When we think Ireland Dublin is the first city that comes to mind, isn't it? Then we may think of the Connemara landscapes, the rugged beaches, the moors, or the green hills.
But Belfast is a destination on your list? The capital of Northern Ireland it is much more than a troubled city, something gray and with a sad history. For some time now he has been reborn and today it is offered as a very interesting tourist destination. Let's see what Belfast, the capital of Ulster, has for us.
The story tells us that the territory of Belfast has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and ancient ruins are found on the outskirts of the city as witnesses. During the Middle Ages it was not an important city, just a small settlement that saw the construction of several castles from the XNUMXth century onwards.
But how did the English come to live here? Easy, they "planted" them. Through a process called the Ulster plantation the English crown mobilized hundreds of people, English Protestants and Scots, and brought them here. In the following centuries the city grew and became more and more industrial, just remember that in the shipyards of Belfast the Titanic was built.
Later, the history of Irish independence divided the city and in the 20s it became the capital of Northern Ireland. The problems did not stop and that is why the city has a tragic history of attacks and fights. And fame of a gray and sad city.
What attractions to visit in Belfast
I think it is a good idea to start with everything that has to do with the Titanic. The city knows how to take advantage of its link with the ship so you can start with Titanic Belfast since it is steps from the center.
The building is striking, six stories tall and with nine interpretive galleries so you can see, feel, smell and hear all the stories of the famous ship, but also of the city where it was built and the men who built it. There are no guided tours, you go on your own, and The tour ends with a visit to the last remaining White Star Company ship, the SS Nomadic.
The ticket per adult costs £ 17 and includes the visit to the Nomadic, but you can pay only 7, 50 if you sign up for Titanic Belfast Late Saver Ticket to make the visit just an hour before it closes. And if you want to have tea in luxury you can do it on Sunday afternoons in a replica of the ship with the famous ladder included, for 24 pounds.
And I have two more attractions related to the Titanic: you can try the ship's menu, the last to serve the fateful night, signing up for the Exclusively Private Dining, at the Rayanne House, or do a boat ride through the harbor and see where the ship was designed, built and launched.
Leaving the history of the most famous shipwreck, you have to tour the city to appreciate it. You can rent a bike and join the Belfast City Bike Tours, with local guides who take you to 30 points of interest leaving on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 am at a cost of £ 20 per person. They are offered by Norm's Bikes.
Obviously, you can also do the more traditional double-decker bus tour, the Belfast Sightseeing hop on hop off. It has 48 hour tickets and is super practical. While pedaling you will surely pass one of the most iconic buildings in Belfast: the Town hall.
It is an elegant construction from 1906 for which you can make a free guided tour. Nor should we forget the Belfast castle: It is on the hills of Cavehill Country Park at 120 meters high and has fabulous views of the lake and the city. You can even eat in this elegant stone mansion, the restaurant is open every day from 11 am to 5 pm and until 9 pm from Thursday to Saturday.
If you like living the city you can go through it St. George Market dating from the late nineteenth century although it has been in operation since the seventeenth century. Friday, Saturday and Sunday the fair opens and is one of the best places to walk, see, shop and be with local people. There is a free bus that runs every 20 minutes between the city and the market, starting at 8 am.
Less naive but also interesting is the Crumlin Road Prison, a jail from 1846 that operated for a century and a half. It was inhabited by criminals but also by political prisoners and there were escapes, marriages, births, revolts and executions.
The guided tour lasts about 70 minutes and the place is open every day except some dates. It costs 9 pounds. To get more involved with politics and history, I advise you to do a tour in a black cab, the classic British taxis. It takes you to know the famous war murals which Belfast is also famous for.
And now yes, you will know that today War of Thrones is recorded around here so there are several agencies that offer walks to the recording sets: Robb's Camp, Winterfell, the old ruined abbey where Robb swears allegiance to the King of the North, the ancient forest where the Starks find a dying wolf and its young, and many more.
Tours usually start at 8:30 am, include a stop for lunch, and finish at 6 pm. Other tours offer visit Castle Ward, Winterfell, 40 minutes from the city, they lend you clothes and you have a archery class masterful and do the tour of the set by bike.
There are two tours to do: the Robb's Trail and the Tywin's Trail, an hour and a quarter for the first, two and a quarter for the second, both include 20 stops and cost 27 pounds per person. And there is more, You can spend the night in the Winterfell forest for £ 195 per couple.
If it rains you can, instead, visit the huge modern Titanic Studios where the HBO series is also recorded. As you can see, from the Titanic and from Game of Thrones there are looooooong.
Finally, if you like to attend events, screenings, markets, festivals, I tell you that Belfast is host to several throughout the year. It all depends on when you go, but at Christmas turn on many lights and there is a market in the City Hall that is beautiful, on Halloween there are fireworks and it even organizes a Restaurant Week in October.
The truth is that if you go to Dublin there is no reason not to visit Belfast since the distance between the two cities is just over 160 kilometers. You may go by train or bus, but the former is a more expensive means of transport. Bus Eireann and Ulsterbus are the companies.