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Belfast City Break With Teens: An Action Packed Itinerary

City Hall in downtown Belfast.

An itinerary that includes fun, adventure, and some pretty cool history!

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My family (14 and 16 year old teens and 22 year old daughter) recently took a Belfast city break. In fact, our Belfast city break was part of a larger 10 day trip in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Although we had some very memorable adventures everywhere we went, Belfast ended up being one of my favourites. I loved how Belfast had a vibrant city centre but was small enough to walk almost everywhere. We had delicious food and fantastic beer and cocktails. Surprisingly, the shopping was pretty good. Best of all, there were many fun, interesting and breathtaking attractions and things to do. All in all, I loved our 2 day Belfast itinerary.  Here is where we ate and stayed, and best of all, what we did.

Belfast itinerary
One of the beautiful buildings that we passed near the Tara Lodge.

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Day One Of Our Belfast Itinerary

After spending a couple of days in Dublin, we rented a car and drove from Dublin to Belfast. I had read troubling stories on TripAdvisor about renting a car from Dublin airport. My research also indicated that it was more expensive to rent from Dublin airport than elsewhere. Accordingly, we opted to rent our car from Enterprise at North Dublin City Centre and we were thrilled with the cost and the service.

The drive was 166 km. We left late afternoon and it took us one hour and 45 minutes on the highway. It was direct and uneventful.

 

 

Important tip for renting a car for Belfast city break

If you plan to rent a car in Ireland and would like to rely on your credit card for some or all of your insurance, I would recommend that you bring a letter from your credit card company. It should set out what kind of insurance your credit card covers when you rent a car in Ireland or Northern Ireland. Some of the troubling issues related to renting a car that I had read about prior to arriving in Ireland was that car agencies would not always accept a verbal guarantee by the client that their credit card provided adequate insurance. Accordingly, providing a letter from your credit card company should be sufficient (although certainly not a guarantee) and you should be able to rely on your credit card for whatever car insurance it might automatically provide.

Every credit card offers different kinds of insurance and some may not provide any at all. Accordingly, please read the terms of your credit card or contact your credit card company to be fully informed about what your credit card offers, how you access that insurance, and what you may need to purchase at the time of rental.

 

Accommodation For Belfast City Break

Tara Lodge

We stayed two nights at Tara Lodgea reasonably priced and pleasant hotel in the student district. We were seconds from countless restaurants and easy walking distance to downtown Belfast. Breakfast was included and it was delicious.

Belfast itinerary
A beautiful church near Tara Lodge.

 

For accommodation at Tara Lodge or elsewhere in Belfast, I would recommend booking through booking.com using the amazing interactive map below to find well priced hotels in amazing locations.

 



Booking.com

 

Dinner at Scalini restaurant on day one of our Belfast Itinerary

After checkin, we walked a couple minutes from Tara Lodge and ate Italian food at Scalini Restaurant. The servings were large (perfect for hungry teens!) and the food was quite tasty.

 

Day Two Of Our Belfast Itinerary

Things to do in Belfast

Today, we experienced several Belfast attractions, all of which were truly superb. In the morning, we took a private cab tour and were immersed in the horrors of the “Troubles”. Then, in the afternoon, we went to the awe-inspiring interactive Titanic Museum. Both of these experiences were exceptional and should be included on any visit to Ireland or Northern Ireland. In addition, at the end of the day, we walked through downtown Belfast back to our hotel, admired historic buildings and did some serious shopping. It was pretty much the perfect day!

things to do in Belfast
Spending time walking along the fence dividing Catholics and Protestants in Belfast.

 

Morning of Belfast Itinerary – Cab tour of the “Troubles” 

Things to do in Belfast

In order to understand why a cab tour of the “Troubles” was such an amazing thing to do while in Belfast, it is important to appreciate a little bit of history.

 

a) Geography of Ireland

As you are likely aware, Ireland is an island. However, what you might not know is that it contains two countries. The first is the independent country of Ireland, sometimes referred to as the Republic of Ireland. In terms of land mass, it takes up almost 80% of the island. The second country on the island of Ireland is the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is a sovereign country that is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  As you may know, England, Scotland and Wales are found on an island next to Ireland. Northern Ireland is found at the northern tip of Ireland.

