I have had family in Northern Ireland all my life and flown in and out of Belfast International airport since before I could walk. But now that my parents live up the cost, I’ve finally started exploring the country properly. And the weather this week here is perfect! I say that sat in the garden sunbathing with the potential I could get a tan! aha
I haven’t fully explored this place yet for more than a bit of shopping but I had time to kill yesterday whilst my mum was working so took a little tour on one of the open tour buses.
There are two tour companies (that I am aware of) that do full tours of the city:
the nationwide company City Sight Seeing
with the bright red buses, and City Tours Belfast
which is a smaller company. I took the latter because they currently have a deal on Groupon
(voucher website) that will save you money of the tour. You’re looking at around £11.00 for an adult ticket with both companies but if you visit Groupon you can currently find a voucher for £6.50 a ticket. You will need to print out the ticket though (there is a photo shop near the start which does it for cheap in you’re travelling and this is tricky!).
Both tours start at the same place and there are guides for both companies majority of the time who are pleasant/will help you to the correct bus. The company I went with has a darker red bus. The start of the tour is on High Street, which is literally around the corner from City Hall.
I found this was a great way to get a look around a wider scope of the city but also able to learn where things were and where I may want to visit next. For example the Belfast Castle is set up on the hill overlooking the city but also on a good day like I had, I could see all the way to Scotland over the see!
My tour guide (Alan) was very helpful, funny yet modest. I find this important when touring a city with a past of such cultural and religious unrest, as he wasn’t biased either way, yet described all points of interest with just the right of info for someone new to the city. I would suggest that if English isn’t your first language or you struggle with the Belfast accent (even I struggled and I have family/friends from the country!) that you mention it the driver before starting as they do have headphones for taped commentary if needed. Saying that, the accent is great and adds to the experience!
St Georges Market Entrance
Things to bear in mind:
- Take warm clothing, even if its v sunny as it gets windy/cold up top and there is a small segment where you go on a fast/busy road (motorway)
- Belfast is a city with strong religious roots so there are a lot of religious places/buildings/communities and if you do stop to visit try to remember this and be respectful
- If you do hop off the bus to visit something, remember to take a map or where the stop is. It wasn’t always that obvious and the bus may not stop for long if you don’t make it clear you’re there
- Pick up one of the maps as well for discount entrance to some of the attractions
- The tour (summer route) takes approx 1.5hrs but can be longer at rush hour times!
- Adult £12.50
- Student £10.50
- Family £31.00
- Child 5-12 £6.00 (under 5 free)
Timetable (based on summer schedule):
- 1st tour 9.45am
- last tour 4.45pm
- every 30mins
Stops/Points of Interest:
- Start Albert clock/Custom House
- Odyssey Pavillion W5 Science Experience
- Titanic Belfast Visitors Centre
- St Georges Anglican Church
- St Anne’s cathedral
- Cavehill Country Park
- Belfast Castle Gift Shop, Gardens
- Belfast Adventure Playground Hillwalk’s and Gardens
- Antrim Road
- Water Works Scene of WWII Blitz
- Crumbling Road Jail/Courthouse/Distillery
- Full Belfast Peace Wall
- Shankhill Road Remembrance Gardens and Loyalist Wall Murals
- Falls Road Bobby Sands Mural, Sinn Fein HQ, Clondard Monastery/ Home of Peace Talks
- Sandy Row Day’s Hotel/George Best Mural
- Lisburn Road
- Queen’s University Botanical Gardens/Ulster Museum
- Shaftesbury Square Benedicts/Laverys
- Europa Bus Station
- Jurys Hotel Spires Mall
Titanic Visitor Centre
Now it is a great city and I will definitely be heading back either for shopping or sight-seeing, but I would suggest splitting it into segments. It is unlikely you’ll see everything in one day, and if you try that I can’t imagine it’ll be much fun! So look online for deals and tips first, but I highly recommend that if you have the time and weather hop onto one of the buses as it’s an easy way to see key places and plan your visit.
Look out for more on Belfast and I hope the weather is as good for you!