Belfast is, in our opinion, an underrated destination. If you want to see a small city with incredibly nice people and lots of things to do, a (long) weekend in Belfast should satisfy your wanderlust.
As some of you might know, we have relocated to Belfast for a few months, where Simone now works as a bartender and Alice studies and works remotely. We came here because we had a work opportunity, but it didn’t take us more than a weekend in Belfast to fall in love with the city!
This guide is not reflecting all the things the city has to offer (we still need to check out a lot of things, including Game of Thrones and Giant Causeway Tours), but is about how you could spend a nice couple of days in Belfast, doing things and going places we have tested and approved!
What to do in Belfast
Ulster Museum [University Quarter] [£: free]
Located in the University Quarter, the Ulster Museum is a must-see for everyone in every age group. And the best ? It’s free! So is the left-luggage, so be sure to drop your stuff to explore the place hassle-free.
History-lovers, science-lovers, fun-lovers and arts-lovers will all have things to do in this museum and we recommend giving yourself at least 1 hours and a half to visit. You’ll probably start from the bottom rooms, which will tell you more about the story of Northern Ireland, and then you will make your way to the top floors, up until the dragons hanging from the ceiling!
What we loved the most about this museum is that it’s hands-on and very interactive : you will be invited to touch things and play games to learn more. When we went, we ended the visit with the works of the Arts students, which were impressive to say the least.
Enjoyed your visit? Don’t hesitate to make a donation to the museum on your way out!
Even though the Titanic is one of the most touristic attraction in Belfast, it wasn’t on our to-do list. But a friend came over and she was very excited about it, so Alice went with her… And she didn’t regret it!! It’s an amazing place, where you will learn as much about the Titanic that you will about Belfast.
There are lockers on the premises for your bags (have 1£ on you, or ask for change at the ticket office) as you will enjoy not having anything weighing you down for this.
It says to give yourself at least 1h30 to visit, it took us rather 2hrs/2h30 and if you’re a real fan, it could take you longer, so plan to spend the afternoon over there.
Once you’re done with the 4 floors of super interactive and fun visit (complete with a 3D visit of the Titanic, lots of cute and pedagogic videos and even a ride down the Titanic workshops!!), your ticket is also good to visit the SS Nomadics, a small ship outside the Titanic Belfast (2 min walk). This one is really small but it’s a nice visit, and you can even freely use the costumes to take funny pictures!
You could also buy a special ticket called the White Star Premium Pass (we didn’t have enough time) that will add to all of this a guided tour « The Discovery Tour » that will last around an hour more. It’s a bit more expensive but it sounds worth it!
We didn’t test either, but there is a café and a restaurant on the premises if that got you hungry…
Address: 1 Olympic Way – Queens Road Opening Hours: Open daily – hours depending on the season
Queen’s University Belfast [University Quarter] [£: Free-5]
Queen’s University is a stunning piece of architecture. You can visit it by yourself (which we did) or book a guided tour in advance. If you cross the road, you’ll find the Student Union Center with a small shop where you’ll be able to buy apparel as a souvenir!
If you come to Belfast, you should know that you are dealing with a city that faced an ethno-nationalist conflict commonly called « the Troubles ». It started in the late 60s and «ended» with the Good Friday Agreement (or Belfast Agreement) on 10 April 1998. So that’s very very recent in the history scheme of things.
The peace wall was erected to represent a physical barrier between the Protestant/Loyalist community and the Catholic/Nationalist community.
It has become a big tourist site, as it is now covered with murals and wall art showing the cultural and political history of this recent conflict.
Simone has been to see the wall, and for him you can feel that a sense of territorial division is still very alive in Belfast…
Hop on Hop off Bus [£: 12-10]
This fun and easy way to discover the city is cheap, probably one of the cheapest in Europe (12£). Simone even only paid 10£, probably because they thought he was a student (ahem)… It’s a 90 minutes ride that takes you everywhere you need to go, for 48 hours.
Where to eat in Belfast – when you’re vegan (or not!)
If you’d ask Alice what she expected to eat in Belfast, she would have given you an awfully stereotyped answer involving a lot of lamb and gravy. Suffice it to say we have been very surprised about how restaurants are open to vegetarianism and veganism here. A lot of places will accommodate your needs without a shrug if you ask them, and if you’re Gluten Free… this is basically your paradise. You’ll find here a non-exhaustive list of places to eat for a perfect weekend in Belfast!
