Belfast has so many things to see and do, and they don’t all need to cost a fortune as there is something for everyone.
Whether you are interested in the history and religion of Northern Ireland or keen to get lost in our beautiful city, here are a few free things to do in and around Belfast to get you started.
Discover an extensive collection of old and new artefacts from Ireland and all over the world. This treasure trove has something for everyone regardless of age: Dinosaurs, Armada artefacts, Takabuti treasures & an ancient Egyptian Mummy to name a few.
If on your trip you are enjoying the Game of Thrones tour, why not visit the Ulster Museum to see the vast 77-meter long Bayeux style tapestry depicting the story of the Game of Thrones smash TV hit.
Not only are there many galleries and exhibitions, but there are also three interactive discovery centres with lots of hands-on learning to keep you and your children active. The first discovery centre helps children understand art and allows them to have a go at being creative themselves.
The second discovery centre is based on History, with a broad range of antique items of all ages and cultures to explore — Hands-On’ real-life’ evidence of our past. The third Discovery centre focuses on nature and is the most exciting and interactive. Everything you see can be touched. Lenses and binoculars are provided to give you a detailed view of the insects on display and the birds feeding outside the window.
With so much to offer, you could easily spend a day inside the Ulster Museum. Be aware there is no street parking. However, bus stops and train stations are within walking distance.
If you travel on the Belfast City Sightseeing Hop-On / Hop-Off tour, it passes near-by with only a 5-minute walk. Hop off at stop 15 (University Road) and spend 5 minutes enjoying a relaxing stroll through Botanic Gardens.
The breathtaking Botanic Gardens was established in 1828 and is home to exotic tropical plants, some of which over 400 years old, rose and alpine gardens, beautiful sculptures and giant bird feeders.
Spanning over 28 acres and consisting of The Palm Tree House and the Tropical Ravine there is so much natural beauty here to take advantage of regardless of the weather. Like a little oasis in the middle of a busy city, Botanic Gardens is somewhere to relax and chill out.
The beautiful Palm House greenhouse was built in 1840, housing many tropical plants, hanging baskets and exotic birds of paradise. The Tropical Ravine constructed in 1889 is home to some of the oldest seed plants known today, including banana, cinnamon, bromeliad and orchid plants. If you have an interest in botany, this is definitely a stop for you.
The gardens are a great place to visit and enjoy either alone or with your family for a fun afternoon or picnic. Take advantage of the open space & fresh air and let the children play in the park.
St George’s Market
St. George’s Market is the last surviving Victorian market in Belfast. Built between 1890-1896 and one of Belfast’s oldest attractions, St George’s Market is by far one of the best-covered markets in the UK. On arrival, it is easy to see how the market keeps winning so many awards for taste and atmosphere both locally and internationally.
With over 250 trades including crafters, musicians and food vendors, St. George’s Market is one place you couldn’t pass by without being drawn in by the delicious smells, sounds of music and the electric atmosphere.
On Friday between 6am-3pm you can visit the Variety Market. On this day you will come across up to 300 stalls selling everything from food to clothes. The fish section, consisting of 23 fish stalls, is known for being the leading retail fish market in the whole of Ireland.
On Saturday between 9am-3pm, the City Food and Craft Market takes place offering up an extensive range of local, continental and speciality foods. Imagine the smell! What a lovely way to spend the morning; sampling foods, reading the newspaper and listening to live music from local musicians. Not only can you find foods such as chocolate covered coffee beans & meats and cheeses but there are also many craft stalls that are displaying beautiful works of art such as pottery, glass and metal work.
On Sunday between 10am-4pm, you have a mixture of everything offered on the Friday and Saturday with local talent proudly displaying their arts and crafts and making your mouth water with the smells of so many foods from across the country and around the world.
A bonus is that St. George’s Market holds a quiet hour each day over the three days. On Friday between 9 am, – 10 am, Saturday between 9 am – 10 am and on Sunday between 10 am – 11 am. Take advantage of these periods where the market is calmer and quieter. Ideal for people with Autism as noise is kept to a minimum and music will stay off.
Stormont Parliament Buildings
Parliament Buildings is the home to the Northern Ireland Assembly, built in 1921 at the cost of nearly £2 million. The attention to detail and perfect symmetry are second to none with many features have a symbolic meaning; the building is 365 ft long, one foot for every day of the year, six floors high and six pillars wide, one for every county of Northern Ireland.
