26 Things To do In Belfast Today (If You’re Fond Of Amazing Views, History + Ancient Pubs)

Walks, history, ancient pubs and more

things to do in belfast
Photo left: Ester Lo Feudo. Right: Joe Carberry (Shutterstock)

In the guide below, you’ll find LOADS of things to do in Belfast, from top tourist attractions like the Titanic Museum to places that lie a little off the beaten track.

It’s been a couple of years since the last time that I spent a weekend in Belfast.

A friend and I drove up and spent two days exploring, eating and drinking (there are some mighty pubs in Belfast) our way around the city.

The guide below is a mix of things we did on that visit mashed together with other places to visit in Belfast that come highly recommended.

Table of Contents

The best things to do in Belfast in 2020

The guide below is packed with everything from historical sites, like Crumlin Road Gaol, to tasty places to eat (check out our guide to the best restaurants in Belfast!).

It also contains a clatter of walks and hikes that are located within minutes of the city, for those of you that fancy getting your heart rate up for a few hours.

1. Kick-start your visit with brekkie at St Georges Market Belfast (Fri – Sat)

st george's market belfast
Photo by Brian Morrison via Tourism Ireland

No day of successful exploration has ever been fulfilled on an empty stomach. Doubly so when there’s a hangover present.

One of the best things to do in Belfast, or any city for that matter, is to start the day off in style with a solid feed.

The second you step foot inside St. George’s Market you’ll feel your stomach give an approving rumble as the aroma from fresh produce hailing from every corner of the earth wafts over.

Interestingly enough, there’s been a Friday market here since 1604 and every week over 240+ traders take to the markets stalls and flog everything from shark meat to fresh fruit.

2. Get your adventure rolling with a Black Cab Tour

Belfast black cab tour
A black cab in action: By Tony Pleavin

If you’re not a fan of planning, and you’re wondering what to see in Belfast, arrange a Black Cab tour. They’ll take you around some of the best attractions that the city has to offer.

On a Black Cab tour, you’ll be brought on a trip around Belfast by a seasoned guide that’ll masterfully take you through the city’s turbulent past.

The Black Cab tour will take you past many of Belfast City’s murals, which are arguably the most well known politicly themed murals in Europe and depict the city’s dense history and culture.

This is a perfect tour for those of you wondering where to go in Belfast when it’s raining, as you can just chill in the car for the duration.

3. Indulge with a milkshake from Maggie May’s

maggie may's milkshakes
Photo via Maggie May’s on FB

You may have seen this place in our guide to the best restaurants in Belfast. Good God the stuff from Maggie May’s looks good. 

Known for their funky milkshakes which range from the fairly standard Snickers and Kinder Bueno to the more adventurous Jammie dodger and Strawberry millions, the milkshakes here look UNREEEEEAL.

The deserts also look pretty damn good. The perfect spot for a sugar fix or a big aul feed in the morning.

4. The Crumlin Road Gaol/Prison (one of the most interesting things to do in Belfast City)

crumlin road goal in belfast
Photo via Crumlin Road Gaol

The Crumlin Road Gaol, which dates back to 1845, closed it’s doors as a working prison in 1996 and is now a popular tourist attraction (currently number 2 for things to do in Belfast on TripAdvisor).

The story here begins at a time when women and children were held within its walls through to the political segregation of republican and loyalist prisoners and ultimately to its closure.

Walking through the building you can’t help but feel a chill at times. It’s most notable when you’re standing at the tunnel that used to connect the Gaol to the Crumlin Road Courthouse.

It’s quite surreal walking the same route that thousands of prisoners took many years ago as they awaited to discover their fate.

Related read: Check out our guide to 11 of the most unique and unusual Airbnbs in Belfast (boats, barges and incredible apartments).

5. Wondering what to do in Belfast for lunch? Grab a pint and soak up the buzz in the Cathedral Quarter

belfast cathedral quarter
Photo via Discover NI

After you finish off in the gaol, grab a taxi out to the Cathedral Quarter. Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter is a cracking spot for a bite to eat or to chill with a few drinks.

This part of the city boasts some of Belfast’s oldest and most beautiful buildings and streets, along with a wide variety of pubs and restaurants.

Go for the impeccable architecture, stay for the delicious food and drink.

Traveller tip: Keep an eye out for live events taking place around the Cathedral Quarter around the time of your visit.

6. Ramble around the grounds of Belfast City Hall

Belfast Christmas markets 2019 dates
Photo via the Belfast Christmas markets on Facebook

Belfast City Hall first opened its doors way back in 1906. The construction of the building came about after Queen Victoria gave Belfast ‘City Status‘ in 1888.

The building, constructed beautifully from Portland stone, is one of the most significant buildings in the city’s history.

