BELFAST - Part One
Two weeks ago, myself and Nick went up to Belfast for a weekend away. He got a great deal on a hotel price through his work and it was so easy to take a bus up to the north. So, I figured I would share what we got up to. As you all know, I love to write about beautiful Ireland and exploring everything it has to offer. Some of my pictures will be from our recent trip while others will be from my previous experiences in Belfast.
This will likely be a two part thing as there is so much to say about Belfast. The first will focus on our weekend and what we got up to. The second will talk a lot more about my previous experiences in Belfast, and other things you can see and do in the city. Belfast is an incredibly historical city. Many areas are of historical relevance, including the Titanic Quarter, the Peace Wall and both the Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods. The second part to my Belfast posts will go into more depth about this history, as it is still important in Irish society today, and cannot be ignored when visiting Northern Ireland.
We went up to the city on a Friday afternoon. It was such a nice day and as usual, driving through the country side was beautiful as ever. It's always so green and very peaceful to look out the window listening to your own music as you go. It only takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to go from Dublin to Belfast on the bus, so for anyone visiting Ireland, it's an easy stop well worth the drive.
Once we got to the city and checked into our hotel, our next priority was food. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Belfast City Centre. The location was perfect, being right in city centre near much of what you wanted to see and do. From our window you could see the surrounding hills and some of the city. Also, the staff at reception were so friendly and I immediately became obsessed with their Northern accents.
Our first stop was food at this restaurant near the hotel called Fratelli. The whole place was themed around boars and they served pizza and other Italian food. I can't remember what I ordered but I know I was so happy with it! Though the service was a bit lacking, it was still an enjoyable night.
Following dinner, we eventually found this bar called The Perch. This place was cool. The whole bar was bird themed. You first had to walk through this random hallway decorated with vines and branches on the ceiling to get to the elevator. Then you got in an elevator which had its own elevator operator guy. Once you got to the top you were at the bar!
Up top, the atmosphere was bumping. There were both young and old people, and everyone seemed like they were dressed extra snazzy. I didn't take any pictures up top because it was so crowded and I didn't want people to get weirded out if they were in my pictures, but let me tell you; it was cool. The bar was technically a rooftop bar, but still enclosed overhead. All around the bar were hanging bird cages of all different colours, filled with empty booze bottles. The bar had really good atmosphere. Nick even spotted the guy (he thinks) who plays Beric Dondarrian in Game of Thrones nearby where we were seated. I was also so delighted to see that they had Blue Moon on tap because that's my favourite.
We stayed there for a while before heading out. One thing I noticed was that despite it being a Friday night, Belfast was quiet. In comparison to Dublin, I felt like the streets were practically deserted. I didn't mind though, it meant we could roam through the city peacefully in the evening and enjoy the different sights.
For anyone visiting Belfast who wants good atmosphere and funky decor, I would definitely recommend The Perch.
The next day was our dedicated shopping day. Nick and I were both desperate for new clothes as neither of us had updated our closets in a very long time. This brought us to the shopping area of Belfast, where the streets were filled with clothing stores and more. It was pouring rain, but I didn't mind.
I spent a lot of time in H&M, and Nick picked up a number of shirts from Primark. We also went into Lush and were completely overwhelmed by the kind employees and numerous smells. I really wanted to get a bath bomb because our hotel had a nice tubby for a bath.
After shopping, we went back the hotel and relaxed for a bit. We spent a lot of time shopping all over the place. We then went to dinner at this place called Stix and Stones, and it was absolutely delicious!! Nick ordered a steak and it comes out right on the stone, so you finish searing it off yourself at the table to your liking. I ordered a mushroom gnocchi dish which was so delectable. The waiters were very friendly and humorous, so it was an overall great dinner experience. Apparently this restaurant is known in Belfast as a 'must visit' and I would definitely agree with that.
After dinner at the lovely Stix and Stones, we spent some time walking around the city. I loved the way Belfast City Hall would light up each evening and illuminate the surrounding blocks. I've never been in, but I know that you can get tours inside.
