Must-Visit Attractions in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast is full of beautiful attractions, including the Palm House in the Botanic Gardens
Belfast is full of beautiful attractions, including the Palm House in the Botanic Gardens | © Henryk Sadura / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Niamh McGovern
1 September 2020

Belfast is the UK city you’re missing out on – it’s affordable, safe and near some of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful coastal attractions. The city itself, though, offers a fantastic range of things to do and see – from Titanic Belfast to Cave Hill. Check out our favourites below.

Cathedral Quarter

Architectural Landmark
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Interior of St Anne's Cathedral, Cathedral Quarter, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
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For a taste of tradition, visit Belfast’s “mini village” for a cold pint or first-class meal in one of the Cathedral Quarter’s pubs and restaurants. The cobbled walkway of Commercial Court may be the most picturesque street in the area and makes for some Instagram-worthy travel photos.

St. Anne's Cathedral

Cathedral, Church, Historical Landmark
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The Cathedral Quarter is named after its majestic resident, St. Anne’s Cathedral. Consecrated in 1904, the cathedral boasts the eye-catching Spire of Hope, added in 2006. Inside are marvellous mosaics, striking sculptures, spectacular stained glass windows and the poignant Titanic Pall, as well as the shrine of Edward Carson, leader of the Unionist movement during the partition of Ireland.

Crumlin Road Gaol

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Crumlin Road Gaol Belfast
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Since 1996, Crumlin Road Gaol (jail) has served as a tourism and historical heritage site – but its walls once housed many notorious prisoners and political activists. History buffs should take a tour of this jail and learn about the prisoners, their executions and the eventual closing of the prison.

Titanic Belfast and SS Nomadic

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The steamship tender SS Nomadic with Titanic Belfast museum behind, Titanic Quarter, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
© Eric James / Alamy Stock Photo
The very pride and joy of Belfast is the Titanic Belfast, named Europe’s best attraction of 2016. Inside, visitors will be treated to simulations of the RMS Titanic’s exterior, a tour of the building grounds, and stories from passengers who were on board. Be sure to check out the Titanic’s tender ship, the SS Nomadic, on the way home.

Queen's University Belfast and Naughton Gallery

Architectural Landmark
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Just next door to the Botanic Gardens is Queen’s University Belfast. Its main building is a beautiful piece of architecture designed by Charles Lanyon, who accidentally mixed up the plans with a project in Galway – giving Belfast one of the most beautiful campuses in the UK. The Naughton Gallery, located in the Lanyon Building, houses some of the most exquisite art exhibitions anywhere in Northern Ireland.

St. George's Market

Market, Street Food, Coffee
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Fruit and vegetable stall at St. Georges Market, Belfast
© J Orr / Alamy Stock Photo
This award-winning market is a must-see, even for those only here for a short stay. From seafood to fresh pastries, St. George’s Market has remained Belfast’s gem for food and local cuisine. To make the most of a visit, come on an empty stomach and with an open mind.

Divis Ridge Trail

Hiking Trail
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View of Divis and the Black Mountain, National Trust, Belfast, Northern Ireland
© Anthony Lynn / Alamy Stock Photo
Those planning an extended stay in the city should be sure to travel to the nearby Divis Ridge and Black Mountain for a hiking trail in the famous Mourne Mountains. At approximately 4.5mi (7km), this walk is accessible to all travellers, and it’s one of the best views of the mountain range and Belfast Lough. On a clear day, Scotland is visible too.

Bike Tours

Architectural Landmark
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Belfast is a perfect city for cyclists, like many of its European brother and sister cities, and more and more people are swapping their car for a bike. Belfast City Bike Tours offer the best routes in the city, from the cobbled streets of the Cathedral Quarter to the city centre and the Titanic harbour – perfect for a short stay. Full safety training and equipment are provided, so there’s no reason to miss out.

C.S. Lewis Square

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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aslan lion sculpture from lion witch and wardrobe in cs lewis square in connswater in east belfast northern ireland
© Radharc Images / Alamy Stock Photo
The author of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is arguably the most famous Belfast resident of all time. He was born here in 1898, and his legacy is recognised at C.S. Lewis Square, about a 30-minute walk from the centre. There you’ll find statues of characters such as Aslan and the White Witch.

HMS Caroline

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The WW1 ship HMS Caroline, Alexandra Dock, Belfast, Titanic Quarter
© DWImages Northern Ireland / Alamy Stock Photo
The HMS Caroline fought in World War I, most famously at the Battle of Jutland (it is one of the only ships that survived). Now dry-docked, it has been converted into a museum where visitors can get a taste of what it must have been like for a naval soldier to live aboard such a ship, as well as learn about its history and construction.

Crown Liquor Saloon

Bar, Pub, Pub Grub, $$$
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There are many historic pubs and bars dotted around Belfast, but it would be fair to say that with its yellow, gold and pink frontage, the Crown Liquor Saloon is the most striking. It is also one of the oldest, having been built in the 1880s, and the interior features preserved wood-carved booths and gas-lamp lighting.

Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park

Botanical Garden, Natural Feature, Park
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A 20-minute bus ride south of the city centre rewards you with one of the largest parks in Belfast, as well as perhaps the most beautiful. Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park features various gardens, including a rose garden with 40,000 roses, and it’s right next to a golf club.

Albert Memorial Clock

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Albert memorial clock, Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, 2018
© Atelier Knox / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re with a larger group and need a waypoint to ensure everyone finds each other, Albert Memorial Clock is ideal – and worth checking out in and of itself. It was built in 1860 on ground raised from the water, and although visitors aren’t allowed inside, it can be easily appreciated from the outside.

Streamvale Open Farm

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A slightly longer journey (45 minutes by bus or 20 by car), Streamvale Farm is worth the trip to the eastern edge of Belfast. It’s one of the largest dairy farms in the area, and during the summer months, it is completely open to visit, so you can see the process in action and meet all the animals. You might even get to see a sheepdog at work.

St. Malachy’s Church

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Belfast is peppered with Catholic places of worship, some of them dating back centuries, and St. Malachy’s Church is one of the oldest. It was consecrated in 1844, and much of its architecture, including beautiful mosaic floors and a vaulted ceiling, has been restored to appear as it did when the church was new.

Belfast Lough Reserve

Natural Feature
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Head up past the Titanic dock house for a little slice of secluded nature. Otherwise referred to as the RSBP Window on Wildlife, this place is a small nature reserve that is home to over 100 different species of birds, including wigeons and teals. There’s a watch shelter, and guided walks are available at certain times of the year.

Additional reporting by Callum Davies

These recommendations were updated on September 1, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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