 

 

b) Independence of Ireland

Prior to 1921, all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. However, after years of uprisings, the Republic of Ireland broke away from the United Kingdom in 1921 and became its own country, keeping its strong Catholic traditions. Northern Ireland, with its large Protestant population and unique historical ties to the United Kingdom, decided to stay in the United Kingdom. Accordingly, after 1921, the Catholics in Northern Ireland became a minority and faced a lot of economic discrimination.

 

c) The “Troubles”

Angered and frustrated by their treatment, the Catholics in Northern Ireland protested in 1968. Thereafter, and for three decades, violent civil unrest between the Catholic minorities and the Protestants plagued mostly Belfast, but also elsewhere in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and even the United Kingdom. This time became known as the “Troubles”.

Over 3600 people died during the “Troubles”. In Belfast, there were roadblocks, bomb blasts, sniper fire and the suspension of civil rights. At one point, even the British army was deployed against its own citizens and dozens were killed.

Belfast Itinerary
A memorial to some of those who died during the Troubles.

In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement was signed, giving more powers of independence to Northern Ireland  without actual independence from the United Kingdom. For the most part, violence subsided. However, tension still exists even to this day between those Protestants who identify with and wish to remain in the United Kingdom and the Catholics who still want independence and become apart of the Republic of Ireland.

 

Belfast Black Taxi Cab Tour on Belfast city break

The Belfast Black Taxi Cab tour takes you directly into the most contentious areas in Belfast where some of the worst conflicts between the Protestants and Catholics occurred during the “Troubles”. Currently, there is still barbed wire, fencing and gates that separate Protestant and Catholic neighbourhoods. However, amongst this terrible history and continued signs of division, are amazing pieces of street art, almost everywhere you go. Tours are offered in black cabs because during the “Troubles”, arms and militia were often secretly transported using these cabs.

Belfast city break
Barbed wire, fences and a gate that closes at night still exist in Belfast in the centre of the Troubles.

 

A highlight on our Belfast Itinerary

We loved our Black Taxi cab tour with Cab Tours Belfast. My teens were completely mesmerized by the history and the current signs of continued conflict.

Cab Tours Belfast is owned jointly by both a Protestant and a Catholic. It employs both Catholic and Protestant drivers, thus providing the best opportunity for a fair and unbiased tour.

Our driver/tour guide collected us from our hotel and immediately began telling us the history of the Troubles. He was in his late 50s and it quickly became apparent that he was very much an actual participant in the conflict. He told us about many of his friends and family that either died or were injured in the conflicts. It was clear that this history was still painful for him. We did not know whether he was a Catholic or a Protestant until the very end. It was absolutely fascinating experience for all of us.

The tour was private, 90 minutes long, and only cost $50 USD for all five of us.

Belfast itinerary
Beautiful street art in the centre of the “Troubles”.

 

Afternoon – Titanic Museum On Our Belfast Itinerary

Things to do in Belfast

After our Black Taxi cab tour, our guide dropped us off at the Titanic Museum. Before we entered, we walked over to the outdoor mall across the water and ate lunch at Rain Check, a small bistro specializing in hot and cold sandwiches, salads, soups and other pub type dishes. Food was good, service was quick and it was well priced.

 

The Titanic

The Titanic was a luxury steamship that was built in Belfast between 1909 – 1911. It sank on April 15, 1912, four days into its maiden voyage, after striking an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland. More than 1,500 passengers and crew died because the Titanic only carried lifeboats for 1178 passengers. There was well over 3000 passengers and crew on board.

 

Titanic Museum on our Belfast city break.

The Titanic Museum was simply extraordinary and something that should be on your Belfast itinerary.

Belfast city break
The amazing Titanic Museum building.

The Titanic Museum is an enormous multi level interactive museum that simply put, brings not only the Titanic back to life, but also highlights what it was like to work and live in Belfast back in the early 20th Century. The museum includes nine interactive galleries, including an incredible ride deep into the middle of the construction of the Titanic. You see full-scale reconstructions of many facets of the Titanic, including the different cruise ship cabins offered to various classes of people. You can explore the huge shipyard where the actual Titanic was built or travel to the depths of the ocean where even today, the Titanic rests.

Belfast itinerary
About to get into the car for the amazing ride in the Titanic Museum.

 

things to do in Belfast
The ride in the Titanic Museum.

 

Our experience at and recommendations for the Titanic Museum

We spent three hours walking, exploring, and interacting with the exhibits in the Titanic Museum. We saw and did everything that we wanted. However, if you are interested in learning more about modern day efforts to reach the Titanic at the bottom of the sea, you may wish to allot more than 3 hours. We passed through these exhibits but did not linger. Accordingly, when organizing your Belfast itinerary, make sure you give yourself a minimum of 3-4 hours to comfortably explore the Titanic Museum.

things to do in Belfast
One of the exhibits in the Titanic Museum.

