If you’re on the lookout for the best things to do in Belfast in 2021, you’ve landed in the right spot!
Some people give Belfast a bad name as a weekend destination, stating that it’s only good if you’re looking to spending your time drinking… this couldn’t be further than the truth!
You just need to know what do before you arrive, as there’s everything from walks and hikes (yep, hikes!) to great food and plenty of unique tours on offer.
In the guide below, you’ll discover what to do in Belfast regardless of when you’re visiting! With something to tickle most fancies!
Table of Contents
The best things to do in Belfast (a quick overview)
The first section of this guide will give you a nice, speedy overview of the most popular places to visit in Belfast, like the different walks, museums and tours.
The second section of the guide goes into the specific things to do in Belfast, like the incredible Black Mountain Walk and some often-missed attractions.
1. Walks and hikes
Arguably some of the top things to do in Belfast involve popping on a pair of walking boots and heading off into the mountains.
Now, for some of the walks in Belfast, you won’t need a huge amount of planning while for others, like Cave Hill, you’ll need to plan your route in advance.
We go into our favourite rambles in our guide to the best walks in Belfast, but here are 4 we keep coming back to:
2. Unique tours
If you’re looking for unique or fun things to do in Belfast, there’s plenty to get stuck into, from organised tours to self-guided adventures.
From the hugely popular Black Cab Tours (well-worth doing!) to the city’s murals and street art, here are our some activities in Belfast worth checking out:
3. Tourist favourites
Like any city or town in Ireland, there’s a clatter of things to see in Belfast that tourists tend to flock to over and over again.
- St Anne’s Cathedral
- Grand Opera House
- SS Nomadic
- Harland and Wolff Cranes
- Belfast Zoo
- Belfast Castle
- Art galleries in Belfast
4. Gorgeous city parks
When you hear people talking about the various Belfast attractions, you rarely hear the city’s parks mentioned.
Which is a shame, as there are some mighty green spaces in the city that are perfect for an early morning ramble. Here are our favourites:
5. Food, glorious food
If you’re wondering what to do in Belfast after a long day spent exploring, or if you fancy a ridiculously good breakfast or lunch, you’re in luck.
There’s an endless number of great places to eat in the city, from fine dining and dive cafes to pancakes, the best brunch in Belfast and more. Here are some guides to check out:
- Best Restaurants in Belfast
- Bottomless Brunch in Belfast
- Best Breakfast in Belfast
- Vegan Restaurants in Belfast
- Best Coffee in Belfast
- Afternoon Tea In Belfast
- Sunday Lunch Belfast
6. Day trips from Belfast
If you’ve ticked-off the various Belfast activities mentioned above and below and you fancy exploring some places near the city, you’ve plenty to choose from.
- Causeway Coastal Route (starts 15 mins from the city)
- Hillsborough Forest Park (25 min drive)
- Glens of Antrim (45 min drive)
- The Gobbins (35 min drive)
- Lisburn (20-minute drive)
- Beaches near Belfast (from 25 mins away)
7. Trad pubs and nightlife
There’s some brilliant nightlife in Belfast, once you know where to look. In our guide to the best pubs in Belfast, you’ll find loads of old-school pubs worth nipping into.
If you fancy something a bit different, there’s everything from nightclubs to cocktail bars on offer. Here’s some guides to hop into:
Our favourite places to visit in Belfast
So, the second section of this guide tackles our favourites/what we think are the best places to visit in Belfast.
These are places that we’ve visited, loved and have been banging on about ever since to anyone that’ll listen!
1. St Georges Market
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 you.
Interestingly enough, there’s been a Friday market here since 1604 and every week over 240+ traders take to the market every Friday to Sunday.
2. Divis and Black Mountain
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.
Difficulty wise, it’s moderate, but if you’re wondering what to do in Belfast that’ll treat you to glorious views without having to travel far, get yourself here!
3. Cave Hill Country Park
As was the case with Divis, Cave Hill Country Park offers magnificent panoramic views across Belfast from a number of different vantage points.
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.
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.
You’ll often see a visit here at sunrise listed as one of the most romantic things to do in Belfast by the big US travel guides.
4. The Cathedral Quarter
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.
The Belfast Cathedral Quarter tends to be popular for nights out, but it’s a nice little spot to head to around lunch, if you’re feeling peckish.
It’s also in and around the Cathedral Quarter that you’ll discover some of the finest street art in Belfast!
Go for the impeccable architecture, stay for the delicious food and drink. Here’s the best places to eat in the Cathedral Quarter.
5. Belfast Castle
The castle and its grounds are called home by a whole host of wildlife, from long-eared owls, sparrow-hawks 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. Here’s a guide to visiting.
6. Belvoir Park Forest
Belvoir Park Forest is one of the most overlooked places to visit in Belfast, in my opinion. This is a working forest within the city that’s connected to Lagan Valley Park.
There’s a short, 1.5 mile ramble here or, if you fancy a longer stroll, you can combine your walk with a visit into the Lagan Valley Regional Park.
7. The 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.
Now, obviously these are only going to be running around November/December time, but if you’re visiting during the summer, City Hall is still well worth a nosey around.
What to do in Belfast if you want to discover the city’s history
Some of the most popular Belfast attractions are the tours that tell the story of the city’s turbulent past.
Below, you’ll find everything from the Belfast Peace Wall and the Black Taxi Tours to Crumlin Road Gaol and much more.
1. The murals
The Belfast Murals are some of the best known in Europe and they display important aspects of each community’s history, culture and often bloody past.