We then made our war to a famous pub called The Crown Liquor Saloon, more known as the Crown Bar. This place has a huge selection on different types of liquor and my Guinness was good. We had a laugh to ourselves as Nick ordered a gin for himself then a Guinness for me, because the barman assumed the pink Gin and Tonic was for me, not Nick. The bar was crowded but we were able to sit at the bar for some time before then moving to one of the cool booths that make up most of the seating within.
Inside, The Crown bar consists of elaborate tiling and unique decor throughout. Again, my too polite self didn't take many pictures within but, trust me, it's pretty neat. Architecturally, it is quite a sight to see. It is a top tourist attraction in Northern Ireland, so don't expect it to be filled with all locals. That being said, it had a good atmosphere and is definitely worth stopping in! We ended up meeting some interesting folks from Bangor and had a great time just socialising and chatting.
The following morning, we woke up early to make our way to the Titanic Quarter. Nick had never been over to that part of the city and was considering going into the museum.
Sunday turned out to be a glorious day, so we walked over to the area to see the slip ways and the Titanic Museum. As we walked, it was nice to see another part of the city, especially with the sun shining so brightly. We crossed the river and could see the giant cranes known as Samson and Goliath in the distance.
These cranes are HUGE and are known landmarks in the city. They are ship building cranes, which makes sense because Belfast once had a thriving ship building workforce. These cranes were built by Harland and Wolff and played an important role in the Belfast economy for sometime, as numerous ships were constructed in the city until 2003.
We made our way to the actual docks eventually and came to the Titanic Museum. This building is very recognisable as it has a unique structure. The four pointed corners were designed to resemble the height and breadth of the Titanic. The shiny walls can be seen from far away, and the museum itself is surrounded by structured pools of water.
The RMS Titanic itself was built in these Belfast shipyards, which is why the museum now exists in this area. I believe this large poles are designed to represent the length of the ship.
Behind the Titanic Museum lies the Titanic Studios. This is a huge studio set where Game of Thrones is filmed. Often when filming for the show is going on, many of its featuring cast can be spotted around Belfast.
The drawing offices next door to the museum is where the Titanic and a number of other ships were designed. Back in the day, the drawing offices were well designed to let in plenty of light for the draftsmen. Today, the offices have been renovated and are now part of a boutique hotel just opened in September of this year. Many of the rooms within have also been restored to represent how they were during the early 1900s, and tours are now available within.
The Titanic Quarter was very beautiful on this day as you could see the hills all around. From where we stood on the other side of the museum, looking toward Cave Hill in the distance you could even see some form of a structure resembling a big castle. I was just in awe at how lovely the sights were on such a beautiful day.
Following our stroll through the Titanic Quarter, we made our way back toward City Hall. We were now in search of a pub that was showing the All Ireland Final between Mayo and Dublin. For those who don't know the All Ireland Senior Football Championship is for the game of Gaelic Football and is organised by the Gaelic Athletic Association, more commonly known as the GAA. In Belfast, the following for GAA would be less common than in the Republic of Ireland.
It took us about six tries of peeking our heads into different pubs to finally find one that was playing the match. Fortunately, we found it just in time for the start of it, and it was a joy to watch Dublin barely beat Mayo for the trophy.
On our way back I spotted this building that looked like it was cut in half. You could see all the colourful walls within and I wondered what it used to be.
Finally, we made our way back to the hotel to collect our things. I snapped a few last pictures before we caught the Air Coach and made our way back to Dublin. One thing I thought was so neat about Belfast was that the public transport buses were all this rosy pink colour!
Overall, I think for anyone visiting Ireland, Belfast should be on your list of things to do. It's easily accessible from Dublin. Even if you do a long day day trip up to the city, it is well worth your time. There is so much to see and do. The city has an important history in Irish society (which I will talk more about in the next Belfast post) and it is simply such a fun place to see!
If you are looking for more information about visiting Northern Ireland, I would recommend going to https://discovernorthernireland.com/. There is a wealth of information there to start with and they have a lot of suggestions for sights to see. Some things that I would like to do next time I go include visiting the Crumlin Road Gaol and exploring St. George's Market. Nick and I just went up to Belfast for a weekend away, so we weren't pushed to do all of the tourist attractions, but there is so much to do in the city.
My next post will talk more about other things you can do, and a bit about the history of Belfast, 'The Troubles' and modern society in Northern Ireland.