Located in Northern Ireland, Belfast is a vibrant area to spend time in, whether you’re there for a week or stopping by on an Ireland road trip. Many people know it for housing the famous Titanic Museum, but there are many other things to do in Belfast that you’ll enjoy.
Every time I go on a Northern Ireland road trip, I always make sure to stop in Belfast for at least a day. The first time I visited, I only allowed for half a day, which I ended up regretting. From delicious pubs to stop at for lunch to beautiful art to see, you’ll love all the things to see in Belfast.
This guide will show you the best things to do in Belfast, whether you’re there alone, with kids, or exploring the area at night. I recommend spending at least a few days in the area to have more time to explore it.
How to Visit Belfast
Before I share all the best things to do and see in Belfast, here’s some basic information that will help you plan your trip.
Where is Belfast?
Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland. It is also the largest city in the north of the country and is located along the River Lagan on the northeastern coast of the island of Ireland.
Northern Ireland shares a border to the south and west with its neighbor, the Republic of Ireland. However, it is an independent state of its own and forms part of the United Kingdom.
Getting to Belfast
There are multiple ways to get to Belfast, which include:
Belfast has two airports, Belfast International Airport and George Best City Airport. There are several direct flights to Belfast from the UK as well as other European countries.
Alternatively, you can also fly to the neighboring Dublin Airport and catch a bus or train or drive up to Belfast, which usually takes two and a half hours.
Belfast is about 105 miles (168km) from Dublin, 70 miles (112km), from Londonderry (Northern Ireland), and 260 miles (418km) from the city of Cork in Ireland.
If you’re coming over from England, Scotland, and Wales, you’ll need to catch a ferry to Ireland first before driving up to Belfast.
If it’s your first time navigating through the country, be sure to check out my tips for driving in Ireland.
You can reach Belfast by train from many cities in Ireland, including Dublin, Limerick, Galway, and Cork.
If you’re in Northern Ireland, you can reach Belfast from cities like Londonderry and Lisburn.
You can check all the schedules on the Irish Rail website.
If you happen to be in the UK or Ireland, there are daily coach connections to Belfast. Coaches leaving from England, Scotland, and Wales all include a ferry transfer.
There are two main ferry companies, Stena Line and P&O Ferries, that depart daily from Liverpool (England), Cairnryan (Scotland), and The Isle Man.
I have a whole post on where to stay in Belfast to help you pick your accommodation.
Fun Things to Do in Belfast
If you’re looking for fun activities in Belfast, be sure to check these activities and attractions.
Visit the Titanic Belfast Museum
A tour of the Belfast Titanic Museum is an absolute must-do activity if you’re in Belfast. That’s right; the iconic Titanic was built in Belfast!
At the largest exhibition dedicated to the Titanic, you’ll learn the story of this ocean liner from its conception, launching slipway, tragic sinking, and what happened in the aftermath of this historic tragedy. You can spend hours inside the museum, which is why it’s a great activity to do during December in Belfast.
You’ll also find information panels, models, photographs, interactive exhibits, artifacts, and even replicas of the Titanic’s interior. After your tour, you can walk around the Titanic Quarter, where you’ll find shops, maritime landmarks, film studios, and restaurants. You’ll soon see why this is one of the best day trips from Dublin.
Take a Belfast Black Cab Tour
Black cabs are usually associated with London, but Black Cab Tours is one of the more cool things to do in Belfast. It’s just another reason Belfast is one of the top cities to visit in Ireland.
During the period known as “The Troubles,” people used black cabs to transport locals and visitors around Ireland, as they were considered much safer than city buses.
Today, these iconic black cabs are used to give visitors a tour of the city, where the drivers educate tourists on Ireland’s political history, culture, and general history and neighborhoods.
These tours stop at many points of interest in Belfast, such as the Eileen Hickey Irish Republican History Museum.
Curious about the etiquette when visiting? Read all about what not to do in Ireland as a tourist.
Check Out Street Murals
One of the things that Belfast is best known for is its vibrant street murals, and the city attracts street artists from all over Northern Ireland.
