Belfast – Born and Bred
Belfast, the capital of “Our wee country” as they say, is alive with good craic, a checkered history, and plenty to keep tourists and locals on the go. Get about on yer bike for a bit of exercise and a geg!
Being set on an island lends to a sea faring history, breeding a ship building industry, and eventually launching one of the worlds most renowned ships and tragedies. The Belfast ship workers are proud of the work they did building the Titanic but couldn’t influence the decision makers. Find out more below and the whole story at the, beautifully architected, Titanic building down in the docks.
Enjoy the quick overview of What Belfast has to offer.
Belfast is a small city but has plenty of activity in it. Since the end of the troubles.
It has really started to open up its soul. Check the busy shopping streets that stretch out from The City Hall, around Donegal Place and Royal Avenue.
Get a bit of smart gear (both threads and tech) in one of the many shops of Victoria Square. Call up to the dome for rooftop sight of the city even when the rain is pouring. Dizzy after your exerts and spending all that doe? Chew the cud in one of the bars (Bittles, The Garrick, or The Kitchen bar), or restaurants in the complex. You can even catch a movie in the Odeon. Both the Kitchen bar and Bittles were dismantled brick by brick as the old shopping centre was razed to the ground and the new and shiney Victoria Square was built. The bars were reassembled back to their original glory.
St George’s Market, housed in its original Victorian building, is a great place to go at the weekend. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you’ll find plenty of fresh local produce, arts and crafts, refreshments and plenty of craic. Take a seat and enjoy the live entertainment or just take in the hustle and bustle.
Bars and Restaurants
The people certainly didn’t come up the Lagan in a bubble so you’ll be well informed by their ramblings in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Cathedral Quarter.
There are bars a plenty like, White’s Tavern (Est 1630 – The oldest pub in Belfast), Henry’s/ Jailhouse , or those along Hill Street like Dirty Onion and The Thirsty Goat.
There are some great restaurants down here too. One of our favourites is Coppi in St Ann’s Square.
A wee jig could be right up yer kilt after in Fibber Magee’ (Part of Robinson’s bar) (See below for the place rocking on a Monday Night!) or Points Bar up torwards the Golden Mile (Great Victoria Street and Dublin Road).
I could list loads more bars but that may just encourage a cultural stereotype lol.
Belfast has many restaurants offering a wide selection of fare.
We have enjoyed many a meal out in Coppi (Cathedral Quarter), Home (Centre), India Gate, Kathmandu Kitchen , Darcy’s (Great Vic Street and Botanic) and more as they all do lovely Vegetarian and Vegan choices.
When we hosted people at our Airbnb, they also enjoyed eating at places such as Mourne Seafood Bar and Made in Belfast. There are so many options so these are just a taster. Some times you just want a wee takeaway Pizza and Little Italy is a great spot and Jack is a lovely, genuine guy.
Theatres and Live events
Fancy a bit of live performance? Belfast has a good variety of live performances from many different walks of life. Above, Anna’s Number, a local band bringing heart to the city.
For various entertainment with a large capacity is the SSE Arena. Always lots going on.
There are many fun activities for adults and children alike, to keep you occupied and entertained.
Certainly a fun day out for the whole family!
Follow those walking the boards on stage at the Grand Opera House, The Lyric, Ulster Hall, Waterfront Hall, or the contemporary MAC theatre. There’ll be an eclectic mix of Drama, Comedy, Tragedy, Opera, Musicals, modern dance, live music; from Rock to Orchestral, et al.
For something smaller and down to earth you could try Accidental Theatre in Shaftsbury Square for a small alternative. The Black Box in Hill Street has an eclectic mix of music and theatre events for an audience. Sunflower bar has a snug stage area upstairs that plays host to local and international music artists. Feel the beat of the city in these venues.
Open air live events
A particularly entertaining weekend for Belfast, and centered around the Cathedral Quarter, is Culture night. Usually the 3rd week in September. Its a heady mix of local and world culture, with a myriad of quirky creative events, spread across this area as people spill onto the closed streets and delve deep into enjoyment. The Campervan of dreams at Culture Night (Below). Write your dream on a ribbon, enter the van to read it out on a loud speaker for all to hear,and then tie the ribbon to the giant dream catcher.
There are loads of open air gigs each year with headline acts across many musical tastes, as well as from contemorary to go back a few decades. Check out Custom House Square, Belfast Vital, Belsonic, and often Classical on the Titanic slipway. The place is buzzing!
Sport is alive in Belfast too.
Catch the boxing at Ulster hall or Waterfront. The Jackal (Karl Framption) punched his early paths to Victory in these venues before progressing to the SSE Arena and other big box office World Title fights. Below, Carl Frampton about to do his ring walk during a fight at the SSE.
Ravenhill has had an overhaul through the years to accomodate Ulster Rugby and help them become a contender at home and in Europe.
Wee Northern Ireland have punched above their weight over the years in getting to major finals. If you’re lucky you may get tickets to see them at Windsor Park National Stadium.
