Being the largest city in Northern Ireland, Belfast has a lot going for it! With Michelin Star restaurants, cool museums and loads of the best things to do in Belfast, it’s the kind of city which is great for a long weekend break.
Trust me when I say, Belfast is one of those places that’s got a lot going for it.
So, to make your trip all that bit easier, I wanted to share some of the best things to do in Belfast when you visit. All tried and tested, we scoured the city (tasting every tipple and gobbling every scallop) in the name of research! 😉
Now, I’ve popped in a fair few of the spots we really rate – but don’t feel obliged to do it all. City breaks are best explored at your own pace and with no pressure.
So, to make things easier, choose a handful of things to do and let the rest fall into place.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Belfast. Have the best time!
1.) Head to the pub!
Okay, this isn’t a cop-out or me getting lazy here; going to pubs in Belfast is a must – especially the more traditional venues.
We totally loved strolling down Hill Street and Commercial Court looking for the best watering holes. Which, in hindsight was probably the cause of our sore heads the next morning!
Anyway, for a really local and cool pub to visit, head to the Duke of York.
Filled to the brim with memorabilia and a lovely atmosphere, it’s the kind of place where you can hunker down for a few hours and listen to live music whilst enjoying a tipple.
Alternatively, if you’re fancying trying a ‘newer-style’ pub, head to the nearby Dirty Onion and Yardbird that has live music and food where you can spend an evening filling your tummy.
If it’s a drink with a view that you’re after, head to The Observatory Bar that overlooks the whole city.
From here, you can grab a cocktail (or two) and take in the views across City Hall that’s well worth the premium price of the tipples.
2.) Tour Belfast City Hall
Probably one of Belfast’s most iconic buildings, City Hall opened its doors back in 1906.
Today, you can explore the superb art collection and its interiors are built with beautiful stained glass windows whilst learning more about its use and the building itself.
Tours happen most days (and it’s first-come, first enter). Double-check on their website for updated tour times and pop in before to secure your place on the tour.
It’s one of the best things to do in Belfast – and totally free!
3.) Stroll around the Botanic Gardens
Probably one of the best things to do in Belfast, for nature lovers at least, the Botanic Gardens are a great place that’s within easy reach of downtown Belfast.
Established back in1828m, the Botanic Gardens is nestled right next to Queen’s University and within easy reach of the Ulster Museum, too.
Home to a huge selection of plants and trees; including hornbeam-oak, it’s the kind of place where you can stroll for hours. Just be sure to take a gander in the Palm House and the Tropical Ravine.
4.) Visit Titanic Belfast
The Titanic Belfast is one of the best things to do in Belfast that’s actually pretty new!
With nine galleries spread across six floors, Titanic Belfast has a heap of exhibitions that tells the story of construction, demise, and aftermath of the Titanic that sank back in the early 20th Century.
Here, you’ll find an underwater cinema and gantry rides which will take you to explore and experience the stories of the Titanic.
Not only that, but they also host musical afternoon teas right within the Titanic Belfast itself! It’s actually pretty fun.
Finally, whilst in this area of Belfast, hop over to see SS Nomadic. Originally built to whisk high-class passengers to Titanic, it’s now a museum where you can learn more about the White Star Line and see the very last of their ships in existence.
5.) Find the Ulster Museum
Right next to the Botanic Gardens, the Ulster Museum hosts a variety of different exhibitions that change seasonally and include everything from; dinosaurs, ancient Egyptian artefacts, and modern masterpieces from around the world.
It’s a place steeped in history and has a diverse collection of art, history, and natural science exhibits that depicts Ireland’s evolution and international and local history.
A great few hours can be spent inside and it’s a perfect respite if you’re hiding from that infamous Belfast rain!
Around a 10-minute walk away, Darcy’s is a great place to go for dinner that’s both cosy and delicious.
I think we spent all evening devouring their menu here; their lamb shank (and fishcakes starters) is everything.
6.) Queens University
Whilst exploring the Ulster Museum and the Botanic Gardens, be sure to pop over to the Queen’s University next door.
