Belfast

Photo © Hien

Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom Northern Ireland Belfast

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Introduction

Belfast

Belfast

© janolaf

Belfast is the largest city in Northern Ireland and indeed the second largest in Ireland following Dublin. Belfast is surrounded by picturesque hills (including that of Cavehill, which supposedly inspired Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver's Travels) and situated on Belfast Lough, at the mouth of the River Lagan. Because of its location, Belfast became one of the United Kingdom's major ship building regions. Once the largest ship yard in the world, Harland & Wolff (still operational) has a home in Belfast. It is best known for being the shipyard where the Titanic was constructed in 1912.

Belfast gained notoriety around the world during The Troubles (1969-1997) due to the frequency of gun and bomb attacks in the city. Parts of Belfast were effectively no-go areas for security forces and therefore took on a lawless quality. Today, the scars of Belfast's troubled past make it an intriguing destination for travellers from around the world.

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, most of the politically-motivated violence has evaporated. Belfast has since been awarded the accolade of being the safest city in the UK, based on a comparison of nation-wide crime figures, and, as part of its commitment to maintain peace, now seeks tourism from around the world, especially from countries other than the Irish Republic and the rest of the UK.

Those who live in Belfast tend to either absolutely love the city or loathe it, although the outsider's perspective tends to be more forgiving, as Belfast was voted the fourth best city in the UK for a city break in the Guardian/Observer travel awards. Needless to say, a visit to Belfast will be rewarded by a glimpse of a unique city that has finally begun to celebrate, rather than fight over, its place as a cultural meeting-point of Britain and Ireland. Belfast is certainly exhibiting an air of determined optimism, with new hotels, bars, restaurants, clubs and shops opening at an incredible rate. It is a city that is proud of its Victorian and Edwardian heritage and efforts to restore historic buildings are proving successful. Tourism is on the increase in Northern Ireland, especially among those seeking a weekend away or short break in Ireland as Belfast can offer a significantly cheaper and more rewarding alternative to the busier, more expensive and more tourist-driven Dublin.

Belfast remains a great place to explore, as it is still relatively undiscovered compared with its neighbour in Dublin and is ideal for the tourist who enjoys a city with character, yet still has a raw, unspoilt energy. A visit to the capital of Northern Ireland will provide a more stimulating trip as, once you scratch the surface, it is easy to see beyond the ethno-political conflict of past years. It is a city which has changed dramatically in a decade due to this peace and prosperity and you will be greeted with warmth from locals who feel a new-found sense of pride in their city. Indeed, the old cliche that you will be welcomed like an old friend by the patrons of Belfast's many pubs and bars is actually true, as the locals love to find out what draws you to their little part of the world and, of course, they like the chance to share a little bit of their history with you! Ask any local and they will tell you that a trip to Belfast will mean that you learn far more about the Irish and British psyche than a trip to a cheesy Irish pub in Dublin or on a tourist-orientated tour in London.

Some recent events, mostly the flag protests, may have put people off going to Belfast but violence is minimal and more or less peaceful.

In recent times, Belfast has also gained some degree of international fame for being the production centre of the famous television series Game of Thrones.

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Sights and Activities

Belfast city centre is focused on Donegall Square and Belfast City Hall in its centre. All major city bus routes converge here and, on sunny days, this is where shoppers and office workers can be found enjoying their breaks. The City Hall is the grand centerpiece of the city and the orientation point for your exploration of Belfast. Running north from the centre of Donegall Square is Donegall Place, a broad and bustling shopping street, which will lead you towards the Cathedral Quarter and the Arts School. The city centre is bordered to the east by the River Lagan, and to the south by the area around Donegall Pass. Where Belfast city centre meets the River Lagan, windswept pavements prove that meaningless sculptures and grandiose attempts at urban planning do not necessarily make for a popular urban space. The horrendous dual carriageway known as the Westlink separated the centre of Belfast from the western suburbs of the city in the 1970s; this borders the city centre to the west. On the plus side, the network of dual carriageways and motorways mean that one can get from the city centre to all the surrounding suburbs and satellite towns in less than fifteen minutes, even during the rush hour, something which is impossible in many other cities, for example Dublin.

In between these rough boundaries, you'll find Belfast's heart. Parts of it are blighted by dereliction, others are blighted by narrow-minded money-grabbing redevelopment. While largely safe at all times, years of city centre curfews during the troubles means that the centre of Belfast can be startlingly empty of pedestrians after 8PM. City centre living has yet to become as popular here as in other parts of Britain and Ireland.

Belfast's leafiest and most accessible suburbs are found south of the city centre along Botanic Ave, and University Rd around the Queen's University. Apart from the small loyalist community around Donegall Pass, the areas between University Rd and Lisburn Rd are mostly mixed, and there is a dense student population living in rented accommodation. It's a 20 min walk from Donegall Place to Botanic Avenue. The commercial core of Belfast is apparent on Bedford St, and the lively bars, takeaways of Dublin Rd are busy most nights of the week. Botanic Ave is somewhat quieter with less traffic and is lined with cafés, restaurants and small shops. Farther south, beyond the University, is the Lisburn Rd, recently christened "Belfast's Bond Street", with its eclectic mix of boutiques, chic bars and restaurants, and lively coffee shops. This part of town is the most affluent of the city, and is regularly referred to by its postcode: BT9.

