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Belfast may be a vibrant city, brimming with traditional music, award-winning food and historical significance – but its size makes it a perfect weekend getaway or day trip. Here are some of the best highlights if you have a chance to experience it for 24 hours.
Northern Ireland is a region of celebrated writers, theatre and drama, so make time for dinner and a show upon your arrival. The Grand Opera House has been entertaining audiences since 1895 with musicals, drama and comedy theatre, and ticket prices are very affordable, even for travellers on a budget. Scottish Ballet’s Hansel and Gretel, Peter Pan the Musical and Cirque Berserk are all scheduled to show in 2017 – all promising to be a night of high-quality entertainment.
Grand Opera House, 2-4 Great Victoria St, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9024 1919
In the heart of South Belfast, beside Queen’s University Belfast, lies the endless Botanic Gardens and Palm House – situated beside some fantastic breakfast spots and cafés throughout the Queen’s Quarter. Take a morning stroll throughout the exotic Palm House and Tropical Ravine House, before visiting the main attraction. The Ulster Museum, sitting on the periphery of the Botanic Gardens, is a refurbished centre of international and local history. If you’re in the city for a taste of Northern Irish history, visit the Art of the Troubles exhibit and Belfast Story exhibit. This free museum is a must-see for any first-time visitor – it even has its own Egyptian mummy.
Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9044 0000
If you’ve covered Queen’s Quarter, your next stop is the home of Belfast’s most famous voyager – the docks and building site of the Titanic. Named Europe’s Best Attraction 2016 – beating the Eiffel Tower in Paris – the multi-million museum in the centre of the Titanic Quarter is dedicated to the legacy of the RMS Titanic, which sunk on her first voyage, in 1912. Inside, the museum features recreations and simulations of the ship’s interior, dining room and living quarters, all of which will give you the most authentic experience as a passenger on the ship. You’ll also be able to board the SS Nomadic at the museum, a tender ship for first-class passengers to the Titanic.
For those travellers in a rush, the famous Titanic Boat Tour is the fastest way to see the docks and surrounding area, in a two-hour sail around the maritime harbour. You’ll be treated to a brief history of the area, including the story of the Titanic Dock and Pump House – the actual building site for the RMS Titanic – and the best view of Samson and Goliath, Harland & Wolff’s original cranes that aided construction of the ship. It’s a perfect excuse to sit down and relax before a night on the town.
Titanic Boat Tours, Donegall Quay, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9024 0124
For the most exciting taste of Northern Irish nightlife, hit the cobbled streets of the Cathedral Quarter for a night of live music, lively bars and a whiskey cocktail to finish the day. The Duke of York offers the best pint of Guinness anywhere in the city, with beautiful outdoor seating in the evening. If you’re looking for a little more flair, visit The Dirty Onion for their extensive whiskey menu or The Spaniard for a rum cocktail. Most venues will showcase local music, giving you a taste of traditional Irish folk music or Belfast jazz. Crowds usually pour out onto the street during busy evenings, so bring a scarf and hat for winter weather (always guaranteed).
The Duke of York, 7-11 Commercial Ct, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9024 1062
The Dirty Onion, 3 Hill St, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, +44 28 9024 3712