We made the most of our arrival day in Ireland, traveling through the Boyne Valley, and after a full night’s sleep we were excited to spend our first full day exploring Belfast.
Both my husband and I had been to Belfast before–me on several occasions when I studied abroad in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, and he on the occasion he visited me while I was studying abroad.
Even so, we hadn’t explored much of the city and believe it or not, several things had changed during our 10-year absence!
The city was still waking up when we set out and the main roads were fairly busy with people commuting to work. I was surprised how quiet it was despite the traffic.
A few photos from our morning walk:
One of the new Belfast attractions that was put in place since my last visit is the Titanic Belfast experience, which was first on my list. Our hotel staff gave us convoluted instructions for getting there, but we eventually made it.
We wanted to arrive early to avoid the crowds as much as possible, and I highly recommend being there when the doors open. There were already quite a few people there when we arrived, but coaches of people arrived while we were there and it was overwhelming by the time we left.
There are several components to the Titanic Belfast experience– we saw the other White Star Line ship as well as the docks where the ships were manufactured–but we covered most of the Titanic quarters on foot and only paid to go in the museum.
I loved the museum! I have an intermediate working knowledge of the history of the Titanic, but there was so much additional background in the museum and it was very well done. I loved all of the detail about the actual shipbuilding process and how everything was managed in Belfast/why it had so much impact on the economy and people during that time. The museum itself is the height of the ship and when you look out over the area where the ship was actually constructed, the scale is magnificent and really puts everything in perspective.
I recommend it to anyone, whether you think you have an interest or not. The museum has everything from historical documents and artifacts to scale models of the rooms to modern day footage of the underwater remains of the Titanic to a Disney World-type ride. Here are a few exterior photos:
After our visit we walked along the river and across the footbridge toward downtown Belfast.
I didn’t remember much of the riverfront from my earlier visits but the downtown area brought back memories! We walked past the leaning clock tower, around the Belfast City Hall square and over to the Grand Opera House and Europa Hotel, supposedly the most bombed building in Europe.
The sun was spotty when we first set out, but it was beautiful outside by late morning!
Right across from the Europa was our lunch destination, the Crown Liquor Saloon. We had both eaten there the last time we were in Belfast and were excited to go back!
We almost missed the front door because it’s under a great deal of construction, but we followed the signs around to a side entrance and had no trouble grabbing drinks at the bar and then a compartment to order lunch.
The interior is still beautiful and our food was delicious!
It wasn’t busy for lunch so we had a nice chat with our waitress and a relaxing meal before grabbing a cab over to the Crumlin Road Gaol.
I don’t remember the jail being an attraction 10 years ago, but it certainly is now.
I thought Brian would enjoy the tour, but I was also fascinated by its historical uses–especially how it was divided to hold men, women and children and then the stories of prisoners during the Troubles.
Our guide was good and our group was also nice–we were from all over the world and everyone had really insightful questions!
We tried grabbing a cab back downtown, putting our name in at a cab hub right next to the jail. The girl told us there was a cab on the way, but after waiting nearly 20 minutes we gave up and just walked back.
It was still beautiful outside and it was approaching happy hour so we started looking for a pub to pop in. Brian found an interesting alley so we headed down to explore–and came across a wonderful surprise!
The alley was FILLED with signs of all kinds–mostly bars, breweries and beers– as well as banners and beautiful murals.
We roamed around taking pictures before popping into the Duke of York, an awesome little pub with a local happy hour crowd. A perfect stumbled upon moment if I ever saw one!
After our happy hour we stopped over to the Victoria Square shopping district, but only for a cameo appearance. It’s nothing more than a mall, which is not for us. Unless you want to go to department stores, I wouldn’t recommend it.
We rounded out our afternoon/evening by having dinner at the oldest bar in Belfast, McHughs. It was packed but we grabbed seats and drinks by the window, sat in overstuffed chairs, and ate a few appetizers before returning to our hotel.
It was a long day and a lot of walking, but it was wonderful seeing a few of the new attractions while enjoying a few of our old haunts. Low key and somewhat low profile–I enjoy Belfast.
I leave you with one of my favorite pictures from our day: