20 Bucket-List Things to do in Belfast, Northern Ireland

A major port city in the early 19th century, and the birthplace of the RMS Titanic, Belfast grew to become a delightful metropolis filled with history, culture, and natural beauty.

These passing centuries have left Belfast with a rich array of landmarks and monuments, so it’s no surprise that the capital city of Northern Ireland has been captivating visitors for years.

Here, there are historic maritime landmarks, lush botanic gardens, world-class museums, a gorgeous castle, and even a former prison dating back to 1845.

Whatever your interests are, you’re sure to find something to quell them in Belfast.

Here’s a guide to the top 20 things to do in Belfast, including historical sites, family-friendly attractions, and amazing nature-based locations.

20 Top Things to do in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Walk Around The Belfast City Centre

Walk Around The Belfast City Centre.

Walking around the Belfast City Centre is an unparalleled way of experiencing the local heritage and culture. Here, you’ll come across some of Belfast’s most famous tourist attractions, including the Linen Hall Library (the city’s oldest library), and the neo-Gothic Albert Memorial Clock, built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s consort.

Be sure to also check out St. Anne’s Cathedral, also known as Belfast Cathedral. Erected at the beginning of the 20th century on the site of the old St. Anne’s Parish Church, the cathedral is the most significant place of worship in Belfast. Inside, you’ll find a spectacular pipe organ — the second largest in Northern Ireland.

Go On A Guided Tour of the Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Hall, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Belfast City Hall is one of Belfast’s most iconic buildings. Commissioned to replace the Old Town Hall after Queen Victoria gave Belfast “City Status “ in 1888, the edifice was beautifully designed in Baroque Revival style by architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas.

A guided tour is a great way to explore the allure of this Grade A-listed building. Inside, you’ll get the chance to discover areas not usually accessible to the general public such as the Irish-oak-panelled Council Chamber and the Italian and Greek marble-clad Rotunda.

The interior of the Belfast City Hall, which is currently home to the Belfast City Council, is also decorated with dreamy stained glass windows featuring among others the Belfast Coat of Arms, portraits of Queen Victoria and William III, and shields of the Provinces of Ireland.

On the east side of the Belfast City Hall lies the Titanic Memorial Gardens, built to commemorate the 1,512 people who died on RMS Titanic in 1912. The garden features a plinth inscribed with the names of the victims, and it’s punctuated by graceful flowers that come in full bloom during the springtime.

Address: Donegall Square N, Belfast BT1 5GS, United Kingdom

Explore The Cathedral Quarter On Foot

Cathedral Quarter, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Whether you’re staying two nights or a week in Belfast, make sure to idly wander through the Cathedral Quarter. Located in central Belfast, around St. Anne’s Cathedral, this historic area is often considered the beating heart of the city thanks to its vibrant atmosphere.

The Cathedral Quarter consists of a maze of cobblestoned streets and warehouses that are now dotted with trendy bars, beer gardens, cafes, and restaurants. Whenever you feel like stretching your legs, head over to the Duke of York — arguably one of the best bars in Belfast —, or McHugh’s, a traditional Irish pub set within a historic building dating back to 1711.

An array of colorful murals also make the Cathedral Quarter an excellent destination for a street art walking tour. On Talbot Street, for instance, you can find a mural by Dan Kitchener as well as an image of a boy and a dove by MTO. On Hill Street, you’ll see the “Duel of Belfast” mural by Conor Harrington and “Skateboarder Jay Adams” by Psychonautes.

Visit The Crumlin Road Gaol

Crumlin Road Gaol, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Dating back to 1845, the Crumlin Road Gaol is the only remaining Victorian-era prison in Northern Ireland. For 150 years, it served as a fully operational prison where murderers, suffragettes, and republican prisoners, including women and children, were held.

The Crumlin Road Gaol closed its doors as a working prison in 1996, and after extensive renovations, it became one of the top Belfast Attractions. Today, you can explore this former prison as part of the “Crumlin Road Gaol Experience”. During the tour, you’ll visit the underground tunnel that connected the gaol to the Crumlin Road Courthouse, explore all the wings where the prisoners lived, and finally see the Condemned Man’s Cell where 17 men were executed.