The murals come in every shape and size and you’ll find them scattered across the city. You can visit them solo, or you can visit them on a tour (recommended – see below).
It’s also worth mentioning that you shouldn’t seek out the murals late in the evening/at night, as many are located in areas to avoid in Belfast after dark.
2. Black Cab Tour
A Black Cab Tour is up there as one of the best things to do in Belfast City. 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 what to do in Belfast when it’s raining, as you can just chill in the car for the duration.
3. The 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 fun things to do in Belfast City 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.
If you’re looking for unique things to see in Belfast, a visit to the gaol is well worth doing (especially on a rainy day).
4. Titanic Belfast
A visit to Titanic is arguably one of the most popular things to do in Belfast City Centre. 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 (you can see the Harland & Wolff cranes nearby) 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.
5. 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!
Historic Belfast attractions
If you’re wondering what to do in Belfast to immerse yourself in more history, this next section is just for you.
Below, you’ll find everything from the Botanic Gardens to the often-overlooked Stormont Estate. Later in the guide, you’ll find things to do in Belfast City with kids.
1. The Botanic Gardens
OK, so a bit like Belfast Zoo, the Botanic Gardens 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.
2. Belfast City Hall
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.
3. Stormont Estate
Stormont Estate is well worth a visit if you’re looking for a stroll. And you’re spoiled for choice with trails here (the History, Woodland, and Environment trails)
The extensive Stormont Estate is home to a lush woodland park where entry is free, and it’s open to the public year-round.
The estate is also home to the Government of Northern Ireland (see the differences between Northern Ireland vs Ireland) and several historic buildings whose history you can explore while you’re visiting.
4. St Anne’s Cathedral
St Anne’s 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.
Related read: Check out our guide to the best things to do in Northern Ireland (hikes, walks, historic sites and more).
5. The Grand Opera House
Next up is another handy spot for those of you looking for things to do in Belfast at night! 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 wondering what to do in Belfast when it’s raining.
6. Jump aboard the Nomadic
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.
The best things to do in Belfast with kids
So, as the number of family-friendly activities in Belfast is almost endless, we’ve covered this in detail in our guide to things to do in Belfast with kids.
However, I’ll pop in some of the more popular things to do below, from Colin Glen Forest Park to Belfast. Dive on in!
1. Belfast Zoo
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.
As this is one of the more popular places to visit in Belfast, it’s worth booking your ticket in advance of your trip.
2. Colin Glen Forest Park
If you’re in search of fun things to do in Belfast with kids, The Gruffalo Trail at Colin Glen Forest Park is worth checking out. This is a recent addition to the park and now one of the most popular family-friendly activities in Belfast.
The trail is home to each of the colourful characters from the picture book, The Gruffalo, and they’re brought to life as sculptures along the trail.
The Gruffalo sculptures are scattered throughout the forest along the river, with the highlight being the 8-foot Gruffalo (above).
3. W5 Belfast
W5 is another handy one for those of you wondering what to do in Belfast with kids on a miserable day. It’s here that they’ll discover 250 exhibits spread across four brilliantly put-together galleries.
There’s the Spacebase (for the 3-7 year-olds), a popular VR Zone and W5’s very own humanoid robot, Robothespian.
There’s also loads of seasonal exhibits and programs for them to get stuck into. There are few kids activities in Belfast that can go toe-to-toe with this place.
4. Lost City Adventure Golf
Now, I know I’ve chucked this in to the kids section, but this place is perfect for adults, too. Lost City Adventure Golf is home to two jungle themed mini-golf course.
It’s open 7-days a week and there’s also places to grab food or drinks nearby, if you fancy making an evening of it.
This is a handy option for those of you on the lookout for things to do in Belfast for couples or with a couple of friends.
5. Victoria Park
I’d argue that Victoria Park is one of the most overlooked places to visit in Belfast by visiting tourists. You’ll find it in East Belfast, near the airport.
Visitors here can soak up lake views, watch the birds or tackle one of several walking trails (see our guide to the best walks in Belfast for more).
There’s also a football pitch, a bowling green and a BMX track, if you’re looking for more high-energy activities in Belfast.
6. The Belfast bus tour
OK – bear with me for a minute. If you’re visiting Belfast with kids, it can be tricky, as there’s a good bit of walking to do.
That’s where tours like this one (4.5/5 from 393 reviews at the time of typing) come in handy. This is a 1 or 2-day hop-on/off tour that takes in the best Belfast attractions.
Over the course of the tour, you’ll see Titanic Belfast, Albert Memorial Clock, the Cathedral Quarter and Northern Ireland War Memorial, Stormont and the political murals.
Note: if you book a tour via the link above, we may make a tiny commission. You won’t pay extra, but we really do appreciate it (cheers!).
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 City Centre from the guide above.
If you have something to recommend, let me know in the comments section below and I’ll check it out.
FAQs about Belfast attractions
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what are the best things to do in Belfast at night to what to do in Belfast when it’s raining.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best things to do in Belfast?
I’d argue that the best Belfast attractions are (outdoor) Divis and Black Mountain and Cave Hill and (indoor) Titanic Belfast and the Black Cab Tours.
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 few more: Ulster Museum, Belfast City Hall, The Botanic Gardens and Stormont.
What are the best fun things to do in Belfast today?
Kick start your day with a feed and then head off on an early morning walk at Divis. Soak up history at Crumlin Gaol then round off the day with a pint in the Cathedral Quarter.