Last week, I gave you some ideas of things to do in Dublin when you don’t drink so naturally, I had to give you a part 2. Let’s talk about things to do in Belfast when you don’t drink.
First off, I’m not going to comment on the division that currently exists in Northern Ireland. For whatever purpose, I recognize that the North is under UK rule, but to me, it’s still very much a part of Ireland.
Anyway, upon arrival from Dublin, I instantly noticed that the people dress nicer, school kids actually look like extras from the Harry Potter movies, and Belfast certainly has a British essence to it. Even the train platforms look like something out of the HP movies. If I didn’t know any better, I could’ve been whisked off to Hogwarts and been perfectly okay with it. Given that the hostel I stayed at was situated near Queens University, a picturesque work of art, I took a stroll through the gardens on site, and it was like I was lost in a time of great poets and philosophers.
Belfast, as a city, is very compact so it’s easy to walk everywhere which is a good thing because it doesn’t have any transportation systems, other than a few buses. What they do have, however, is a lot of chinese buffets, Subway restaurants, and noodle bars. So for those of you who are Asian food lovers like me, Belfast is foodie heaven.
If you plan on visiting Ireland in the future, come in the Spring because with the cold temperatures, snow, and rain in the winter, it can be quite miserable to spend a lot of time outdoors.
Like I mentioned, you can walk around the Queens University campus, invade the student union, stroll through the botanic gardens, and visit Ulster Museum (free admission). The rose gardens are particularly spectacular, especially in the Spring, and you can sit outside with a picnic and people-watch.
Black Taxi Tour
If there is anything you should do during your time in Belfast, the Black Taxi tour is it. It lasts about 1.5 hours, and the drivers have 60-70 years worth of experience and stories about growing up in the division between religions in Northern Ireland. If you ask the right questions, you could hear some heart breaking stories about their time in prison as innocents among other tales that will leave you in disbelief. The tour takes you around Shankill road past some world famous murals as well as the Peace Wall (Ireland’s own Berlin Wall, if you will). It’s well worth the money, and again, the more questions you ask, the better your experience will be.
The Titanic exhibit seems to be one of Belfast’s most prized exhibits. In addition to paying respects to the tragedy, they celebrate the feat of engineering that the Titanic was. The exhibit displays themselves are very modern and informative, but the layout of the museum is a bit sporadic. The order in which you walk to read information makes no sense, and you may miss a few pieces. It’s certainly not a deal breaker but just something to keep in mind. Free wifi is available within the building, and at the end, you get to see some props and wardrobe pieces from the movie. Admission is 13.50 GBP.
Though not nearly as quality as the Dublin bus tour, the drivers still offer live commentary and their own personal humor. To do the whole circuit without getting off, it takes about 2 hours, and when you do get off to explore, it’ll be one hour before they’ll pick you back up so plan accordingly. It’s 10 GBP for students and 12.50 for adults. Tickets cannot be purchased on board the bus. You have to purchase tickets at the concession stand at Castle Place.
The #1 must do, as locals and visitors alike will tell you, is a day tour up to Giant’s Causeway, Ireland’s only World Heritage site. GC is a prime testament to the beauty of Ireland’s coastline as well as the country itself. The tour includes stops to a couple of castles on the way as well as the Bushmills Distillery for lunch. Two hours are allotted for exploring Causeway where you can pay 8.50 GBP to get into the visitor’s center, and you can either walk the whole way down to the bay or take a shuttle bus for 2 GBP round trip.
Linen Hall Library
Because I had a load of work that needed finishing, I had to seek out an alternative option where I could concentrate other than the hostel. Turns out that the Linen Hall Library was the perfect place to do so. It’s super quiet, there’s free wifi, it has great view of city hall across the street, it’s a toasty place to thaw out from the winter weather, and it’s located near a bunch of cafes and restaurants. Plus, the scent of all the old books is like heaven. Even if you don’t have a reason to include the library in your itinerary, do so anyway.
The city itself is a free mural museum. Doused in graffiti and colors from all parts of the spectrum, these unique works of art make Belfast one of the most photogenic cities in the world. From the Peace Wall to back alleys, turn every corner and you can find new works of art to admire.