A more recent addition to the sporting calendar is Ice hockey. The Belfast Giants have already whipped up a storm and collected trophies on the way. Their home is the SSE Arena.
Belfast is renowned for its shipbuilding. Famous the world over, The Titanic was built here along with its sister ships the Olympic and Brittanic. The iconic Samson and Goliath cranes may have been erected later, but they are all in the same dockland area. Redevelopment has brought, the SSE Arena, aparments, Film studios, Hotels, Belfast Metropolitan College, and many more businesses. The main draw for the area, though, is the Titanic Belfast Experience.
Built on the actual dry dock used, one can step back to a time when the area was thriving with heavy industry. The ‘Unsinkable’ Titanic was built and became famous for tragically sinking on it’s maiden voyage across the Atlantic. …. Souls were lost and the real history can be caught up with here on a fantastic, interactive tour through the era. There is also a tangible peice of history that one can walk the gangplank to board the SS Nomadi. This is one of the actual tenders that ferried people from the port of Cherborg out to the ship as the Titanic was too big to dock there.
Of course there was “The Troubles”, a division of the people like a deadly family feud. Mural tours and the Crumlin Road Gaol will give a colourful insight into the provence’s turbulent days of yore. The Gaol also hosts some music events and scary Halloween nights! But we don’t want to reflect on a destructive past as we would rather look to the future. A number of sporting heros are also depicted in the murals and this is much more positive. There are theatres, sporting events, gigs etc all going on throughout the year so come on in and have a look.
Belfast City Parks:
Sometimes, with all the frantic city life around, you just need to get away from it all. Belfast has some lovely parks and natural habitats in close proximity.
In the south central side of the city you can dander up Botanic avenue, with its many cafes, eateries, and bars to get to Queens University and the Botanical Gardens.
Here you can step into the past at the Ulster Museum and say hello to the mummy! There are great permanent and touring exhibitions here, including Dinosaurs, the fantastic Spanish Armada collection, art work, local history, and The scary Egyptian mummy.
Walk around the vibrant gardens and breath in that fresh air.
Life abounds and is enjoyed by people of all ages.
When its “Taps Aff” weather (warm and sunny) the park will be full and buzzing.
Bring a picnic and soak up the wonderful atmosphere.
Check out the Tropical ravine for a taste of the exotic and humid.
There is also the Palm house with plenty of flora from far-flung places around the world. There is also a beautiful Rose Garden to feel the romance in!
The gardens have held Regular live music events over the years. When the Troubles ended, local hero Van Morrison and Bob Dylan played the first big gig here in 1998.
The international vibe continues every year as the park hosts the Belfast Mela. This is an eclectic and vibrant park to live around.
To the North of the city you have Cave Hill country park. Touch Napoleon’s nose while trekking up here. Set in the amongst the hill you can also visit Belfast Castle.
Falls Park and Divis Mountain
In the west of the city, one can revel in Falls Park during the Féile an Phobail. As many local culture events are held here and along the Falls road during August each year. Heading further out, you can drive up to Divis mountain for a walk in the wilds. Its only a 10/15 min drive from the City centre but its a world away. Again, the parklands offer fantastic views over the whole city.
Victoria Park and Stormont
Over East, you can take a stroll in Victoria Park. If you’re feeling more energetic, lots of kids, of all ages, enjoy a game of football on the pitches here. Looking for something more sedate? How about a spot of Lawn Bowls. For those that are politically minded, maybe you would like to pose a question for the “Fools on The Hill” in stormont.
Here you will see Norn Iron’s very own parliment buildings. With the good old sense of local humour, this is often a place set aside for ridicule by the local population as we take direction from the eejits.
Ormeau, Lagan Toe path, and Belvoir Forest
Wild flowers and wildlife down by the Lagan.
On the south side of the city, heading away from the Botanic area, one can follow the Lagan toe path and feel close to nature. Cutting across Ormeau Bridge, one will come to Ormeau Park. Follow the river and the path goes through Stranmillis, where you can refresh at Cutters Wharf. The riverside vantage point can give you a view of the rowers stroking their way along the river. For something a bit more whacky, there is also the annual Dragon boat race!
After here, you will come to the old locks of the canal and Shaws Bridge. You can entrance the lower part of Belvoir Forest Park here. There is plenty of wildlife in the forest and you can get an idea at the RSPB. For a more ancient history, there is also the ‘Mound’. As kids, we used to run up and muck about on this Norman Motte lookout post. There is also the icehouse that us kids always imagined was more of a dungeon!
The lagan toepath leads all the way to lisburn and beyond. You will come across other beautiful areas in this leafy zone such as Lady Dixon Park. The walks will tire you out so maybe you need to return to the city for a bite to eat.
Ask us for more Belfast lowdown.
There is plenty to do and see in Belfast and We know it like the back of our hands. If you have any specific questions to answer then feel free to ask.
If you liked reading you maybe interested in the start of our rtw trip in Naxos, Greece or more delights of Ireland in Donegal and Dingle!