East Belfast is the largest of the city's 4 electoral wards and is serviced by a number of large arterial roads (Cregagh Road, Castlereagh Road, Newtownards Road and Holywood Road), which all start in or close to the city centre.

East Belfast is a mainly residential and largely Protestant area encompassing a wide range of housing from the working class terraced streets along the Beersbridge road, to wide tree lined avenues of Belmont, and all areas in between. Despite its largely Protestant nature East Belfast is generally the area of the city where newcomers to Belfast of all religious and political persuasions from within Northern Ireland will look to purchase houses in when they arrive in the city. The rationale for this may be that although South Belfast is often thought of as a desirable locale it is in many cases prohibitively expensive. North and West Belfast are even cheaper than the East but whilst both contain many pleasant neighbourhoods they still have a lot of echoes from the troubles that can put newcomers off. North Belfast especially has a large number of "interface areas" (regions where working class loyalist and republican areas meet) that can occasionally flare up into trouble. East Belfast, possibly because it has only one interface area and is relatively homogeneously Protestant, was less on the "coalface" of the troubles than both the North and the West.

Titanic Belfast

The Titanic Belfast is a new museum that opened early April 2012, exactly 100 years after the famous Titanic made here first voyage and ran into an iceberg and sank, killing hundreds of people. The Titanic Belfast museum is a monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage on the site of the former Harland and Wolff shipyard in the city's Titanic Quarter. It also tells the stories of the Titanic's sister ship RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic. The building contains more than 12,000 square metres of floor space, most of which is occupied by a series of galleries, plus private function rooms and community facilities. There are tours as well and safe at least 1 to 2 hours for a visit to this fabulous museum. Full prices for adults are GBP 13.50, but seniors, children and students can visit with discounts. The museum is open all year round, except 24-26 December, from 9:00am to 7:00pm April to September, and 10:00am to 5:00pm October to March.

Other Sights and Activities

Belfast Murals. The two political groupings in the Northern Ireland (Republican and Loyalist, the former predominantly being Catholic and the latter predominantly Protestant) have a strong tradition of large wall mural painting in their communities, particularly the poorer ones. If you head to The Falls Road or Shankill you will get a good look at what are some of the world's finest house-sized political murals. They change frequently depending on the political climate but they are definitely something to see. The areas they are in are very safe, however do be aware that politics and religion can be tense topics. Ask around and somebody will be able to point you to the murals.
The Golden Mile. The name given to the mile or so between Belfast City Hall and Queen's University. It sometimes disappoints tourists because it's less immediately evident and less densely packed together than the name suggests. It's also not the safest part of Belfast at night, especially at weekends and a large police presence is usually in evidence. Be careful using cash machines, and if you're having trouble getting a taxi it's probably better to start walking than to stick around for too long on street corners. Exploring the area in the day time will help you if you come back later for a night out. You'll find the lion's share of the City Centre's best bars and some good places to eat here. The Golden Mile starts around the Europa Hotel on Great Victoria Street, takes a skip to the left to continue down Dublin Road, reaches a buzzing climax around Bradbury Place (just south of the big screen overlooking the junction) and graduates to student friendly but welcoming bars along Botanic Avenue and University Road. See the Drink section for specific recommendations.

  • Belfast City Hall, Donegall Sq, ☏ +44 28 9032-0202. Tours daily 2PM, 3PM (and 4PM in summer) & M-F 11AM, Sa Su noon. Opened in 1906, the City Hall will possibly seem familiar to South African visitors, who may notice a resemblance to the city hall in Durban. This is a fine example of turn of the century architecture from the heart of the British Empire's drafting office. The City Hall houses Belfast's Council chambers and administrative offices. Excellently presented free guided tours are available every day; ring ahead for details of times. Also of note are the grounds, containing a memorial to victims of the Titanic and a statue of Queen Victoria. The spacious grassy square and broad pavements that surround the City Hall are also where local youths gather to perform complex mating rituals. free.

