Are you wondering where to stay in Belfast? In this blog we’ve picked six of the best places to stay in Belfast, to help you make the most of your city break.
If you enjoy taking short breaks to explore the cities of Europe and the UK, don’t forget to visit the capital of Northern Ireland – Belfast. It is a city steeped in history, and fast becoming one of the favourite destinations for visitors from Europe and the US.
Where to Stay in Belfast: 6 Best Areas and Neighborhoods
1. Central, where to stay in Belfast for first time visitors
Although not the geographical centre of the city, it is a great place to base your first stay in Belfast. Considered to be the centre of old Belfast city, the Central District stretches from Donegall Square through to St. Anne’s Cathedral, and is a busy commercial area.
The centre’s narrow streets are lined with high-rise modern office blocks, hotels, myriad retail outlets, coffee shops and tea rooms, pubs, bars, and restaurants.
Many of the streets around Central have been pedestrianised, making it ideal for those leisurely walks where you can do a little window shopping, stop off for brunch, and take in a little sightseeing.
There is plenty here to keep you busy during your stay in Belfast. You can visit the magnificent Metropolitan Arts Centre, the Belfast City Hall, The Linen Library, The Titanic Memorial Gardens, or take in a show at the Ulster Hall.
If you enjoy tasting the local cuisine on your travels, consider booking a Belfast Food Tour, and enjoy a visit to the many bistros, and international restaurants around the area.
For the shopaholics, be sure to visit the Victoria Square shopping complex, where you will find local artisan traders alongside international designer outlets.
If the Central District sounds like the place to be for your stay in Belfast, it has an excellent range of accommodations to suit business travellers, singles, couples, and families.
2. The Cathedral Quarter, the place to be for its vibrant arts and culture community
The Cathedral Quarter overlaps the Central District, and encompasses Belfast’s imposing cathedral, from where it gets its name. It is another middle district area where you can make the most of your stay in Belfast.
Full of monuments and attractions, it is home to Belfast’s thriving arts and culture community. Lying between the Royal Avenue, York Street, and Donegall Square, the Cathedral Quarter contains some of Belfast City’s oldest cobbled streets and memorials. And some of its most modern art, murals, and truly amazing street art.
Many of its pubs and clubs are also popular with its growing LGBT community.
Visit the leaning Albert Clock. Explore St Anne’s Cathedral on the border with Central, and built in 1898 by Sir Thomas Drew.
For those must-get gifts, make your way to Belfast’s old Victorian covered market. St George’s Market was constructed between 1890 and 1896, and is reputed to have over 250 stalls selling everything you can think of.
Even if you’re not staying there, pay a visit to the 19th century Merchant Hotel, and enjoy a cocktail in its world famous cocktail bar.
Much regeneration has been undertaken in recent years, with the old waterfront area of the city being one such project.
With the decline in Belfast’s shipbuilding industry, the waterfront has been revitalised, and includes the impressive Waterfront Hall, a large conference and entertainment venue that attracts entertainers and bands from around the world.
If opera is your thing, you can catch a performance at the Grand Opera House, built in 1895.
A busy vibrant area for your stay in Belfast, the Cathedral Quarter has an excellent selection of B&Bs, guest houses, and hotels to suit all pockets.
3. Queen’s Quarter, where to stay in Belfast on a budget
Being away from the centre of Belfast, the Queens Quarter tends to be a little quieter, a little more relaxed and laid-back.
That said, with Queen’s University in the quarter, it has a younger demographic, and if you are staying close to the university campus, it’s easy enough to find bars with quiz nights and some lively entertainment.
Local attractions include the Ulster Museum situated in the Botanic Gardens, and it’s collection of fine art, antiquities, and archaeology. The Botanic Garden itself was established in 1828, and contains a mix of exotic tropical flora and tree species from around the world.
The surrounding area of Queen’s Quarter is a great place to scout out on foot. You’ll find old book shops, curio shops, and vintage clothing stores; all mixed in with trendy coffee shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, and theatres.
On those days and nights out exploring, you can call into Maggie Mays for a milkshake. Enjoy a Brunch at the Conor, or a craft ale at the Cuckoo.
If you want to mix a little history with your pint, visit two of Belfast’s most famous pubs. The Botanic Inn, located by the Garden and founded in 1897, and on the opposite side of the road, The Eglantine Bar. In the evening, both are friendly, lively venues popular with the local university students.
The Queen’s Quarter is a great neighborhood where to stay in Belfast for anyone travelling on a budget, and has numerous hostels, B&Bs, small boutique hotels, and international hotel rooms available. The city centre is just 20 minutes away by bus.
