Summary of content of this post
Welcome to Belfast! The capital of Northern Ireland is undoubtedly one of the obligatory stops on any route around the emerald island, not so much for its monuments or museums, but for the history that can be breathed in its streets. Moreover, Belfast is a city that has evolved perfectly after its past related to bombs and terrorist attacks. So in this post we want to show you what to see in Belfast in one day 😉
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If you want to read more information about our route in Ireland you can find it here: complete guide of Ireland.
We visited Belfast on the last stage of our route through Ireland and spent the night there the day before. If you ask us what to see in Belfast, these would undoubtedly be the places we recommend and which you should not miss. Our recommendation, however, is that you walk its streets, get lost in the hidden history between its buildings, discover its graffiti and the stories behind it, and immerse yourself in its bars and restaurants.
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Can you visit Belfast in one day?
Let’s see, no, you can’t. In a single day you won’t be able to soak up all the good things Belfast has to offer, but it will serve to make a first contact with the most important points of interest and make you want to visit it a second time. So you’ll have a perfect excuse to come back 😉
What to see in Belfast: Cathedral Quarter
At the end of the post we will include a section where we will talk about things you can see and do if you are lucky enough to spend more than one day in the city.
A little bit of Belfast history
Belfast, just like Derry, which we talked about in the blog, is a city full of history, and that is something you can breathe in its streets. But… what’s that story? Northern Ireland’s largest city (and its capital) has been the focus of news stories from around the world because of a long-standing territorial (and religious) conflict between Ireland and the United Kingdom. A conflict known among the locals as ‘The Troubles’ or los problemas, in Spanish.
What to see in Belfast: Peace Wall
During the second half of the 20th century, Belfast suffered many violent episodes and terrorist bombings because of the ideological differences between Protestant unionists, who wanted Northern Ireland to be part of the United Kingdom, and Catholic Republicans, who wanted Northern Ireland to belong to the Republic of Ireland, independent of the United Kingdom.
So serious has this conflict been that Belfast had its own ‘Berlin Wall’ to separate the city’s Protestant and Catholic quarters. A wall that is still standing today, and is known as the Peace Line or Wall of Peace.
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The city of Belfast dates back to the early 17th century and its name comes from the Gaelic word Beal Feirste, which means ‘sandy ford at the mouth of the river’. During the 19th century, the city experienced a brutal Industrial Revolution (centred mainly on textile factories and shipyards) which caused its population to grow from 20,000 in 1800 to 400,000 in 1914 (more than Dublin itself at the time), just before the outbreak of World War I.
Its privileged location made it the ideal enclave for the naval industry and it was there that the Titanic was built in 1912. At that time, the Harland and Wolff company had the largest shipyard in the world, which is soon to be said.
What to see in Belfast: Belfast murals
Between 1968 and 1998 (the year in which the Good Friday Agreement was reached), the city was submerged in an infinite number of violent confrontations, murders and terrorist attacks due to the conflicts between Republicans and Unionists. Unfortunately, all these episodes put Belfast on the international map, but once peace was achieved, the city received a lot of foreign investment that made it a perfect place to spend a few days sightseeing and discovering that history that you can’t always be proud of.
What to see in Belfast in one day
As I was saying a little earlier, we spent the night in Belfast on our seventh stage route through Ireland and the morning of the eighth stage. It was a pity we couldn’t enjoy the evening in Belfast because we weren’t feeling well at all. So we went to rest at our accommodation and got up very early the next day to make the most of our time in the city.
If you ask us what to see in Belfast, these would undoubtedly be the places we recommend and which you should not miss. To make it easier for you, we’ve collected them all (not just the ones you can see in a day) on this map, including several cool places to stop for lunch:
Remember that you can use this map on your mobile to make it much more useful once you are there
Just save a copy on your Google Drive and open it on your mobile whenever you need it.
Even if it is only for its history, you must visit this city because it is very worthwhile. We got up very early that day and spent the first part of the day touring the most important points of interest in the city. I wish we’d had more time, because Belfast has so much to offer.
Free tour of Belfast: what to see in Belfast in two hours
Without a doubt, we find free tours a great way to make a first contact when you first visit a city (or if you haven’t visited it for a long time). So if you have very little time to visit Belfast, like us, and you are not fluent in English, you can book it from here, it is completely in Spanish. This free tour is a wonderful introduction to the history and the most important monuments of the city, so our recommendation is that if you can and feel like it, do it.