Stormont Parliament Buildings, Ballymiscaw, Stormont, BT4 3XX, ☏ +44 28 9025-0000. The parliament buildings are the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The buildings are massive and have marble interiors. The grounds are interesting in themselves, and a walk down the mile-long road to the main parliament buildings is well recommended. Guided tours may be possible, telephone in advance.to get there take the Glider service from the City centre the G1 service and get off at Stormont halt.
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra, Holywood, BT18 0EU (8 mi (13 km) north-east from Belfast City Centre and most easily reached by train from Cultra station.), ☏ +44 28 9042-8428. Daily 10AM-6PM. It is one of Ireland's premier tourist attractions. It has a vast collection, and you could spend days exploring all of it. Highlights of the transport museum include a DeLorean (great scott!, etc.) and two train sheds full full of old steam locomotives and buses from Northern Ireland's past. The Folk Museum, on the other side of the railway line features a re-creation of an old Irish town. On Saturdays, there is a miniature railway operating, which is great fun. The folk museum is outdoors, so come prepared for the changeable Irish climate. admission £6.50.
Lorne Guide Headquarters, 30 Station Rd, Holywood (about a mile away from the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum), ☏ +44 28 9042 5212. It is the guide headquarters for Northern Ireland but to access you must be part of the guiding community, e.g. Brownie, Guide.
PLACE Built Environment Centre, 40 Fountain St, ☏ +44 28 9023-2524. PLACE is the Northern Ireland Built Environment Centre based in Fountain Street, Belfast. PLACE was established in 2004 and is now an independent charity running a public programme of exhibitions, debates and discussions, architecture tours, site visits and design workshops on various local and international built environment topics relevant to Northern Ireland. For information on upcoming walking tours, exhibitions or events visit the website or give the Centre a call.
3 Saint Anne's Cathedral, Donegall St., ☏ +44 28 9043-4006. The stunning cathedral building is situated at the opposite end of Royal Avenue, the main shopping street, from the City Hall. It is a fascinating building, and is at the centre of the "Cathedral Quarter", which is reluctantly being redesigned and cleaned up by various investment agencies to become Belfast's 'cultural' district. Thankfully, a lot of work remains to be done, and the area contains many fine cafés, bars and interesting buildings that recall the city's commercial and industrial heritage. Rent prices have yet to jump significantly, so keep an eye out for the small galleries and studio workspaces that remain in this area.
Botanical Gardens (Accessed from University Rd beside the university and at the southern end of Botanic Ave). Very popular with locals and visitors alike. The Palm House contains local and interesting plants, such as carnivorous plants. Beside it is the Tropical Ravine, unique to the British Isles, where visitors walk around a raised balcony observing tropical flora and fauna. With large lawns and well maintained planting, the park is a popular destination in the summer. Fans of the BBC TV hidden camera comedy show Just for Laughs will recognise the park from many hidden stunts. During the summer months be on the lookout for cameras pointing at you from parked vans and badly disguised tents. Free.
Ulster Museum (Accessed off Stranmillis Rd in the Botanic Gardens), ☏ +44 28 9038-3000. This excellent museum has much to see, including a large section on the history of Irish conflict, Northern Ireland's marine life and a significant collection of art. While many locals dislike the 1970s extension, it is one of the finest examples of a Brutalist modern extension being added and integrated to an older classically designed museum. Free.

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Events and Festivals

Tennent's Vital

This music "festival" has become an annual event in the Belfast events calendar - held over 2 days in August in the Botanic Gardens area of the city (close to Queens University) over the past few years acts such as Scissor Sisters, Kaiser Chiefs, Maroon 5, and Snow Patrol - to name a few have head lined the stage. This year on Tuesday 21st August & Wednesday 22nd August you will see the stage being set up again in Botanic Gardens and it will be home to acts announced so far Razorlight and Manic Street Preachers. Obviously Vital doesn't even come close to Oxygen held outside Dublin during July but it does bring some bigger named bands to Northern Ireland to play in an out door arena. Be prepared for rain though having been at to vital to see both Scissor Sisters in 2005 and Snow Patrol in 2006 l can state from personal experience that l got soaked! Therefore waterproof jackets and suitable footwear are totally recommended.

St Patrick’s Day

An excuse for a good, old fashioned booze fest, St Patrick’s Day appears to be celebrated in almost every establishment throughout the country. Guinness sales go through the roof, live bands belt out Irish folk classics, and everyone sports a green garment of some sort to get in on the fun.

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Weather

Belfast weather can be unpredictable. It can be sunny and blue one minute and then driving rain the next. Maybe even both simultaneously. The city of Belfast seems to have its own micro-climate. It's surrounded on the northwest by Black Mountain which looms over that edge of the city, Belfast Lough and the sea beyond it to the north and east, the Mountains of Mourne and the Cooley Mountains a bit more distant to the south and southeast. It very rarely gets too hot or too cold in Belfast, just come layered to situate yourself to the oft-changing weather.

It tends to be more wet than not (which, as the locals say, is why Belfast is so lush and green). Another local saying is that if you can see Black Mountain, it's going to rain. If you can't see it...it is raining! With that said, May, early June and late September can be brilliantly beautiful under blue skies and a bright sun. All the better to enjoy a hike up Cave Hill and around Belfast Castle, a bike ride along the Lagan towpath to Lisburn, a stroll through the Botanical Gardens or a beachwalk from Helen's Bay to Bangor along the Crawfordsburn Park trail.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max6.5 °C6.4 °C8.4 °C10.7 °C13.6 °C16.5 °C17.9 °C17.6 °C15.5 °C12.5 °C8.7 °C7.3 °C
Avg Min1.4 °C1.3 °C2.1 °C3.4 °C5.7 °C8.6 °C10.4 °C10.3 °C8.8 °C6.8 °C3.3 °C2.3 °C
Rainfall87 mm60 mm70 mm57 mm62 mm64 mm57 mm83 mm85 mm94 mm82 mm84 mm
Rain Days20.615.719.415.416.215.715.617.217.419.318.419.3

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Getting there

By Plane

Belfast is serviced by 2 airports: Belfast International Airport (BFS), which is situated in Antrim outside the city. And the George Best City Airport (BHD) in the city itself. Destinations from the latter airport are mainly regional and European, while BFS also serves North America, including New York and Toronto. Major airlines in flying into Northern Ireland include Aer Lingus, Continental Airlines, easyJet, Flybe, Jet2.com, Ryanair, Flyglobespan and Air Transat.

