Northern Ireland's capital, always overshadowed by Dublin, feels like a classic second city. As its primary industries became less key to the world economy, this former boomtown hit hard times — which worsened as sectarian strife came to dominate city life for the last decades of the 20th century. But today the Troubles are an ever-more-distant memory, and this fine, rejuvenated city is booming with glittering architecture and a re-energized commercial metabolism. Visit the fantastic Titanic Belfast Museum, take a guided tour through Unionist as well as Nationalist neighborhoods, and share a pint with an opinionated local. While some tensions still simmer, people from all walks of life work, eat, and play together in Belfasts's thriving city center. It feels like a new morning in Belfast.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Titanic Belfast Museum Excellent high-tech exhibit covering the famously infamous ship and local shipbuilding, in a stunning structure on the site where the Titanic was built.
▲▲▲ Sectarian Neighborhoods West Belfast's Falls Road and Shankill Road neighborhoods, best appreciated by taking a tour (walking or taxi) and listening to personal perspectives on the slowly fading Troubles.
▲▲ City Hall Central Belfast's polished and majestic celebration of Victorian-era pride built with industrial wealth.
▲▲ Live Music Chance to connect — for the cost of a beer — with Belfast's culture, people, and music in a cozy pub.
▲ HMS Caroline WWI battleship that looks just like it did at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
▲ St. George's Market Thriving scene filling a huge Victorian market hall with artisans, junk dealers, street food, and fun.
▲ Ulster Museum Mixed bag of local artifacts, natural history, and coverage of political events that makes for a good rainy-day option near Queen's University.
▲ Ulster Folk Museum and Ulster Transport Museum Glimpse into Northern Ireland's hardworking heritage, split between a charming re-creation of past rural life and halls of vehicular innovation (8 miles east of Belfast).
▲ The Gobbins Cliff Path Rugged, unique, wave-splashed hiking trail cut into coastal rock, accessible by guided tour (34 miles northeast of Belfast).
▲ Mount Stewart House Fine 18th-century manor house displaying ruling-class affluence, surrounded by lush and calming gardens (18 miles east of Belfast).
▲ Hillsborough Castle and Gardens British royal family's lavishly decorated Northern Ireland residence, filled with regal possessions and set amid sprawling gardens.