What to see in Belfast: Peace Wall
If you have more time, another free tour on the mysteries and legends of the city is also available. It is also completely in Spanish and is super well rated by users so it can be a great option.
But come on, now you can see and do everything in Belfast in one day:
Peace Wall, a must see in Belfast
And we started with this place because it is undoubtedly the point of interest that most impacted us in Belfast, and I dare say of the entire trip through Ireland. Sometimes it is difficult for us to understand certain episodes of our recent history.
Let’s put ourselves in a situation: one neighborhood, two streets (Falls Road and Shankill Road), one of them Catholic and the other of Protestant. In the hardest moments of the conflict between Unionists and Republicans, walls are built all over the city to separate the two sides. We’re talking about 110 walls in total that currently cover about 34 kilometers. Walls built to prevent neighbors from killing each other.
What to see in Belfast: Peace WallWhat to see in Belfast: Peace WallWhat to see in Belfast: Peace WallWhat to see in Belfast: Peace Wall
The Peace Wall or Peace Line, which is between Falls Road and Shankill Road, is the longest section still standing. Six-metre high walls, built with cement and steel, which were erected as a ‘temporary’ measure from 1969 but are still standing today, 40 years later.
And really, we were very impressed to walk around and get to the area where the streets communicate with two huge doors full of spikes at the top. The most interesting part of this visit, which was hard for us, is that it brings you very close to a conflict and to a part of the history of Ireland and the United Kingdom that was less known to us than we first thought.
What to see in Belfast: Peace Wall
Very much in line with the Peace Wall, all over the city you will find a lot of graffiti and murals, some related to the conflict and with a strong political background and others not. In the streets of Belfast there is debate about what to do with them, as some of them contain or explicitly incite violence. On this website you can find more information and maps of all the murals in Belfast, which we advance to you since they are one million.
What to see in Belfast: graffiti in Belfast
We have included in our map all the areas where there are important murals, but we leave you this other map in case you want to take a look at it too.
When visiting Belfast, it’s super typical to visit this urban art area of Belfast in a black taxi where a local tells you the history of the city while you visit the most important murals. You can also take a guided tour on foot, which, as a plus, is in Spanish. We made the visit on our own, and the truth is that we regretted it a little, because we believe that having the point of view of someone who lives there would have been much richer.
Cathedral Quarter and Commercial Court
And leaving the ‘troubled’ part of the city behind, we dive into one of the liveliest areas of Belfast. This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting areas to see in Belfast. Not only because of its beautiful cobbled streets, but because it is the best place to live in Belfast and its nightlife. It was a pity that we visited it in the morning, because we read that it is a great place to have a beer in the afternoon-evening.
What to see in Belfast: Cathedral Quarter and Commercial CourtWhat to see in Belfast: Cathedral Quarter and Commercial CourtWhat to see in Belfast: Cathedral Quarter and Commercial CourtWhat to see in Belfast: Cathedral Quarter and Commercial Court
Red brick warehouses, charming cobbled alleys, look out bars and restaurants, inner courtyards full of murals and urban art… For us Cathedral Quarter and Commercial Court are two of the super must-sees in Belfast.
Very close to Commercial Court is St Anne’s Cathedral or Belfast Cathedral. The most curious thing about this cathedral, apart from the fact that a huge spire similar to The Spire in Dublin serves as a tower (known as The Spire of Hope), is that it is not only used as a place of worship, but also for events and gala dinners held inside. Funny, isn’t it?
What to see in Belfast: St Anne’s CathedralWhat to see in Belfast: St Anne’s Cathedral
The construction of Belfast Cathedral began in 1899, but it was not until 1981 that it reached the appearance it has today.
Visiting the interior of the cathedral costs 5 GBP per person and is open to the public at the following times:
Monday to Saturday from 9:00 to 17:00.
Sunday from 13:00 to 15:00.
Albert Clock Tower
Built in 1867 in honor of Queen Victoria’s husband, this clock tower is slightly reminiscent of two European sites. Firstly to London, for its architecture similar to that of Big Ben. And secondly, to Pisa in Italy, because it’s slightly inclined.
