Located on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland, Belfast is somewhat of a surprise. If you have heard anything about the largest city in Northern Ireland, most likely it wasn’t always positive, especially over the last fifty years.
Sure, Belfast still shows sings of “The Troubles” with peace lines and barbed wire, but this Northern Ireland stronghold is opening up its doors.
After a visit this past March, I was surprised not just by how much I enjoyed the city, but also how little money I spent.
If you think Belfast might break your bank, you may be mistaken. It’s fairly east to find cheap flights to Belfast from many major cities in the US.
In addition, here are five free attractions in the city to keep you busy without having to open up your wallet:
Tour City Hall—Belfast opens up its City Hall for free public tours Monday through Saturday. Right in the heart of the city, this classic Renaissance style building tops with a dome of 53 meters high. A statue to Queen Victoria keeps watch on the unruly with a stern stare. The tour highlights many of the ties with the building and the infamous liner the Titanic that was constructed in Belfast.
Make the Fateful Voyage to the Titanic Quarter—Before you reach the Titanic Quarter, you might go by way of the Albert Memorial Clock Tower, a tower that seemingly tries to emulate the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Perhaps it is a sign of things to come, as Belfast’s Titanic Quarter is still very much under construction. However, the Titanic attractions will abound once this quarter opens for business in 2012 for the centenary of the Titanic’s launch. While you can’t see much here besides the towering and bright yellow cranes Samson and Goliath, you can sense, albeit through a few chills and goose bumps, that time when the Titanic was constructed right here in the Belfast shipyards.
Take a Walk Following the Belfast Murals—West Belfast has not always been the safest of places for tourists to roam, but today, it is easily one of Belfast’s big draws for foreigners. While you can take a Black Taxi Tour of the famous murals depicting “The Troubles”, a period in Northern Ireland’s history of civil unrest and terrorism, walking through these sobering artistic portrayals comes with no price tag. Use your guidebook or look up which murals to spot, especially along Falls Road.
Bask in the Botanic Gardens—If the sun is shining on Belfast, you can bet many a university student are laying on the lawns of Belfast’s Botanic Gardens. Right near idyllic Queen’s University (also well worth a stroll), you can find benches to people watch and rest up after walking to West Belfast and back. Not to be missed is the Palm House, designed by Charles Lanyon. Its birdcage appearance feels more Gatsby than Northern Ireland. The flowers and ferns will bombard you with a city that is still very green..
Wander through the Ulster Museum—As I wandered through floor after floor of exhibits, from dinosaurs to the first Egyptian Mummy brought to Ireland, it grew harder and harder to believe this Belfast attraction was free of charge. And yet, admission is free at the Ulster Museum where you can see much of Northern Ireland’s past and present. From costume exhibits, modern masterpieces to detailed information on “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, you could easy spend a whole day in the Ulster Museum. Don’t miss the exhibit on the shipwreck of the Girona, just off of the Giant’s Causeway Coast.