Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, is now a major tourist hub
The city was once riddled with destruction and conflict, a period known as ‘The Troubles’, but Belfast has changed enormously in recent years, becoming one of the most visited cities in the UK, and second most visited on the island of Ireland, according to Irish Tourism.
Read more: Northern Ireland and Game of Thrones tours
Belfast may be a small city but tourists won’t be stuck for anything to do as there is plenty to explore, including the fascinating Titanic Quarter, Ulster Museum, Belfast city hall and shopping at the fabulous Victoria Square shopping center.
Belfast City Hall is a stunning masterpiece of Portland stone, set in an attractive public lawn.
It is the civic building of Belfast City Council and it first opened its doors in 1906. The magnificent building remains one of the most important examples of the Classical Renaissance style found anywhere in the British Isles.
Free public tours of City Hall are available Monday to Saturday. Led by an experienced guide, they last around an hour and uncover the history of Belfast City Hall, while exploring some of its finest features.
Titanic Quarter is one of the world’s largest urban-waterfront regenerations. Here you can relive the Titanic story at the world’s biggest Titanic visitor experience, Titanic Belfast.
Only in Belfast City can you trace the Titanic story to its source, discover the passion and pride of those who designed and built her, and relive the excitement of the Titanic era when the city was at the height of its powers.
Go on a luxury tour of all Titanic's key sites, which is conducted by broadcaster and journalist Susie Millar. Millar is the great-granddaughter of Thomas Millar, who worked in Harland & Wolff on the construction of Titanic and then sailed aboard the ship as an engineer on the fateful maiden voyage to New York in April 1912.
Waterfront hall is an award-winning, purpose-built conference, arts and entertainment center offering a variety of facilities, hosting events, and exhibitions.
The hall is a key venue for the Belfast Festival at Queen's and for concerts given by the Ulster Orchestra. Belfast Waterfront is now one of the world’s leading conference centers and is a top destination for national and international performers.
For more information on the latest exhibitions and upcoming events, visit the Waterfront Hall website.
Read more: Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way tours
Come face to face with dinosaurs, meet an Egyptian Mummy, and see modern masterpieces with a visit to the Ulster Museum.
As Northern Ireland’s treasure house of the past and present, the museum is home to a rich collection of art, history and natural sciences, and is free to all visitors.
From Ireland to the South Pacific, from ancient relics to hands on activities, the museum offers something for everyone. You can join one of their free tours, which gives you an overview of the museums history and redevelopment. For more information visit the Ulster Museum website.
Costing $641 million (£400m) to build, Victoria Square is the largest and one of the most expensive property developments ever undertaken in Northern Ireland.
The dazzling glass dome is also a viewing gallery where you can look across the Belfast rooftops, scenery, and over at the Belfast Wheel. The bright new shopping center has over 39 retailers.
For more information visit the Victoria Square website.
Read more: Dublin and surrounding areas tours
Stormont Parliament Buildings is home to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the legislative body for Northern Ireland, established under the Belfast Agreement 1998.
Stormont Parliament Buildings was built in 1921 at a cost of nearly £1.7 million. If you want to have a look at the Stormont estate where MLA’s make important debates, or walk around the beautiful grounds surrounding the estate, you are welcome to do so.
You’ll also find out some fascinating facts about Parliament Buildings - for example, did you know that the building is exactly 365 feet wide, representing a foot for each day of the year?
For more information visit the Stormont Parliament Buildings website.
Since opening in 2000, the arena has hosted some of the most famous bands and artists from around the world, and it is also home to the Belfast Giants.
The Odyssey Arena is easily accessible to all people and is superbly located in the heart of the city, close to three motorways, five minutes from the nearest airport and a 15 minutes walk from Central station.
For information on upcoming events visit the Odyssey Arena website.
Read more: Mayo and the Cliffs of Moher tours
St. Georges Market is one of Belfast’s oldest attractions and one of the best markets in the UK and Ireland.
It has been voted for numerous local and national titles and awards for its fresh local produce and great atmosphere.
The Friday Variety Market, on the St George’s Market site, dates back to 1604. The fish section alone contains 23 fish stalls and holds the reputation for being the leading retail fish market on the island of Ireland.
The Saturday Market has a fusion of tempting speciality foods from around the world, as well as handmade crafts, flowers, plants and local artwork.
The Sunday Market has a special emphasis on local arts and crafts, offering more local craftspeople the opportunity to show off their talents.
Live music from top local bands and solo artists also ensures that visitors are kept entertained on Saturdays and Sundays.
For more information visit the St. Georges Market website.
Read more: Galway and the West tours
Belfast Castle estate is situated on the lower slopes of Cave Hill County Park in the North of Belfast. The castle offers stunning views over Belfast city and is also a popular venue for marriages because of its gorgeous scenery and gardens. Its Victorian-era surroundings are great for a fun day out with plenty of things to do. You can visit Cave Hill visitor center or even climb Cave Hill itself. For more information visit the Belfast Castle page on Discover Ireland.
The Grand Opera House is Northern Ireland’s premier theatre presenting outstanding west end musicals, dramas, opera, dance, and family plays. According to The Theatres Trust, the "magnificent auditorium is probably the best surviving example in the United Kingdom of the oriental style applied to theatre architecture.” For more information visit the Grand Opera House website.
* Originally published in 2013.