The Northern Irish capital and glorious Antrim coast is a revelation and offers outstanding attractions for a memorable pre- or post-cruise stay, says Liz Jarvis
Titanic Belfast Titanic Belfast (titanicbelfast.com) is quite simply one of the most well thought-out museums in the UK. It takes you on a deeply moving journey from the ill-fated liner’s conception, through the building process (a particularly clever dark ride), and gives you the opportunity to imagine life on board with the help of stunning 3D computer wizardry and recreations of cabins for all classes. Finally, you experience the devastating final hours, and join the search for the wreckage. Unmissable.
Must-sees Queen’s University; the City Hall; Albert Memorial clock, Belfast’s own leaning tower of Pisa; the extraordinary Parliament Buildings. Cruise lines that go there include… Fred. Olsen, Princess Cruises, Cunard, Holland America, Celebrity, MSC, Thomson and Saga. The murals Along the Falls Road and Shankill Road is where you’ll see the murals depicting Belfast’s troubled past, history and culture, designed to provoke emotion and well worth visiting (belfast-murals.co.uk).
The Giant’s Causeway The intriguing rocks, created by lava flows over 60 million years ago, are definitely worth seeing. Bring your walking shoes as it can get quite slippy (and look out for the Giant’s Boot on the beach). There’s also an excellent café with panoramic views of the coast.
The Antrim coast Unspoiled, sweeping vistas, varied scenery and magnificent views make the Antrim coastline one of the most beautiful in the world, and it’s widely regarded as an iconic drive. Stop off at the Barbican Gate at Glenarm Castle, for stunning river views. Other must-sees include Ballintoy Harbour, aka Pyke in Game of Thrones; and the impossibly romantic Dunluce castle, which dates back to 1500 and has a breathtaking location on the edge of a headland that plunges straight into the sea.
Eating and drinking Hadskis (hadskis.co.uk) is one of the city’s hottest restaurants, with a great selection of reasonably-priced European dishes. Also try The Albany (thealbanybelfast.com). The Cathedral Quarter is where you’ll find a great choice of pubs and bars, plus live music venues. And for something a bit different, St George’s Market, one of Belfast’s oldest attractions, is a Victorian covered market and a wonderful place to peruse the stalls and stock up on cakes, fish and other fresh Irish produce.
Where to stay A favourite with celebrities, The Fitzwilliam is a glamorous boutique hotel, ideally located close to the Cathedral Quarter, with an excellent bar and restaurant (which does a delicious Ulster Fry breakfast). Décor in the bedrooms is lime and black with retro accents and the beds are exceptionally soft; bathrooms are suitably luxurious and for the ultimate indulgence, book a suite with panoramic views of the city (rooms from £120 per night B&B, fitzwilliamhotelbelfast.com). Shopping Avoca (avoca.ie) is an Aladdin’s cave of boutiques, gift shops and homeware, and stocks Irish handwoven throws and scarves. It also has a great food hall and café. Victoria Square (victoriasquare.com), the oldest shopping centre in Belfast is still one of the most popular and it’s here you’ll find lots of well-known brands and restaurants.