Belfast has a reputation that outweighs its population; the widely publicised troubles of the past century belie the size of what is actually quite a small city. There’s passion in abundance, which is part of what makes it such a great place. The city itself is as welcoming as its people, with a kind of ironic good cheer, but there’s a also hint of unrest that provides an air of excitement.
Belfast is a popular tourist destination, and for good reason. Aside from the lovely city, Belfast’s position in Ireland makes it a door to the north, where you will find distilleries, castles, villages, film locations and the famous Giant’s Causeway.
We were due for a whirlwind visit as we only had one night and two half days to spend with some friends who lived there, and we made the most of it.
We arrived from Dublin by Bus Éireann which departs on the hour every hour from Dublin Busaras. The bus takes around 2.5 hours, and costs £14 one way and £20.50 for a return ticket. Bus is a great way to see some of the Irish countryside and only takes about 20 minutes longer than the train, which is twice the price. Easy decision really.
Belfast airport connects the city with major destinations all over Europe and the US. Flights from London Stansted to Belfast International with easyjet start from £52.
We had friends in Belfast at the time, and we were able to stay with them for no cost, so I can’t really offer a recommendation for Belfast accommodation other than the usual. Belfast has all the accommodation options you would expect in any city to suit any budget, and as it’s quite small, location isn’t everything. We stayed close to the Queen’s University and Botanical gardens, which seemed like a good area and was within walking distance to the city centre.
I would say, beware of the time of year you are travelling as Belfast can be cold and very wet. Staying at a campground in September might be a miserable option, just as the cheapest possible hostel in January might be a little cold.
Here’s what you can expect to pay on average per night per person, based on a double room for one night.
The first thing to do as a tourist in Belfast is take a black cab tour. A local in a black cab will take you on a tour of Belfast while talking about the city’s history, showing you the main sites and outlining the peace wall. This is an awesome experience and it’s a great way to immediately get a feel for the city and its past. Tours last around 1.5 hours, cost around £30 for up to three people and £8.50 per person from three to six people.
After this introduction, it’s easy to spend a day walking around the main tourist sights of the city. Visit the Cathedral Quarter, the Crumlin Road Gaol, Titanic Belfast and the Belfast Castle, stopping in a few pubs along the way.
Our second day we planned an ambitious trip to the north of Ireland to visit the Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills Distillery and Dunluce Castle. Options for getting to Bushmills are Train (2.5 hours – £10), Bus (3.5 hours – £15) or car hire, which we chose as there were four of us and we were limited for time! I think we paid something like £23 each for the car, including petrol and it took just over an hour each way to drive. It’s also worth noting that there are companies that offer north coast bus tours and day trips for around £20 per person. These leave from central city and must be booked in advance, as we missed out trying to book on the day.
If you do get the chance, all the attractions mentioned above are well worth the visit and easily doable in a day. Bushmills Distillery costs £7.50 per person and includes a drink, the Giants Causeway is £9, and Dunluce Castle is £5.
Belfast for one night;
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