It’s worth stopping by just to gawk at the building itself.  The grounds around the building are full of monuments and statues that detail the history of both Belfast and the building itself.

Traveller Tip: There are free public tours of Belfast City Hall available from Monday to Saturday, led by an experienced guide.

7. Spend the night at the most bombed hotel in Europe

most bombed hotel in europe
Photo via the Europa Hotel Belfast

The Europa Hotel in Belfast is the most bombed hotel in Europe. Now if that isn’t a title that’ll get the tourists flocking, I don’t know what is…

The Europa Hotel is a four-star hotel based on Great Victoria Street in Belfast City. Since opening in 1971, the hotel has hosted presidents, prime ministers and celebrities – it has also been bombed 36 times.

A grand aul fact: The Europa Hotel featured in an episode of Sons of Anarchy. In season 3, episode 11, the man and woman who adopted Abel stay at the Europa Hotel, Belfast.

8. Catch a show at the historic Grand Opera House Belfast

Next up is another handy spot for those of you looking for things to do in Belfast when it’s raining! Belfast’s Grand Opera House opened just before Christmas in 1895.

The building, which was magnificently designed by the most prolific theatre architect of the period, Frank Matcham, boasts a majestic Victorian auditorium that’ll catch your attention as much as what’s going on on stage.

There’s a packed schedule of shows taking place here throughout the year. A handy place to head to if you’re looking for places to visit in Belfast when it’s raining.

9. Have a wander around St Anne’s Cathedral

St Anne's Cathedral
Photo by Donna via wikicommons

St. Anne’s (aka Belfast Cathedral) was built at the beginning of the 20th century on the site of the old St Anne’s parish church.

The cathedral is home to countless works of art, mesmerizing mosaics that depict St. Patrick and historical relics.

When visiting, spend some time admiring the detailed façade of the church. You’ll get a good look at the 130-foot pointed Spire of Hope that rises from the glass ceiling in the cathedral’s roof.

When you move inside, you’ll be able to look up at the spire from below, thanks to the clear glass ceiling that it stands upon.

A grand aul fact: St. Anne’s Cathedral has one of the largest pipe organs in the country, dating back to 1907.

10. Take a load off and explore the city on a Belfast bus tour

belfast bus tour

If you don’t fancy traipsing around the city on foot, then a Belfast bus tour will be right up your street.

The Belfast City Sightseeing Hop-on / Hop-off open-top bus tour provides you with a comprehensive look at Belfast and enables you to explore every section of the city.

Tours operate seven days per week and are available in six languages including, English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Mandarin.

11. Get immersed in Narnia on the C.S. Lewis trail

cs lewis trail belfast
Photo via Visit Belfast

The C.S. Lewis Trail will take you on a ramble to places in Belfast that inspired, unsurprisingly enough, C.S. Lewis.

Now, if you’re not familiar with Lewis, he’s a celebrated writer that’s best known for creating the magical world of Narnia.

The trail kicks-off at The Searcher sculpture and takes in sites like C.S. Lewis Square (you’ll find 7 Narnia inspired sculptures here), St. Mark’s Church, and No. 47 Dundela Avenue where the writer was born.

12. Jump aboard the Nomadic

ss nomadic belfast
Photo by Tony Pleavin via Tourism Ireland

The SS Nomadic was the original tender ship to the Titanic, and it was built alongside the now-infamous vessel in 1911.

In April 1912, the Nomadic successfully transferred the first and second-class passengers from the shallow dockside in Cherbourg out to the Titanic, which was moored in deeper water nearby.

Stretched out over four decks a visit to Nomadic will immerse you in over 100 years of authentic maritime history via a variety of interactive, hands-on, technical and traditional storytelling methods.

13. Explore the city by bike or have a peddle and a pint

blessington pub

One of the best ways to truly experience and explore a city is by hopping on a bike. If you’re visiting Belfast, there are plenty of different bike tour operators that’ll take you around the city and its many attractions.

There are also places that’ll rent you out a bike without having to take a guided tour. Pick up a bike and explore the city on a whim. You’ll stumble across places you never even knew existed.

Something I came across while looking up Belfast bike tours was the Wee Toast Tour. You can have a peddle around the city and a pint in the process. What’s not to love?!

14. Titanic Belfast

where to go in belfast
Photo by Chris Hill

A visit to Titanic is arguably one of the most popular things to do in Belfast. It’s within the walls of Titanic Belfast that you’ll find the monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage.

The attraction opened in 2012 on the exact site where the former Harland & Wolff shipyard was based in the city’s Titanic Quarter.

The building itself is an architectural masterpiece and offers some top-class photo opportunities from every angle.

