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Belfast Travel Guide

About Belfast

Once the most troubled city in Europe, the last two decades have wrought an extraordinary transformation in Belfast and have seen it become one of the UK’s most interesting and likeable cities.

Much of the credit goes to the upmarket developments that have seen down-at-heel docks turned into the glittering Titanic Quarter, and a miserable stretch of 1970s city centre blocks flattened and reconstructed as the hugely popular Victoria Shopping Centre.

Yet for all the progress, the 18th-century municipal and university buildings still remain, and the yellow Harland and Wolff cranes continue to glower across the skyline.

The magnificent Belfast Lough, a lengthy sea inlet that stretches in towards the docks, remains a focal point for the city. As does the cheerful St George’s covered market, a bustling hive of activity where visitors can snap up everything from sea salt to cheese shaped like the Giant’s Causeway.

Food has played a large part in the renaissance of Belfast, and there’s no shortage of places to eat well, whether you’re in the market for an Ulster fry (like a full English but with added white pudding) or fancy something a little more upmarket. Hotels have played a similar role, not least the ultra-luxurious Malmaison and the central Merchant, the latter offering mouth-watering punch bowls that cost an eye-watering £135.

However, much more of Belfast retains an old-fashioned charm. Look out for the red brick buildings of Queen’s University, the picturesque Ulster Museum and the gorgeous Botanical Gardens that back onto it.

Yes, it is a city that has had problems in the past, and underlying sectarian tensions still occasionally spill over into violence. But it’s also a modern, outward-looking city too and one that’s only too happy to show visitors its scars. Neighbourhood tours can take you past the Loyalist and IRA graffiti that were once a staple of the nightly news bulletins.

For all that, it’s a truly friendly place that welcomes everyone, no matter what they believe or where they come from, and achievements don’t come much bigger than that.

Key facts

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Featured Hotels


Tara Lodge

Located in the heart of the Queens Quarter, near the vivacious Botanic Avenue, this stylish 4-star hotel offers affordable luxury. With 34 rooms to choose from, all come with comfy beds, white and gold furnishings and large bathrooms. The breakfasts are pretty decent too.

Ten Square Hotel

Located just steps from City Hall, this 22-room boutique hotel is set within a Grade I listed building. Offering sophisticated interiors, with baroque touches and colonial finishes, its sleeping quarters stick to the modern. Cubist art and chaise longue make rooms unique, while its renowned restaurant is worth booking too.

Ravenhill House

This beautifully restored Victorian guesthouse, near leafy Ormeau Park, is a 10-minute bus ride from the city centre. With only five guest bedrooms, it exudes a homely, intimate ambience. Each room has handcrafted furniture and there is a library of books and music, plus Wi-Fi and award-winning organic breakfasts.

Ramada Encore Belfast City Central

A short saunter from St Anne's Cathedral, this recently opened Ramada offers all the quality you'd expect from a large chain hotel. Rooms are snug, with all modern amenities, and the breakfast offers a mixture of hot and cold choices.

Malmaison Belfast

Occupying a handsome converted mid-19th-century seed warehouse in the Cathedral Quarter, Malmaison is a stylish boutique hotel that combines period features (iron pillars, beams and stone-carved gargoyles) with its trademark contemporary style (Bordello-style bedrooms with mood lighting). Expect long, heavy velvet drapes, red and purple over-sized suede chairs, and a sleek bar.

The Merchant Hotel

One of the city's most luxurious stays is the sumptuous Merchant Hotel built in 1860 as the Italianate headquarters of The Ulster Bank. Located in the Cathedral Quarter, the Grade 1 listed property features classically styled interiors, sculptures and antiques throughout. The pièce de résistance is the stunning Great Room Restaurant where meals, including traditional afternoon teas, are served beneath its grand dome.