Belfast’s street murals started as political statements during The Troubles and were created to tell stories from different perspectives.
While most of Belfast’s street murals are mainly political, you’ll find murals not centered around politics or religion within the city center.
You’ll find interesting street art, including murals of dogs, local landmarks, dragons, and even some famous people.
Take a Sightseeing Bus or Walking Tour
Walking tours are always a great and fun way to explore any city, and Belfast is no exception.
Walking tours in Belfast usually focus on the city’s most popular attractions, such as the Titanic Quarter and Queens Museum.
If walking isn’t your thing, then you can catch the City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-Off Bus tours. These tours stop at around twenty to thirty different places around Belfast.
Check Out the Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC)
If you’re an art lover and wonder what to see in Belfast, a visit to the Metropolitan Arts Centre will be right up your alley.
The MAC opened in 2012, and it is a public art center that includes three major art galleries.
The focus of the art pieces in the MAC is usually around modern, contemporary, and experimental art.
The center also hosts various exhibitions, theater and dance performances, art classes, and family workshops.
You’ll also find an all-day cafe and bar on the premises serving delicious hot drinks, meals, and alcoholic beverages.
Try Out Local Drinks
Belfast is probably best known for its beer and Irish Whiskey, and many new craft breweries are opening around Northern Ireland.
There’s also a booming gin scene that has recently emerged, so if you’re keen on trying some Irish gin, Belfast is a great place to experiment.
You can take a gin tour around central Belfast, where you can sample some new gins along with some nibbles.
Here are a few places to check out (but make sure to read what not to do as a tourist first!):
The Crown Bar
The Crown Bar is an elaborately decorated, Victorian-style gin palace located on Great Victoria Street in Belfast.
It is one of Belfast’s best attractions and is a popular spot amongst locals and tourists. There’s also a restaurant where you can grab a bite to eat.
The Duke of York
This traditional Irish pub centered in the Cathedral Quarter has been around for over 200 years. The owners rebuilt it after being demolished by a bomb in 1972 during The Troubles.
The Duke of York is another local favorite and features quirky furniture and decorations related to brewing and distilling.
The Whites Tavern
If you’re looking to hang out in a historical tavern, then Whites Tavern may be the place for you.
This tavern has been around since 1630 and serves hearty pub food, and regularly has live music from local artists.
Sample Some Local Irish Food
One of the best things to do when traveling abroad is to sample the local food, and Belfast has many tasty dishes for you to try out.
The most popular meal associated with Northern Ireland is the Ulster Fry, the Northern Irish version of an English Breakfast. The most notable difference is that their version is served with both soda and potato bread.
Many of Northern Ireland’s dishes are similar to their neighbors – Ireland and other parts of the UK with some favorites including Irish stews, roasts, and bangers and mash.
Potatoes have been a staple food in Ireland for centuries. So, you’ll find that many of their dishes include potatoes in some form, whether it be mashed and served with cabbage or a potato pancake.
If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to try out the Yellowman, a honeycomb toffee-like candy unique to Northern Ireland.
Enjoy a Luxury Cinema Experience
If you’re looking for something cute to do (or find that it’s raining outside), one of the most romantic things to do in Belfast is to go to the cinema.
The Odyssey Cinemas Belfast, in the Odyssey Centre, is the largest movie complex in Northern Ireland and offers a luxury cinema experience.
This 12 screen multi-cinema complex’s largest screen has 476 seats, while its smallest has 155 seats.
There are three VIP screens where you can recline in extra comfy seats and enjoy free popcorn and a drink. There’s also an exclusive Directors Lounge that has panoramic views of Belfast’s skyline and riverfront.
Visit a Game of Thrones Site
Northern Ireland is often referred to as the “Home of The Thrones” as it was one of the key filming locations of the popular TV show Game of Thrones.
Seasons one through eight were filmed in 25 locations around Northern Ireland, all within a short distance from Belfast.
You can take a Game Of Thrones tour and stop at some of these locations. You’ll end up back in Belfast at the tenth door at the Dark Horse Pub in the Cathedral Quarter. This is also an ideal day trip from Belfast if you want to explore more of the day.
