Image by Belfast-based illustrator Fiona McDonnell

The Insider Guide to Belfast

There are lots of reasons to visit Belfast: are you infatuated with the cathedrals? Do you fancy a tour of Game of Thrones filming locations? Or do you just want to say you’ve had a drink in a proper Irish pub? No matter your reasoning for coming, the diversity and splendour of the Northern Irish capital is sure to win you over.

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Discover what's the craic: The Main Attractions

Being a tourist in Belfast is really easy! Most must-see highlights are either in or near the buzzing Cathedral Quarter. A vibrant district built around St Anne’s Cathedral, it’s packed with cafés, bars, restaurants and nightlife. Be sure to check out what’s on at The Black Box and The MAC. The two venues, just a five-minute walk apart, each host a wealth of visual arts, live music, theatre, comedy and dance events. For something a bit more bourgeois, take in an opera at the majestic Grand Opera House on Great Victoria Street. A hop, skip and jump from the Grand Opera House is City Hall. It was built in celebration of Belfast being granted city status by Queen Victoria in the late 19th Century – a time of rapid industrialisation. The key local industry back then was shipbuilding; in fact, it was here that the most famous ship of all time, the Titanic, began construction in 1908. Today, Titanic Belfast is the largest Titanic museum in the world. More maritime history – including artefacts from the Spanish Armada – can be explored at the Ulster Museum, located in the Botanic Gardens. The Gardens themselves are also a big draw for nature lovers. You dark tourists may well be wooed by the Crumlin Road Gaol: the old prison dates back to 1845, before falling into disuse in 1996. It’s now a popular attraction; book a tour to learn all about the gritty history there. If prison bars don’t appeal, maybe a booze-serving bar will? Well-known watering holes Kelly’s Cellars, McHughs and the Duke of York all promise a merry atmosphere. Meanwhile, the bedazzling interiors at the famous Crown Liquor Saloon are a throwback to a past as a Victorian gin palace. Belfast is also home to Titanic Studios, where much of hit TV series Game of Thrones was shot. Filming took place in lots of spots just outside the city as well, and tours of them run very frequently. Pick the right one and you’ll get to see the iconic Giant’s Causeway on the same day as well. To hone your itinerary further, read on.

Neighborhoods in Belfast