Address: 53-55 Crumlin Rd, Belfast BT14 6ST

Learn About The World’s Most Famous Ship At The Titanic Belfast

Titanic Belfast, in Northern Ireland.

Titanic Belfast is the world’s largest Titanic visitor attraction. Located at the head of the slipways where the RMS Titanic was launched, this immersive museum allows visitors to explore 9 interactive galleries and learn about the world’s most famous ocean liner.

The attraction lies in the heart of Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, a vibrant district overlooking the River Lagan. The area, by the way, is a great place for those seeking to dive deeper into the city’s maritime history.

Adjacent to Titanic Belfast you’ll find the Titanic Hotel Belfast, which is set within n the former headquarters of Harland & Wolff, builders of Titanic. Just a 2-minute walk from the hotel lies the SS Nomadic, the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world also known as Titanic’s little sister.

Also based in the Titanic Quarter is HMS Caroline, one of the last surviving vessels to have seen service in both world wars. Commissioned in 1914, this First World War-era warship is now restored as a must-see floating museum.

Address: Titanic Queen’s Road, The Titanic Quarter, 1 Olympic Wy, Belfast BT3 9EP

See A Dinosaur’s Skeleton At The Ulster Museum

A dinossaur skeleton in  the Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Nestled in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens the Ulster Museum holds a precious collection spanning art, natural science, and history.

The art zone of the museum (George and Angela Moore Gallery) is mainly home to artworks from the 18th century as well as the contemporary period, while the history galleries harbor archeological treasures found in Ireland, including spectacular Bronze Age gold jewelry. Here, you’ll also find objects relating to the political, social, and economic history of Ireland dating from 1500 to the present day

Be sure to also check out the Ulster Museum’s natural science collections, which have been built since the late 1700s. This dazzling collection encompasses meteorites, insects, plants, and animal specimens, found around Northern Ireland and around the world.

Ulster Folk & Transport Museum

Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Want to learn more about Northern Ireland’s history? Then head over to the Ulster Folk Museum and the Ulster Transport Museum. Both museums are located in Cultra, an affluent residential neighborhood in Belfast, and take visitors on a fascinating journey through time.

The open-air Folk Museum illustrates the lifestyle and traditions of the people in Northern Ireland, past and present. Over 170 acres of the museum are devoted to depicting the rural way of life in the early 20th century and allow visitors to stroll through a recreation of the period’s countryside complete with farms, cottages, crops, and livestock. The museum also recreates a typical 20th-century town called “Ballycultra”.

Just an 11 minutes walk from the Ulster Folk Museum lies the Ulster Transport Museum, which tells the story of transport and social change in Northern Ireland. The museum has an exhibition fully dedicated to the Titanic, as well as a gallery filled with historic vehicles, including a 1911 Ford Model T, one of the earliest examples of motor cars.

Address: 153 Bangor Rd, Holywood BT18 0EU

Discover The Tropical Plants At Belfast Botanic Gardens and Palm House

Belfast Botanic Gardens and Palm House, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Belfast’s Botanic Gardens is a lush garden in the middle of the city. Established in 1828, this 28-acre public park is home to a lovely rose garden, long herbaceous borders, and a collection of rare oaks that includes the exotic including the hornbeam-leafed oak.

The crown jewel of the botanic gardens is definitely the Palm House, which is dotted with a gorgeous array of tropical plants.

Address: College Park Ave, Botanic Ave, Belfast BT7 1LP

Marvel At Queen’s University Architecture

Queen's University Architecture, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Queen’s University is one of the great architectural assets of Belfast and one of the top tourist attractions in the city. Situated close to the Botanic Gardens, the university consists of a series of Tudor-style buildings, some of them designed by the prestigious architect Sir Charles Lanyon. In fact, the university’s Gothic and Tudor-style façade is an icon in Belfast’s skyline.