Visit Ulster Folk Museum
If you’re a history lover looking for things to do in Belfast, then you’ll enjoy a visit to the Ulster Museum only 7 miles (11km) east of Belfast. It shows visitors the stories of Northern Irish people and their culture, particularly in the early 1900s.
It’s spread across 20 buildings that were constructed to resemble traditional Northern Irish villages in the 1900s. Here you’ll find farmhouses, schools, churches, shops, workshops, mills, and even thatched cottages.
There are guides dressed in old-fashioned attire, daily demonstrations, and activities such as open-hearth cooking, needlework, and weaving to give you a real feel of life in Northern Ireland in the 1900s.
Marvel at Belfast Castle
One of the main points of interest in Belfast is, without a doubt, Belfast Castle. This spectacular castle is located on the slopes of Cavehill County Park.
It was built between 1867 and 1870 and sits 400 feet (120m) above sea level, offering the most amazing views over Belfast and the Lough.
There is a small exhibition inside the castle, giving a brief history of the castle. You’ll also find a restaurant and cafe where you can enjoy a meal or drink in grandeur.
View Albert Memorial Clock Tower
The Albert Memorial Clock is located in Queens Square in central Belfast. This incredible 113 feet high (34m) clock tower was completed in 1869.
This iconic tower is one of the most popular landmarks in Belfast and was built as a memorial to Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria.
During The Troubles, the clock tower has sustained damage by German bombs in World War II and explosives from opposing Irish parties. Today it stands proudly over Belfast as a custodian of the city.
Things to Do With Kids in Belfast
If you’ve got little ones accompanying you on your trip to Belfast and are looking for ways to keep them entertained, be sure to check out the best things to do with kids in Belfast.
Ice Skating at Dundonald International Ice Bowl
Dundonald International Ice Bowl is the largest ice rink in Northern Ireland, situated near the Parliament buildings of Belfast.
The ice rink also has a large bowling alley and play kingdom with slides, ball pits, and more. It’s the perfect place for kids to make some new friends and memories.
Visit the Belfast Zoo
The Belfast Zoo was opened in 1934 and is situated on the outskirts of Belfast on the slopes of Cavehill. The Belfast Lough also surrounds it.
The zoo is over 55 acres and has over 1000 animals from 116 species. Most of the animals at the zoo are endangered in their natural habitat and are cared for at the zoo. Some of these animals include the red-bellied lemur and Malayan tapir.
The zoo has various exhibitions and recently opened a new children’s playground called the Adventurers Learning Centre.
There are also two cafes, a picnic area, a visitor center, and a gift shop.
Explore the W5 Science & Discovery Centre
Spark the inner scientist in your kids by paying a visit to the W5 Science and Discovery Centre. This interactive center has over 250 exhibits across four areas.
It’s designed to not only entertain children but also educate them through hands-on learning. There are daily programs that feature live science demonstrations, talks, and shows.
The center is located in the enormous Odyssey Pavilion within the Titanic Quarter and is a 7-minute car ride from the city center.
Things to Do in Belfast for Free
Here are a few things that you can do in Belfast that won’t break the bank.
Explore St. George’s Market
St. George’s Market is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Belfast and is believed to have started in 1604. The current building that holds the market was built between 1890 and 1896 and was refurbished in 1997.
The market is open every day but holds special weekly events such as the Friday Variety Market, City Food and Craft Market on Saturdays, and a Sunday Market.
Here you’ll find fresh produce, arts, crafts, souvenirs, clothing, books, jewelry, and much more. It’s also a great place to get a variety of food at very reasonable prices.
The best part about this market is there’s a free shuttle that runs every twenty minutes to the market from different locations in central Belfast.
Visit Lady Dixon and Sir Thomas Park
The park is one of Belfast’s most charming attractions. The Lady Dixon Park was donated to the people of Belfast by Lady Dixon in honor of her husband, who passed away in 1959. It’s best known for its amazing roses and covers just over 128 acres.
