Rejuvenated and revived, Belfast is a buzzing city with a unique atmosphere that’s well worth a visit
Belfast boasts a collection of top golf clubs, while the Horse Show will keep equestrian enthusiasts thrilled
First-class horsemanship and the world’s biggest names flock to Belfast for this exciting equine event.
Dundonald International Ice Bowl is an Olympic sized rink that’s open for public skating seven days a week.
If you fancy looking for an eel of an evening, then head to Lough Neagh after dusk – it’s one of Europe’s largest eel fisheries. The River Mourne, the River Foyle and its tributaries are good for brown trout, sea trout and salmon.
Get into the swing of things at one of Belfast’s top golf clubs. Check out the wonderful Ballyearl Golf Club in Newtownabbey; the very scenic Dunmurry Golf Club next to Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park; test your skill in the natural beauty of Fortwilliam Golf Club; or even compare scorecards at Ireland’s oldest club Royal Belfast Golf Club, which was established in 1881.
Experience the thunder of hooves at Ireland’s oldest horseracing venue in Lisburn City. Down Royal Racecourse dates back to 1685 and today hosts 12 race meetings per year.
All throughout the year there’s a great choice of top class sport to enjoy, including Ulster Rugby Union and Gaelic football.
If you’re after some brilliantly bumpy off-road antics, check out The Northern Ireland Off-Road Centre in Belfast.
Escape the city hustle and chill out amongst the natural majesty of the Botanic Gardens on Botanic Avenue; Belfast Castle Estate; Belvoir Forest Park; Musgrave Park and the Belfast City Centre walk known as Highway to Heath.
You’ll find a fabulous collection of kids’ entertainment in the heart of Belfast
Whatever about Willy Wonka, Aunt Sandra’s offers a confectionary dip into the past. Candy is made the same way here as it was 50 years ago, and it’s a must-see for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Belfast Castle looms large over the city below, while the gardens and restaurant make great places to relax with the family.
Experience the fast-paced thrills of ice hockey at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, home of the Harp Lager Belfast Giants.
Get close to some really wild things at this world-class zoo.
Thousand of green-clad revellers converge on Belfast every year for a feisty carnival with a variety of special events, music and entertainment to suit all tastes.
Take a journey through time with original buildings, horse-drawn carts and steam locomotives.
Belfast’s hugely popular international arts festival for children, families and young people.
Culture & Festivals
Belfast buzzes with cultural events, excellent festivals and a lavish opera house
If there’s a city that knows how to throw a festival, it’s Belfast. As well as the Belfast Festival – Ireland’s largest arts festival with arts, jazz, blues, dance, classical and film – you can hang with film types at the internationally renowned Belfast Film Festival, or enjoy a rake of arty carry-on in off-beat locations at the hugely entertaining Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.
Catch a first-rate show in Belfast’s lavish 1894 opera house. The varied programme includes a rake of drama, musicals, opera, ballet and comedy.
Get up close to one of the world’s most romantic flowers with the fantastic Rose Week. There’s a blooming display of over 45,000 roses at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, which also contains the very pretty Japanese Garden.
The newly developed Waterfront Hall is a glistening, modern new centre for culture and entertainment in one of Belfast’s smartest new areas.
Eating, Drinking & Luxury
Treat yourself to Michelin-starred restaurants, Victorian pubs and chic boutique hotels
Belfast’s cool young folk hang out in a variety of hip new bars across the city. Try the relaxed vibe at The Apartment in Donegall Square; the Eastern-themed Bar Bacca (48 Franklin Street), the fashionable Potthouse (1 Hill Street); and The Cocktail Bar at the Merchant Hotel. Elegance is key at the Fifties-style Irene and Nan’s (12 Brunswick Street); the lavish decadence of the bar at Malmaison; and the super-stylish Northern Whig (2-10 Bridge Street) set in former newspaper offices. Meanwhile, Lisburn Road and the Cathedral Quarter are excellent hunting grounds for a great mix of bars, cafés and pubs.
Belfast is a flourishing culinary city with stacks of gastronomic delights created by a host of talented young chefs and critically acclaimed restaurateurs. Check out Belfast’s Michelin-starred restaurant Restaurant Michael Deane (tel: ++44 28 9033 1134), the more informal Deane’s Brasserie (tel: ++ 44 28 9056 0000), the renowned James Street South Restaurant, and Paul Rankin’s award-winning Cayenne (tel: ++ 44 28 9033 1532). http://www.rankingroup.co.uk/cayenne.php.
Malmaison (34-38 Victoria Street) www.malmaison.com was voted Condé Nast Hot New Hotel 2005, and is predictably luxurious and decadent with all the modern comforts you could possible hope for. Inspired by oriental opulence, Ten Square (10 Donegall Square South) www.tensquare.co.uk is innovative and stylish with low-level beds, warm rich furnishings and an utterly chic atmosphere; while The Merchant Hotel, in the heart of The Cathedral Quarter, is a sumptuous, welcoming and intimate venue.
Discover Belfast’s vibrant scene and head to some of the city’s hottest nightlclubs. If you’re in search of some funk, hip-hop, dance or electro, try Milk (www.clubmilk.co.uk) or La Lea (www.lalea.co.uk).
Put on your drinking boots and take a walking tour of Belfast’s fascinating pubs. A good place to start is the beautifully ornate National Trust-owned Crown Liquor Saloon on Great Victoria Street, which dates back to 1826 and is filled with cosy snugs where you can easily lose the afternoon. Make sure you pop into the tiny triangular-shaped Victorian Bittles Bar off Victoria Square, enjoy some traditional music at the relaxed John Hewitt Bar & Restaurant (51 Donegall Street), or relax in one of Belfast’s longest established pubs, Robinsons (28-32 Great Victoria Street).
A spectacular showcase for all things foodie in September, with delectable local cuisine, special set menus and special offers.
Gay & Lesbian
Belfast’s gay scene may be small, but it’s nothing short of fabulous
Week-long series of events including parties, film, arts, entertainment, sports and debates.
A dressed-up club crowd keeps things glam on a Monday night.
An alternative gay club focusing on indie and alternative music.
One of Belfast’s biggest and best-known gay clubs.
Gay night every Thursday at this trendy bar, which is a modern version of a traditional Irish pub.
An award-winning gay complex featuring a spacious lounge bar and two clubrooms with DJs, entertainers and periodic live acts.
Belfast’s compact size makes it an ideal shopping destination
Indulge your stylish side at the gloriously trendy The Bureau (4 Wellington Place); seek out some Paul Costelloe threads at BT9 (45 Bradbury Place); satisfy your designer shoe fetish at Rojo (613 Lisburn Road); and enjoy the cream of the high street with branches of Gap, Miss Selfridge, French Connection, Karen Millen, Kookaï and Next.
Northern Ireland is home to a thriving linen and tweed industry, with both modern and traditional creations. Visit the Craftworks Gallery (Bedford Street) for linen, tweed and colourful knitwear ranges from the looms of Donegal.
Home to some of the hippest shops in Belfast, Lisburn Road has an easy, laid-back atmosphere and a bohemian European vibe.
Belfast has many shopping centres and arcades for the self-confessed mall-addict. Try the Gargantuan Castle Court; the new Flagship Centre; the bohemian North Street Arcade; and the upmarket Queen’s Arcade, which has a host of exquisite jewellery on display.
Rumble through stalls filled with tumbling knick-knacks, or get there early on a Saturday and enjoy the award-winning farmers’ market with top quality organic fare.
Feast on a host of excellent sights from the splendid Queen’s University to the Victorian City Hall
Completed in 1906 to commemorate Queen Victoria granting city status to Belfast in 1888, City Hall’s crowning features are the main dome and the grand staircase designed using three types of Italian marble.
Brush up on your literary knowledge at Belfast’s oldest library, which dates from 1788 and provides a free public reference service and a range of early Belfast and Ulster printed books.
As far as magnificent universities go, Queen’s is up there with the best of them. Founded in 1845, Queen’s opened in 1849 when students first crossed the threshold of the spectacular Charles Lanyon-designed building.
Built on the site of St. Anne’s Church, Belfast’s first Church of Ireland Parish, this beautiful Romanesque building boasts the largest Celtic cross in Ireland.
Situated near Belfast and built in 1830 by Rev John Cleland, the very grand Stormont Castle now serves as the Belfast Headquarters of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
A landmark in Belfast, the much-loved Albert Clock leans four feet off the vertical. Not likely to topple over anytime soon, the tower is a lofty 35 metres high and centres around Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort.
Explore Belfast’s rich industrial heritage, including the Harland and Wolff shipyards where the fateful Titanic ocean liner was built.
Discover Northern Ireland’s treasure house of the past and present. From ancient Ireland to the South Pacific, from modern art to rare flowers, the museum is a truly wonderful place to explore.