Greens Pizza [Vegan-FRIENDLY WITH A DEDICATED VEGAN MENU – various locations ] [+/- 10£]
Fancy a delicious pizza with vegan melted-cheese? Head to Greens Pizzaand ask for their Vegan Menu! We tasted three of them and we were delighted. It might be very busy on the weekend so don’t hesitate to call them before heading there, and you can also ask for delivery if you don’t want to leave the warmth of your Airbnb! The personnel is very nice and the place is cute. You can also ask for a Gluten-free crust if needed!
What if you do not want pizza and/or you are not vegan? No problem, regular pizza, pasta and other things are waiting for you!
Maggie May’s is a classic in Belfast, and we totally recommend it. So far, it has been our brunch place, and it has lots of things for vegetarians and vegans (just make sure to tell you want it vegan when you order). Alice is crazy about their veggie pitta that she orders with a side of rice (the chilli sauce gets REALLY spicy, and the garlic sauce is lovely). If you get the veggie fry plate, it’ll come with delicious veggie sausages (but also eggs, so : not vegan).
We prefer the one that is one close to the university, but it gets really busy at peak time and you might have to wait for awhile. To avoid the crowd, try the one on Botanic Avenue!
A special mention for « the hangover cure » dishes, literally specified on the menu!
Cafe Conor [Vegan-friendly – University Quarter][£: 3-15]
Send a message on Facebook to Café Conor or give them a call before you go, and they will make sure to accommodate you if you’re vegan! They have a delicious chickpea veggie burger (but make sure to tell you’re vegan so it can be prepared accordingly) and the non-vegan should definitely go for the pie of the day!
Whatever you order, know that the ingredients have been carefully locally sourced and that the personnel is extremely nice. You’ll definitely feel at home!
The space is also beautiful with a window ceiling that gives it tons of light during the day.
Boojum is a Mexican Burrito Bar that is expanding nicely, with restaurants in Dublin, Galway and Cork as well. It’s usually crowded, and it’s definitely good. You choose what goes in your burrito… so it can totally be a vegan option.
Address: Botanic Avenue & Chichester Street & Great Victoria Street Opening Hours: 11.30-22.00
The Other Place [Vegetarian-friendly – Botanic Avenue – University Quarter]
You could just walk in The Other Place to eat all their appetisers (£ 1.50 each), there are not that many choices for vegans (they just changed their menu and it might not be suitable for vegans anymore, we’ll check and report back!) but believe us when we say that if you are on a budget and you want to fill your stomach with well-cooked food this is the place to go to.
You want good Italian street food? Go to DinaDina. They do fresh Piadina (kind of wrap, the Italian way) like no other, and delicious pizza (only from Thursday to Friday). If you’re vegan, just ask for a Marinara or a Pizza Rossa (just tomato sauce, yes it’s a thing, yes it’s de-li-cious)!
Address: 52 Upper Arthur Street
Opening Hours: Monday-Wednesday 9.00-18.00, Thursday-Friday 9.00-21.00, Saturday 11.30-21.00 [Closed on Sunday]
Where to drink in Belfast
The city is full of different and great bars, from cocktail bars to old traditional pubs… you have it all!
Hop in for a beer or a cider at The Spaniard, but then you’ll discover their great selection of Rum and you’ll close the bar!
Address: 3 Skipper Street Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 12.00-01.00, Sunday 12.00-00.00
Berts Jazz bar
You want to hear some 70s post punk while banging your head on the counter after a shot of Jack Daniel’s? Well do not come here….
Obviously joking, Berts is the perfect place to sip a Martini or a Daiquiri while listening to cool jazz vibes.
Address: 16 Skipper Street
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 16.00 til late, Saturday 11.00 til late, Sunday 11.00-00.00
Believe it or not, we stumbled upon The Garrick by mistake during our fist weekend in Belfast. We had just eaten at Boojum and had an hour or so before meeting a friend somewhere else. We liked it, and later learnt by same friend when we went with him that this pub is « as Belfast as it gets ». I hope the locals won’t hate us for disclosing their best-kept secret, but this is where you want to be if you want to avoid your fellow tourists. They have a nice selection of beers and ciders, and of course the other stuff if you need something a bit stronger!
Just go to The Marcus Ward, because Simone is working there! So if you are in Belfast, come and ask for « Simone » (See-moh-neh, don’t fuck it up by calling him Simon or Simonyyy!) and he’ll be more than happy to give you a FREE shot.
