GO TO BELFAST FOR A WEEKEND AWAY WHEN WE CAN TRAVEL AGAIN
Belfast is an easy city to get to from the UK for a weekend away. You can go from Heathrow in London by Aer Lingus in a bit over an hour. Aer Lingus lands at George Best Belfast City Airport which is small and only 15 minutes from the centre of the city. The 600 Translink bus takes you into the city and back to the airport for your return flight for £4 return. The other option is to go to Belfast International Airport with Ryan Air from London Stansted and with Easyjet from 8 locations in the UK. There is the 300 bus with Translink into the city.
There are several hotels that are right in the downtown centre and several are within a few blocks of the bus station.
At the airport and at the bus station you can get a map of the city Once you check into your hotel, take a walk to the information office in the centre of the city. There you can get information about all the city’s attractions. You can also buy bus cards for the day or longer. The cost of bus travel is very reasonable.
One of the most popular attractions is the black cab or black taxi tours. There are many different companies from which you can order your tour on line. Staff at the information centre can call a company for you. They did this for my friend and I and we had a tour within a few minutes. These tours take you to the famous streets of “The Troubles ‘ - Falls Road and Shankill. The tour guides have lived through the times and can give one the history of the situation and the present circumstances. This is a highly recommended activity for one’s first day.
A visit to the Titanic shipyards and the Titanic Museum is a must on anyone’s visit to Belfast. The displays are well thought out and don’t just concentrate on the building of the Titanic and the launch but also on the workers of Belfast and the other main employers at the time. Give yourself 3 hours. You have to go through the museum in order and there is an electronic ride through the air that makes it tricky to move ahead.
The City Hall is a fabulous piece of architecture and also has incorporated the history of the city in the various rooms on the main floor. Accomplished citizens of the city are celebrated as well.
For meals, bars and night life, go to the Cathedral area. Take some time to look at the Cathedral and then take a walk up and down the main streets and side streets in the area. Try The Cloth Ear for lunch or dinner or Hadskis for dinner. Both places have excellent food. In the Cathedral area The John Hewitt, The Morning Star and the Duke of York are all recommended pubs by the locals. If you are looking for High Tea, go to The Merchant Hotel. They have a traditional High Tea with lovely food in ornate surroundings.
The most famous pub in Belfast is the Crown and you will find it across the street from the Fitzwilliam Hotel on Great Victoria Street. Go inside to see the décor and have a brew of course!
If you like live theatre or opera, see what it playing at the Grand Opera House while you are there. It is situated across the street from The Crown and next to the Fitzwilliam Hotel.
On Friday mornings, going to St George’s Market on May street is a tradition. It is the last remaining Victorian covered market in the city. Here is where the locals go to get fresh fish, produce, bread, clothes and crafts. You can see the largest scallops ever and linen tea towels for a fraction of the price that you would find elsewhere.
If you love shopping, there is Victoria Square shopping Centre where you can go up an elevator to the top to see a good view of the city. There is a pedestrian walk way for shopping nearby and Castle Court is a second shopping centre to the west of Victoria Square. A famous shop for linen goods of good quality is Avoca that can be found in the same area.
To the south of town, you will find Queen’s University, the Botanical Garden and Palm House. Again, all are accessible by a short bus ride and are close to each other.
If you have time for a half day trip outside of Belfast, you can take a bus to Hillsborough which is a small parish about 20 minutes south west of Belfast and this is where the house is situated that the Queen stays at when she visits Northern Ireland. There are frequent 45 minute tours and a tea room and gift shop. Another popular spot, also about 20 minutes by bus from Belfast but to the north, is Belfast Castle. The Parliament Buildings known as Stormont are within 15 minutes of the city centre too the east. Guided tours are offered during July and August and the buildings are open from 9am until 4pm Monday to Friday. You can go to all 3 places by bus and the bus stops can be found outside the information centre.
A popular day trip is to the Giant’s Causeway. There are many tour companies offering tours to this spot and some offer sights from the Game of Thrones and a stop at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge as part of the tour package. You can find ways to get there at the Information Centre.
To fit all of the above agenda in, one needs 4 or 5 days including arrival and departure days.