While on our Ireland road-trip, we made sure to spend one night in Belfast in order to visit the Titanic Museum and see some of the sights. Unfortunately, it was the coldest and rainiest day that we spent in Ireland and so we didn’t get that great of pictures. But we did have a nice time at the Titanic Museum and saw most of the highlights.
If you’re traveling between Dublin and Belfast, we have to recommend a couple of stops. First, the Bru Na Boinne UN historical site is situated between the two cities. We didn’t have time to stop at Bru Na Boinne, and instead tried to stop at the Dowth hill which is the only hill of the 3 that is outside of the complex and doesn’t require a ticket. Unfortunately, we had a hard time even finding the hill, and a place to park, so it ended up being a dud of a stop. If you want to see the hills, just plan an extra day for your visit, that’s what we plan to do next time because we were disappointed to miss it.
Another stop between Dublin and Belfast is the cemetery that is home to the Monasterboice High Crosses. They are only about a 5 minute detour from the M1 highway and are actually quite picturesque. It was a bit unnerving to see the signs about pickpockets in this area, but in January we had the entire cemetery to ourselves and didn’t have any issues.
Unique to Belfast:
- Titanic Museum
- Peace Walls
- CS Lewis Square
- Albert Memorial Clock
- Crumlin Road Gaol
- Belfast Castle
Titanic Museum – The Titanic was built right in downtown Belfast in the exact spot where the Titanic Museum now stands. We visited the Titanic Museum and were quite impressed. It is a very new museum and is built to be very interactive and modern. The museum is about 6 floors which you start at the top of and make your way downstairs learning all about the history of the city of Belfast and how it became a ship building center, you ride in a car and see what it was like for the workers building the ship, you see replicas of the Titanic’s staterooms, and of course, learn all about the iceberg warnings. One part of the tour particularly stuck out in my mind. At the end, there was a place where you stood over glass windows and looked down at the image of the Titanic as it appears lying on the ocean floor. It was haunting and also fascinating to see the debris and damage caused by the ocean. We highly recommend. If you have time, you should also stop next door to tour the SS Nomadic. The Nomadic is the last surviving ship of the White Star Line and actually served as tender for the Titanic. Therefore it was originally designed to match the Titanic in color and style. After the Titanic sank, it had a very colorful history before being returned to the Titanic Museum for restoration. (Don’t I look fancy on the stairs of the Nomadic? I was making a grand entrance.)
Admire the Peace Walls – Another part of Belfast which I think is worth visiting is the Peace Walls. We bravely managed to drive to see some (it was our 1st day renting a car in Ireland and we were newbies at driving on the left). Unfortunately my pictures aren’t that great because it was pouring rain (see at right), but I thought they were fascinating. It’s so interesting how these simple walls helped keep the violence down between conflicting neighbors. And this all happened really recently in history. Another reason the Peace Walls should be high on your list is because they aren’t supposed to be up for much longer. There is a current effort underway to take them all down over the next few years. If you are really interested, there are tours and taxis that will take you around Belfast to show you the best artwork.
Visit the Land of Narnia at CS Lewis Square – Belfast is the home of C.S. Lewis, the author of the famous “Chronicles of Narnia” book series. I love those books and insisted that we visit the CS Lewis Square for a quick picture. Inside the square are statues of many of the book’s characters and a statue of Lewis himself standing next to the wardrobe.
Other stops in Belfast include the Albert Memorial Clock, famous because it leans, Crumlin Road Gaol which is a former prison you can tour, and Belfast Castle. We didn’t tour the prison or the castle due to time constraints, however, we did see the Clock tower in downtown Belfast when we went out to dinner. I don’t have any pictures though because it was dark and raining. All of those stops would be on my list if we ever visit Belfast again.
Next time I visit Belfast:
- Get a picture in the daylight of the Albert Memorial Clock tower.
- Take an actual tour of the peace walls.
- Visit Belfast Castle & Crumlin Road Gaol.
- Eat dinner at an Irish Pub.
We rented a car in Dublin for our road-trip so we drove around Belfast ourselves. We also took an Uber to go out to dinner which worked just like it does in the US. They also have a Hop-On/Hop-Off bus if you want to use that option. I would have liked to do the Hop-On/Off bus, however, the bus closes when it gets dark which is quite early in January!
Titanic Hotel Belfast– We were very lucky to be one of the first guests to stay in the brand new Titanic Hotel Belfast which opened in the fall of 2017. This hotel is really cool. They converted an old ship building office into a hotel with a very modern but also vintage industrial look. It’s very comfortable and their breakfast is amazing. We highly recommend this hotel.
Restaurants/ Meals & Drinks:
We had really wanted to try McHugh’s, however, it was closed the day that we were in Belfast so we had to just find something that was open. Our Uber driver suggested Bert’s Jazz Bar instead since it was raining and there wasn’t a lot of options open. Sorry if we’re not a lot of help in deciding where to eat in Belfast!
Bert’s Jazz Bar – This jazz bar part of the Merchant Hotel, or it has it’s own entrance off of High St. just a block down from the Albert Memorial Clock. The restaurant is pretty fancy with little round tables and plush chairs. Overall, my meal felt a bit overpriced (you know me at this point, fancy does not equal good in my opinion). But my husband did have fun trying an appetizer that included quail’s eggs. He had a steak that he didn’t mind.
Brunch at the Titanic Hotel – Seriously, their breakfast was amazing! It was my favorite in all of Ireland.
Tips/ Things to Know:
- It gets dark early in the winter in Ireland and some of the attractions may close early. Check the time schedules before finalizing any plans.
- Mondays also seem to be dead in Belfast. Most of the restaurants we tried to go to were closed. Not sure the reason because it didn’t seem to be a holiday.
- When traveling in Ireland, don’t be surprised to find that a lot of hotels don’t have plug ins in the bathrooms. I was frustrated a first to not have a place to plug in my curling iron, but then I realized it was Ireland and raining anyways, so it wasn’t going to look good no matter how much effort I put into it! Save room in your luggage and leave your hair appliances at home.
Our Time Spent in the City of Belfast:
- 1 nights in January 2018, at the Titanic Hotel Belfast
Hope you find our travel guide helpful!