To/from Belfast International Airport:

  • Car: the airport is reached via the M2 motorway. Rental cars are available at the airport and taxis are not a problem to find either.
  • Bus: Translink operates a 24 hour bus service to the airport from their Europa Buscentre, in the centre of Belfast. The airport can be reached from Derry and the northwest by the Airporter.
  • Rail: The Antrim railway station is 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the airport in Antrim, and is serviced by a bus link called the Antrim Airlink (109 A). There are connections to Belfast, Lisburn and Derry. Trains to and from Dublin are via Belfast Central railway station, which has its own Airbus stop.

By Train

Service is most frequent and reliable on the Portadown - Belfast - Bangor corridor, on which new trains offer frequent and fast suburban service. The line to Londonderry/Derry is exceptionally beautiful as it passes along the north coast after Coleraine, however the railway line is slower (2 hours or more) than the equivalent Ulsterbus Goldline express coach (1 hour and 40 minutes).

Contact NIR for information on tourist passes for exploring Northern Ireland by bus and train: with integrated bus and train stations in most major towns, the province is easily explored without a car. On Sundays, NIR offer the Day Tracker, a £7.50 ticket which offers unlimited travel all day across the NIR network.

Services to Dublin (with connections to other destinations in the Republic of Ireland) is offered by the Enterprise, a modern, comfortable, but relatively slow train jointly operated by Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnrod Eireann (which operates trains in the Republic of Ireland). Journeys between Dublin and Belfast take two hours and twenty minutes, and there are up to eight trains a day, offering two classes of service. The train takes a less direct route than the road, but offers some superb views and is still generally quicker than equivalent buses. Standard fare is £25 one-way when purchased on the day of travel. Cheap day returns are available to those willing to book online.

By Car

Belfast is the focus of the road network in Northern Ireland, and as such is very well connected. While there are only three motorways in Northern Ireland (M1, M2 and M22), the rest of the country is very well provided for with high quality trunk roads.

Access to Belfast from the Republic of Ireland has never been better. Due to the great improvements the peace process in Northern Ireland has gained, crossing the border into Northern Ireland is now nothing more noticeable than a change in signposts and road markings. The M1 connects Dublin to Dundalk and almost to the border with Northern Ireland. The M1 is 83 km long and has one toll over the bridge of peace in Drogheda (€1.80 for a car).

By Bus

Ulsterbus (a division of Translink, Northern Ireland's public transport operator) operate the intercity bus network in Northern Ireland, linking most major towns and cities. Services are well-used and, in most cases, reasonably priced. The most frequent service is to Londonderry/Derry. Bus Éireann jointly operate cross-border services with Ulsterbus and operate almost all intercity routes in the Republic of Ireland. Bus Éireann offer a €15 single fare and €22 return fare from Dublin Busaras (bus station) and Dublin Airport to the Europa Bus Centre in Belfast (no online purchase); Ulsterbus offers similar specials in the opposite direction. There is also a daily bus to Cork, via Athlone and one to Galway via Cavan.

Dublin Coach provides return tickets between Dublin and Belfast for €20 from Custom House every hour. AirCoach provides same trip for €20 from Gresham Hotel.

Under the Eurolines banner, Ulsterbus offer 2 daily services to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and 2 daily services to London via Manchester and Birmingham. All of these are via the fast ferry Stranraer. Connections are available via National Express to virtually every destination in Great Britain.

For less independent travellers, you can also book day trips from Dublin to Belfast on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. This includes a bus trip to Belfast followed by a black taxi cab ride through the two neighbourhoods and a visit to the peace wall. See Belfast Taxi Tours for info.

Local bus travel in Northern Ireland can be expensive outside of Belfast, but services are frequent and reliable. Belfast itself is small enough to walk anywhere comfortably.

There is also a bus based Park and Ride facility available, see National Park and Ride Directory

By Boat

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Getting Around

By Car

Northern Ireland has a good road network and is served by two main motorways, the M1 and the M2. Belfast can be congested during rush hour but there are never any major problems. The main companies to rent a car include Hertz, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Sixt, Thrifty and Enterprise.

By Public Transport

Within the city there are two very distinct bus systems. Translink, a private company, operates the 'Metro' (previously Citybus). Buses run along colour coded high frequency routes that radiate from the city centre from around 6AM until 11PM. All major bus routes start or pass through Donegall Square, and a Metro information kiosk is on the West side of the square (Donegall Square West). Tourist passes are available from here; more frequent travellers can purchase and pre-load a Smartlink card with credit for bus trips. While the routes are extensive, the travel is expensive, as it is for the whole of the country. Buses frequently do not turn up and staff can at times be unhelpful. Since 2018 Belfast has a rapid transit system, Glider, essentially a big long bendy bus that looks like a tram on wheels and is purple. The key difference between the Glider and the pink-coloured Metro services is that, with Glider, you purchase your tickets from a ticket vending machine at each halt, and you don't have any contact with the driver (unlike the Metro buses where you pay the driver). Also, the Glider operates a continuous west to east route, starting at McKinstry road in West Belfast and going via the city centre to Dundonald, in the east. There will be a Glider service into the Titanic Quarter as well, which will be convenient for the Titanic Belfast and docks.

