For many people, Belfast is on their radar purely due to its turbulent political history. However, despite the highly publicised religious uprisings, Northern Island’s working class capital remains home to many gems awaiting discovery, as long as visitors are willing to look below the slightly industrialised surface.
The local economy has grown significantly since the late 1990s and attractive bars, boutiques and other businesses have sprung up, keen to showcase a welcoming destination for tourists and other visitors from the UK. Recently opened tourist centric attractions include the Titanic Quarter and Crumlin Road Gaol. As with much of the UK, there are also plenty of fantastic pubs and cobblestone high streets worth exploring. Belfast’s majestic Victorian-era architecture and growing arts and cultural scene offer plenty to appreciate.
For some, armed guards and chaos may spring to mind when considering Belfast, but for others, the instability of the not-too-distant-past seems hard to imagine when exploring the quaint and relatively quiet city streets. While it’s often bypassed in favour of the flashier capitals of Dublin and Edinburgh, those who do visit find plenty of surprises in Belfast.
Belfast Cruise Port welcomes several major international cruise liners including Celebrity, Princess Cruises and Holland America. Most large cruise ships dock at the 457-metre long Stormont Wharf in Belfast Harbour, which is located three miles north of the CBD. Pollock Dock is used for smaller vessels, and is located slightly further up the River Lagan.
Few passenger facilities exist at the current cruise ship port in Belfast. A new cruise ship terminal was announced in 2014, but construction is yet to commence. Outside the cruise terminal, visitors are welcomed with traditional Irish jigs and music performances. An information point including maps and tourist brochures is located near the car hire kiosks.
How to Get Around
A free shuttle from the port operates every 15 minutes, travelling to Donegall Square pedestrian mall, where the Belfast Visitor and Information centre is located. London-style black taxis can also be taken from the port and are preferred over non-official operators.
Once in town, Belfast can easily be navigated on foot, as most of the major attractions are within walking distance from the city centre. Sightseeing buses are a popular option and cost around £13 for 2 hours of unlimited travel with on-board commentary included. Belfast also has a well serviced and affordable metro bus system with day passes available for purchase.
Travel times from the port:
- It is a 38 minute journey to Donegall Place
- It is a 1 hour and 7 minute journey to the Belfast Botanical Gardens and Queens College
- It is a 1 hour and 30 minute journey to Belfast Castle.
- It is a 12 minute journey to Donegall Place
- It is a 9 minute journey to Belfast City Airport
- It is a 14 minute journey to Belfast Castle.
- Currency - Belfast uses the pound sterling (GBP), which is available in 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2 coin denominations. Bank notes are available in £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100 denominations. Euros may be accepted in larger stores and businesses.
- Time Zone - Belfast operates on Greenwich Mean Time. Daylight Saving Time (DST) comes into effect in March and concludes in October.
- Weather - Belfast enjoys a temperate climate with little temperature variations throughout the year. The average winter high is around 8 degrees Celsius, while during the peak of summer, the average maximum is 19.4 degrees Celsius.
- Titanic Belfast Experience - The Belfast shipyards that gave birth to the Titanic reopened in 2012 to mark the 100-year anniversary of the ill-fated liner. The Titanic Belfast exhibit commemorates the history and story of arguably mankind’s most tragic maritime accident. The work completed around the old Harland and Wolff shipyards is the result of one of the world’s largest urban waterfront regeneration projects. The Titanic Belfast walk-through experience is open daily between 9am-7pm (April – September) and 10am-5pm (October to March).
- Belfast Castle - Set on the slopes of Cave Hill Country Park, north of the city centre and 400 metres above sea level, Belfast Castle offers free admission and great views over the city and the Lagan River. Upstairs is the Cave Hill Visitor Centre, which has artefacts from Celtic folklore and other interesting displays. A restaurant and antique shop make up part of the lower floor. Any bus numbered 1 (1A-1G) leaving from the city centre will travel to Belfast Castle and Cave Hill Country Park.
- St Georges Market - Northern Island’s largest indoor market, the St George’s Market on May Street in the city centre, is one of the city’s most popular shopping experiences. Farmers’ markets are held on Saturdays and a variety of markets selling crafts and clothing are held between Tuesday and Friday.
- Ulster Museum - Sprawling over more than 170 acres, Ulster Museum is an outdoor museum comprising scores of traditional 19th century buildings. This makeshift village provides a glimpse into the traditional Irish towns of a bygone era. With costumed actors, horse-drawn carriages, water mills and free admission, the Ulster museum is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon while in Belfast.