Capital city of Northern Ireland, Belfast is an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary Irish culture and living. It’s steeped in history, playing a dynamic role during the industrial revolution, with the city evolving around its ship building and linen industry. Today it is famed for its passion for the arts and warm welcome given to travellers, and with plenty of cultural attractions located near the port, you won’t have far to walk to immerse yourself in the history of Northern Ireland. The port itself is still a vibrant industrial area which welcomes over 5000 vessels a year, and guests will get a feel of the importance of the area when the ship comes in to dock at its bustling quayside.
Belfast is a vibrant, busy city surrounded by the rolling Irish countryside. As one of the most visited cities in the United Kingdom it’s well prepared for the numerous visitors that flock to its shores each year. One of the best ways to see the city is on foot so you can fully appreciate the beautiful Edwardian and Victorian facades. They nestle between modern buildings and small winding side streets that hide some interesting sights. Arriving in its busy port, travellers can visit the newly-built Titanic exhibition. It’s dedicated to the ship that made the city famous and is home to a unique Pump-House that’s worth seeing. Here are some sights you won’t want to miss when you step off your ship:
Crumlin Road Gaol: This historic landmark dates back to 1845 but only recently closed its doors to residents in 1996. Today, visitors can take a guided tour of the gaol and see where women and children used to stay, right through to how it was used for the separation of political prisoners in more recent times.
Titanic’s Dock and Pump-House: No trip to the city would be complete without visiting the Titanic exhibition with is interactive experience of life in 1912 Belfast. Walk in the same places as those who built the ship and see the original pumping engines used.
Stormont Castle: Housing the Northern Ireland Assembly, the castle and its pretty gardens are open to visitors. Tours take guests around the debating chamber, showing off the unique architecture and art work and providing interesting facts most people won’t know about.
Belfast Zoological Gardens: With over 1000 animals on display, the zoo offers plenty to see and do including a children’s playground, animal feeding areas, keeper talks and breeding and conservation programmes. The zoo is home to a range of popular animals like Asian elephants and Malayan sun bears.
Shopping in Belfast
As expected of such a vibrant cosmopolitan city, Belfast has a vast array of shopping areas offering high-end designer boutiques to bargain markets to explore. There really is something for everyone here.
A firm favourite with tourists is Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory. Using 100 year old recipes, the sweets are hand-made in the quaint on-site factory. Aunt Sandra’s produces a wide range of chocolates and fudges and visitors are invited to watch them being made and sample them at the end of the tour.
Victoria Square is a glass-domed shopping mall with a panoramic view of the city. It is home to a wide range of designer shops as well as more affordable high street stores and a food court. St George’s Market offers visitors to the city a more rustic shopping experience. This Victorian marketplace offers a range of products at its weekend markets. On Friday’s it’s filled with everything from fish to clothing. Saturday sees the Food and Craft Market spring in to action, and Sunday offers a mix of both. It’s a dynamic shopping experience enhanced by live music and a hectic atmosphere.
Belfast has a wide variety of restaurants to choose from. Close to the port, 4th Mall is a relaxed brassiere that’s popular with locals. It creates exciting dishes using locally sourced produce, and offers a seasonal menu.
Seafood lovers’ flock to the Mourne Seafood Bar which grows its own seafood locally. It’s a great place to enjoy traditional and fusion dishes in a relaxed and friendly environment, and it’s a popular choice with locals as well as visitors.
The unimposing façade of the Shu Restaurant belies the delights that lie inside. This restaurant has received numerous accolades from various foodie sources, and quite rightly so. Their mix of local and international dishes are cooked to perfection, using locally sourced produce. Visitors looking for something a little bit special can opt for private dining, and the Shubar in the basement is perfect for an after dinner drink and dance.