We’ve pulled together the suggestions of three bloggers – from Galway, Scarborough and Newcastle, County Down – to bring you the ultimate outsider’s guide to Belfast.
Maybe you’ve already been to all the places they’ve mentioned, maybe you’ll pick up a few new ideas, or maybe you’ll just enjoy having a wee nosey at what people who don’t live here think of our capital city.
1. Five Guys
2. Belfast Castle
3. The Perch rooftop bar
4. Chinawhite nightclub
5. Brunch in 5a
6. General Merchants cafe
7. Botanical Gardens
8. St George’s Market
9. Established Coffee
10. Spoon Street
11. Game of Thrones tours
12. The Belfast Beer Bike (Wee Toast Tours)
13. Coppi Italian restaurant
14. Indoor trampolining and skiing at We Are Vertigo
15. The Lagan Towpath
16. Cheap cocktails and ping pong at Cuckoo
17. And finally… that Northern Irish sense of humour
Next, we hear from Pikalily, a food blog run by husband and wife team Nial and Helen from Newcastle, County Down…
They bring us a 24 Hour Guide To Exploring Belfast
Places Of Interest
St George’s Market
Titanic Quarter & Titanic Belfast
Grand Opera House
Botanic Gardens & Ulster Museum
James Street South
Deane’s at Queen’s
Made in Belfast
House of Zen
The Dirty Onion
Aether & Echo
The Duke of York
Finally, we hear from Emily-Ann Elliott, an English journalist who has taken a year out to travel the world…
You definitely have to pop into The Crown Bar, a beautiful 1820s building with carved mahogany booths and gas lamps, which is now a National Trust building.
If you’re looking for venues playing traditional Irish music, check out Kelly’s Cellars and The John Hewitt. They were everything I’d imagined an Irish pub to be and I loved the fact that musicians seemed to come and go at random, swapping in and out of the group when it was time to move on to the next place.
There is a growing food scene in Belfast and anyone who loves good cuisine will be spoilt for choice. Try Howard St restaurant for a delicious menu packed with locally sourced produce.
No stay in Ireland is complete without an Irish breakfast and we were spoilt for choice at the Europa, where all of the breakfast, including potato cakes and Guinness bread, is locally sourced.
We found that the best way to get around the city was by taking a tour. I don’t often take a tour bus when I’m visiting a city, but this is a really great way to get around Belfast as many of the sights are quite spread out. With the Parliament buildings on the Stormont Estate on one side of the city and the peace walls on the other side, the joy of the hop-on hop-off bus means that you can navigate a route around the city quite easily.
Our first stop of the day was Crumlin Road Goal, which was a jail from 1845 to 1996.
We took a guided tour and it was quite surreal to walk around a building which had up until so recently been filled with prisoners. It was also home for many years to lots of republican and loyalist prisoners who were housed in different wings and had to take different break times.
The building is now used for events and concerts and in a strange way is quite attractive to look at, but the stories it holds are still horrifying.
Back on the bus we passed through the part of the city where the peace wall divides the Protestant Shankill Road from the Catholic Falls Road. Seeing that stretch of wall, as well as the many murals on buildings in the surrounding streets, brought back so many memories of growing up watching The Troubles on the evening news. It’s hard to believe that the difficult history of this city is so recent.
In the evening head to Commercial Court, where the bars like the Duke of York are more modern, but still have their quirky touches and will definitely be filled with people enjoying the ‘craic’.
If you’re looking for traditional Irish food, in an unusual setting, then try Holohans At The Barge. As its name suggests, this restaurant is set on a boat and I loved its cosy feel and the chance to people watch from a table next to the window.
The Titanic Museum opened in 2012 and is now one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. We were advised that it would take around two hours to get around the museum, but we were there for over three and still felt like we could have stayed longer.
St George’s Market sells all kinds of locally produced goods, ranging from food and drink to arts and crafts. And, of course, there’s always some Irish music to keep the crowds entertained.
So there you have it, three very different bloggers from three very different parts of the UK & Ireland, and the only place they all agreed on was St George’s Market.