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Transformed from its days as one of Europe's most troubled cities, Belfast is flourishing again. Peace has brought prosperity and with it a palpable energy. The city's elegant Victorian buildings have been restored, designer shops line the streets and lively galleries serve as the public face of a thriving arts scene.

As if eager to make up for lost time, the city is developing at a heady pace with a rejuvenated waterfront and glittering new attractions such as Titanic Belfast. Music spills out the doors of wonderfully traditional pubs, a host of sleek restaurants vie for awards, and the beautiful Antrim coast is an easy drive away.

It’s worth taking time to absorb Belfast’s history: see the impactful murals and the Peace Wall. And then see the city as it is now: industrial but with a flourishing culinary scene and great pubs, especially in the Hill Street district.

UK & Ireland specialist Max

Things to see and do in Belfast

Birthplace of the Titanic

Belfast has a long history of shipbuilding, but the establishment of Harland and Wolff in 1861 took the industry to a new level. A contract with White Star Line to build its entire fleet of ocean liners, including RMS Titanic, saw thousands employed on the design and engineering of these ships as well as their ornate fixtures and fittings.

The story of the ill-fated liner is retold at Titanic Belfast, where full-scale reconstructions and innovative interactive displays allow you to explore the shipyard, walk along the ship's decks and see the shipwreck on the sea bed.

Although the two massive Harland and Wolff gantry cranes, Samson and Goliath, still dominate the Belfast docklands, shipbuilding has all but ceased here.

Black cab tour into Belfast's political past

The eruption of sectarian violence in Ireland stems right back to the 17th century, when the British Crown confiscated the lands of Irish Catholics and granted them to English and Scottish Protestant settlers. Ireland was eventually partitioned in 1921, when six predominantly Protestant Ulster counties became Northern Ireland. It was an uneasy peace and in the late 1960s sectarian violence hit the streets of Belfast once again in an era known as 'the Troubles', which continued until the Good Friday Agreement eventually brought a fragile peace in 1998.

Today, the city is quite safe to visit, but remnants of community divisions remain such as the angry political murals in West Belfast and the intimidating ‘peace walls’ that still divide particularly militant areas. A fascinating way to get a sense of the city's history is to take a tour of the murals in a black cab with a local driver-guide, who’ll give you the inside story on life in the city during these difficult times.

Belfast's Industrial Revolution legacy

Belfast was historically an important hub in the linen and cotton industry, but it was the success of its shipyards that brought immense change to the city. In the 18th century there was huge expansion in the shipbuilding industry, and the city's population swelled enormously. By the early 19th century a larger outlet to the sea was constructed, allowing bigger vessels to access the city and, crucially, to be launched here.

Commercial and industrial expansion continued and Belfast established itself as an industrial hub of international importance. The whole city flourished and grand civic buildings, warehouses and homes went up along with a host of magnificent Victorian pubs, some of which still survive. Seek out the Crown Liquor Saloon on Great Victoria Street to step back in time among ornate Italian tiling, carved woodwork, stained glass and gas lighting. 

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Suggested itineraries featuring Belfast

This sample itinerary will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in Belfast, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Belfast

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near Belfast

    Accommodation choices for Belfast

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Belfast. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • Culloden Estate & Spa, Belfast

      Culloden Estate and Spa

      Deluxe

      Housed in a country manor house with views across Belfast Lough, Culloden Estate and Spa balances history and heritage with contemporary style to provide guests with comprehensive comfort and luxury.

    • The Fitzwilliam Hotel, Dublin

      The Fitzwilliam

      First Class

      Elegant and sophisticated, The Fitzwilliam Hotel offers stylish, Art Deco themed guest rooms, an intimate restaurant and a lively bar all accompanied by warm, friendly service.

    • The Merchant Hotel, Belfast

      The Merchant Hotel

      Deluxe

      An exceptional property, known for its lavish interiors and warm service, The Merchant Hotel is situated on the edge of the vibrant Cathedral Quarter within one of Belfast’s grandest and most historic buildings.

    • Ten Square Hotel, Belfast

      Ten Square Hotel

      Medium

      With stylish guest rooms and an ideal location, the boutique Ten Square Hotel is a great value Belfast option that is also home to an intimate restaurant and a casual bar which offers traditional pub food and live entertainment.

    • Europa Belfast, Belfast

      Europa Hotel

      First Class

      Though famous for a particularly rough history during the Troubles, the Europa Hotel has maintained its status as one of the most sought-after hotels in Belfast for the global elite.

    Ideas for experiencing Belfast

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Belfast, and which use the best local guides.

    • Black cab political tour, Belfast

      Belfast black cab political tour

      Belfast

      Explore Belfast's troubled past, political murals and divided communities in the company of a local expert on this black cab tour around the city's most interesting and contentious spots, learning about the political and human cost of the Troubles as you go.