What to see in Belfast: Albert Memorial Clock Tower
The Crown Bar
Can you imagine having a pint while you’re enjoying a museum? It sounds weird, but in Belfast it’s possible. The Crown Bar is not only one of the oldest and most iconic bars in the city, but is also protected by the National Trust (the body that protects most of the UK’s historic sites).
What to see in Belfast: The Crown BarWhat to see in Belfast: The Crown Bar
Opened in 1825, this pub is like a doorway to the past. And not only its interior, full of wood and antique lamps. The Victorian-style facade is really beautiful.
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We don’t drink anything, but we’ve read that for such an emblematic place, having a beer there is not that expensive. In fact, they say it gets crowded in the evenings. No wonder!
Do you feel like partying but don’t know where the best atmosphere or the best venues are? If you feel like it, you can book this party tour of Belfast where you will visit the most mythical pubs in the city accompanied by locals.
The official centre of Belfast is in City Hall, the town hall building. Built in 1906, with white stone and Italian marble, this building and its stained glass windows in the lobby were the result of the city’s success during the Industrial Revolution.
It is possible to take a 45 minute guided tour inside the building where you can also sit in the mayor’s chair. They do three tours a day and cannot be booked in advance. You will have to go there 15 minutes before the visit starts and the groups will fill up until all the places are covered. You can find more information here.
What to see in Belfast: Belfast City Hall
If you prefer, you can visit the building on your own, but there will be areas you cannot enter. It is open every day until 17:00, but from Monday to Friday it opens at 8:30 and on weekends at 10:00. Ah! And both ways of visiting the building are free 😉
The whole area around City Hall is perfect for walking and admiring the architecture of the city.
Grand Opera House
Close to City Hall and The Crown is another of the city’s most important examples of Victorian architecture: the Grand Opera House. This theatre, which was inaugurated in 1895, was seriously affected by the IRA bombs in 1991 and 1993.
What to see in Belfast: Grand Opera House
The only way to visit it inside is to buy a ticket for one of its shows.
Entries, one of the most curious things to see in Belfast
Do you remember when we told you about the lovely alleys of Edinburgh? Well, in Belfast they have something very similar, but instead of being called closes, they are called entries. In this area, near Victoria Square, you’ll find a few. For example: Pottinger’s Entry, Joy’s Entry, Crown Entry or Winecellar Entry, which houses Belfast’s oldest tavern, the White’s Tavern.
What to see in Belfast: dive into the curious entries
These curious nooks and crannies fill up with atmosphere when the light falls and you will find many of the most interesting pubs in Belfast.
St. George Market
Another must-see in Belfast is St. George Market. If you are a regular reader of Comiviajeros you will know that we love markets and we always recommend that you visit them in any city you visit. But this is the oldest functioning market in Ireland. It began to be used in 1896 and since then it has not stopped the daily life of the Belfast locals.
What to see in Belfast: St George MarketWhat to see in Belfast: St George Market
If you are lucky enough to visit Belfast at the weekend, you can’t miss its regional craft market, flowers, agricultural products, second-hand items… Without doubt, one of the most curious places to see in Belfast.
The market is only open on Fridays from 6:00 to 15:00, on Saturdays from 9:00 to 15:00 and on Sundays from 10:00 to 16:00.
It is not that we have left this point of interest until the end because it is less important than the others. In fact, the Titanic is part of the history of the city of Belfast, but you know that we are not very much of museums and we had to give it up for lack of time.
In any case, we have read that it is a super interesting and interactive museum, so no doubt when we return to Belfast we will visit it. But we didn’t miss the visit to the building from the outside, because the truth is that it is really impressive. Do you know that those ‘peaks’ that you see in the photo represent the bow of the boat at real size?
What to see in Belfast: Titanic Belfast
Inside the museum you can discover the full history of this ill-fated ship, from its construction in the Belfast shipyards to its sinking in the Atlantic, step by step and in detail.
The entrance to the Titanic Museum costs 19 GBP per person and as the opening hours are quite variable depending on the season, I leave you all the info here.
If you want to visit the museum avoiding the queues that form, especially in high season, you can buy your ticket without queues here. For a little more, you can take this guided tour in Spanish to the museum, where besides making the visit, they will explain all the secrets of the most famous ship in the world.