Belfast's second 'Bus' service is the 'Taxi Bus' or more commonly known as the 'Black Taxis'. These London-style Black Taxis were brought to Belfast in the early 1970s at a time when the 'Troubles' was in its infancy. Riots and armed conflict were a daily occurrence and the established bus company would suspend its services to sections, or all of Belfast in response to this conflict. This suspension of services left much of Belfast without a regular transport service. It had negative effect on many working-class areas of Belfast which found that they were unable to get to or from work, or in the case of children, school. The communities response to this was for individuals to travel to England and to purchase old London taxis. These taxis initially appeared in Republican areas of Belfast and later in Loyalist areas of the city. The taxis operated as buses and were shared by members of the public who would hail the taxi and pay a nominal fare. For more almost 50 years this system has existed and developed.

The primary provider is the Belfast Taxis CIC which operates this service in Nationalist/Republican areas. They have a fleet of around 220 taxis and service, from their base at King Street, Belfast areas such as the Falls, Whiterock, Glen, Andersonstown, Stewartstown and Shaws Roads as well as outlying areas such as Twinbrook and Poleglass. The Association also provides a similar service in the north of the city covering the New Lodge and Ardoyne areas.

Belfast Taxis CIC operate a remarkably efficient service from Belfast city centre to areas of West and North Belfast. Taxis run every few minutes up the Falls Road to destinations including Whiterock, Andersonstown and Twinbrook. The services operate as taxi buses, with passengers sharing a black cab with others who are going to roughly the same place. The routes are similar to bus routes, but the driver will stop and let you out at any point. Taxis can be hailed along the Falls and Andersonstown Roads. Fare from the city centre to Andersonstown are £1.50 one-way, cheaper and more convenient than the equivalent bus service.

To avail of the 'Taxi Bus' service, one merely has to put ones hand out to stop a taxi. Most taxis have a display which states their destination. However, should a visitor to the city be unsure of the exact etiquette surrounding this form of transport or destination, they should just hail any 'Taxi Bus' and ask advice from the driver. The fares are (for the journeys) £1.00 for a pensionerand for any child still at school and £1.50 for an adult. The longest journey is slightly more expensive, but still cheaper than the regular buses (£1.00 for a pensioner; £1.00 for any child still at school and £1.90 for an adult). This Association instigated and developed the now famous 'Black Taxi Tour (Taxitrax)'.

Unionist/Loyalist areas of the City are served by the Shankill Taxis who provide services on the Shankill and Shore Roads. This operation is considerably smaller given that there are perhaps only a dozen taxis working these routes.

By Foot

Belfast is very easy to see by foot due to its size and the fact that it is very flat.

By Bike

Belfast Bikes, the public bike hire scheme operated by Nextbike, has 40 rental stations. You need to register once and pay either £5 for a 3-day membership or £20 for a yearly membership. This gives you free bike rides for 30 min. Rentals up to 1 hour cost £0.50, up to 2 hours £1.50. You can only rent bikes between 06:00-24:00, but you can return them at any time. You can rent one bike for a maximum of 24 hr, otherwise a late-return fee of £120 is automatically charged. It is worth returning bikes frequently, as the hourly price gets more expensive the longer you keep your bike.

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Eat

  • Greens Pizza - Greens Pizza is situated on the Lisburn Road in Belfast and facing the Chelsea Wine Bar. This a great quality "Bring your own Booze" pizza parlour. Don't expect a big restaurant because it's not and don't bother trying to book because you can't. What Greens lacks in size though it sure makes up for in the fine quality of its food. Staff are enthusiastic and ever helpful. Greens operate a system whereby if they are busy with no free tables, you are invited to head across to the Chelsea with a pager and you will be paged once your table is ready. Address: 549 Lisburn Road, Phone: 028 9066 6033
  • Villa Italia - Villa Italia is sited opposite Queens University Villa Italia is one of the best restaurants in Belfast with good food and competitive prices. The restaurant has been open for over 20 years and is well established. Booking is only available for large groups but the restaurant has recently expanded and there is never trouble getting a table.

