on the weekends. I unfortunately was in a bit of a rush so I didn’t have time to go inside at all, but I loved looking at the architecture of this building from the outside.
If you’re interested in the history of this building, it first opened in 1906 after Belfast was finally considered a city by Queen Victoria in 1888. The building is Baroque and was made out of Portland stone, and cost almost 128 million pounds.
The Cathedral Quarter is named such due to being the area surrounding Saint Anne’s Cathedral. It’s known for its nightlife, but also for its street art! Since I came to explore during the day, I searched around for some beautiful street art in the area. There’s also a lot of fun coffee shops, pubs, and other places to eat along cobble stone streets that are extremely picturesque. I easily spent about an hour just walking up and down these tiny cobbled streets.
This clock tower is in Queen’s Square and was finished in 1869. To this day, it’s one of Belfast’s top landmarks. The clock tower was made in order to memorialize Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband. One of the main reasons that everyone goes to see it today is because it actually has a slight lean to it! It’s leaning because it was built on top of a marshy ground and soon began to lean four feet on one side. The lean isn’t super noticeable though unless you know about it. Unlike most towers in a city, this is not one that you can go into and climb to the top.
The Salmon of Knowledge actually comes from Irish mythology, but you can see it for real in Belfast! Supposedly you can give the fish a kiss and get wisdom. It’s located right along River Lagan, near the Titanic Museum. Some people also refer to it as “The Big Fish” but I think that the Salmon of Knowledge sounds so much more interesting. It’s really breathtaking in person – if you get up close to it you can see a whole bunch of details in its ceramic tiles. Each tile actually shows some part of the history of Belfast city, which is awesome. The sculpture was built in 1999 in celebration of fish returning to Belfast’s river.
Since it is now the 21st Century, you can actually text the Salmon of Knowledge! There’s signs posted everywhere near the fish and he shares his wisdom through you. Of course I texted him and it was quite fun!
The Titanic was actually built in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1911! There are so many Titanic sights to see in Belfast because of this. Unfortunately, since I was on a time crunch, I actually didn’t get to visit any of these things, but you can easily fit these into your day. The top place to visit is Titanic Belfast in Titanic Quarter, which is the sight to see if you’re looking for titanic sights. Tickets are £17.50 a person.
Other sights include TITANICa (£9 a person) and the Titanic Dock (£5 a person). If you’re really looking to immerse yourself, you could also do a Titanic tour, like Belfast City Bike Tours or even a segway tour (both tours are £30 a person)! City Hall is also considered a Titanic Sight because the man who created the Titanic also helped a lot with the building ideas behind City Hall.
This is one sculpture that you can’t help but see while walking in downtown Belfast. It is one of the largest sculptures in Belfast too and is located in Thanksgiving Square. The Beacon of Hope is actually based on a design by a woman from Texas. It was built in 2006 and features a woman holding the ring of thanksgiving. At her base is a globe symbolizing peace, harmony, and thanksgiving, and its surface even marks the many places that people from Belfast have migrated to and come from.
St. George’s Market is one of the best markets in the United Kingdom from what I’ve heard! It’s also one of Belfast’s oldest places, as there has been a market at this sight since 1604. The building was built in the 1890’s and the market has been held in there ever since. This is a great place to go to especially for a quick eat. There’s amazing macaroni and cheese, sandwiches, and more. Almost everything you could imagine for food is at this market, and there was live music! On the plus side, from what I’ve seen, almost every booth took cash or card. This is also a great place to look for any Belfast souvenirs.
After exploring St. George’s Market and having a quick lunch, my friends and I went across the street to Caffe Nero. My one friend was flying back to London where she was studying abroad, so we chatted over some chai teas and lattes and soon had to part ways. We wouldn’t be seeing her again until we visited her in London later in the semester!
After we had coffee, we headed home for Dublin! This itinerary was a great way to spend the weekend, and visiting not only Belfast, but also exploring the rest of Northern Ireland is something I highly suggest.