Address: University Rd, Belfast BT7 1NN

Check Out The Views From The Belfast Castle

Belfast Castle, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Perched atop the slopes of Cavehill Country Park, 400 feet above sea level, the Belfast Castle was built in the 1860s but now serves as a venue for conferences, functions, and weddings.

Thanks to its glorious location, the castle is actually visited for its surrounding woodland and parkland, which can be explored through a variety lush of routes. From up there, visitors will be rewarded with heartwarming views of Belfast.

Address: Antrim Rd, Belfast BT5 5GR

Go Hiking In The Cave Hill Country Park

Cave Hill Country Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Cave Hill Country Park, where Belfast Castle is located, is a bucket-list attraction for outdoor adventurers. This sprawling park treats daring adventurers to an array of natural features such as eco trails, scenic woodland areas, and species-rich grassland.

The park’s gorgeous nature beautifully frames a range of archaeological sites, including otherwordly caves, and a century-old fort.

Address: Antrim Rd, Belfast BT5 5GR

See The Great Hall At The Stormont Parliament Buildings

Top view of the Stormont Parliament Buildings, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Stormont Parliament Buildings leaves visitors in awe with its magnificence. Built in 1921, this Neoclassical-style building was designed by architect Sir Arnold Thornely, who was knighted by King George and boasts perfect symmetry and symbolism.

A 45-minute guided tour is a great way to explore the Stormont Parliament Buildings, and marvel at its show-stopping features. Highlights include the Great Hall, richly decorated with a blue, red, and gold painted ceiling, the historic Senate Chamber, and the MLAs’ seats in the Assembly Chamber.

Address: Stormont Estate, Belfast

Tour The Magnificent Grand Opera House

The Grand Opera House in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Even if you don’t plan on watching a concert, visiting the Grand Opera House is a must. Often regarded as Northern Ireland’s most iconic theatre, the opera opened in 1895 and was artfully designed by Frank Matcham, the most prolific theatre architect of the period.

A tour of this Grade A-listed building will give you the opportunity to see the theater’s spectacular Victorian auditorium and learn about the gods, elephants, and stars that decorate the opera’s interior. You’ll also be able to learn about the famous artists that once performed at the Grand Opera House, including Charlie Chaplin, and Luciano Pavarotti.

Address: 2-4 Great Victoria St, Belfast BT2 7HR

Go For A Stroll In Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park

Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Need a break from the bustling streets of Belfast? Then go for a walk at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, an urban oasis that covers almost 130 acres filled with rolling meadows, woodland, gardens, and international camellia trials.

Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park are also well known for being home to the City of Belfast International Rose Garden, which holds the colorful Summer Rose Fair in July each year.

Address: Belfast BT17 9LA

Hit The Nature Trails Of Giant’s Causeway

Giant's Causeway in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Giant’s Causeway is a wonderland designed by mother nature. Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site, this breathtaking location lies at the foot of the basalt cliffs along the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim plateau.

Here, nature lovers will be rewarded with stunning views of over 40,000 basalt columns, formed some 60 million years ago, descending gently into the sea.

Giant’s Causeway can be explored through a network of four walking trails, which leads visitors to discover scenic geological formations and beautiful native seabirds.

Take The Kids To The Belfast Zoo

Three giraffes at the Belfast Zoo, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Belfast Zoo is the ultimate family-friendly destination in Belfast. Set on 55 acres with views over Belfast Lough, the zoo is home to over 140 species of animals, most of which are endangered or extinct. Get ready for some wild encounters with Andean bears, Barbary lions, Chilean flamingos, and more adorable creatures.

Curious fact: This fun family destination was opened in 1934 and is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Northern Ireland.

Address: Antrim Rd, Belfast BT36 7PN

Check Out The Belfast Peace Walls

One of the Belfast Peace Walls, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Peace Walls are a series of separation barriers in Northern Ireland that separate republican and nationalist Catholic neighborhoods from predominantly loyalist and unionist Protestant neighborhoods.

