From bombs, bullets and being one of the most dangerous places to visit in the world. Belfast has pulled off a remarkable transformation with modern art, fast-expanding foodie scene and vibrant music-filled pubs. It won’t damage your wallet either as it’s one of the cheapest cities to visit in the UK.
I recently spent a few days here with friends and our reason for coming was to do the GoT (Game of Thrones) Tour. As the tour was almost 30 miles away we all decided to hire a car, it was last-minute so our choices were limited and we went for what we thought was a cracking deal, Easirent £40 for 4 days and they pick you up/drop off from the airport. You can probably guess, it was too good to be true. When we arrived to pick up the car, it was getting late and were given two choices that they failed to mentioned before. One, pay a deposit of £1500 or secondly, pay at least £80 for insurance cover on top of the original hire fee. I mean who’s going to have a spare 1.5k lying around to pay that! They will even charge you an admin fee of £55 if even as much as a stone chip is spotted on return, luckily all was ok for us on return. I definitely won’t recommend you use them unless you don’t mind being ripped off with hidden charges. Had this been during the day, we would have walked out and looked elsewhere.
We initially had plans to also head to Giant’s Causeway, but unfortunately the day we were going to go we were suffering from the evening before shenanigans, turns out Belfast is a great night out. The causeway is about an hour and half drive away, so we decided the hour walk into the city from our airbnb was a better option to freshen up. I’m quite glad we did because there is some amazing street art & sculptures scattered throughout the city we would have missed.
As for eating & drinking there is a great diversity of choices with olde worlde pubs and new posh bars, we found the Catholic Quarter was the place to be of a night-time. It was buzzing on the Thursday night, so had it been the weekend I can only imagine it being better still. My favourite place that we came across for drinking, and I will be recommending anyone to go, was the Dirty Onion. We went here on both nights we were out and both times it was a great atmosphere with live music and good beer. There’s also a restaurant upstairs, but we didn’t eat here. Which brings me onto food, when you’re in Belfast you have to sample the local cuisine and that is a Boojum, everyone we asked recommended it, so we made it our first meal. There are five of these restaurants in the city and currently only to be found in Ireland. What is it, well a Burrito, but not just any burrito. I would go as far as saying it was the best burrito that I have ever tried and my friends would agree. First I tried the Barbacoa (shredded beef) which indeed was delicious, but the next day I went for the Carnitaz (Shredded Pork) and that was the one, it’s certainly going to take something special to beat it. I added the sweet corn salsa with cheese, creme fresh, lettuce etc. if you’re in Belfast then get down there and try it, you wont regret it.
When in Ireland it goes without saying you must have a Guiness or 10, but of course there are other local breweries I had to give a try. I would recommend Smithwick’s Red or Pale ale, were both nice if your like me and enjoy ale. If you’re a lager drinker then check out Harp or Citra. There are a few local gins to, but I didn’t get around to trying these.
In the 1970s and 1980s Belfast was one of the world’s most dangerous cities. However, the city has developed since The Troubles and is now considered to be one of the safest within the United Kingdom.
- Queen Victoria, after whom Queen’s University is named, granted Belfast city status in 1888.
- One third of the population of Northern Ireland lives in Belfast.
- Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was first played live in the Ulster Hall.
- The Harland and Wolff shipyard, where the RMS Titanic was built, was the world’s biggest shipyard.
- GBP is the currency, so you won’t be needing Euros.
- Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland since its establishment in 1921 and part of the United Kingdom.
Although there was a settlement on the site since the Bronze Age, the city we know today has its origins in the 17th century.
- The town of Belfast was established by Sir Arthur Chichester, with the name ‘Belfast’ being an Anglicisation of the Irish Béal Feirste, which roughly translates as ‘the mouth of the sandbar..
- Although most famous for building the ill-fated RMS Titanic, Harland and Wolff built over 1,500 ships from the 1850s to the 1990s. These days much of the shipyard’s former land is now home to the Titanic Quarter and the famous yellow gantry cranes, Samson and Goliath.
