Travelling to Belfast
Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and has a population of approximately 340,200 people. The city is well-known for building the famously tragic boat Ship of Dreams, the Titanic. Belfast is not to be confused with Dublin, which is the capital city of the Republic of Ireland. See the map below for further clarification.
The easiest way to get to Northern Ireland – or Belfast, more specifically – is by flying. Personally, I flew from London Stansted to Belfast International Airport, although there are two other airports within Northern Ireland: George Best Belfast City Airport and City of Derry Airport.
You can also take the train if you’re travelling from England, Wales, or Scotland. The trip, however, will be split partway to include the ferry trip to Ireland. There are also direct coaches to Dublin serviced by the National Express if you wish to have a cheaper alternative to planes and trains.
Where to stay in Belfast
As a solo traveller, I cannot recommend hotels unless you are travelling with two other people.
Belfast has a lot of hostels on offer, all within walking distance to the main city centre. Prices can range between £10-£15 per night at a hostel; I stayed at Lagan Backpackers for 2 nights and didn’t pay more than £26 total, and the place had a TV with a Netflix subscription, newly refurbished bathrooms, and they even offered a free breakfast to those who opt-in!
If you’re willing to spend a little more for privacy, then I would suggest Airbnb as an alternative.
Getting around Belfast
- walking – the farthest I walked from one tourist destination to another was 20 minutes
- by bike – Belfast bikes cost £1 per half hour
- by bus – Belfast has THREE different bus services and I highly suggest using the Translink journey planner to navigate
- by train – the main train stations in Belfast are Great Victoria Street Station and Belfast Central Station
- by taxi / uber / car rental
Things to do in Belfast
I highly recommend just typing in “things to do” on Google Maps and see if any of the options offered are compatible with your interests. Getting into the habit of making bookmarks and lists on Google Maps is helpful in planning daily itineraries and, sometimes, choosing a hostel or Airbnb that is most convenient for you, the traveller.
Here is a list of places I visited within the Belfast city:
- Ulster Museum
- Belfast Botanic Gardens
- The Palm House
- The Tropical Ravine
- Belfast Peace Wall
- The Big Fish, Salmon of Knowledge
- Belfast City Hall
- Belfast Castle
- Cavehill (I climbed to the very top!)
I also went on day trips, where I visited:
- Strangford, where I spent the morning at Winterfell Castle and had lunch at The Cuan (where Sean Bean and all the other Game of Thrones actors stayed during their shoots!)
- Bushmills, where I ate my lunch on the Giant’s Causeway steps and spent the afternoon walking the trail around the Shepherd’s Steps
What to expect from Belfast
Expect the unexpected.
an ancient proverb, probably
Belfast – and Northern Ireland, in general – is a super friendly place. The bus drivers are really easy to speak with and they are more than happy to help a lost little tourist. I honestly believe the locals are psychic because they always know where you want to go and will just gently nudge you towards the right direction. Everyone I spoke with, from the waitresses to the random man I befriended as I walked the Cavehill nature trail, was softspoken and kindhearted. Belfast is brilliant!
Lastly, expect to receive some Northern Ireland banknotes. They are different to the ones in circulation around England, but they are still Sterling notes and can be exchanged for Bank of England notes at any bank in the UK.
And in conclusion…
I spent an approximate total of £270, including travel, accommodation, and food. Belfast is an amazing place with a lot of history and great architecture. The food is good, the people even good-er, and the only downside was the confusing bus network. 10/10 will recommend for other solo travellers to visit!