Attractions

Although Northern Ireland is perhaps best known to travellers for its beautiful rural countryside and pretty coastline, the cities also have charm: industrial Belfast and the 17th-century walled city of Derry are two of the most popular urban destinations in Northern Ireland and are both great travel hubs for tourists. Northern Ireland is delightfully compact, meaning that the distance between sightseeing attractions tends to be small; a rare advantage when looking at the top attractions in a country and trying to plan an itinerary!

Belfast is an interesting city, once one of the major powerhouses of the Industrial Revolution, and a cauldron of political strife for many decades. The city is undergoing a wholesale rejuvenation, centring on the trendy Cathedral Quarter, famous for its performing arts venues and vibrant nightlife. The charming old city of Derry is less than two-hours drive from Belfast, and boasts many museums and historic sites of its own.

Those staying in Belfast can make quick excursions to a number of wonderful sites, including Giant's Causeway, on the scenic Antrim Coast, which is generally lauded as Northern Ireland's top tourist attraction. Whiskey lovers visiting Giant's Causeway should also be sure to detour to the nearby Bushmills Distillery, in the town of Bushmills, which is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world. Another gem near Belfast is the mysterious Giant's Ring, a Neolithic henge which many visitors will find fascinating. Lastly, the delightfully scary Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which offers splendid views, is also only a short drive from the city.

Cathedral Quarter photo

Cathedral Quarter

Once the city's centre for trade and its warehouse district, the Cathedral Quarter is now the heart of Belfast's cultural and tourist hub. The district is named for St Anne's Cathe…

Cathedral Quarter

Once the city's centre for trade and its warehouse district, the Cathedral Quarter is now the heart of Belfast's cultural and tourist hub. The district is named for St Anne's Cathedral. The cathedral itself is a beautiful Romanesque place of worship, more than a century old, which houses many art works and historical artefacts, and welcomes tourists as well as worshippers of all faiths. Four services are held every day in the cathedral.

There are some lovely examples of Victorian and Art Deco architecture in the Cathedral Quarter, as well as several galleries, dedicated performing arts venues, and good restaurants and bars. The area plays host to the Belfast Film Festival and the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival annually, as well as a number of other entertaining events and festivals. Popular performance art venues and general gathering spaces in the Cathedral Quarter include Custom House Square (Belfast's largest outdoor venue), Writer's Square, Cotton Court, the Cathedral Gardens, and the recently opened Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC). Given some time, the Quarter could rival Dublin's Temple Bar district for a good time in Ireland. Many tourists choose to find accommodation in the district, particularly those interested nightlife.

Another must-see in the trendy Cathedral Quarter is the Crown Liquor Saloon, which is one of the most famous bars in Northern Ireland. A classic example of a Victorian 'gin palace', the Crown has undergone several restorations and refurbishments in its 130-year history, and today stands as beautifully finished as ever before, having lost none of its old-world charm.

Address City centre, between Royal Avenue and the Dunbar Link.

Website www.cathedralquarterbelfast.com

Belfast Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum photo

Belfast Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum

The Belfast Botanic Gardens date back to 1828, but were only opened to the public in 1895. The gardens boast the Palm House, a cast iron and glass house built in 1852, rose gardens…

Belfast Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum

The Belfast Botanic Gardens date back to 1828, but were only opened to the public in 1895. The gardens boast the Palm House, a cast iron and glass house built in 1852, rose gardens, green walkways, and the Tropical Ravine greenhouse, which was built in 1889. The gardens are popular with office workers, students, locals, and tourists alike, and are a delightful venue for a picnic. Concerts and music festivals are frequently held at the Stranmillis Embankment end of the gardens, with past performances by international stars like Kings of Leon, The White Stripes, Snow Patrol, and U2. Alcohol is technically banned in the park, but it remains a popular meeting place for young people.

At the main entrance to the gardens is the fascinating Ulster Museum, which is one of the top rated tourist attractions in the city. Founded in 1821, the Ulster Museum is a treasure trove of fascinating exhibits on a range of subjects, with dinosaur exhibitions rubbing shoulders with Egyptian mummies and Irish politics. The museum also houses an excellent art collection. The Ulster Museum has recently been renovated and greatly improved and is a wonderful attraction for people of all ages. There is also a good cafe at the museum.

Address College Park E, Belfast, UK.

Website www.nmni.com/our-museums/ulster-museum/

Transport

Take any Metro number 8 and get off at Queen's University or take Metro number 7 and get off at College Park.

Opens 7.30am - 9pm.

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