The capital of Northern-Ireland has a unique charme, with three main influences: Industrial working-class flair with some Baroque-revival architecture around and many modern-futuristic influences. We had only two days in January ’17 to explore the city and surroundings and were so enthralled by the city and its people that we vowed to come back.
During a stroll through the city center, you shouldn’t miss the impressive exterior and interior of the City Hall. Inside you can register for a free tour, running thrice a day, which we unfortunately missed. Nearby in the pedestrian area, the Victoria Square shopping center has a futuristic dome, offering incredible views over the city. To get up to the free of charge visitor platform you can either take stairs or an elevator.
Exploring the southern part of the city, which is just some minutes by foot from the city center, you can find the Botanical Gardens with the Palm House in art nouveau style. The entry is also free of charge and worth a visit if you’re into architecture or plants.
Belfast has a moved history as in the late 20th century it was the hot spot of the Northern Ireland conflict, whose marks are still visible throughout the city. Most renown are the painted walls, often displaying key scenes from irish and northern-irish history. During a black cab tour, that are offered by a variety of operators, we had a look at many of this painted walls. What left me most impressed is that even today, there are still high walls, separating the protestant and catholic parts of the city.
The lovely little town of Whitehead is only a 40 minutes train ride away. It’s located directly at the sea with a lighthouse on top of a nearby cliff. The Whitehead cliff path leads around the bottom of the cliff and up to the lighthouse, offering great views over the bay. It’s an easy walk, but the steps up to the lighthouse might be slippery, so be careful.
We did the walk during the sun was going down and were lucky to watch some seals near the shore hunting in the twilight.
Of course there’s plenty more to do and explore in Belfast. For those interested in ships and history, the Titanic Museum is a must-visit. I highly recommend to listen to an Irish Folk session in a pub and drink a pint or two. All parts of society meet in this public houses, young and old, rich and poor, and – especially in Belfast – catholic and protestant and have fun together as it should be.
Our favorite places & some tips:
Drinks: Great beers, fantastic Irish Folk sessions and an unique cosy flair can be found in Kelly’s Cellars
Packing list: Don’t forget your umbrella or raincoat and sunglasses! The weather on the Emerald Isle is often unsteady and sometimes even the seasons seem to change within minutes.
Here’s the gallery: