Every couple of years Mr Kiwi and get ourselves organised enough to book a long weekend listening to tunes and eating great food with our favourite Belfast-based friends. We hop on a Friday night flight, stock up on a few bottles of beer, spin a few records (the sound quality is simply amazing – though I’m always amazed to be allowed into the man-cave) and bookmark a couple of activities in between the terrible jokes that abound.
When you have good weather (and even better, lovely locals to escort you around the compact city) Belfast is almost unbeatable. Often skipped through by tourists taking daytrips and overnights from Dublin to the wonder of the Giants Causeway, there is a surprising amount of things to do as a visitor in the capital of Northern Ireland.
Sure, the highlights could be covered in a day plus a half day out to the coast, but take a few days. Relax. Explore. Loosen your belt.
With the years of the Troubles shadowing visitors perceptions, we love discovering the layers to the capital city of Northern Ireland. Art, culture, good food, plenty of music, history, natural beauty, afternoon tea, pubs galore, stately homes, luscious fields (that always seem to have just been mulched as we fly into the city) and winding country lanes.
And you won’t even have to collect a different currency.
1. Settle in one of the funky pubs for an hour or two of live music and chatter. Most tourists head for the the only working pub owned and operated by the National Trust, the iconic snugs of the Crown bar, but there are so many more. Luxury hotel bars, music dens, OMPs (old man pubs) and a few for the dance mad young’uns (clearly not us anymore.)
2. Take in a cuppa at Mount Stewart House, Garden & Temple of the Winds (and if you’re lucky like we were you may meet Lady Rose Lauritzen, a direct descendant of the Marquesses of Londonderry)
3. Explore the gruesome history of Crumlin Road Gaol, with a guided tour sharing history from 1845 until it closed its doors as a working prison in 1996.
4. Take a few back roads out of the center and discover waterfalls, castles overlooking the ocean (potter along to CarrickFergus to discover the building that the French conquered only to run away due to the neverending rain…), Cinnamon Scones that will destroy any and all diets and sleepy sheeps on verdant pastures.
5. Learn about the indelible mark of living history.
6. Visit the Titanic Museum. Now, it hadn’t really been on my ‘must visit’ list, but actually besides glossing over the reasons for the Titanic not surviving a tussle with an iceberg *cough* manufacturing *cough* the museum is a wonderfully interactive showcase of passenger steamer history.
7. Have afternoon tea with a friend who travelled from another country for the day (in this case the beautiful Becky @ Casa Caudill who lives in Dublin but hopped on the train especially to hang with me.) The Titanic Museum serve a surprisingly good, varied tea in the recreated Titanic Ballroom, complete with staircase for swishing down.
8. Catch the latest exhibition at the Modern Art Museum or go shopping for the toiletries your husband left in England for nice stuff in the malls.
9. Afternoon tea again – we were invited to visit the Europa Hotel to try out the afternoon tea, and as far as gluten free afternoon teas go, it was cracking. In fact it was so generous, the lads found us and polished off the good sized portion we couldn’t finish.
10. And of course, visit the fascinating Giant’s Causeway. Take an umbrella unlike my stupid 2010 self.
Belfast is such a surprising city break. I mean hey, if it’s good enough for Obama…
Have you been yet?