When I told a colleague we were going to spend a weekend in Northern Ireland over Easter I received a few eye rolls, and a 'why do you want to go there?'
I was shocked to say the least! Tourism in Belfast has boomed in recent years, so much so that I thought we were a bit late to the party to be visiting! With world-class publications like National Geographic Traveller magazine hailing Belfast as a must see destination, or everyone's favourite travel guide, Lonely Planet, awarding Belfast and the Causeway Coast as number one on their 2018 Best in Travel list. After spending a weekend in Belfast, it's not hard to see why!
We love a good walking tour because it allows us to quickly get acquainted with a new city and figure out where all where everything is and highlight the places we want to return to during our stay. It's also a great way to identify specific landmarks which makes navigation a little easier instead of having to constantly use maps on your phone. On this trip we opted to go with Free Belfast City Tour and our guide Ed was knowledgeable, entertaining and Belfast local who loved sharing the best places to visit when in town.
Our recent weekend in Northern Ireland coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Signed 10 April 1998, the agreement is between the British and Irish governments and most of the political parties in Northern Ireland, outlining how Northern Ireland should be governed. Iconic and slap-bang in the middle of the town, this impressive civic space is worth a visit. There is a permanent exhibition detailing the history of Belfast, and daily tours are available. Do yourself a favour and note the tour & visiting times. We couldn’t go as it’s a government building, it was closed over Easter weekend.
The gardens outside City Hall are home to a Titanic memorial which names all 1,512 victims of the disaster, including two stowaways, who to this day, their real-names remain a mystery.
On the other side of the River Lagan lies the newly revamped Titanic Quarter. Once a rough and rusty area of industrialisation, a place where notable cruise lines were built, the recent and rapid development of this former shipyard has completely revitalised the area.
Here’s an insider tip for a short break to Belfast… It’s a great idea if you can do much of the Titanic Quarter at the same time. Depending on the weather, the 30 minute walk from the city centre which is only 1.5mi (2.4km) might feel like an age, although on a nice day it’ll be a leisurely stroll along the waterfront.
There’s enough to fill an entire day in the Titanic Quarter, as it’s now home to HMS Caroline, SS Nomadic, the film set for the TV hit Game of Thrones and the shiny and sleek, Titanic Belfast.
Awarded the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2016, Titanic Belfast takes the crown as THE number one thing to do in Belfast, and rightly so. The multimedia experience covers the history of the industry in Belfast all the way through to the creation, destruction and aftermath of the words most famous ship.
Not a museum nor an exhibit. Titanic Belfast is an EXPERIENCE.
Allocate about half a day to visit Titanic Belfast, extending over nine interactive galleries and drawing together aspects from the construction of the liner to travelling to the accident and the depths of the ocean to discover the wreckage. Belfast is where Titanic began and it’s certainly not an attraction to skip. Take a moment outside to see the slipways where Titanic was built and launched.
We arrived early, ready for opening. By the time we left many hours later the queue for tickets was rather lengthy. So do yourself a favour, pre-book your tickets online or get there first thing to ensure you get the best chance to see the exhibits, read the information boards and no queue for the shipyard ride.