Tag Archives: Belfast

What to see in Belfast and the best Belfast attractions.

Political Walking Tours in Belfast

We were told we would hear the truth.  The facts would be correct.  The numbers, the events, the statistics would all be true.  We were also told though, that the reasons for those truths, the background to those truths would be interpreted freely and from an admittedly biased perspective.  Four hours later, we had walked own the Falls Roads in Belfast with a staunch Republican.

Coiste organizes walking tours of Belfast on the Republican side of Belfast.  Their main objective is to give former IRA political prisoners work after the amnesty agreement and their subsequent release from prison, although not all guides are former political prisoners.  The company offers a variety of different tours on the Republican side of Belfast.

The group does not hide from their past.  Instead, they use it to their advantage and as a teaching tool.  Several times throughout our tour, we were told that it would be a good idea to take a similar walking tour on the Loyalist side of Belfast with a similar group called EPIC (unfortunately their website is currently being renovated but contact information can be found here).

Throughout the tour we were told the history of the Falls Road, the background to the numerous murals painted along the road, the sites of murders, attacks, bombings.  We eventually made our way to the Milltown Cemetery, the burial site of several IRA members and itself a site of historical significance.  After the cemetery we crossed the street to a Republican pub and received our free glass of Guinness.

What was supposed to have taken about two and a half hours, took four.  And I couldn’t get enough.  Our guide, Jack Duffin, was knowledgeable, engaging, had an intimate connection with the area and was greeted several times by people walking along the streets.  He even cracked a few jokes along the way.  Considering the severity of the topic at hand, it was good to lighten the mood every now and again.  Duffin also provides other tours in the Northern Ireland area with a company called Irish Historical Tours.

Belfast isn’t always at the top of the list when people are doing their Europe travel planning. It should be.  I was amazed by the history of the area, and the changes taking place in a city so long tied with the Troubles.

UK Travel Tips ‘n’ Tweets: What to do and see in Belfast

I asked for tips on the blog and on Twitter for what to do and see on the Belfast stop of the Summer 09 UK Blogging Tour. Below are the tips I received to help you visit the best places in Belfast.

Internatiional Wall murals, Belfast

International Wall mural, Belfast


Kerry Dexter of Music Road recommends An Chultúrlan, an old church which has been made into center for Irish language community in west Belfast.  It’s a  bookstore, a tourist point, a cafe and hosts frequent music events. It’s in the Falls Road, a short walk from the city center.


@foxychops suggests a visit to W5 the science and discovery centre at Odyssey as it’s great for families with lots of different levels with a variety of interactive experiences. She especially liked the stringless harp.

Air Harp at W5 Belfast

Air Harp at W5 by riverseal


Belfast Stop on the Summer 09 UK Blogging Tour

I was in Belfast from the 28 – 30 July during Europe a la Carte Summer 09 UK Blogging Tour. It was my first trip to Belfast, for which I’d read a lot of positive things about being a great city break destination.

View over the city from Belfast Wheel

View over the city from the top of the Belfast Wheel

I stayed at the Malmaison Belfast, which was like being on a gothic film set. After checking in on the evening of 28 July, I ate at The Apartment, opposite the City Hall. Then it was on to the restored Victorian Crown Bar with its intricately carved wooden booths and stained glass windows. What a contrast between the glass fronted Apartment and the dark wooden cosiness of the Crown Bar, however I loved them both!

City Hall & Belfast Wheel, Belfast

City Hall and the Belfast Wheel

The next morning I ventured out of the city for a visit to the Ulster Folk Museum where I spent most of my time in Ballycultra Town, a recreation of a typical Irish town from the beginning of the 20th centtury. I was keen to see the Botanic Gardens, so caught the train back in to the city. The Palm House and the flowerbeds were an absolute riot of colour. Next it was a sighseeing bus tour around the city which covered Stormont, the Murals, Queens University and the Cathedral District.

International Wall murals, Belfast

The International Wall murals, Belfast

I then had a ride on the Belfast Wheel before heading down to the River Lagan. I was amazed by how much construction in going on around Belfast, which led me to christen it “City of Cranes”. The whole area around the former dockyards is being regenerated into a mix of housing, retail and office accommodation.

Belfast city of cranes

Belfast, City of Cranes

There’s a Peace and Reconciliation sculpture at Laganside.

Peace Sculpture, Lagganside, Belfast

Peace and Reconciliation Sculpture

Futher along, close to the weir, is a giant blue fish sculpture named the Big Fish.

Fish art, Lagganside, Belfast

The Big Fish at Laganside

My favourite installation around Laganside was the water feature in Custom House Square, a water jet fountain powered by the River Farsett flowing beneath.

Water feature, Custom House Square, Belfast

Water feature, Custom House Square, Belfast

On my final day in Belfast, I visited Victoria Square shopping centre, not necessarily to partake of some retail therapy but to admire the view from the observation platform in the dome. I then had a very tasty tapas lunch at La Tasca Spanish Restaurant.

La Tasca Spanish restaurant, Victoria Square, Belfast

La Tasca Spanish Tapas Restaurant, Victoria Square, Belfast

Well – Belfast certainly lived up to its reputation as a great short break destination.

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Best free Belfast attractions: Victoria Square

You may be questioning my wisdom at naming the Victoria Square shopping centre as one of the best free attractions on the Belfast stop of the Summer 09 UK Blogging Tour. This is not becuase I’ve morphed into a shopaholic but because it’s an interesting recent construction with great views from the free observatory platform in the dome.

