Belfast is Dublin’s edgier, less touristy and more political older brother. The city just oozes ‘cool’. It is littered with quirky restaurants, independent cafes and politically charged murals. If you’ve ever visited Berlin, Belfast exudes the same creative vibe. And it all comes down to one similarity: a turbulent history. So without further ado, here is the best way to spend 2 days in Belfast.
Day 1 of your 2 Days in Belfast
All day: Game of Thrones Tour
Okay, so you came to Belfast because you wanted to see the city, but to be honest with you, there’s only so much to see and do. And with 2 days in Belfast on your hands, it would be rude not to pay a visit to some of Northern Ireland’s most spectacular countryside.
The views alone are enough to warrant a visit. But if you’re a big Game of Thrones fan like me, it’ll take those amazing views to another level. So go on, nerd out and head out on a Game of Thrones tour. The tour costs £35 and lasts from 9 am to 6 pm. You can book a seat on the tour using the button below!
First stop: Carnlough
The first stop on the tour was Carnlough! You may recognise this small harbour from the episode (S6 E7 The Broken Man to be precise) where *SPOILER ALERT* Arya is stabbed by the Waif and jumped off a bridge into the water.
She then emerges up these steps. This scene took place in Braavos and was filmed both in Girona (Spain) and Carnlough, at two similar-looking sets of steps.
Second stop: Cushendun Caves
Cushendun Caves act as the backdrop for the iconic scene where Melisandre gives birth to a shadow baby. I feel sorry for Carice van Houten, who plays Melisandre, as she was completely naked in this scene. Let me tell you, that was one cold cave, even with all our layers on.
Third and fourth stops: Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
During the Game of Thrones tour, you stop off at Northern Ireland’s two most famous attractions: the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Even if you don’t go on a Game of Thrones tour these places are essential to visit during your 2 days in Belfast if you’ve never seen them before. The Giant’s Causeway, especially, is one of Ireland’s best wonders.
They are roughly an hour and 20-minute drive away from the city, so either hire a car or join a tour because it’s time to walk in the footsteps of the giants.
Fifth stop: The Dark Hedges
Perhaps the most iconic of these Game of Thrones filming locations, the final stop on our tour was the Dark Hedges, which first appeared in Game of Thrones in S2 E1, On the King’s Road. They provide the backdrop for when Arya Stark flees King’s Landing, disguised as a boy to avoid capture, accompanied by Yoren, Gendry and Hot Pie.
It was so exciting to finally see the Dark Hedges in person! They look really freakin’ cool, regardless of whether you’ve seen Game of Thrones or not.
Day 2 of your 2 Days in Belfast
Okay, you’ve seen most of Northern Ireland’s countryside now. So now it’s time for the city! Since we only had one day actually in Belfast, there are quite a few places we didn’t have time to visit, including the famous Titanic Belfast (the world’s largest Titanic museum), Queen’s University and the Botanic Gardens.
To be honest, the weather really wasn’t on our side during our 2 days in Belfast. Probably because we visited in January but y’know. If you visit during the summer I’m sure there would be a lot more for you to see and do. But here are just a few things you can get up to in the city with less than 24 hours to spare.
Early morning: St George’s Market
As we visited Belfast over a weekend, our second day in Belfast was a Sunday. And Sunday’s are of course the big day for markets! St. George’s Market is one of Belfast’s oldest attractions and recognised as one of the best markets in the whole of the UK.
The Sunday Market places a special emphasis on local arts and crafts, speciality food and live music from local bands. Our student budgets didn’t allow us to buy anything but it’s a fantastic place to just wander around and soak up the atmosphere.
Late morning: Explore Belfast’s street art
You can either Google locations of street art and find them yourself, join a tour (your hostel will probably have a free street art walking tour – or at least ours did), or you can just walk around the city and stumble across street art anyway. We opted for the last approach.
We didn’t have time to go on a two-hour walking tour nor Google specific locations, but we found plenty regardless! My advice is to wander down side streets you wouldn’t normally go down (within reason – I’m not advising you to walk anywhere shady) and just if there’s any there.
You learn a lot about Belfast through its murals: if the walls of the city could talk, they would tell us many stories…
Early afternoon: St Anne’s Cathedral and Cathedral Quarter
Unfortunately, a church service was on when we visited St. Anne’s Cathedral so we couldn’t take a look inside, but the outside is pretty impressive too. Cathedral Quarter, the area surrounding the Cathedral, is the most Irish looking quarter of the city. It’s basically what every single one of Dublin’s streets look like.
You can expect to see fascinating architecture, narrow cobbled streets, lots of street art, and alleyways to explore. I can imagine Cathedral Quarter would be a great place to be on a Friday or Saturday evening, as it is bursting at the seams with cosy pubs, underground music venues and a host of contemporary restaurants. Unfortunately, nothing was open on a Sunday!
Late afternoon: The cinema
Alright, don’t judge me. I travelled to a new destination and went to the bloody cinema. But hear me out: the weather was crap, it was the only thing open and we were really tired from lots of walking and a long day before. Plus we barely ever go to the cinema at home (cause it’s so freakin’ expensive) so it was still a treat for us.
We wanted to see La La Land but the times didn’t work out (I did end up seeing it a week later though and O M G, is it not the best thing ever?!). So instead we went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. As big Harry Potter fans, it was embarrassing that we hadn’t already seen it… The tickets were only £4.50, the cinema was practically empty and the film was fantastic*. Triple win! *pun intended
Evening: The Dome at Victoria Square
Last but not least, we have the Dome at Victoria Square. Victoria Square is the huge shopping mall at the heart of the city where you will find every chain restaurant in existence and the Odeon at the top of the mall.
But at the top top of the mall, you will find the Dome, which offers panoramic views that stretch for miles across the city. Like City Hall, it is also lit up at night, but you can’t see too much when it’s dark. The Dome is free to visit; just hop in the elevator or take the spiral staircase up to the top! You’d never find something like this in Dublin… Belfast is a lot more modern.
Evening: Belfast City Hall
If you’re visiting Belfast you cannot miss City Hall. I’m not kidding, it is impossible to miss this beast of a building. I’ve seen a lot of city halls and parliamentary buildings along my travels, but this one was definitely at the top.
City Hall is spectacular from every angle and is lit up purple at night which is pretty sweet. Although we didn’t have time to take a peek inside (this is a recurrent theme, I know), City Hall offers free guided tours which last approximately 45 minutes. These allow you to see the building’s finest features and various rooms.
So are you planning on spending 2 days in Belfast? What are you most looking forward to doing? I think 2 days is definitely enough time to see the city. However, there were still quite a few things we missed out on, so I’m sure I’ll be back soon…