The Titanic Experience spans over nine magnificent galleries that draw together special effects, dark rides, full-scale reconstructions and interactive features that tell the story of the Titanic in great depth and detail.

15. Spend a rainy afternoon at the Ulster Museum

ulster museum belfast city
Photo via the Ulster Museum

The Ulster Museum offers something for art lovers, history buffs, kids, and the curious. The collections that you’ll find here will take you across Ireland and to all corners of the world.

You’ll come face to face with dinosaurs, get up close and personal with an Egyptian mummy, and dive into discovery zones.

An afternoon spent here will be packed to the brim with fine art, archaeology, ethnography, treasures from the Spanish Armada, local history and so much more.

The best part? It’s completely free! This is another handy one for those of you wondering what to do in Belfast when the weather’s crap!

16. Angle your visit around the Belfast Christmas Markets

Christmas market belfast 2020
Photo by stenic56/shutterstock.com

The grounds of mighty Belfast City Hall come alive during the final weeks of the year thanks to the arrival of the brilliant Belfast Christmas markets.

The markets boast a combo of top-notch international cuisine and a curated mix of crafts, bespoke artisan products, and yuletide tipples.

The markets are made all the more aesthetically pleasing by their backdrop – the iconic City Hall.

Where to go in Belfast (if you want to escape the city for a bit)

If you’re visiting Belfast and you’re looking to escape the city for a while, then this section is just for you.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to do in Belfast that’ll take you out of the city and away from the noise, crowds, and traffic for a bit. 

17. Get a spectacular view of Belfast and beyond on the Divis Summit Trail

Divis trail
Photo by Arthur Ward via Tourism Ireland

Those that fancy escaping the city for a while will be treated to a spectacular view out over Belfast (and ever county in Ulster, in fact) from up Divis Mountain.

There’s a specifically designed 3-mile loop walk on Divis Mountain that was designed to maintain the condition of the mountain slope while providing handy public access.

If you’re looking to stretch the legs and see the city from above, then you need to lash this onto your Belfast itinerary.

18. Take a break from the city at Belfast Zoo (one of the best things to do in Belfast with kids)

lions in belfast zoo
Photo by Sameer Mohsin via Unsplash

Belfast Zoo opened its doors to the public in 1934, making it one of the oldest visitor attractions in Northern Ireland. 

The zoo is home to a whopping 140+ species of animals, many of which are in danger in their natural habitat.

Popular attractions include Asian elephants, Rothschild’s giraffes, California sea lions, penguins, apes, Malayan tapirs, Visayan warty pigs and much much more.

19. Take a bit of chill time in the Botanic Gardens

botanic gardens belfast
Photo by Henryk Sadura (via Shutterstock)

OK, so like the Zoo, this one is in fact in the city, but it’ll feel like you’re a million miles away from the hustle and bustle. 

Although the Botanic Gardens was established as a private park in 1828, it wasn’t until 70 years later that they were fully opened to everyday people.

The big attraction here is the Palm House. It was built in the mid-1800s and was one of the first curvilinear glasshouses in the world. Head in here for a stroll and chillllllll for a bit.

20. Take a spin out to Belfast Castle

belfast castle exterior
Photo via Tourism Ireland

Our next stop takes us to Belfast Castle on the lower slopes of Cave Hill country park in north Belfast.

The castle and its grounds are called home by a whole host of wildlife, from long-eared owls, sparrowhawks and Belfast’s rarest plant, the town hall clockto. The first Belfast Castle was built by the Normans in the city center in the late 12th century.

A second castle, made out of stone and timber, was later constructed by Sir Arthur Chichester, Baron of Belfast, on the same site in 1611.

Unfortunately, the castle burned down almost 100 years later, leaving only street names, such as Castle Place, to mark its location.

Traveller tip: This is a handy option for those of you in search of free things to do in Belfast. Admission here won’t cost you a penny.

21. Then take a walk around Cave Hill Country Park

cave hill belfast
Photo by Arthur Ward via Tourism Ireland

As was the case with Belfast Castle, Cave Hill Country Park offers magnificent panoramic views across Belfast from a number of different vantage points.

Visitors here can explore a host of different archaeological sites, nip into Cave Hill Visitor Centre, ramble around the gardens, and take a number of waymarked walking trails suitable for casual and more seasoned hikers.

Hop into our guide to the Cave Hill walk for info on the trail to follow, how long it takes, where to park and more.

A grand aul fact: It’s said that Cave Hill’s most famous feature, known as Napoleon’s Nose, was the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s novel, Gulliver’s Travels.

Things to do in Belfast at night

If you’re visiting for a weekend and mulling over where to head for a drink or a bite to eat, the next section on things to do in Belfast at night should help.

Have suggestions for other places to visit in Belfast after dark?  Pop them into the comments section below!

