Ready for a staycation? Amazing Belfast has everything you're dreaming of
There is no denying that Dublin is a great city for some good old-fashioned family fun and frolics, but it is easy to forget that we also have this other great big city right on our doorsteps.
There is no need to board a plane to get the feel of being on an exciting city break. Belfast has got something to keep the entire family entertained - and did we mention the truly scrumptious food and fab shopping? And best of all? It is literally only up the road!
Here is our mini-guide to all the Best of Belfast:
See and Do
1. Belfast Zoo
Belfast Zoological Gardens is located in North Belfast on the slopes of Cave Hill and is home to more than 1000 animals and 150 species, many of which are in danger in their natural habitat. The zoo also carries out important conservation work and takes part in over 90 European and global collaborative breeding programmes which help to ensure the survival of many species under threat.
Onsite facilities include the Treetop Tearoom, Percy's Picnic Pitstop, 'Zoovenir Shop', children's playground, and designated picnic areas. The zoo also runs a regular programme of special events through the year.
2. Ulster Museum
Come face to face with dinosaurs, meet an Ancient 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 free to all visitors. From Ireland to the South Pacific, ancient relics to hands-on activities, the museum offers something for everyone from the simply curious to the enthusiast.
3. Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast – just voted Europe's best tourist attraction – is the world's largest Titanic visitor experience and a "must-see" visit in any tour of Belfast and Northern Ireland. It is located in Titanic Quarter, right beside the historic site of this world-famous ship's construction.
Housed in an iconic 6-floor building, this state-of-the-art visitor experience tells the story of the Titanic, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her famous maiden voyage and tragic end.
4. W5 at Odessey
Do you fancy launching a rocket, or flying a plane? Want to sneak up on a butterfly or find out about the rock beneath your feet? How about programming and controlling the world’s only commercially available robot? At W5, your imagination and curiosity are the keys to unlocking worlds you've only imagined!
W5 is a science and discovery centre, not a museum, so visitors of all ages are free to let their imagination turn, twist and fly through more than 250 hands-on permanent exhibits! W5 also presents a changing programme of large and small scale temporary exhibitions and events and have a daily programme of live science demonstrations and shows within the admission price!
5. Aunt Sandra's Candy Factory
Aunt Sandra's Candy Factory is nationally renowned as one of the finest purveyors of hand made chocolates, fudge and boiled sweets, made from 100-year-old recipes.
A visit to Aunt Sandra's Candy Factory is like taking a trip back in time where visitors can look in on the whole production process and see how chocolates and fudge are made, most of which can be sampled as it's produced. A viewing window into the small quaint factory allows visitors to enjoy tastes and smells of old-time candy making at its best. Visitors come from all over to the Candy Factory and it's become a popular tourist attraction in East Belfast.
Some of the treats on offer include Yellow Man, Raspberry Ruffles, Macaroons, Belfast Fudge and Brandy Drops.
1. Deane and Decano
Deane and Decano is a smart, stylish and buzzing restaurant / café / bar with a distinctly Italian flavour. Located on the fashionable Lisburn Road in South Belfast. Deane and Decano is open for morning coffee, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner 6 days a week.
In the vibrant and busy Cathedral Quarter, make sure you pop into Hadskis, and enjoy an ever-changing menu of daily specials made from locally sourced produce, alongside some classic European dishes. Hadskis is also a great spot for people-watching, to check out what the trendiest of locals are eating, wearing and talking about.
Originally conceived as a pop-up restaurant, Home moved from its last address to set up permanently on Wellington Place, and what a treat to lovers of simple but magnificently well-prepared food. Located on Wellington Place in the very heart of Belfast City Centre, Home serves feel-good food using the best seasonal, local produce.
A relaxed space on the banks of the Lagan, OX is a cool and funky restaurant with a plate glass shop front overlooking the water. The interior is trendy, think exposed brick and polished concrete details, and the crowd is a mix of tourists, hip locals and frankly just anyone who appreciates really good food.
Much as Belfast is so close you could totally make it a day trip, chances are once you are there you are going to wish you were staying longer, so why not just beat yourself to it and book a room now? Here are five fab hotels you are going to love staying in:
1. Malmaison Belfast
If you love a bit of lux on your holliers, you should absolutely check into the Malmaison Hotel, set in revamped warehouse space dating to the 1800s, and oozing of grow-up glamour.
2. Ten Square Hotel
The swanky Ten Square Hotel is an award-winning boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Belfast. The hotel is located just steps from the historic City Hall, Waterfront Hall, the business district and the Victoria Square shopping mecca.
3. The Europa Hotel
The famous Europa Hotel is located in the heart of Belfast city centre and is a mere minute walk away from most of the attractions this city has to offer. The hotel has hosted presidents, prime ministers and celebrities, including President Bill Clinton during both his visits to Belfast.
The Europa is also known as the "most bombed hotel in the world" after having suffered 28(!) bomb attacks during the troubles in Northern Ireland.
4. Merchant Hotel
There are luxury hotels and then there is the Merchant. And if your wallet is up for it (this one is worth saving for!), we highly recommend this hotel for your Belfast visit. The grand Victorian and art deco-style hotel is housed in what was formerly a bank, and is a stone's throw away from anything you will want to see, do or eat while in town.
5. Radisson Blu
The Radisson Blue Hotel Belfast is a great choice when in town. It offers spacious rooms, a central location close to local attractions and amenities, good food and is a perfect choice for both couples and families alike.