Archana, 53 Dublin Rd (Just opposite Pizza Hut), ☏ +44 28 9032-3713. M-Sa 12:00-14:00, 17:00-23:00, Su 17:00-23:00. A great Indian restaurant with even better deals at lunchtime.
Boojum, 67-69 Botanic Avenue, ☏ +44 28 9031 5334. Daily 11:30-22:00. Opened in 2008, this Mexican grill offers superb burritos, fajitas and tacos. Similar in style, and layout to the U.S. chain Chipotle. All ingredients are sourced direct from Mexico. A delicious, reasonable and very satisfying alternative. £4.50-5.50. edit
Bright's Restaurant, 41-43 Castle St and 23-25 High St, ☏ +44 28 9024-5688. Two locations in the city centre known for serving the best traditional breakfast in town for only £3.95 before 12:00. Large portions and good service. Can be very busy at times.
Delaney's, 19 Lombard St, ☏ +44 28 9023-1572. A diner with a cosy, old fashioned interior Cooked breakfast from £1.50 and lunches from £2.95. A local favourite.
Doorsteps Sandwiches, 455 Lisburn Rd, ☏ +44 28 9068-1645. A good place for sandwiches, which are large enough to justify the name of the café, and which are exceptionally good value.
Feeley's Fish & Chip Shop, 86 Shaws Rd, ☏ +44 28 9030 1112.
The John Hewitt, 51 Donegall St, ☏ +44 28 9023-3768. Decently priced meals are available during the day and until 9PM in this popular Cathedral Quarter pub. Big plates with well sourced local ingredients and traditional meals. One of the best pubs for lunch in the city. Gay friendly pub. Lunch between £7-9.
Little Italy Pizza, 13 Amelia St, ☏ +44 28 9031-4914. If you're out on the town, this is the perfect place for something to soak up the booze. Just around the corner from the Crown Bar, this place does the very best (and the cheapest) pizza in Belfast.
Loaf Cafe, Maureen Sheehan Centre, 106 Albert St (Just around the corner from the International mural wall on the Falls Rd and across from St. Peter's Cathedral), ☏ +44 28 9090-0071. M-F 8:30AM-3PM. This lovely little cafe which serves a great range of breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea options. Check out their lovely lunch specials and pizza meal deal for 2 on a Wednesday! Profits from Loaf are used to support local people with learning disabilities. Lunch £3.50. edit
Maggie Mays, 50 Botanic Ave; the other branch is on 2 Malone Rd, ☏ +44 28 9032-2662. M-Sa 08:00-23:00, Su 09:00-23:00. Anyone who has had a hangover in Belfast has had Maggie Mays' Ulster fry. Serves a hefty, but far from the best, traditional Ulster breakfast (bacon, sausage, egg, fried bread, soda bread, etc.) The cosy interior is decorated with paintings and street signs from around Belfast. Service can be patchy, but the main reason to come here is the food. Often difficult to get a table, but well worth it if you can! Avoid more than weekly visits, your heart will thank you.
Moghul Restaurant, 62a, Botanic Ave, ☏ +44 28 9032-6677. This fine Indian restaurant has good value lunch deals, and is a handy starting point for a night out on the Golden Mile. Try for the special Friday lunch buffet.
SPUDS, 37 Bradbury Pl. Long established (since 1971) and very popular traditional diner and take-away serving an array of local specialities. Known for its baked potatoes, served with pretty much anything you can imagine. Serves the best 'champ' in the city (a local dish consisting of creamed potatoes, butter and spring onion).
The Bridge House (J.D. Wetherspoon), 35-43 Bedford St. Ubiquitous chain pub found in almost every UK town. Serves undeniably good value food, though quality is sometimes sacrificed for price. Many meals served with free pint.
Apartment, 2 Donegall Square West, ☏ +44 28 9050-9777. Belfast's most stylish venue with amazing views over City Hall. Raised above Belfast's bustling streets this cosmopolitan bar & restaurant has it all to offer - whether its coffee & croissants, lunch & cocktails or wine & dinner. At night Apartment transforms from a modern eatery to a busy lounge bar with cool urban beats from some of Belfast's top DJs. Apartment's ever evolving cocktail list is the most extensive in Belfast with some of the city's finest & most original blends. Gay friendly bar.
Lee Garden, 14-18 Botanic Ave, ☏ +44 28 9027-8882. Daily 12:00-24:00. Popular during the day, mainly due to its £6.95 lunch specials. Evening meals are of average quality and are quite expensive.
Little Wing Pizzeria, 10 Ann St, ☏ +44 28 9024-7000. Belfast's trendiest pizzeria serves some fantastic quality food in comfortable surroundings near Victoria Square. Bookings sometimes necessary at peak times.
Scalini, 85 Botanic Ave, ☏ +44 28 9032-0303. A very good Italian restaurant in the trendy Botanic area of the city and close to Queen's University. Food and drink is very well priced and the portions are generous. Reservations not always required apart from on peak nights.
Aldens Restaurant, 229 Upper Newtownards Rd, ☏ +44 28 9065-0079. This restaurant is further out of town but serves excellent food with great service. edit
Cayenne Restaurant, 7 Ascot House, Shaftsbury Sq, ☏ +44 28 9033-1532. Famous chefs Paul & Jeanne Rankin's Cayenne is a well established place for quality and funky food. Pre-theater menus cost £12.
The King's Head, 829 Lisburn Rd, ☏ +44 28 9050-9950. After a major refurbishment, The King's Head re-opened . It combines fresh food and local character. A 120-seat restaurant, dedicated live lounge, gastro pub & beer garden.
The Merchant Hotel. Belfast's most opulent hotel. A sumptuous, intimate and welcoming hotel in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, in Belfast’s city centre. edit
Restaurant Michael Deane, 1F 36-40 Howard St (Brasserie on ground floor), ☏ +44 28 9033-1134. Belfast's only Michelin Star restaurant, ideal for all the frills dining but despite the accolades it is not overly stuffy.
Shu. On the lower Lisburn Road, this is a perennially popular restaurant in a modern and stylish dining room.
RBG Belfast, 4 Clarence Street West, Off Bedford Street, BT2 7GP, ☏ +44 28 9067-7707. All day dining. All day dining in a relaxing atmosphere at the heart of the city. Live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

