48 Hours in Belfast

As Belfast is such a compact city it is easy to pack a lot into a short trip, and 48 hours is ideal to get flavour of the capital of Northern Ireland. As a city it is ever changing and you will always be surprised by something new. It is also a UNESCO city of Music, so music lovers are going to be spoiled for choice. 

48 Hours in Belfast

Every trip to Belfast should start at St George’s Market. One of the city’s oldest attractions, the market has been running since 1604 and today is home to dozens of traders and food stalls every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Live music also adds to the atmosphere. 

Pick up breakfast from one of the many vendors offering cuisines from around the world, or sample the local fayre and sink your teeth into the famous filled Belfast Bap or feast on a traditional Ulster Fry.  

Morning Strolls

Head to Maritime Mile to experience some of Northern Ireland’s finest artists, from opera to jazz, indie and electronic to traditional and folk music, your summer soundtrack covered. 

 If nature is what you crave, then a visit to Belfast’s beautiful Botanic Gardens is a must. The plush parkland is complemented by the Victorian glass Palm House and Tropical Ravine which houses some 190 plant species in temperate and tropical zones.  

Or pop into the nearby Ulster Museum located within the grounds and come face to face with dinosaurs, meet an ancient Egyptian mummy and marvel at chunks of the Moon and Mars in a special meteorite exhibition.  

Round off your morning exploration with a gently-paced walking tour of Belfast’s Street Art which is a delight for city lovers. Every Sunday at noon, leaving from the red benches on Commercial Court (beside the Duke of York bar).  

Afternoon Adventures

For an immersive arts experience, Dreamachine at Carlisle Circus takes visitors on a once-in-a-lifetime multisensory journey to explore the extraordinary potential of your own mind.

Take the experience up a notch at W5 where thrill seekers can experience “The Dark” – a brand-new science fiction scare adventure sure to give you goosebumps.  

Walk the Walk 

Pick up tickets at the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre opposite the City Hall, for one of the many daily walking tours. They are led by independent tour guides recounting Belfast’s troubled history, legends and folklore whilst taking in iconic landmarks. 

Van Morrison Tour – as we were in Belfast for the Van Morrison hometown concert on Custom House Square it seemed ideal to take a walking tour of his home town with one of his biggest fans, Al Bodkin. 

The tour begins at the CS Lewis Square in East Belfast, dedicated to the writer of the Tales of Narnia. Al took us on a two-our hour tour that brought us to places that inspired lyrics in Van’s songs.  We also passed his school, home and the church the family attended and the venue for the Cyprus Avenue gigs. It was a fascinating and even if not a fan, it is an enjoyable exploration of East Belfast. 

If comedy is your thing, you’ll love the If Buildings Could Talk city tour. Billed as “the most entertaining tour in Belfast” this leisurely walk down memory lane reminisces some of the city’s more unusual stories that’s guaranteed to have you chuckling.  

Black Cab Tours offer a range of routes and itineraries. More active visitors can cycle their way through the city or adrenaline junkies can get their fix of the city from the water with Belfast’s River Lagan Hydrobikes.  

Cultural Adventures

Summer in Belfast sees the city bursting with culture, arts, music and good times as festival fever takes over. Last weekend we were lucky to be in Belfast for the start of Mela, a festival of culture and diversity. It was kaleidoscope of colour and music. 

Another fun adventure we had was following Elmer’s Big Belfast Trail  of 36 painted elephants around the city. These are beautifully painted by various artists and will be sold in aid of the Children’s Cancer Charity. 

Where to Eat

For lunch head to the sunny piazza of St Anne’s Square in the Cathedral Quarter and take your pick from the abundance of world cuisines on offer. Enjoy a taste of Italy at Coppi, Belfast’s first cicchetti bacari restaurant bringing Venetian tapas to the city. 

Or feast on eastern Mediterranean delights at Buba, famed for its halloumi fries and sharing platters. For an oriental experience with a difference, opt for House of Zen’s outdoor barbeque. Seafood lovers can catch the fish of the day whilst soaking up the sun at Fish City or Mourne Seafood Bar. 

Stroll around the newly opened Trademarket Belfast on the Dublin Road. Lovingly transformed containers house food and retail traders in this pop-up market exhibiting the best of independents. Or toast your trip in style, pop in to Cafe Parisien and enjoy unrivalled views of City Hall from its Grey Goose Terrace. 

Award-winning restaurants

A whole host of award-winning restaurants prove that the small but mighty Belfast really does hold its own when it comes to great food. Home to three Michelin starred restaurants – Ox, Muddler’s Club and Deane’s EIPIC – diners can get a real taste for the city with its locally sourced fine dining tasting menus, perfectly paired with wines from around the world expertly chosen by sommeliers. 

Be among the first to check out award-winning chef Niall McKenna’s new Waterman House in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. Serving classic European-style cuisine made with quality local produce. It is in the stylish surroundings of a former Bushmills bonded warehouse, now known as Waterman House and home to its own cookery school. 

For a more chilled experience, try EDŌ, serving a selection of tapas, or why not opt for dinner with a view at Novelli at City Quays offering an authentic Mediterranean menu.  

Sundown Sessions

Belfast comes alive when the sun goes down. The city’s famous Cathedral Quarter, brimming with bars tucked down entry ways, take your pick from any number of lively spots. From Henry’s and The Jailhouse to The Duke of York, The Harp Bar, The National, and White’s Tavern, you’re sure to enjoy a great night’s craic.  

Located in an area once home to many of the city’s newspapers, The Reporter Bar is one of the city’s newest bars, clad with artefacts and memorabilia, illustrating the city’s colourful history through the eyes of the press. 

 If cocktails are more your vibe, check out Belfast’s newest cocktail bar Angel and Two Bibles. Buzz for entry, climb the stairway to this hidden speakeasy and choose a chalice from its quirky menu – The Old Testament or The New Testament. 

Bed Time in Belfast

Bed down for the night, in 5-star luxury, boutique hotels or budget options, there’s something to suit everyone. Hastings Grand Central is more than a hotel. Standing tall in Bedford Street, this impressive jewel fuses glamour and grandeur with a uniquely Belfast spirit. It is home to The Observatory, Ireland’s tallest bar providing spectacular 360-degree city views.  

Bullitt Hotel is a stylish and cleverly designed hotel, oozing hipster-chic vibes with an urban atmosphere whilst The Harrison is a bohemian bolt hole in the Queens Quarter, telling the story of famous people with connections to Belfast.  

ETAP Hotel offers moderately priced essential comfort right in the heart of the city next to the bustling ‘Golden Mile.’  For those who like cutting edge design along with a little kitchen to prepare a few snacks or breakfast, the Flint on central Howard Street is perfect for a stay.  

Getting There  

Catch the Enterprise from Dublin’s Connolly Station to Lanyon Station and enjoy free onward rail travel to Titanic Quarter Station as well as a free Metro Bus Service to the city centre. 

From Dublin, the Translink X1 bus service operates from Busaras in the city centre and Dublin Airport to Belfast, with 21 departures every day. If you’re planning on taking the car, free on-street car parking is available in Belfast City Centre after 6pm Monday – Saturday, and all-day Sunday.  

Value Car Parks’ state-of-the-art car park in Grosvenor Road offers overnight parking for just €10. For more information see Visit Belfast.  

Joan Scales
Award-winning journalist, Joan has been writing about travel and tourism for many years principally for The Irish Times and lately for travel2ireland. Joan has appeared many times on television and radio talking about the business of travel and all its component strands. She is also a public speaker and has appeared at many international conventions and conferences.

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