Most of the walls were constructed during the early years of the Troubles (violent sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland ) in 1969, and around one-third have popped up since 1994 when the IRA declared an effective ceasefire.

There are 99 peace walls around Belfast, and they’re now popular tourist attractions in the city. Most of them are covered with colorful murals, as well as signatures of famous people who have visited them.

The biggest Peace Wall in Belfast is the wall that runs along Cupar Way and divides the East Belfast Loyalist area of Shankill Road from the Springfield/Fall Roads Catholic Area of West Belfast. This famous wall is an imposing multi-level concrete structure that stretches for 2,624.6 feet.

Get Your Heart Racing At The Colin Glen Forest Park

A man ziplining in a forest.

Colin Glen Forest Park is another must-visit attraction for families visiting Belfast. Nestled in the heart of the city, this is Ireland’s leading adventure park filled with a whole host of world-class attractions.

Ready to get your heart racing? Then be sure to experience the River Rapid, Ireland’s longest Zipline, crisscrossing the glistening Colin River and the forest below; and Black Bull Run, Ireland’s first and only Alpine Coaster.

The park is also home to a Jurassic forest, where kids can dig fossils and walk with dinosaurs, as well as a golf course, and scenic nature walks.

Address: 28 Colin Glen Road, Belfast, BT17 0LR

Enjoy Some Retail Therapy At The Victoria Square Shopping Centre

Inside of the Victoria Square Shopping Centre, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Victoria Square is the go-to destination for those in need of some retail therapy. The mall is home to a good mix of well-known stores, including Urban Outfitters, Mango, Pull & Bear, Hollister, Reiss, Flannels, Frasers, and Ireland’s only Apple Store.

And that’s not all! The mall is topped by an iconic glass dome, which offers visitors jaw-dropping 360º vires of Belfast, the river Lagan, and even the Mourne Mountains.

Address: 1 Victoria Square, Belfast BT1 4QG, United Kingdom

Go On A Belfast Food Tour

The St. George’s Market, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

It is quite possible to get an overview of Belfast’s history and culture by eating your way through the city. Here, there’s an unlimited variety of food and dining in every class — from traditional eateries to thrilling new restaurants.

Some of the local restaurants you should look out for are the Barnish Café and Tearoom, famous for their hearty breakfast dishes. Order the “Ulster Fry, a gigantic plate that has sausages, streaky bacon, eggs, tomatoes, and potato bread. A typical Northern Ireland meal!

Holohan’s Pantry is a family-owned restaurant serving the best Irish boxty (a traditional potato pancake) in Belfast. For some jet-fresh seafood, visit the Mourne Seafood Bar and order the salt and chili squid.

Don’t leave Belfast without visiting, St. George’s Market the city’s last surviving Victorian-covered market. Here, be sure to try the Belfast Bap, a staple sandwich filled with an egg, sausage, and bacon.

FAQ

Is Belfast worth visiting?

Yes. Belfast is a thriving Irish city filled with fabulous sights, wonderful restaurants, and world-class museums, so it’s definitely worth a visit.

Is 3 days enough in Belfast?

Yes, 3 days gives travelers enough time to explore Belfast’s top attractions and sights.

What is Belfast best known for?

Belfast is best known for its maritime history and for being the birthplace of the Titanic. The city is also famous for its beautiful natural setting.

What are the top attractions in Belfast?

The top Belfast attractions are:

  • Belfast City Centre;
  • Belfast City Hall;
  • Cathedral Quarter;
  • Crumlin Road Gaol;
  • Titanic Belfast;
  • Ulster Folk Museum;
  • Ulster Folk & Transport Museum;
  • Belfast Botanic Gardens and Palm House;
  • Queen’s University;
  • Belfast Castle;
  • Cave Hill Country Park;
  • Stormont Parliament Buildings;
  • Grand Opera House;
  • Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park;
  • Giant’s Causeway;
  • Belfast Zoo;
  • Belfast Peace Wall;
  • Colin Glen Forest Park;
  • Victoria Square Shopping Centre.

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