Things to do in Belfast in ONE day; Your 1 day Belfast Itinerary
UPDATE OCTOBER 2021. Growing up in County Down, Northern Ireland, I always knew that there are so many things to do in Belfast on a well-structured tourist Belfast Itinerary and you could easily spend the best part of a week there. But I know, I know your schedule is packed and you only have a night or two here, so what do you NEED to see during your 1 day in Belfast. I got you.
Belfast was the last stop on my 2 week Ireland road trip (check the itinerary in the blog post), so we valet parked our campervan, and checked into Belfast’s best hotel, the Fitzwilliam, (I must be the first person to valet park a camper-van there!). Let’s see how one day in Belfast compares to one day in Dublin:
Table of contents
Anyways, with one day to work out what to do in Belfast, here’s how you should plan out your day. In 1 day in Belfast we will cover:
- St George’s Market
- City Hall
- Belfast’s famous Political Black Taxi Tour
- Titanic Quart, and the Titanic Museum
- Northern Ireland’s oldest bar
- Ireland’s highest bar
1 DAY IN BELFAST
8am: Belfast isn’t so big, and it’s a beautiful city to walk around, so get up early and stroll down to St George’s Market. A traditional Victorian market, over 100 years old, that Belfast city has revamped and now it’s booming. Over 300 traders, food hawkers, musicians, artisans, you name it, St George’s Market has it.
It’s brilliant for food, both quirky Northern Irish fare like the disgusting unhealthy yet deliciously amazing ‘Belfast Bap’ (try it!), but also great for picking up fair trade goods from Bhutan and Nepal. It’s really a cool place and shows how far Belfast has come since the political troubles.
You can easily spend a couple of hours here, but remember it’s a weekend market only – so Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Opening hours (Friday Variety Market: 6am-3pm, Saturday City Food, Craft and Garden Market: 9am-3pm, Sunday Food, Craft & Market: 10am-4pm)
After you’ve eaten the local food, walk 10 minutes around the corner and check out the beautiful Belfast City Hall. You can take guided tours (don’t bother, it’s boring), but just wandering around, and briefly inside is enough to appreciate the beautiful architecture of Victorian Britain.
Late Morning/Early Afternoon
This is the number 1 thing to do in Belfast, and perhaps in all of Northern Ireland is to go on a Black Taxi City Tour (book it here, about $70 for 2 people for 1 hour). These tours can, of course, give you a general overview of the famous sights in Belfast, but forget all that, you want a political tour. As I’ve mentioned previously, Northern Ireland has been a hotspot of global, religious tension. And Belfast was the epicentre, famously referred to as one of the three B’s – Baghdad, Beirut, and Belfast. You’ll hear all about the IRA, UVF, Protestants, Catholics etc all from the street level. It’s a real eye-opener.
The troubles (in effect a civil war between Protestants and Catholics within Northern Ireland) killed more than 3600 people within the last half-century, and now with an uneasy truce, things are looking up. A political black taxi tour will give you an hour/90 mins run down of everything that happened, showing the political murals of both sides of the conflict, spots where people were gunned down, blown up, tragically lost to the struggle.
It’s dark, sombre but an important reality to remember. Religion has done very little but act as a tool to control the masses and drive a splinter between what would otherwise be friendly communities. Outdated, redundant and out of control. Anyway, the political tour is fascinating and I challenge you not to be touched, not to mention shocked that this was happening in a so-called ‘first world’ country. Do it, you won’t regret it.
If you’re really into the politics of Northern Ireland, you can actually go on a 3-hour political walking tour instead. They are about $25 per person, and you can book that here.
1pm: After your brekkie at St Geoge’s Market, your political black taxi tour, and then a spot of lunch, it’s time to check out the ‘World Best Tourist Attraction’ as awarded in 2017 (yup, really!). Head to the Titanic quarter in the city. Many people don’t know but the Titanic ship was actually built in Belfast, before (as the Irish say) it was handed to an Englishman who proceeded to sink it!
There is a huge, huge Titanic centre built in tribute to the shop and lives lost at a cost of $100m, opened in 2012. The Titanic Belfast showcases how the ship was built, but more poignantly, it tracks the lives of people who fatefully bought tickets, and boarded the ship. How it was to travel 1st, 2nd, 3rd class. The conditions. How it sunk. Who was lost. It is done very tastefully but also it really immerses you in the accident and leaves you feeling dismayed at such a loss.
I was expecting it to be a boring museum but in fact, it blew me away, it truly was one of the best centres I’ve ever visited. Amazing actually.
Tickets can be bought here, £18pp (not cheap, but well worth it, trust me). When you’re thinking about things to see in Belfast, the Titanic cannot be missed.
6pm onwards: You’ll be finished with the Titanic quarter around 4pm or so, so head back to your hotel, have a bite to eat and get ready for your evening.
2 bars to definitely add to your list tonight first though are ‘The Crown’ which is Northern Ireland’s oldest bar. It’s also opposite the Europa Hotel, which infamously was once the most bombed hotel in the world. Northern Ireland is a different beast these days thankfully.
Secondly, Ireland’s highest, and most expensive bar! The Observatory Skybar has awesome city views, it’s on the 23rd floor of The Grand Central hotel. Expect to pay up to $12 for a pint of beer though!
As the evening moves on I have Two words. Cathedral Quarter. If you want to see just how far Belfast has come since being a political warzone then head for a few drinks in the hip Cathedral Quarter. Belfast is embracing its past and its future. Amazing graffiti everywhere around the quarter, and not of the political kind. Celebrating the famous people in Belfast’s, and Northern Ireland’s past.
There are a lot of cool bars around here, but check out the Harp Bar and also my personal favourite, the Dirty Onion. As things start to heat-up, you can head to Filthy McNasties for a filthy night on the booze, it’s a big bar/club in the city centre and promises a late, loud, debaucherous night. Enjoy!
1 Day in Belfast Itinerary; Final Notes
That’s your 1 day in Belfast Itinerary done, as you can see there are loads of things to do in Belfast, but if you just have the one day, this is the best itinerary for you.
As you move on, make sure you head on a Giant’s Causeway tour on the north coast. While the Republic of Ireland has kissing the Blarney stone, the Cliffs of Moher, Skellig Michael tours and even Slieve League, It’s Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site and is well worth a visit. If you’re basing yourself in Belfast, you can actually organise a day trip to take you there and back in 1 day for about 25GBP. You can organise that here and give yourself 2 nights in Belfast to party instead!
My family has since moved to the North of England, thankfully there are loads of things to do in Whitley Bay too, but I do miss Ireland already.
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