The Titanic Museum cost $25 USD for adults, $11 USD for children between 5-16 years old, or $60 USD for a family of 4. Tickets are date and time stamped for entry so confirm your Belfast itinerary before purchasing. We opted to rent audio guides for the extra audio and sensory effects that they offered. I was pleased that we did so and enjoyed the extras they provided. They each cost $5 USD. However, there is absolutely no need to rent these to fully enjoy your time at the Titanic Museum.

 

Shopping On Our Belfast Itinerary

Things To Do in Belfast

We walked back from the Titanic Museum to the Tara Lodge through downtown Belfast and the shopping district. From start to finish, it was only a 50 minute walk. However, we took our time and spent the next couple of hours walking, looking at historic sites and shopping. It was pretty flat and the streets were easy to navigate.

 

Belfast itinerary
Walking from the Titanic Museum to downtown Belfast.

 

Dunnes

On our walk, we stumbled upon our first Dunnes Store. Dunnes is an Irish retail store that offers comparable items (men’s, women’s and children clothing, small household items, and groceries) to a small North American department store like Target or Marks And Spencers in the United Kingdom.

We found some pretty cool things in there and could not believe how good the quality was or how inexpensive they were. If you can, I would recommend allotting some time in a Dunnes during your Belfast itinerary.

The Dunnes in downtown Belfast was also just steps away from a pedestrian walking zone and more shopping. We had lots of fun in this area.

Belfast city break
Olivia and Juliet shopping with Belfast City Hall in the background.

 

Cocktails and Dinner on our Belfast Itinerary

Cocktails at Molly’s Yard

We began our evening at Molly’s Yard, a short walk from our hotel where we tried delicious beers on tap and a number of very yummy cocktails. The place was large, with lots of places to sit inside and out, with a funky feel. Prices were good.

Belfast things to do
Some of the yummy cocktails at Molly’s Yard.
Belfast itinerary
3 Levels Restaurant

After we headed to 3 Levels, which offered a variety of Asian cuisine from Japanese Teppanyaki to Chinese food. It was delicious and we had a wonderful time.

 

Conclusion

We thoroughly enjoyed our Belfast itinerary on our Belfast city break. Although we only had two nights in Belfast itself, I felt that we had enough time to explore the downtown core, experience some great restaurants and see some beautiful historic sites. We loved the Black Taxi cab tour of the “Troubles” and visiting the Titanic Museum, two Belfast attractions that I think are two of the best things to do in all of Ireland and Northern Ireland. My family, adults and teenagers alike, were totally engaged and entertained by both of them. Finally, we had a great time shopping, something that we had not planned on doing. All in all, we loved our time in Belfast.

 

For more information and articles about our 10 day trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland, please see below. 

 

If you would like to save this article for future use, please click on “Save” on the photo below.

We spent two nights in Belfast and fell in love with this exciting city. Here is our Belfast itinerary including where we stayed and ate, and the Belfast attractions that we loved. #travel #Northernireland #familytravel, things to do in Belfast, Titanic Museum Belfast, Black cab taxi tour of the Troubles, Belfast restaurants, Belfast hotels, Belfast areas to stay, Belfast photographs, Belfast pictures, Belfast shopping, Belfast downtown, explore Belfast, European destinations, Belfast guide

36 Comments

  • This is very structured, so I appreciate this post very much. Last time I did that drive it was on a tour bus, so thank you for the tidbit of useful information when it comes to renting cars!

    • Thank you! I think there is something to be said for not having to worry about things by taking a bus tour. But, if you choose to rent a car in Ireland, you definitely need to be careful.

  • This is a great itinerary. I like how you’ve broken down your day and it’s easy to see that there’s plenty to do and experience. Very helpful post!

  • Belfast actually seems like a great city break, it’s not somewhere I’d considered visiting before reading this post. As a history nerd, I think I’d really enjoy the cab tour that you did as well as the Titanic museum. Thanks for the great detailed breakdown!

    • You are welcome. I think that you would love the unique history of Belfast. I couldn’t believe how much I did not know when I was there. Belfast was one of the strongest economies in the early 1900s and a huge shipping port. It was a very fascinating couple of days there.

