Belfast has risen from the ashes of troubles ever since the historic Good Friday Peace accord in 1998. Today, it brims with boutique hotels, elegant eateries, and new museums — and, yes, all those stunning landscapes featured in Game of Thrones are a few miles from the city. Locals have waited a long time to see tourists come back, and the welcome here is warm and heartfelt. Wherever you go in the city and through the countryside around it, you’ll be met with genuine friendliness and lots of Irish hospitality. Here are just a few ideas for what to do on a first-time visit.
1. Visit the Titanic Museum. Situated in the Titanic Quarter, the White Star Line’s Titanic — yes, that one — was built in Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyards. The city’s Titanic Museum was created in 2009 to honor the memory of the ship and the hundreds of local laborers who made her. Interactive exhibits make you feel like you’re “King of the World.” Outside, you’ll see the massive Titanic Studios where Game of Thrones is made (no tours as of yet, but that may change).
2. Drink at a fancy hotel. Nearby are luxe hotels like The Merchant, where Jaime Dornan and Gillian Anderson made the Netflix series “The Fall.” If you can’t spring for a stay — rooms aren’t cheap — at least have a drink in its iconic lobby bar, where you may catch a TV star or two bending an elbow.
3. See the Peace Wall. The famous Black Cab Belfast Mural Tours have been taking tourists to see the famous political murals of the Shankill (Loyalist) and Falls (Republican) Roads since the aforementioned Peace Accords. The two neighborhoods are divided by the famous “Peace Wall,” which was signed by Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama.
4. Have a pint at a famous Irish pub. Pubs are of course an Irish tradition, but The Crown Pub is especially notable as a living piece of history — and a part of the UK’s National Trust. Designed in the 1880s, this particular establishment is known for ornate gilded interiors and “snugs,” or private drinking compartments that lent privacy to ladies and others who didn’t want to be seen drinking back in Queen Victoria’s day. The Crown also has lively traditional Irish music most nights of the week.
5. Take a Game of Thrones tour. Film lovers who have a few days in Belfast often opt to go on one of the many Game of Thrones tours that take individuals or groups out to the show’s filming locations, stopping at now-famous sites like the “Dark Hedges” tree tunnel in Antrim. These day-long or half-day trips also usually pass by the bucket-list beauty of the Giant’s Causeway — the Antrim Coastal rock formations that look like petrified steps arranged in a pounding surf. Rather go the DIY route? Try this four-day itinerary.