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Drink

  • The Merchant Hotel - The Cloth Ear is attached to one of the newest & hippest hotels in Belfast City Centre - The Merchant Hotel (definitely not backpackery!) and is what you would definitely call one of the places to be seen in the city at present. Expect to pay hotel prices - a bottle of beer is around £3.25. They do a mean mojito too l must add - costing around £5-6. The bar also does food daily until 9:00pm. The bar is decorated with differing artefacts - including a wooden moose, vintage clothing and deer heads. Also music doesn't feature much (light background only) so you can actually hear your conversation. At weekends if you are not in before 9pm expect to have to queue to gain entrance to the bar, and although the bar is busy the staff are quick and you shouldn't have to queue too long to get your thirst quenched! Address: 35-39 Merchant Street, Phone: +4428 9023 4888

Crown Liquor Saloon (Aka Crown Bar), 46 Great Victoria St (Situated on the Golden Mile opposite the Europa Hotel), ☏ +44 28 9024 3187. It is by some visitors rated to be the most beautiful pub existing in Northern Ireland today, and even if you don't drink, it's worth a visit. Apart from the stained glass windows (lovingly restored and replaced after several car bombs) it is largely unchanged since Victorian times, and the dark interior is still gas-lit. Inside, you'll find the famous booths which can seat about a dozen people, and be closed off from the bar with the attracted wood panneled doors. These are hot property after work on a Friday afternoon, so move quickly if you have the chance to occupy one. Note the button inside which was once used to summon a barman to take your order (sorry, these no longer work). Run by the Nicholson's pubs chain. They also serve food.
The Kitchen Bar, 36-40 Victoria Sq., ☏ +44 28 9032-4901. One of the most historic bars in Belfast, the original Kitchen Bar dates back to 1859 and was one of the favourite watering holes of the star performers of Belfast's famous Empire Music Hall. Relocated just round the corner from its original site to an old converted warehouse, it retains all the charm and charisma that visitors experienced at the original venue. Real Ale, real food and real craic are the keywords, and it certainly delivers. Traditional fresh food is served daily including the soda bread-based 'Paddy Pizza'. Kitchen Bar (Q6417960) on Wikidata Kitchen Bar on Wikipedia edit
McHugh's Bar & Restaurant, 29-31 Queens Sq., ☏ +44 28 9050-9999. In Belfast's oldest building, dating back to 1711. Has a 100-seat restaurant, a basement bar offering live entertainment and the main gallery, providing enough space and atmosphere for a great night out. The Basement & main bar hosts live traditional music sessions at various times of the week and weekend.
Ryan's Bar & Restaurant, 116-118 Lisburn Rd, ☏ +44 28 9050-9850. The ground floor provides an informal & comfortable venue for craic & conversation where you can partake of great all day bar food. A rather intriguing & tasty choice are the 'Boxty' selections - a type of Irish potato pancake.
The Parador, 116-118 Ormeau Rd, ☏ +44 28 9050-9850. Has been given a new lease of life with a complete facelift and a packed schedule of nightly entertainment. There is a mix of live traditional music on a Tuesday, Pub Quiz on a Wednesday and live Jazz every Thursday. Offers budget accommodation starting at £25 per night for a single room and £38 for a twin or double. Has a good menu of homemade food.