  • Belfast sounds like our type of place to explore. Love how it’s so walkable! Out of the local attractions that you mentioned, I would like to visit the Titanic Museum. It would be interesting to know more about the history of the steamship (versus what the movie depicts). Appreciate your tips on renting a car, especially about bringing a letter from the credit card company regarding insurance coverage. Did you find driving in Ireland easy to do?

    • My husband did all the driving since it is on the “wrong side” of the road. He found it pretty easy. The country roads are lovely. They are narrow but not very crowded. I adored the Titanic Museum. It is definitely one of the best museums that I have ever been to.

  • Belfast looks so great. I love the architecture around the town, it seems a bit a pre-industrial style. Do you know anything about that? I also liked the Titanic Museum, I think it is so interesting to learn all these things.

    • I think that you are right. The port was a huge part of their very strong economy in the early 1900s so it was very industrial near there. The port is also just a few minutes from downtown. So, I think there are some older more historic buildings but also a strong industrial slant to their architecture.

  • It’s so much fun traveling with teens! We have 2 boys, 17 & 20, and these kinds of trips are awesome to travel with them. There is so much history in Belfast. I would love to go here one day with my husband & boys. I especially love the Titanic Museum!

    • Your boys would love Ireland. They are very welcome in the pub even at 17 years old! My kids loved the Titanic Museum as I did and I think most family with kids any age would actually really like the Titanic Museum. They have just done such an excellent job with the exhibits.

  • It’s so thoughtful of you to include the details for car rentals as it is easier for others to know and remember what to do during their visit. How nice it is that you were able to visit the Titanic Museum. Shopping around the place we visit and finding a great deal is always a good deal. The drinks you ordered looks great!

    • Thank you. I was a little startled by how many problems people had with renting a car and insurance while in Dublin so I came prepared! Everything worked out so nicely for us so hopefully most people will find a more positive experience if they come prepared too.

  • That is a great itinerary for Belfast. Packed with history and exactly what I was looking for. I would love the car tour of The Troubles. And that interactive Titanic museum looks so very interesting. My kiddo would love it.

    • Thanks Soumya. I was surprised at just how interesting Belfast was and also, how kid friendly the city and the activities were. A very nice surprise!

  • Belfast is on my bucket list and looks like such a fun city to explore. I love learning about the history of the places I visit and this post has been extremely informaitve! I’d definitely check out the Titanic Museum as well.

  • Your post comes at a perfect time, as I’m planning our trip to Ireland for May! I’m excited to visit Belfast. Your description of the Black Cab tour of the “Troubles” convinces me we must do that. And the Titanic Museum. Your like everyone in your family had fun!

  • I’ve been to Ireland but never made it to Belfast, but I would love to go! I don’t think I would have normally picked something like cab tour tour you did, but you made it sounds essential! I also feel the more I understand the history of a place the better I enjoy the trip.

    • Yes, I think that it could be seen as a bit of a different kind of tour, but that to me is what makes it so cool to do and experience. The history of Belfast is incredibly different from elsewhere in Ireland and something to explore when you are there.

  • Well, don’t know much about Belfast… didn’t know up to this point. As an engineer, I would enjoy Titanic museum. I have a weird obsession with huge machinery

    • Yes, you would really like the Titanic Museum. It celebrates how they made this cruise ship and then, all the design flaws that led to its sinking.

  • Love that your hotel is central to the restaurants. That is very important especially travelling with teens. I would also love to check out the Titanic Museum!

  • Belfast looks like a worth doing trip from Dublin. Even staying at Tara Lodge is a great idea. I never knew about this Titanic Museum and therefore would love to visit Titanic Museum as I love Titanic. Belfast City Hall looks great architectural monument here. Thanks for sharing some unique destination.

  • Belfast sounds like a great place to visit. I knew about some of the unrest in Ireland and remembering seeing things on TV when I was young. It’s good that they have places that shown the history, but so sad that the neighborhoods are still divided. The street art you showed is really great. I would really love to visit the Titanic Museum. I’ve read a lot of books about the Titanic. Really horrible.

    • I remember hearing about the Troubles too and being so young, not really understanding what was going on. So, I really appreciated learning about it first hand and seeing where it all happened. Loved the titanic museum too. Very Very interesting.

  • Such an awesome and comprehensive look at Belfast! As a mother with teens, I really appreciate how it contains things that teens would enjoy since so many reviews focus on BLANK with kids. Now I really want to go to Ireland!

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