We flew from Manchester catching a morning flight on Flybe Airlines to Belfast, flight time was around a half hour onboard a Dash 8 Turboprop. Since it’s a smaller aircraft, carry-on luggage must adhere to the correct weight and size required for stowing overhead. Crew at the desk will check your bag, if it doesn’t fit the gauge, it will be placed in the hold. Ours were fine weight wise, but were a touch too bulky thanks to rolled up jackets to be accepted on board. We were not the only ones, it really is a squeeze so bear this in mind when packing or book the extra baggage required. Thankfully we didn’t pay any extra charges. It was a pleasant flight with a lovely skirting over Lough Neagh and the Irish countryside surrounding it.
Getting out of Belfast International Airport was a breeze, we didn’t go through any border control as we were still in the UK Union, but getting here through Manchester’s legendary security was vey thorough. After we retrieved our luggage we went straight to the Budget Car Rental counter to facilitate our pre-booked car. Paperwork was pretty straight forward and we got the car keys in less than 20 minutes. Our car is only good for Northern Ireland. If you hire a car and want to cross the boarder you will need a cross border permit, which will add an additional cost to your rental. It’s worth doing the numbers because a car is a must if you want to see as much of this wonderful country as you can fit in. We split our rentals between the North and the republic with mixed results, but you live and learn.
Ireland drives on the left, similar to back home in Australia so it’s easy to adopt the road rules. High on our list is to pay homage to the RMS Titanic built by Harland and Wolff along with many other famous ships. The Titanic Quarter is located very close to the City and Airport, it is very walkable from the centre and makes for a great day out. Public transport operates here and there is parking beneath the Quarter if you drive. The museum opened in 2012 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage.
Here you’ll find the state-of-the-art museum that relieves the golden era of shipbuilding in Belfast, the story of Titanic, its demise, aftermath, stories of survivors, interactive exhibition and galleries, a-must visit for all. You can buy tickets in advance during high season or buy at the counter, £19 for adults and £8.50 Child (5-16). Family and group tickets are also available.
If you do not wish to go inside the museum, walking around the foyer area will give you a taste of whats on offer should you change your mind. There are coffee shops, souvenir shopping and exhibitions on the ground level. Outside you will find the berths where Titanic and Olympic were a long time ago, its a fascinating place to walk and imagine how it all looked.
Other points of interest are: the SS Nomadic – the last remaining tender of the Titanic which can be visited by a fee, SSE Arena Odyssey Pavilion and Titanic’s Dock Pump-House. For Game of Thrones fans, there is an “Iron Throne” replica on the dock to sit on and selfie away!
We left The Titanic Quarter around 2:00pm, the October sun was still up and shinning. The Premier Inn, our hotel for the night was just a five or so minute drive, we managed to jag a parking spot outside before checking for the evening. Free street parking between 1800 – 0800 was perfectly timed.
Since our hotel is smack bang in the city centre, walking is our preferred option. The first landmark we ticked off was the iconic Belfast City Hall. The interior has a number of notable features including the Porte-Cochère and Grand Entrance, the Grand Staircase, the Reception Room and the Great Hall. Visitors can avail the free tours they provide. Check out their website here.
When you visit Belfast City Hall, pay your respects at the Cenotaph, built in memory of all those who died in the First World War. Also located at the east side is the Titanic Memorial Gardens which name all 1,512 victims of the ill-fated ship Titanic.
Located along Great Victoria St, you’ll find the historic Grand Opera House Belfast. The theatre was designed by Frank Matcham, a prolific theatre architect. It opened on December 1895. Grand Opera House is Belfast’s premier theatre for drama, opera, dance, comedy, musicals, family shows and much more.
Shopping? maybe not at this time! Victoria Square is a buzzing shopping and leisure centre located in the city centre, home to many international and local brands, restaurants and a cinema complex. It also features an observation dome which boasts a 360 degree view of Belfast.
Not to be missed! At the entrance of Victoria Square is an impressive water feature, the Jaffe Fountain. First constructed in 1874 to honour leading linen merchant Daniel Joseph Jaffé. In 1933 it was moved to a site at the Botanic Garden unfortunately it was neglected. In 2007 it was restored piece by piece to its glory in Shropshire, England. The Fountain was returned to its original site at Victoria Square on 14 February 2008.
Located at Queen’s Square is the Albert Memorial Clock. It was completed in 1869 and is one of the best known landmarks of Belfast.
The sun is almost below the horizon and we can feel the cooler autumn temperature creeping in. We walked further until we reached the Belfast Cathedral. We just missed the opening hours, closing time is at 5:00PM.
Time for a beer! Belfast is known for some of the oldest pubs in Northern Ireland. We hit the direction of The Crown Liquor Saloon aka The Crown Bar. Dating back to 1826 this is Belfast’s most famous bar. This lavishly decorated Victorian house will transport you and your beer back in time. Lucky for us, we were able to experience sitting in one of the cosy and elaborately carved wooden boxes or drinking snugs. These snugs were originally built for comfort and to accommodate those people who preferred to drink quietly and unseen.
We had a Guinness and a Pint of Maggies Leap beer for an obligatory toast, after all we are in Ireland. It was a busy night inside the bar, lots of tourists from all walks of life. Another round then we called it for the night. On the way back to our hotel, we grabbed some food to take away to keep us going. Belfast is home to many top notch restaurants, bars, cafes and late night food kiosks. What a great day to kick off our Ireland gateway.
Getting around Belfast city. You can catch the Glider (a rapid transit system) or Metro Bus. Day link pass allows you to travel unlimited available for 1, 5 and 10 days. Taxis including Uber are plenty. We did the centre mostly by foot as it is easy to navigate.