• Falls Road murals, Belfast, Northern Ireland
    Falls Road


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.

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.

Near Belfast

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).

Near Bangor

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.