There are several restaurants and bars in Victoria Square, many with seating outside the premises, which on a sunny day almost feels like sitting outside because of all the light streaming in through the glass dome. I had a very tasty lunch at La Tasca Spanish Tapas Restaurant


Restaurant Review: La Tasca, Spanish Tapas restaurant, Belfast

I had planned to walk around to find a restaurant for lunch during the Belfast leg of the Summer 09 UK Blogging Tour. However it started raining and I was in the Victoria Square shopping centre where I’d noticed several restaurants so decided just to eat at one of them. I selected the Spanish Tapas restaurant, La Tasca. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

Las Tasca restaurant, Victoria Square, Belfast

La Tasca, Victoria Square, Belfast

There are tables outside but I thought it was rather cool to sit there so plumped for the interior. I decided to go for the offer of 5 tapas for £10, available Sunday to Friday until 5pm, which was described as lunch for two. However based on previous experiences in tapas joints I thought it’d probably just be a decent lunch for one. I selected fried fish, meatballs, aubergines, vegetable paella and a salad. Everything was delicious and would have almost been enough to feed two (no, I didn’t scoff the lot).

Tapas at La Tasca, Victoria Squre, Belfast

Tapas at La Tasca, Victoria Square, Belfast

Overall I’d recommend La Tasca for a tasty, value for money lunch in pleasant surroundings. There are seventy La Tascas around the UK, although I’d never been to one before. They do various promotions currently including 50% off food bills vouchers and Tapas for a Tenner Sunday to Tuesday 5pm to 9pm.

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Best Free Belfast Attractions: Water feature, Custom House Square

I loved the water feature, which I’d probably call a pavement fountain, at Custom House Square in Belfast. The water feature was just around the corner from the Malmaison Hotel where I was staying during the Belfast leg of the Summer 09 UK Blogging Tour.

The 84 water jets are powered by the River Farsett which flows beneath the ground. The jets vary in height and intensity and it’s a favourite game to dare your mates to run between the jets without getting soaked.

Water Feature, Custom Square, Belfast

Water feature, Custon House Square, Belfast

Custom House Square was revamped in 2005 an outdoor events venue. The Albert Clock sits at one end of the square and it’s a short walk to the River Laggan.


Best Free Belfast Attractions: Botanic Gardens

I visited the Botanic Cardens in Belfast during the Summer 09 UK Blogging Tour. It was rather a brief visit which only encompassed The Palm House and the amazing flowerbeds outside. There’s also a Tropical Ravine, a kids playground, a rose garden and walking routes.

It’s free of charge to visit the Belfast Botanic Gardens and enter The Palm House. However be aware of the visiting hours of the Palm House, on weekdays it’s closed from noon to 1pm (I was lucky with this as I hadn’t checked the opening hours, arriving soon after 1pm). At weekends The Palm House doesn’t open until 1pm.


Best Belfast Attractions: Ulster Folk Museum

On the Belfast stop of the Summer 09 UK Blogging Tour, I spent a morning at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. I only had time to visit the Folk Museum where there’s a recreation of a typical Irish town from around 100 years ago, called Ballycultra. The video below is of the pub, hardware store, pharmacy, drapers and confectionary store. There are other attractions such as cinema, bank, post office and an operational tearoom. Rides on a horse drawn cart are available on some days.

The most enjoyable part of my visit was in The Rectory watching Mabel preparing the soda bread, baking it over the open fire and then tasting it. Next we were treated to Mabels’ spellbinding recital of a traditional Irish tale “The Changeling” about a baby secretly exchanged for another.

Ulster Folk Museum

Opem Fire at The Rectory, Ulster Folk Museum

Admission to either the Folk or Transport Museum is £6 for adults and £3.50 for kids/concessions, or if you wish to visit both the price is £7.50 for adults and £4 for concessions.  You can reach the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum by train or bus, if you drive there is free parking. You could easily spend a whole day exploring the Rural Area which has a Corn Mill, a weaver’s house and a farm, I didn’t even have time to look at the Transport Museum.

More on European Museums

Find out about more museums in Europe on Europe a la Carte.


The Belfast Wheel: a top Belfast attraction

Now although I’m not a fan of fairground type rides, I loved my ride on the Belfast Wheel during the Belfast stop of the Summer 09 UK Blogging Tour. The Belfast Wheel also known as the Belfast Eye is located next to City Hall.

City Hall from Belfast Eye

The Bellfast Wheel, next to Belfast City Hall

Below is the video of my ascent.

I was able to take the photos during the few minutes I was suspended at the top of the Belfast Wheel.

City Hall from Belfast Eye

City Hall from Belfast Eye

City Hall from Belfast Eye

Prices are £6.50 per adult, £5 for OAPs and students, £4.50 for kids aged 4 – 16, £1 for kids aged 1 – 3, free for babies.
Money saving tip: book online for 10% discount

Have you been on the Belfast Wheel, did you enjoy the ride?

Europe a la Carte Summer 09 UK Blogging Tour sponsored by


Best Belfast Bar: The Apartment v The Crown

On my first evening in Belfast on the Summer 09 UK Blogging Tour I visited two very different bars. The Apartment is a trendy modern bar just across from City Hall. It’s glass fronted so there are great views over the illuminated civic building after dark. They also serve food and if you eat there Monday to Thursday from 3pm and all day Sunday you can have two courses and a glass of wine for £12.95. The food’s very good, I had their signature dish, Blackened Cod with Noodles, followed by Banoffee Pie.

The Crown Bar has been called the most beautiful bar in the World, it’s a traditional High Victorian style bar with ornately carved wooden snugs (booths) with doors which allowed drinking in privacy. The stained glass windows and mosiac tiled floor are amazing. The Crown Bar serves lunch and the Crown Dining Rooms serve food afternoons and evenings.

So what a contrast from contemporary gloss to old world charm. Which did I like best? I know this is a cop out but I loved them both, The Apartment for the views and The Crown for its character. Why choose anyway, they’re only a few minutes walk apart, so you can enjoy them both.