Travelling to Belfast, Northern Ireland: A Guide for First-Timers

Travelling to Belfast, Northern Ireland: A Guide for First-Timers

Belfast is a city with plenty to offer!

Until a few years ago, travelling to Northern Ireland seemed quite an expensive and difficult thing to do. But now, it has become a little more accessible for some. Although travelling there is still relatively expensive, it’s not as restrictive as before.

To give you a better perspective, here’s everything you need to know while travelling to Belfast, the capital city; from getting there to knowing which places to visit. What’s more, you can also visit Visa Express to get travel visa information.

So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

Also read: 30 Europe Souvenirs to Bring Home from Your Next Adventure

Getting there

Image credit: Kaeli Hearn

While Belfast had a troubled history, it is safe to visit nowadays. In fact, it is believed that this city offers some of the best-developed tourist facilities in Northern Ireland.

However, the real question is, how can you travel to Belfast? Well, you have multiple options, including:

By air

Belfast is home to two airports: Belfast International Airport and George Belfast City Airport. The former is 30 minutes from Belfast City Centre, whereas the latter is just three miles away.

Both airports are known for their exceptional service and maintenance. From Belfast International Airport, you can take the Translink Airport Express 300 service to visit Belfast City Centre. Alternatively, the Translink Airport Express 600 service runs between Belfast City Centre and the airport.

By sea

If you want to enjoy yourself as much as possible while travelling to Belfast, you can get there via ferry. Fortunately, you can travel to Belfast from both England and Scotland. Some of the most famous ferries that you can take are:

  •         Steam Packet Company: coming from the Isle of Man
  •         P&O Irish Sea: coming from the Cairnryan
  •         Stena Line: coming from Cairnryan and Liverpool

By road

You can also travel to Belfast by road. The capital is known for its network of main roads that are patrolled and well-maintained. However, you should try to avoid driving during rush hours.  

There are no checkpoints at the border. All you’ll see are speed limit signs. However, you’ll have to pay the toll once you reach Drogheda, if you are travelling from the M1/A1/N1 Highway.

By train

Last but not least, if you are a train enthusiast, travelling to Belfast by train is a great option. The Enterprise Train allows you to travel anywhere from Dublin Connolly Station to Belfast Lanyon Place.

Keep in mind that the Enterprise Station does not serve Dublin Airport and Great Victoria Street station. However, this station is near the main bus terminal. So, you can simply take a bus to get to your destination.

Going around the city

travelling to belfast

Image credit: Andreas F. Borchert

Once you arrive in Belfast, you’ll need to pick a mode of transportation to take you around the capital. If your main focus is Belfast City Centre, you can walk around to get the most out of your experience. The Centre is within two miles of the Titanic, Queen’s University, and the Botanic Gardens.

Other modes of transportation in Belfast include:

1. Bicycle

Nextbike has started the Belfast Bikes services, allowing you to rent a bicycle from more than 40 rental stations. Depending on your travelling schedule, you can either get a three-day membership or a yearly package subscription.

2. Conventional taxi

You can still hire traditional taxi operators in Belfast. Some of its best taxi operators include Castle Cabs, Value Cabs, and Fonacab.

3. Black Taxi

The Black Taxi is an upgraded version of the conventional taxi service. They have shared taxis following a fixed router for a fare similar to buses.  

Must-see places

This city is loaded with fun places and activities. While it is mainly known for Belfast City Centre, there are numerous Belfast tourist attractions as well. If it’s your first time travelling to Belfast, you must explore these 10 places:

1. Belfast City Hall

belfast city hall

Image credit: K. Mitch Hodge

Belfast City Hall is one of the city’s most iconic buildings. It was built in Victorian times and is located in Donegall Square. The building is open to the public and there are guided tours available. You can also learn more about its history at the Belfast Visitor Centre, which is located right inside the building.

2. Titanic Belfast

Image credit: Rory McKeever

Titanic Belfast is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of the famous sunken cruise ship. The museum is located on the site of the former Harland and Wolff shipyard, where the Titanic was built. Visitors can explore the museum’s nine interactive galleries, which tell the story of the Titanic from its construction to its fateful voyage.

3. HMS Caroline

Image credit: Sebastian Doe 

HMS Caroline is a decommissioned Royal Navy ship that is now a floating museum. It is located on Belfast Harbour and is open to the public for tours. Visitors can explore the ship’s decks, cabins, and engine room, and learn about the ship’s history and the people who worked there.

4. Ulster Museum

Image credit: K. Mitch Hodge

The Ulster Museum is Belfast’s main museum that is located in the Botanic Gardens. It has a wide range of exhibits, covering everything from local history to natural history. There is also a planetarium and a hands-on science centre for children.

5. Crumlin Road Gaol

Image credit: K. Mitch Hodge

Crumlin Road Gaol is a former prison that is now open to the public as a museum. It was built in the 19th century and was once one of the largest prisons in Northern Ireland. Visitors can explore the prison’s cells, exercise yards, and execution chamber, and learn about the prisoners who were held there.

6. Belfast Botanic Gardens

Image credit: K. Mitch Hodge

The Belfast Botanic Gardens are located in the heart of the city centre and are a great place to relax or take a stroll. The gardens are home to a wide variety of plants and flowers, as well as a herb garden, a rose garden, and an aviary.

7. W5 at Odyssey

W5 is an interactive science museum that is located within the Odyssey complex. It has over 250 exhibits, covering everything from space exploration to the human body. Visitors can also enjoy hands-on experiments, live demonstrations, and simulators.

8. St George’s Market

Image credit: Ardfern

St George’s Market is best known as the city’s oldest market that sells a wide range of goods; including fresh produce, flowers, handicrafts, and souvenirs. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, it also has a cafe and a restaurant.

9. Belfast Castle

belfast castle

Image credit: K. Mitch Hodge

Belfast Castle is located on the slopes of Cavehill and is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The castle was built in the 12th century and has been home to a number of notable families over the years. Visitors can explore its grounds, gardens, and interiors.

10. CS Lewis Square

Image credit: K. Mitch Hodge

CS Lewis Square is a public square that is named by the famous author — who was actually born in Belfast! The square features a number of statues and sculptures, as well as a playground and a cafe.

Also read: 10 Books That Will Inspire Your Next Vacation to Europe

Final thought

Belfast is a great place to visit, especially during the warmer months of May to October. The capital has numerous fun places to offer. However, make sure to check out the Foreign Travel Advice issued by the Irish Government before you start your journey!

About Author

Maria Jones

Maria Jones is a travel blogger and freelance writer. On her blog Wonderful World, she takes readers with her on her travels in Russia and beyond, combining must-sees with those things that characterize a destination. She only functions after a cup of caffeine and when she's not traveling or writing, you can find her at a dance studio.