The buildings are iconic and it’s well worth taking a wander around the grounds and popping in the visitor centre to get a feel of this special place.
After your little stroll, head straight over to The Parlour for a tipple, or two! This place is a total throwback and has the best atmosphere for an early evening chill.
With a studenty-vibe and gorgeous traditional decor, it’s a great place for a pint and a really good pizza that’s reasonably priced.
7.) Visit the Crumlin Road Gaol
Now, it’s not often I’d say to pack yourself off to prison, but in Belfast, it’s one heck of a thing to do! You see, the Crumlin Road Gaol is one of Belfast’s most famous spots to see and pretty interesting to boot.
Housed in a 19th century Grade A listed building, the Crumlin Road Gaol is now open to for those without a prosecution hanging over their head. Take a tour inside and learn more about the site, its inmates and what life was like inside.
Afterwards, book a table at the Cuffs Bar & Grill which serves up some tasty local dishes that are too good to miss.
8.) Find Belfast Castle
Just outside the city centre, seeing Belfast Castle is one of the best things to do in Belfast when departing the city and heading further up the coastline.
With stunning gardens and a totally beautiful building to see, it’s the kind of place to pop in for a wee bit of time to explore the gorgeous grounds.
Just be aware, the real magic is only from the outside in Belfast Castle. Once inside, it’s been redeveloped as a venue so most of that castle magic has been lost.
A great, brief, stop to visit when leaving Belfast.
9.) Stroll around St. George’s Market
St George’s Market is one of Belfast’s oldest markets and typically a hive of activity.
Once inside, you’ll get to explore all the stalls and see the vendors that have everything from oysters to art on their stalls. Completed in 1896 where about 300 vendors had set up stalls from food to art and crafts, it’s the kind of place that’s totally amazing to visit.
We spent a good bit of time wandering the stalls and even grabbed a few fresh oysters from the shucker in the market itself.
If you love markets, you’ll easily find this one of the best things to do in Belfast and leave with loads of treats.
Also, if you’re fancying a treat, book a table at Ox Belfast and try their seasonal menu.
We totally loved the dishes that’s such a fusion. We had grouse with figs and earl grey and it was delicious!
10.) Find St. Anne’s Cathedral
St. Anne’s Cathedral is the main church of the Anglican Church of Ireland and one of the best things to do in Belfast if you love gorgeous architecture.
Built back in 1899, it has the most gorgeous nave and baptistry ceiling that you have to see, at least for a little look. Plus, it’s really easy to visit if you’re already heading to the MAC or Hill Street for all the live music.
Afterwards, head to Mourne Seafood Bar that serves up some of the tastiest (you guessed it) seafood in all of Belfast.
Just make sure to reserve a table on a weekend, it was really busy when we went.
11.) Head inside MAC
Right in the Cathedral Quarter area, MAC is Belfast’s art and performance space that’s pretty unique. In some way, the exhibitions remind me of those that you’d expect in the Tate Modern in London. Needless to say, we loved it!
Once inside, take a browse through the various exhibition rooms and explore some of the best contemporary art in Northern Ireland. It’s a totally cool space and well worth a gander.
12.) Cave Hill Country Park
Cave Hill Country Park is easily one of the best things to do in Belfast if you fancy a little trek into the wild. If that’s not you, steer well clear!
Once here, you’ll find McArt’s Fort, the White Stone and, of course, the views from the top itself! These are spectacular and give a complete panoramic view of Belfast City. It is a great place for walking and a recommended place for hikers to explore.
Plus, you can easily partner this up with a trip to Belfast Castle at the same time!
Your trip would be incomplete without seeing Stormont.
The buildings once served as the official residence of the prime minister of Northern Ireland and built in the Greek classical style that’s totally gorgeous. Typically open between 9 am-4 pm (weekdays), you can tour the buildings (see official listings here) and experience this spot for yourself.
From artworks, exhibitions to parks and playground you’ll find many things to enjoy and have a great time visiting this place.