A whole neighbourhood has grown up around the place where the Titanic was built, where new buildings coexist with the old warehouses and workshops of the shipyard industry. In fact, you can visit the exact spot where the world’s most famous ship came to life: the Titanic’s Dock. For 5 GBP per person you can visit the Thompson Graving Dam facility on a self-guided tour that you can book here.
In this area you can also find the SS Nomadic, a ship that if it spoke could tell great stories: it was a ferry of the Titanic itself and other large ships, it lived on the Seine as a floating Parisian restaurant, it was confiscated in both world wars and today it is a museum that can be visited by paying 7 GBP or showing the entrance to the Titanic Museum.
What to see in Belfast: SS Nomadic
If you feel like continuing to visit ships that also house museums, the Titanic Quarter also features the HMS Caroline, the last surviving Royal Navy ship from World War I. A visit to the interior costs 10.75 GBP per person.
What to see in Belfast if you have more time
Donegall Street Place. If you feel like shopping, this is an ideal area to do so. This is also the location of Victoria Square, Belfast’s most modern shopping centre. You can also climb its glass dome and admire the views of the city.
University zone. In the southern part of the city is the Queen’s University Ulster Museum, so if you have more time in the city, these can be interesting visits.
Belfast Castle. If you like castles that look like something out of a Disney story, you can’t miss this castle. Most of the interior of the castle is closed to the public, but even if only the exterior can be visited, it is very worthwhile.
Cave Hill Country Park. From this park north of Belfast you get the best views of the city. They say on clear days you can even see Scotland.
Botanical Garden. If you have plenty of time in the city, the Belfast Botanic Garden and its Palm House can be a great option for a walk. And besides… It’s free!
Ulster Museum. In this museum you will find a wide range of history: from Egyptian mummies, to Troubles, to Iron Age objects and numerous pieces of Irish and European art. And besides… It’s free!
Old Crumlin Road Gaol Prison. Built in the mid-19th century, this former prison can be visited for £10.80 (if you buy the ticket online) to get an idea of what life was like for prisoners at that time.
Stormont. The Northern Ireland Parliament building offers free guided tours, but if you don’t have much time, you can also come and visit its impressive white neoclassical facade.
What to see in Belfast: interesting excursions from Belfast
Seventh stage of our route through Ireland: Carrickfergus Castle
Getting around Belfast
The route we have proposed for this day in Belfast can be done walking perfectly, although, yes, you have to like walking and you have to get up a little early. Remember that walking is how you discover the most special corners of cities 😉
What to see in Belfast: Belfast murals
If you are going to spend more days in Belfast and need to get to other areas you can do it in the following transports:
Bus. If you’re moving around central Belfast, each trip will cost you £2, but there are unlimited day passes available which significantly reduce the price of the trips. You can get more info here.
Bicycle. Downtown Belfast is pretty flat, so you won’t have any trouble getting around on your bike. For 6 GBP, you can take Belfastbikes for 3 days in a row, so it can be a great option.
If, like us, you intend to move around Belfast by car, you should know that parking in the city centre is chargeable. You must use the parking meters from Monday to Saturday from 8:00 to 18:00.
Where to eat in Belfast
It was a pity not to spend more time in Belfast, as the afternoon we arrived we couldn’t go out for dinner, and the next day we left before lunch, but we have left you in our map several places that have caught our attention, and then I leave you other interesting options for lunch and dinner in Belfast:
Where to sleep in Belfast
The night we spent in Belfast we stayed at All Seasons Guest House, a Bed and Breakfast with a super nice and peculiar owner who is happy to receive travellers in his typical English house. So much so, that after living all his life in the city, he gave us many recommendations about Belfast, the surrounding area and told us a lot of curiosities about the history of the city.
The house was super original, although in general it needs a renovation, but to spend one night it’s not bad.
We paid 60 GBP (about 67 euros) for one night’s accommodation in this B&B with breakfast included (which we couldn’t enjoy because we got up so early), but the truth is that we would only repeat if we didn’t find some other cheaper option. The room and the bathroom were super spacious, but they needed a good washout.
Accommodation in Belfast
Below I show you some superb accommodation options in Booking in Belfast and surroundings:
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