4. The Titanic Quarter, Belfast’s must visit attraction
The majority of us are fascinated by the history of RMS Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage over 100 years ago. Especially if we’ve seen the film.
At the Titanic Quarter, you can learn the unvarnished truth about the ship, from when the keel was first laid down, to that fateful night in January 1912. The Titanic Quarter though, is much more than just a maritime museum.
Part of Belfast’s waterfront regeneration scheme, and built on the city’s Maritime Mile, the Titanic Quarter has its state of the art, nine interactive gallery museum, an indoor skydiving facility and inflata-park, a marina, the last remaining ship of the SS Line, and a magnificent entertainment arena. All complimented by coffee shops, bistros, restaurants, and cafes.
Other commercial operations which relocated to the Titanic Quarter include a high-tech science park, a film studio which worked on the Game of Thrones series among others, and Belfast Metropolitan College campus.
It is also where over 20,000 of the city’s residents work and live, many in lavish apartments overlooking the waterfront. There are a couple of hotels inside the Titanic Quarter, including Premier Inns. Others, on the edge of the complex, offer booking and Titanic attraction packages combined.
If you can’t get booked into the Titanic Quarter for your stay in Belfast, it is just a short five minute walk from hotels in the centre. For journeys farther afield, the area is well served with frequent, reliable, public transport, including a metro system.
5. Gaeltacht Quarter, a little recent history and street art
While Belfast has had its sunny, prosperous days with its 19th century linen mills, and world famous shipbuilding, it’s also had its dark days, with the ‘Troubles’, which erupted into sectarian violence in 1969, and lasted for 30 years.
The Gaeltacht Quarter encompasses the area around the Falls Road on the one side, and the Shankill Road on the other, the former the Nationalist area, and the later the Unionist area.
Bridging the two areas, Lanark Way will take you to the Peace Line, a brick and concrete wall built in 1970, to keep the two factions apart. It is this wall and surrounding buildings that provide so much of the history of the Troubles in its murals and street art.
Eventually, with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the violence was brought to an end in favour of political discourse, a process which continues to be ongoing.
Whether your interest is in the history or art, a guided tour of Gaeltacht Quarter during your stay in Belfast should be pencilled in. There is so much more to see and learn on a guided tour such as Conway Mill, a 19th century linen mill, now a community centre with a Republican History Museum inside.
Clonard Monastery, with its mosaics and stained glass window, and ‘Rise’, a 37.5 metre tall sculpture on the Falls Road. All of it in some way, associated with the troubles, or the solutions.
While the Gaeltacht Quarter is primarily residential, if you want to spend some time there during your stay in Belfast, there are some B&Bs, guest houses, and economically priced hotels around the area.
6. Belfast airports, where to stay in Belfast for those time-is-of-the-essence trips
There are a number of reasons people might choose to book hotels closer to the airport, rather than close to their final destination. It may be you prefer to shower and change after a long flight, before you start exploring.
It could be business commitments or family emergencies mean your stay in Belfast is limited to a few hours or overnight, with no time for socialising or sightseeing.
It could be your departure flight is early morning, and you don’t want to risk any hold-ups having to travel from a city hotel to the airport. Or it could be airport hotel prices are often cheaper than city centre hotels.
In Belfast, you have two choices. Flying in from foreign areas, your arrival airport will be Belfast’s International Airport, formally known as Aldergrove Airport, and located 20 kilometres from the centre.
If you’re arriving from other areas of the island of Ireland, or from some UK airports, you could be flying into Belfast City Airport, also known as George Best Airport, and located just 6.75 kilometres from the centre of town.
From both airports you can book a hire car, and from the International Airport the drive into the centre will take around 30 minutes, From the City Airport, it takes around 15 minutes. Public transport from both is good, quick, frequent, and reliable.
If you prefer to stay in Belfast close to either of the airports, you’ll find an excellent selection of all types of accommodation suitable for students, business people, couples, and families.
If you’ve never considered short city breaks before, beware, they can become habit forming. Start planning your break some weeks before your chosen dates. It gives you something to look forward to, and the planning can often be as exciting as the trip itself.
Travel light, take just the essentials. If it doesn’t fit into that small backpack – it’s not going. You can book your hotels, hostels, or B&Bs before you go, or wing it. Booking just for the first night allows you a lot more flexibility to either stay in one area for a second day, or bypass an area if time is getting tight.
One thing’s for sure, wherever you choose to stay in Belfast for your city break, the typically friendly Ulster hospitality will have you coming back for more.