22. Head for a fancy feed at the Cabaret Supperclub

the Cabaret Supperclub belfast
Photo via the Cabaret Supperclub

This. Looks. Class! A visit to the Cabaret Supperclub will make you feel like you’ve just stepped back into the 1920s.

This funky spot combines a fine selection of food (the brunch menu looks delicious) with jazz, burlesque and magic (yes, magic!).

Inside the dimly lit Cabaret Suppeclub awaits a Victorian interior with a Hollywood atmosphere, thanks to a dinner and show combo that’s racked up great reviews online.

23. Nurse a pint in the beautiful old Crown Liquor Saloon

crown liquor pub belfast
Photo via Visit Belfast (https://visitbelfast.com/partners/crown-liquor-saloon/)

The Crown Liquor Saloon is one of the most beautiful pubs in Ireland. Dating back to 1826, this pub was opened by Felix O’Hanlon and was then later bought by a bloke named Michael Flanagan, who renovated it in 1885.

Formerly known as ‘The Liquor Saloon in Great Victoria Street‘, this pub was once regarded as one of the best Victorian gin palaces in the British Isles.

The pub is now owned by the National Trust and has been carefully restored over the years. The perfect spot for a post-adventure pint.

Hop into our guide to the best pubs in Belfast to discover more old-school pubs that are perfect for post-adventure pints.

24. Dance the night away at the Dirty Onion (one of Belfast’s oldest buildings)

the dirty onion belfast
Photo via thedirtyonion.com/gallery/

The Dirty Onion is found in the oldest building in Belfast City. The site was originally built back in 1680 and is Belfast’s oldest intact timber-framed building.

The Dirty Onion is the home of trad music in buzzy Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, so a lively night out is guaranteed.

25. Perch yourself in Belfast’s highest rooftop bar with a cocktail

the perch belfast
Photo via theperchbelfast.com

Welcome to the Perch, a 1920s-style rooftop bar that’s set in a converted Victorian building in the city’s Linen Quarter.

When you arrive, hop in the lift and head on up to Belfast’s highest rooftop bar, where you’ll find a wide variety of funky cocktails.

When the hunger sinks in, grab a pizza. If you awake the following morning with a sore head, afternoon tea in Belfast is always a solid hangover-banisher!

What to do in Belfast – where have we missed?

I’m sure that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant things to do in Belfast from the guide above.

If you have something to recommend, let me know in the comments section below and I’ll check it out.

Frequently Asked Questions

We originally published this guide on the best things to do in Belfast a few years back, when this website was instaireland.ie.

Since then, we’ve had a heap of emails with questions from people planning to visit Belfast. I’ve taken the most frequently asked questions and popped them in below with answers:

What are the most unique things to do in Belfast?

  • Take a Black Cab tour
  • Head for a hike at Cave Hill
  • Grab a mighty view on the Divis trail

What are the best free things to do in Belfast?

We’ve covered several free things to do in Belfast in the guide above, but here’s a list, for those stuck for time:

  • The Divis Mountain trail
  • Ulster Museum
  • Belfast City Hall
  • Cave Hill Country Park
  • The Botanic Gardens
  • Stormont Parliament Building

Looking for things to do in Belfast today?

  • Kick start your day with a feed in one of the city’s many great restaurants
  • Head off on an early morning walk on the Divis Summit Trail
  • Soak up some history at Crumlin Gaol
  • Round off the day with post-adventure pints in an old-school pub like White’s

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, Keith!
    We are planning our visit for May/June 2020. Do you have an opinion about hiring a tour company to get us out of town to the Giant’s Causeway, Dark Hedges, Dunluce Castle and the like, vs. hiring a car and driving ourselves? We are intrepid travelers, but we do like to gawk out the window instead of paying attention to the road, if it won’t catch us up in a tourist trap to hop on an organized tour. Thanks in advance for your recommendations on topic. I am so happy to have found your site. So helpful! Plus entertaining!
    Thank you!

    • Hilary! How’s the form?!

      Personally, I’m a fan of driving when possible. I just find it easier. That being said, if you prefer to kick back and look out the window while someone else takes the wheel, there’s nothing wrong with that!

      I’ve been using GetYourGuide for trips in Europe (most recently in Budapest), as you can see reviews from others and it’s nice and straightforward to book.

      I found a tour that leaves from Belfast and that takes in the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Old Bushmills Distillery, and Carrickfergus and Dunluce castles… and it’s only €23. Here it is.

      That probably makes more sense as it ticks all of your boxes bar the Dark Hedges.

      Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with. We’ve just published a detailed guide to planning the perfect Ireland itinerary. Hopefully that’s of some use to you.

      Cheers,

      Keith

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.