The free tours around Stormont Parliament Buildings take up to one hour and are available Monday to Friday 9 am to 4 pm. These do not require booking however can be booked ahead if you wish. The tour includes the magnificent Great Hall, the Assembly Chamber where you can have a rest in an MLA’s seat, the Senate Chamber and the Members Dining Room. Take a walk around, marvel the breath-taking architecture and hear all about our history and how the country has evolved over the years.
If you fancy lunch or afternoon tea in an award-winning restaurant why not book into the Members’ Dining Room. Open all year round to the public Monday to Friday, 12:00pm to 4:00pm. The award-winning chefs use only local produce and ingredients giving you a real taste of Northern Ireland. Booking available by calling 02890521041.
Don’t forget to finish off the day with a nice walk around the Stormont Estate, winner of the Green Flag Award for five years in a row since 2014.
The grounds include many statues and WW2 points of interest to look out for. Enjoy the adventure trails, outdoor gym, picnic area, kids park and dog park.
Don’t worry about the time, relax and take it all in. On sunny days many people come along to enjoy the gardens.
Belfast City Hall
Visit the beautifully built Belfast City County Hall and peek into areas not usually open to the public within the beautiful Baroque Revival building on a free guided tour.
The architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas designed Belfast City Hall and completed in Portland stone in 1906. Situated in the very heart of Belfast City Centre the City hall is the very heartbeat of Belfast City.
Experienced guides will lead you through a series of rooms including the Irish-oak panelled Council Chamber and Italian and Greek marble clad Rotunda highlighting stunning civic regalia and historical portraits along the way.
Tours last around 45 minutes and need to be booked in advance if travelling with a group
- Monday to Friday: *10:00, 11:00, 14:00, 15:00 and *16:00
- Saturday and Sunday: 12:00, 14:00, 15:00 and *16:00
(*These additional tours only run 01 June – 30 September)
- Visitor Exhibition – The exhibition stretches over 16 separate rooms, all presented within the original architecture of City Hall and explores the history of Belfast.
- Gift Shop – Pens and pencils to full-colour reference books.
- Coffee Shop – The Bobbins Coffee Shop allows visitors to recharge with tea, coffee, pastries and a range of lovely freshly cooked food.
Oh Yeah Music Centre
The Oh Yeah vision was born in December 2005, from a conversation between Stuart Bailie, Gary Lightbody, Snow Patrol and some of Belfast’s most prolific music industry specialists.
A dedicated music hub and a resource for music makers, Oh Yeah Music Centre was constituted in 2007 in the belief that music is a valuable agent in Northern Ireland and a catalyst that changes lives forever.
Visit the NI Music Exhibition, a mini museum which consists of four elements including a series of storyboards plotting the history of Northern Ireland music from folk to Snow Patrol and visual displays showing the likes of Them, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers and Gary Moore.
Well worth A visit for any music fan or visitor in Belfast here to see a gig!
Walk down the very slipway where Titanic was constructed and explore a life-size plan of Titanic’s Promenade Deck.
Take in and observe the positions of the liner’s lifeboats and funnels which are positioned exactly as they would have been on board the deck of Titanic.
Visit the Titanic Memorial Garden on the Olympic slipway where four grass lawns alternate with timber decking to illustrate the proportion of Titanic’s victims and survivors from each of the passenger classes and crew.
The names of the dead are permanently set in vertical glass panels on the slipways.
Colin Glenn Forest Park
Escape to Colin Glen Forest Park, where woodland walks, adventurous outdoor activities, and the famous Gruffalo Trail can all be enjoyed.
Described as Belfast’s Green Lung, the park was recently the first community park in Northern Ireland awarded the Green Flag Award – a National Benchmark for quality parks and green spaces.
Linen Hall Library
Unwind in the quint and atmospheric Linen Hall Library, a cultural powerhouse packed with rare collections and archives and gift and coffee shops.
The Linen Hall Library is home to a unique collection of books by and about CS Lewis, donated by the CS Lewis Association of Ireland, and is a first for Northern Ireland.
All visitors are welcome to access the available collections. Admission to the Library is free; donations are welcome.