Whether it’s your first time in Belfast, or you’re a frequent visitor, the following should help get the most from your trip; from transport links to NI-wide tours, iconic attractions and a potted history. Have a great time, and don’t forget to share your experiences via the Belfast City Sightseeing Facebook page.
Named after the East Belfast-born footballing legend, this airport is just 3km east of the city centre, off the A2 Sydenham bypass.
By bus: Airport Express 600; tickets £2.50/3.80 single/return, every 20 minutes during peak times (Mon-Sat), reduced service Sun. Approved airport taxis charge approximately £10 for the 10 minute ride into the city centre. Less frequent trains run to the city or, in the opposite direction, to Holywood and Bangor, from the nearby Sydenham halt.
The Belfast International Airport is situated 29km north of the city centre along the M2 motorway.
Airport Express 300 to the Europa Buscentre every 15mins at peak times Mon-Fri, (reduced frequency Sat & Sun) and hourly through the night. The 30-40min journey costs £7.50/10.50 single/return. A taxi to the city centre takes 30 minutes and costs approximately £28. A list of other sample fares is displayed in the exit hall. There is no train connection to the airport.
Ferry terminals are a 5-10 minute drive north of the city centre, depending on traffic. Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (April-Sept): 3hr sailing to Douglas Quay. Scotland and Liverpool: Stena’s Superfast ferries sail to Cairnryan in 2 hours 15 minutes and Liverpool in 8 hours (overnight or daytime).
NI’s border with the Republic of Ireland is 360kms long from Carlingford Lough in the south to Lough Foyle in the north. Crossing it is a seamless affair. Non-EU drivers should hold an International Driving License. Drive on the left on both sides of the border, and look out for speed limit changes – marked in kph in the Republic of Ireland and mph in NI.
There are approximately 1300 on-street parking spaces in Belfast city centre. Parking meters charge £1.20 per hour (free Sun and after 6pm) payable by coin, mobile or credit/debit card. These spaces however usually have a maximum stay of between 1 hour and 3 hours depending on the location. Privately operated car parks vary in price from the affordable to the eye-watering. Castle court car parking is the closest private parking to the first stop on our Belfast Citysightseeing hop-on hop-off tour.
NI’s currency is Sterling (£), the same as the rest of the UK. While different in design to GB notes, they can be used across the UK. Some GB outlets may well turn their noses up at the sight of a Northern Irish tenner, so best to change them before you leave NI.
Despite its reputation, Belfast is very safe for tourists. However, if you feel unsafe, freephone 999 or track down a police officer – usually found walking the city in pairs.
Smoking is illegal in enclosed and substantially enclosed workplaces and public places, includin bars and restaurants, and in certain vehicles. The legal drinking age is 18.
From UK landlines or mobiles, add 028 before all eight digit NI numbers. The international dialling code is (+44)(0)28. If dialling from the Republic of Ireland you can also add the prefix 048.
Plans are in the ether to make Belfast a Super-connected City with ultrafast broadband by 2016, and free WiFi has already been introduced to many of Translink’s bus and rail services (check ahead for the latest news).
An increasing number of hotels, bars, restaurants and cafes now provide free WiFi so look for the sign as you stroll the city.
The Movie House is a locally-owned chain of multiscreen cinemas shows all the latest Hollywood blockbusters in state-of-the-art surroundings. Its Dublin Road site is conveniently located for a spot of city centre celluloid escapism. Q14 Dublin Rd.
Queen ’s Film Theatre known locally as the QFT, NI’s premier arthouse cinema has been the home of classic, Irish, foreign, avante garde and cult cinema since 1968. The sleek venue has two screens and a fully licensed café bar.
The Belfast Giants debuted at the sparkly new Odyssey Arena (now known as the SSE arena) in December 2000 and, to everyone’s amazement, quickly established a huge following. The non-sectarian, community-friendly team ticks all the right boxes and, with Canadian players dominating the squad, the Giants continue to attract a loyal fan base. The team won the 2011-12 UK Elite League Championship. The season runs Sept-April.
This mega entertainment den features ten-pin bowling, pool tables, video games, bar and fast food restaurant. Indulge your competitive streak and challenge your mates to a game or three. Or head there on Wed-Sat for the ultimate Glow-Bowling experience, as music and UV lights take the game to a whole new dimension. Kids parties and corporate packages rack up the entertainment factor, so get in touch and plan your next big day or night out.