The park has many features, including rolling meadows, various plants and wildlife, and a Japanese-style garden with a spectacular water feature. The park also has a great playpark for kids, and there’s always an ice cream van never too far away for a sweet treat.
Marvel at St Anne’s Cathedral
If you’re looking to be blown away with things to do in Belfast, you definitely have to visit St. Anne’s Cathedral (known by locals as the Belfast Cathedral).
St. Anne’s Cathedral is the focal point of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The cathedral was initially built in 1776, while its current structure was rebuilt in 1899.
This beautiful church features intricate neo-Romanesque architecture, spectacular stained glass, and interesting patterned floors and ceiling mosaics.
Explore the Waterfront Area
Belfast’s waterfront area is located along the River Lagan. A pedestrian bridge crosses the river and connects the waterfront to the Titanic Quarter for easy access.
Along this area, you’ll find some sculptures, bridges, Sinclair Seaman’s Church, the Old Customs House, the Barge Museum, and Waterfront Hall.
You’ll also find some great restaurants in and around this area.
Things to Do in Belfast City Center
Here are some things you can do if you’re hanging around the city center.
Wander Around Belfast City Hall
The Belfast City Hall is one of the most iconic buildings in Northern Ireland. It first opened its doors in August 1906.
Located in Donegall Square, the City Hall divides the commercial and business areas of Belfast. It was once the home of the White Linen Hall, which was a key hub in the international linen exchange.
You can explore this building on your own or opt for a free public tour where you’ll learn some interesting facts about Belfast. You’ll also learn about the role the City Hall played during The Troubles.
Shop at Victoria Square Shopping Centre
The Victoria Square Shopping Centre is a massive four-story shopping and entertainment complex that opened in 2008. The shopping center is located in the central public square of Belfast. It has several great stores, restaurants, a spa, and a cinema.
You’ll also find a really great viewing platform where you can get a fantastic panoramic view of the city. You will also find plenty of Irish gifts to bring home.
Things to Do in Belfast at Night
Belfast has one of the best nightlife scenes in Europe and has something for everyone. Here are some of the best things to see in Belfast when the sun goes down.
Take a Food & Drink Tour
One of the best things to do at night in Belfast is to take a local food and drink tour.
One of the local tour operators, Taste & Tour, offers several tasting tours where you’ll spend an evening sampling various Irish drinks and foods at various pubs.
See the City Hall Light Up
Belfast City Hall is pretty spectacular during the day, but it’s at night when the building is totally transformed, and you can really appreciate how special it is when looking for things to do in Belfast.
If you’re in the city center at night, it’s worth visiting City Hall. Watch how the building is lit up at night in various colors and highlights the building’s beautiful architectural features.
Visit The Dome in Victoria Square
For the best view of Belfast at night, be sure to head over to The Dome in Victoria Square. This glass dome boasts the best 360-degree views of Belfast, and if you time it right, you can watch the sunset over the city and then watch as Belfast starts to light up.
From here, you’ll be able to see some of the sights that make up the Belfast skyline, such as the Belfast City Hall, Albert Memorial Clock, and Titanic Museum.
Watch a Show at the Grand Opera House Belfast
The Grand Opera House is the most iconic theater in Northern Ireland, which first opened its door on the 23rd of December 1895. Since then, it’s been entertaining people with shows from the West End, musicals, comedies, family shows, ballets, opera, and much more.
The Opera House has a unique exterior, and inside you’ll find a tiered auditorium with the most exquisite designs and finishes that can seat about 1000 people.
Enjoy the Evening Out at Bert’s Jazz Bar and Restaurant
If you’re looking to be transported back in time, then you should definitely check out Bert’s Jazz Bar and Restaurant. The bar and restaurant are located in the five-star Merchant Hotel on Skipper Street and is said to be the most glamorous lounge in all of Belfast.
The bar and hotel are themed around New York City in the 1930s and play jazz music from Thursday through to Sunday from 9 pm. Here you’ll find a French bistro-inspired menu and an extensive cocktail list.
There you have it – some of the best things to do in Belfast! Now the hardest part is deciding which activities you want to do.