A nation that keeps one eye on the past is wise. A nation that keeps two eyes on the past is blind.
A quote on Montgomery Street, Belfast.
Belfast is a vibrant, creative, cultural city with so much to offer. I spent a couple of months living and working in the city and loved every minute. Word is spreading about the Belfast charm and it is quickly becoming a go-to destination for a weekend break in the UK. The city is well worth spending a couple of days exploring; for a relatively small city there is just so much to do (and I've not even included any of the incredible day trips on this list).
1. Go on a Political Tour
Belfast has a troubled past, the legacy of which can be found adorning the walls all over the city. Hop into any black cab in the city centre and they will be happy to take you on a political tour (I don't know if it is part of the training for taxi drivers here, but they all seem to be amazingly knowledgeable!) £10/person.
2. Visit St George's Market at the weekend
The famous St George's market is well worth a visit. I spent many a Saturday afternoon here perusing the local crafts and struggling to decide which stand to get my lunch from. All to the sound of talented local musicians.
12-20 East Bridge St, Belfast BT1 3NQ
3. Have a burrito at Boojum
Anyone who's anyone in Belfast knows about Boojum. What started off as a little independent restaurant on Botanic Avenue now has three restaurants across the city and has expanded to both Galway and Dublin. Go with a very empty stomach.
67-69 Botanic Ave, Belfast BT7 1JL (my favourite one..)
4. Go for a Pint at the Duke of York
The Duke of York is a traditional Irish bar based in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter. In good weather you can sit out on the red benches on the cobbled streets and have the craic with the locals. One of Belfast's finest.
7-11 Commercial Ct, Belfast BT1 2NB
5. Visit the Mummy at the Ulster Museum
The Ulster museum is situated in the tranquil Botanic Garden's near Queen's University. It's full of the city's fascinating history and even has a really a real mummy on display.
Botanic Gardens, Belfast BT9 5AB
6. Go for a coffee at Common Grounds
This is my favourite coffee joint in Belfast. Situated in the Queen's Quarter, they serve up a great cup of coffee and a delightful selection of cakes and brunch items (I found out courgette cake is a thing and it's a great). Best of all, is its charitable heart. This non-profit social enterprise has donated thousands to charities, and many of the employees are volunteers, most of whom are refugees in the process of seeking asylum.
12-24 UNIVERSITY AVENUE, BELFAST, BT7 1GY
7. Take a walk around the Botanic Gardens
A lovely outdoor spot in the University area, perfect for a lazy day in the sun. Plenty of green space and a colourful array of trees, flowers and plants growing in the area.
College Park, Botanic Ave, Belfast BT7 1LP
8. Go for Afternoon Tea on the Titanic
Definitely a unique Belfast experience. You can go for Afternoon Tea in a replica of Titanic's Grand Suite (complete with string quartet). This is only available on Sunday's, so be sure to book in advance.
1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, BT3 9EP
9. Catch a film at the Queen's Film Theatre
At the heart of Northern Ireland's film industry, the Queen's Film theatre shows an array of movies - from blockbusters to independents. The best cinematic experience in Belfast.
20 University Square, Northern Ireland, Belfast, Belfast BT7 1PA
10. Eat a Cuban sandwich at Cuban Sandwich Factory
Another local Belfast eatery that I am particularly fond of, the classic Cuban sandwich is just amazing. The Cuban owner has been known to put on dance shows at random too, they have a stall every weekend at St George's Market too.
27 Fountain St, Belfast BT1 5EA
11. Have a classy cocktail in the Merchant Hotel
The Merchant Hotel is the heart of the Cathedral Quarter. Even if a stay in the hotel is not quite in your budget, it's well worth a look round just to take in all the Art-Deco opulence. Anyone can stop by for a cocktail in the bar.
16 Skipper St, Belfast BT1 2DZ
12. Take a walk around Shaw's Bridge
Shaw's Bridge is the biggest park in Belfast, it hardly seems like a park really - it is more like a hiking trail! It's hard to believe you are in the middle of a city when walking through it. Great for dog watching too, if you're into that.
Shaw's Bridge, Castlereagh, Belfast BT9 5YN
13. See City Hall at night
Such a magnificent centre piece in the city, and it looks even more impressive at night when it's lit up.
Donegall Square, Belfast BT1 5GS
14. Visit Milltown Cemetary
A moving place to visit, the Milltown Cemetary is the burial sight of many IRA volunteers and hunger strikers, including Bobby Sands. The 1981 hunger strike was a defining moment in the struggle between the IRA and the British government.
546 Falls Rd, Belfast BT12 6EQ
15. Have a pizza night at Opera Pizza
Opera. Possibly my favourite pizza joint.. in the whole world? All the casual ambience, BYO and the pizza's are superb. If you're around on a Tuesday night, it's buy one get one free!
33 Dublin Rd, Belfast BT2 7HD
16. Go to the Christmas Markets
This is a time specific one, but if you are thinking of going to Belfast around Christmas, try and get there for the Christmas markets. They are among the best I have been too, and are ranked as one of the top in the UK. The look really spectacular at night against the lit-up city hall.
Belfast City Hall, Donegal Square. BT1 5GS
17. See the city from Cave Hill
Belfast is surrounded by hills, which makes for some excellent vantage points. If you fancy a city hike, then Cave Hill is a great one to do and gives you some really spectacular Belfast scenery. Read more about it here.
18. Hit the bars!
Belfast is a great place for a night out, everyone is so friendly, you'll always meet someone new and interesting. There are loads of great bars across the city, I particularly enjoy what I call the 'Belfast labyrinth'; huge bars, with at least six or seven rooms in each (beer gardens, cocktail bars, restaurant, club rooms, etc). There are a number of these, check out Lavery's, Filthy McNasty's, The Hudson and The National. They are all a great spot for a night out and a chance to mingle with the lovely Belfast locals. I'm also a massive fan of The Perch, a cosy rooftop bar which offer great cocktails.
Lavery's: 12-18 Bradbury Pl, BT7 1RS, Filthy's: 45 Dublin Rd, BT2 7HD, The Hudson: 10-14 Gresham St, BT1 1JN, The National: 62 High St, BT1 2BE. The Perch: 42 Franklin St, Belfast BT2.
(Note: all bars in Belfast stop serving at 1am)
19. Visit the Big Ceramic Fish
At first, I thought it seemed quite strange that a big fish sculpture seemed such a big deal. However, it is a really interesting piece of art. Constructed from ceramic tiles, with each tile depicting something from the history of the city. You can stop by on the way to the Titanic Museum.
Donegall Quay, Belfast.
20. Get arty.
There are plenty of opportunities to see art across the city; from the abundance of street art throughout the centre to both local and international exhibits in The MAC. The Naughton Gallery at Queen's is always worth checking out as well.
MAC: 10 Exchange St, BT1 2LS.
The Naughton Gallery: University Rd, BT7