If you want to get a little fancy without taking another mortgage on your house, you might want to head to the Merchant Hotel’s bar (not the pub) where you’ll feel the 5* hotel bar atmosphere nicely, with cocktails around 10-15£.
Address: 16 Skipper Street Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 10.30-01.00, Sunday 11.30-00.00
Where to sleep during your weekend in Belfast
Even though we’ve had a misadventure with an Airbnb, it’s still what we recommend to choose for a weekend in Belfast. It’s budget-friendly and the one we suggest you to book is top notch!
Bridgid’s Airbnb [around 25£ – Ormeau Road]
We were the first guests at Bridgid’s Airbnb, and we’ve been back two times since already. You will feel at home in this house, and will meet nice people if you want to (otherwise, they will totally leave you alone to do your things). The rooms are homey, and two of them include a fireplace (yes, I know, how cool is that?!). They’re filled with anything you’ll need (complimentary bottles of water, kettle and tea, etc.) and if there’s something else you need, just ask and they will try to accommodate you as much as they can. You can use the kitchen for your meals (there are things around for breakfast that you can use) and the two downstairs-rooms share a bathroom that only guests use. It’s not noisy at all, well isolated from light at night if you need the dark, and the bed have a heating system that you can turn on and off wether you’re cold or not.
Lagan Hostel (Fitzroy avenue – University Quarter)
If you are a backpacker and you’re not too picky, this is probably the prefect place for you!
Dorms from 11£, free breakfast (full english, vegetarian, porridge), coffee and tea all day, organised tours, cinema room, 3£ dinner and a friendly staff!
Maybe the beds are not the most comfortable in the world and you might have to queue a little to get a shower but hey: no one is perfect……
Also, bus stops (College Green and Rugby Road) are just 2 minutes away and a supermarket is close by with a free ATM. Perfect to explore during a weekend in Belfast!
How to get around, to and from Belfast
We have never used the metro, but we have done a few bus rides. You can get a top-up card in some places or you can buy your ticket from the driver when you get in (you’ll need cash, they accept 10£ and 20£ notes, so far). You can buy from the driver a single ride (around 1,5-2£), a return (2,5£) or a day ticket (3,40£).
Uber is insanely cheap here, and during the off-peak time you can pretty much go anywhere for around 4£. During peak hours and the weekend (especially after 11pm because there are no buses anymore) it can definitely be a bit more pricey.
You should know that Uber drivers can also be taxi drivers, which surprised us a little the first time!!
To and From : Belfast-Dublin
You can get a bus ticket from Belfast to Dublin City or Dublin Airport around 10£ with Translink (Goldline X1/2). You can book on Internet and then you’ll have to get your actual ticket from the ticket desk at Europa Bus Center. They’ll only deliver it 40min before your ride so no need to arrive 2hrs early!
From Dublin City, Simone took a bus from Dublin’s Busaras station from the Goldline X1/2 that cost 9£, and Alice took an Aircoach that she paid 17€ to the driver (without reservation). You can also book this one at a cheaper price online, but you have to do it before 5pm the previous day.
Belfast from London
We did this trip twice, with two different methods. Belfast has an international airport, but we find that they have few flights, and they’re usually more expensive than flights to London or Dublin. Which is why we put the bus to/from Dublin informations above.
The first one was to take a RyanAir flight from Gatwick to Belfast Airport. We took a 17£ train from Victoria Station to Gatwick, and a 7£ bus from Belfast Airport to the city.
The second (masochist) one (and way too long for just a weekend in Belfast) was to take the bus and the ferry with National Express. You’ll board a coach in Victoria Coach station in London that will take you to a port in Scotland in around 13hrs. The coach will stop a lot during the trip and it’s unlikely you’ll get a lot of sleep. Once you arrive, you’ll be dazzled by the beauty of the landscape, and you won’t mind getting off at the port in Scotland. There, you’ll wait to board a Stena Line ferry that will take you, with all the luxury you need after 13hrs in a bus, to Belfast port. There, you’ll take a final bus that’ll get you to Belfast Europa Bus Center in approximately 20min. The ticket that we booked through the National Express website included everything (the coach from Victoria to Scotland, the ferry, and the bus to the port to the city).
Have an weekend in Belfast and don’t hesitate to tell us in the comment section how you liked the places – or the dates of your trip if you want to have a coffee with us!