BELFAST: Where to Stay | Where to Eat | What to Do | Day Trips
We spent 2 nights in Northern Ireland and stayed in Belfast. We took a train from Dublin Connelly Station to Belfast that took about 2 hours and was a beautiful ride up the coast. Northern Ireland is a separate country from the Republic of Ireland and is included under the United Kingdom. Due to this, the currency in Northern Ireland is the British pound. Currently there are no physical border crossings but Brexit could change that, no one is really sure. If you’re planning on visiting, be sure to read up on The Troubles ahead of time. 2 nights was the perfect amount of time to see everything we wanted to in Belfast.
Where to Stay in Belfast
We stayed at the Europa Hotel which is famous for being the most bombed hotel in Europe. It was beautiful, in a great location, and had a king size comfy bed. The hotel had a buffet style breakfast that was 20 pounds/person, which had great selection such of: juices, smoothies, lattes/espresso, granola/fruit/yogurt, hot breakfast items like eggs and sausages, and pastries/toast etc. While it was a little pricey, the food quality and convenience made it worth it. The hotel also 2 restaurants that served lunch and dinner, as well as a piano bar. There was also a Starbucks directly across the street – ok maybe I knew that when I picked it ;). I was super happy with this hotel and would absolutely stay here again.
Where to Eat in Belfast
Both of the restaurants we ate dinner at were directly across from the Europa hotel, which made it easy.
Crown Liquor Saloon – we ate in the dining room here which is upstairs and the food was good. I had a macaroni dish and the rest of the group all had chicken burgers and everyone was happy with their meal.
Robinsons Bistro – This restaurant has a casual vibe and a lot of American style choices for food. I had a pasta with sundried tomatoes and spinach, and another in our group had chicken fajitas. This was getting near the end of our trip and I was so happy to find a menu that had some options other than the typical “Guinness Stew, Chicken Pot Pie, Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mash” etc.
What to Do in Belfast
Titanic Museum. Did you know the Titanic was built in Belfast? I would HIGHLY recommend the Titanic Museum. It is a new museum (I think about 2013) so it is very high tech and interactive. The museum is located on the site of the shipyard where the Titanic was built, and we took a cab there from our hotel, I think it cost around 8 pounds. The museum is huge and takes about 2.5-3 hours to fully experience everything, so be sure to leave yourself enough time. You start off by learning about Belfast, its history in building ships (its other main industry was linen), and learn about the materials used to build the ship. There is a “ride” that takes through a re-creation of what the shipyard would have looked like. Don’t skip this part! It’s neat to see. You also are able to see what the cabins would have looked like, including the different cabin classes. I was surprised to see how tiny the beds were. You can read all about the Captain and the Engineer, and everyone one who was involved in the famous ship. One of my favourite parts was the interactive passenger lists that showed passenger names, nationality and whether they survived or were lost at sea. The final part of the museum is based on underwater exploration and how technology has changed over the years.
Belfast City Hall. Belfast City Hall is beautiful inside and out. And best of all, the tour is free! It takes around 30 minutes and I think they run 3 times a day. The architecture of the building is incredible, as are the stained glass windows. Parts of the building were damaged during the Troubles, but the stained glass windows are original. The mayor at the time got word that Belfast was going to be bombed, so he had the windows removed and hid away in the countryside for safe keeping. A lot of the building is carved marble that was brought in from Italy.
Black Taxi Tour. While Belfast is now perfectly safe to visit, from the late 1960’s to 1998 Northern Ireland was in a state of conflict and warfare, referred to as “the troubles”. Belfast is still very much divided between the unionists/loyalists who are mostly Protestants and consider themselves British, and the nationalists/republicans, who are mostly Catholics and consider themselves Irish. Although the fighting and violence has stopped, the city walls still exist to divide and seperate the communities. Some communities also have gates which are locked by 10 pm at night. It was pretty eye opening to see.
Day Trips from Belfast
Giant’s Causeway. We did a day trip from Belfast to Giant’s Causeway with Paddy Wagon Tours. The first stop of the tour was “the dark hedges” as seen in the Game of Thrones. I don’t want the game of thrones, so to me they were just some cool looking trees. Next we stopped at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. You can pay to cross the bridge, but we didn’t. We just went for an easy hike around the area and enjoyed the views, you can actually see Scotland from here. Next stop: Giant’s Causeway! This was actually one of my favorite sites in Northern Ireland/Ireland because it was like nothing I had ever seen before. It is the result of an ancient volcanic eruption that left behind over 40,000 interlocking hexagonal basalt columns. Aka it is really cool rocks. It’s up to you if you want to stay on the “beaten path” and admire from afar, or if you want to climb on the rocks and adventure around. I chose the later, so just make sure you wear proper shoes so you don’t fall. The tourist center here has a little café where you can get soups and sandwiches, and also an education area where you can learn about the rocks and more about Northern Ireland.