Edgy, maritime, industrial. When I sat down to reflect on my brief time spent in the city of Belfast, I had difficulty coming up with exactly what I wanted to write. I like giving positive reviews of my travels. No one wants to be a travel killjoy.
I could write that I felt the city had a wonderful vibrancy, perfect for any tourist to visit. The reality is I felt cold, unsettled, and gritty. Maybe it was the gray skies and drizzle that misconstrued my opinion. After all, every city is redeemed when basking in a glow of early autumn sunlight.
I’ll put it this way: if all I had was two weeks to vacation each year, I wouldn’t spend my hard-earned money on visiting Belfast again. I didn’t feel unsafe, or unhappy at all. I am glad I journeyed to see first-hand the heart and soul of the city. I urge you to visit too, perhaps as part of a tour of Northern Ireland. I just wouldn’t put it on my top 10 cities in the world list. One man’s opinion.
Photo Diary of Belfast
We decided to cruise around the city using the services of the Hop on Hop off Bus tour of Belfast. The usually 80 minute ride ended up being about 120 minutes due to traffic and construction work within the main arteries of Belfast that day. We didn’t mind at all. The lady providing commentary for the tour was witty and humorous. Her stories about Belfast, its history, places and people were well rehearsed.
Just be aware that the tour can run behind schedule. Also, some pick-up/drop-off points are more popular than others. If you decide to depart or embark at a busy bus stop, you may end up standing for some of the journey.
Stormont – Stop number 6 was an impressive structure that functions as the parliament building. Six pillars signifying the six counties of Northern Ireland stand tall and strong at the center of Stormont.
Troubles Zone – No discussion of Belfast is complete without putting into context the human troubles that have shaped the hard-working people of this city.
From the confines of my red tour bus, it was a bit unnerving to pass the razor sharp barbed-wire tipped fences that still separate the Catholic and Protestant inhabitants. ‘Giant gates still close every night’, we were told by our tour guide.
I thought about the number of people who would have been physically hurt or injured, and the many more living in the city who were psychologically damaged. Like I said, perhaps not a sand, sun, and surf style vacation that many envision for a two week holiday.
Titanic Museum – Everyone knows the ill-fated Titanic was built in Belfast. It only makes sense that a museum in its honor was erected here.
I felt a twinge of nostalgia as we passed by the shipyard. I tried to imagine the most infamous ship in history – monolithic and towering against the backdrop of Belfast – with men sweating from the heat of coal fires, and the steady clang-clang sounds of rivet after rivet being pounded into her haul.
I have seen the movie staring Leo, watched the T.V. mini-series, and even seen several different documentaries about the old sunken ship. I am a Titanic fan, but not a fanatic.
Our Irish friends who have visited the Titanic museum told us to go if we had the time. They said it was worthy of spending a few hours exploring the history and relics of the Titanic. Alternatively, if you find the rain is pouring and too much to handle, definitely take the tour.
Unfortunately, we only had a few hours and chose to complete the round-trip Hop Off Bus tour of Belfast instead.
The SS Nomadic was the tender ship used to ferry passengers out to the Titanic. It now sits in permanent dry dock in Dublin harbor (pictured below).
St. George’s Market
We have been to several large-scale indoor markets in London this year, and were pleasantly surprised to find a world class indoor market located in Belfast.
St. George’s Market is worth visiting for a bite to eat and to pick up a few unique souvenirs. We spent about 45 minutes wondering up and down the aisles, browsing the artisan wares and food stalls, all the while listening to the live music echoing from the center of the market.
Where to Stay in Belfast
We stayed for only one night in Belfast at The Gregory Guest House. See our review of The Gregory here.
For other hotels in Belfast, check out Booking.com. They have a great range of hotels to suit all budgets, with FREE cancellation on most rooms.