There’s no shortage of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets, ranging from luxury 5* hotels to budget 2* starting from £49 to £149 a night, Airbnb, hostels or camping. I stayed in an Airbnb just outside of the city centre for £50, split between 5 of us was only £10 a night for an entire private house to ourselves.
We hired a car as we stayed a fair way outside the city centre and our GoT tour was 28 miles away. It was easy to book a local taxi or walk. Belfast is a small city, so walking was easy and an enjoyable way to get around.
- Bus, I didn’t use the bus while here, but Metro service run throughout the day and there are plenty of stops around.
- Car, Hire a car is a great way to get around, just dont use Easirent.
- Taxi, the best seem to be
- Value cabs (028) 90809080.
- Fone a cab (028) 90333333.
- Train, Translink Enterprise train runs between to Dublin every two hours.
- Uber, There are some around, but when we looked they weren’t any nearby at the time, so we just used a taxi.
- Walking, definitely take some time to walk around while your here, there is some amazing street art and sculptures on almost every corner you’ll miss if you drive everywhere.
- Antrim Castle Gardens
- Belfast Castle
- Belfast Cathedral
- Belfast Zoo
- Big Fish
- Black Mountain
- Botanic Gardens
- Old Bushmill’s Distillery (Oldest Whiskey brewery in the world Founded 1608)
- Cathedral Quarter
- Cave Hill
- City Hall
- City Tour
- Commercial Court Umbrellas
- Crumlin Road Gaol
- HMS Caroline
- Giant’s Causeway
- Peace Wall
- Spirit of Belfast
- St. George’s Market
- Street Art
- Titanic Museum
- Ulster Museum
- Victoria Square (check out the panoramic city view from the dome)
- Winterfell Castle & Demesne (Game of Thrones Tour)
When in Ireland it goes without saying you have to have a guiness or 5, but there are others I tried that I would recommend. Smithwick’s Red & Pale ale, Open Gate Summer Ale were nice if your like me and enjoy ale. and If your a lager drinker then check out Harp or Citra. If you like Gin then try the local Jawbox and Shortcross & you have to sample the local cuisine I highly recommend a Boojum Burrito.
- Bittles (Smallest bar in Belfast and flat-iron in shape, a traditional Victorian bar, founded in 1868)
- Boojum (Amazing Burritos)
- Bootleggers (cocktails, local and American craft beer)
- Bullit (Very nice hotel bar, with a rooftop cocktail bar and garden)
- Bunsen (Amazing Burgers)
- Cloth Ear (home to possibly the world’s most expensive cocktail, at £750 each)
- Crown Liquor Saloon (Protected by the National Trust dates back to 1826)
- Cure the hangover with a Belfast Bap or Ulster Fry.
- Dark Horse (visitors will find one of the Game of Thrones doors)
- Dirty Onion (My favourite out of the lot, live bands doing hour or so sets all night long)
- Duke of York (traditional Belfast bar crammed with original mirrors and memorabilia)
- Europa Hotel (the most bombed hotel in the world)
- Kelly’s Cellars (one of Belfast’s oldest traditional Irish pubs)
- Marmaris (End of the night munchies)
- National (Hidden near behind the Spaniard)
- John Hewitt (Lots of locally brewed ales, craft beers, ciders and a gin made by the bar’s owner)
- Harp Bar (When the toilets have gold plated sinks you know its posh!)
- Spaniard (Cosy and narrow with a lively atmosphere)
- Thirsty Goat (Lively atmosphere with live music)
- White’s Tavern (Hidden away down a random alley. Built in 1630)
- Highly recommend a Boojum Burrito.
- The Catholic Quarter is the place to be on a night out.
- Check out Dirty Onion for a great atmosphere and live music.
- Taxi, numbers:
- Value cabs (028) 90809080.
- Fone a cab (028) 90333333.
- Get £25 off your first Airbnb trip of £55 or more click here.
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