I’ve been to Belfast many times because I have a very good friend who lives there. On my previous visits I spent most of my time chatting, shopping and drinking. However, when I visited at the end of last year as part of a project for Travelling Shopaholic, I made sure I saw a few more of the key sites. This is my round up of Belfast’s best bits.
Victoria Square is Belfast’s upmarket shopping mall situated just a short walk from the city’s chic Malmaison Hotel and only a 10-minute taxi ride from Belfast City Airport. (Find out where else you can travel to from Belfast Airport with these deals from Directline Holidays.) Book-ended by a multi storied House of Fraser and a shiny new Topshop on the other end, Victoria Square has everything from Fossil to Reiss in-between. Make sure you take the lift to the top of the glass-domed ceiling for 360-degree views of Belfast.
The Titanic Quarter
The Titanic Quarter is a new waterfront development on the former shipyard, which built the famous ship of the same name. The complex includes apartments, a riverside entertainment district, and a major Titanic-themed attraction which opened last year. In the Titanic exhibition visitors can re-live the entire Titanic story from her birth in Belfast to the fateful maiden voyage and her eventual discovery on the seabed. The iconic Titanic Belfast building is a site to behold in itself, the structure said to represent the hulls of the ships that were previously built there.
The MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre)
The MAC is Belfast’s brand new arts venue. “We select, create and mix up music, theatre, dance and art – bringing you the very best of local and international talent under one roof.” Currently on show is an Andy Warhol exhibition, running until the 28th April. They also have an awesome café called Canteen on the ground floor that makes you feel cultured just hanging out in it.
Black Cab Tour
I wrote in detail about the murals and peace walls I learnt about on a Black Taxi tour of Belfast. Our objective guide gave us some insight into Belfast’s troubled past and we saw another side of the city not always revealed to visitors.
Surrounding Belfast’s historic St. Anne’s Cathedral, the Cathedral Quarter has experienced two decades of regeneration and growth to emerge as a dynamic cultural hub in the city centre. Dynamic and captivating street art has popped up in the area including this piece by Irish artist Connor Harrington painted in conjunction with the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.
“The Duel of Belfast, Dance By Candlelight”
Also amongst the cobbled roads and winding alleys you will find some of Belfast’s best bars and restaurants. Not to be missed are:
The Duke of York – one of Belfast’s most famous traditional pubs known for its variety of whiskey and being the home of Snow Patrol’s first gig.
Muriel’s – a cosy, retro café/bar, the décor has a 1920’s hat shop theme – which is what Muriel’s was back in the day.
The Spaniard – “cosy like a local pub with a rock/pop culture meets Spanish chux to décor,” says the website – whatever that means. The Spaniard is a hugely popular, often raucous, city centre bar famed for its eclectic decoration and weird and wonderful drinks selection.
Merchant Hotel – once the headquarters of the Ulster bank, the Merchant is now a 5 star hotel. In their grand dining hall, The Great Room, you can enjoy an elegant afternoon tea, the old bank vaults are now home to popular bar/nightclub Ollie’s and on the roof is a hot tub that boyband JLS are fans of.
With flights from London to Belfast taking less than an hour, Belfast is perfect for an easy weekend getaway full of craic. For more information on things to do and see in Northern Ireland visit http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/.