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Sleep

City Backpacker, 53-55 Malone Ave, ☏ +44 28 9066-0030. Close to the Botanic Gardens and Queens University and a 20 minute stroll into town.
Lagan Backpackers, 121 Fitzroy Ave. This small hostel is good for meeting other travellers and you can have a lot of fun there.
Belfast International Youth Hostel, 22-32 Donegall Road, BT12 5JN (Off Sandy Row), ☏ +44 28 9031-5435. A good HI hostel near Shaftesbury Sq. This hostel has internet access and a great breakfast restaurant with vast range of meals between 7AM-11AM including an innovative school-kid type take away lunch pack for those who are on the road. beds from £10.50, rooms from £30.00.
Arnies Backpackers, 63 Fitzwilliam St, ☏ +44 28 9024-2867. A small independent hostel, with a good atmosphere and good location. Rates from £10 for a 8-bed dorm and £12-for a 4 bed dorm. This hostel offers free Wi-fi, tea and coffee.
The Ark Hostel, 18 University St, ☏ +44 28 9032-9626. Another small independent hostel, between University Rd and Botanic Ave. Rooms in near-by apartments also available to rent by the week and month.
Travelodge Hotel Belfast, 15 Brunswick St (Just behind the Crown Liquor Saloon, and less than five minutes walk from the Europa Bus Centre), ☏ +44 870 1911-687, fax: +44 28 9023-2999, ✉ belfast@travelodge.ie. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Part of the national chain of high value low frills motel-cum-hotels. Unusually brilliant central location for a Travelodge, and a popular base for the Easyjet weekenders who want to fall off the Airport bus at Europa and make the most of their time in the city's bars. Book ahead and online for 'Saver' rooms from £26. from £39.
Loughconnolly B+B, 103 Carnlough Rd, ☏ +44 7761014434. Broughshane (just east of Ballymena, road heading in direction of Carnlough). High quality B+B at refreshingly low rates in a beautiful area. This B+B is about 35 min north of Belfast so a car would be necessary. Makes an ideal base for exploring the Glens of Antrim and worth a stop if you are making an onwards journey to the North Coast.
Global Village, 87 University Street, ☏ +44 28 9031-3533. 14.50£.
Malone Lodge Belfast, 60 Eglantine Ave, ☏ +44 28 9038-8060. Malone Rd.
Tara Lodge Belfast, 36 Cromwell Rd, ☏ +44 28 9059-0900. Botanic Avenue, Belfast, BT7 1JW. Highly recommended on both Tripadvisor and Trivago, Tara Lodge is near Queen's University Belfast and is on the doorstep of nearly everything Belfast has to offer!
Self Catering Accommodation Belfast (Self Catering Accommodation Belfast), Dublin Rd, ☏ +44 7967972186, ✉ stephen@selfcateringaccommodationbelfast.com. 3 rental self-catering holiday and serviced business apartments in the lively Belfast city centre just off ‘The Golden Mile’. Each of these Belfast apartments is N.Ireland Tourist Board Approved, 4-star certified. They are also particularly suitable for families with children of all ages, for business or as a holiday rental.
Hilton Belfast, 4 Lanyon Pl, ☏ +44 28 9027-7000. A luxurious Belfast hotel next to the Waterfront Hall, a five-minute walk into Belfast's new Victoria Square Shopping Centre. On-site bar and restaurant, Sonoma. From £100.
Europa Hotel, Great Victoria St., ☏ +44 28 9027-1066. The Europa is famous for having been bombed more times than any other hotel in any other city. Raucous events in the popular ballroom are more likely to disturb you than car bombs now, but it's comforting to know that the hotel (Northern Ireland's largest) has been built to withstand both. Beside Great Victoria St train station and the Europa Bus Centre, across from the Crown Liquor Saloon and next door to the Belfast Grand Opera House. The rooms are comfortable, but increasingly outclassed by more modern arrivals in the city. One of the few Presidential Suites in Northern Ireland that can rightly claim the name: Bill Clinton has stayed in it twice. Popular with business folk, politicians and package tourists.
Radisson Blu Hotel, 3 Cromac Pl (The Gasworks), ☏ +44 28 9043-4065. Off the Ormeau Rd. on the banks of the River Lagen and on the grounds of the old "Gasworks". This hotel manages to be in the city centre, but also off the main roads, so it is quiet.
Malmaison Belfast, 34-38 Victoria St, ☏ +44 28 9022-0200. Check-in: From 3PM, check-out: By midday. Condé Nast Traveller called it a 'Hot New Hotel' when it opened in 2005, and Belfast's upwardly mobile trend setters went crazy for the opulent bar and restaurant. Fashionably bold and different, and occupying a beautifully restored building that makes the Radisson look business-class dull and the Europa look like a monolith. No word on the rooms, but it's got a great location close to the increasingly popular night time hub of the Cathedral Quarter, and is a short walk from the Waterfront Hall. A serious contender for turning Belfast into a honeymoon location. Perfect for a romantic and/or dirty weekend away.
Merchant Hotel, 35-39 Waring St (Cathedral Quarter), ☏ +44 28 9023-4888. The Merchant is an intimate, sumptuous, five-star standard hotel. It was opened in April 2006 following an extensive conversion of the old Ulster Bank Headquarters in Waring Street.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés can be found in many cities and towns. All UK public libraries provide access, often branded as "People's Network", usually at no or little charge, though there is usually a time limit. Some hotels/hostels also offer internet access, including wifi, but most times at a cost. Using the internet on your personal phone can become expensive very quickly, with carriers charging 100's of times the local rate for data. To avoid these expensive roaming charges, you can hunt for wifi at a local cafe or hotel, or rent a mobile hotspot via several providers including DATAPiXY, and XCOM Global.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to the United Kingdom is: 44. To make an international call from the United Kingdom, the code is: 00

In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. Such calls are free and will be answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue). You can call this number from any mobile telephone as well, even if you do not have roaming.

Although the number is declining, you can still find payphones in many public areas, especially stations, airports etc. You can usually pay with cash and sometimes by creditcard or, for international calls, special phonecards are still available.

Mobile phones are heavily used. The main networks are T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and O2. 3G data services are available, usually priced per megabyte and coverage is usually very good in the UK, however it may lack in rural areas. Roaming on your personal phone plan can be expensive. To manage costs, consider purchasing a local UK SIM card for your phone. Several companies offer local SIM cards including Telestial, and CellularAbroad.

Post

The Royal Mail provides postal services in the United Kingdom. The Royal Mail's store fronts are called Post Office and offer services ranging from sending letters and packages to foreign currency exchange. Use the branch locator to find the nearest Post Office branch. There will be at least one post office in any town/city and there are quite often post offices in larger villages. It's common for a post office to be incorporated into a grocery store, where there will be a small counter located at the back of the store for dealing with post related matters. All post offices are marked with signs that say 'post office' in red lettering. Post boxes can be found at any post office and standalone large red post boxes on the streets or red boxes in the sides of public buildings.
For sending packages overseas, it might be a good idea to check prices and services with international companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.

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References

  1. 1 2011 Census - Belfast Local Government District. Source: 2011 Census

Quick Facts

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Population
280,962 [1]
Area
115 km²
Calling Code
028, +44 28
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 54.597269
  • Longitude: -5.930109

Accommodation in Belfast

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Belfast searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

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This is version 50. Last edited at 15:45 on Sep 23, 19 by Utrecht. 58 articles link to this page.

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