Best Shopping: Gilly G (591 Lisburn Road, Belfast) has the best in high fashion and exclusive labels.
Best Attraction: Belfast Zoo is home to more than 1,200 animals and 140 species.
Best Kept Secret: Relax in the Rose Garden at Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park
Belfast has a long and illustrious history, but one of the parts of its story that is perhaps best known is its association with the ill-fated ocean liner the Titanic. The iconic ship, which set sail from Southampton in April 1912, was constructed in Belfast - in the area now known as the Titanic QuarterIf you want to learn more about the ship and its amazing construction, heading to this part of Belfast is a real must. We’re going to give you some information about where you can go in the Titanic Quarter of Queen’s Quay and how to get from one attraction to the next.
Start point: Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast, which is the largest visitor experience dedicated to the ship in the world, is the obvious place to start. The six-floor building takes you through every stage of the liner’s history, from the initial concept and early construction stages, to its launch and fateful first voyage.
Perusing the exhibits about the building of the Titanic will set you up nicely for actually visiting the vast shipyards and docks where the process took place and allow you to put what you see here into context. There are also extensive galleries dedicated to the stories of the people onboard the Titanic when it set off on its maiden voyage.
One of the most fascinating parts of the centre is the room that takes you beneath the ocean to see the Titanic as it is now, resting hundreds of metres down on the bottom of the Atlantic.
You will also be able to stand in the spot where the Titanic once rested in its slipway, which boasts excellent views over Belfast and the rest of the docks. It’s a great place to soak up the sights and pause for thought before you move on.
Leave Titanic Belfast and go for a walk along the restored slipways behind the building.
Having seen the slipways from Titanic Belfast, it’s worth actually heading outside and seeing them up close. This won’t take particularly long, but walking the length of the slipway will give you some idea of just how vast the liner was.
It’s also worth pointing out that a host of events and performances are held at the Titanic Slipways now, so if you’re travelling here during the warmer months of the year, it’s a good idea to check in case there is an open-air show you’d like to catch during your trip.
Harland & Wolff HQ and Drawing Offices
From the slipways, take the short walk along Queen’s Road to the former Harland and Wolff HQ and Drawing Offices - it will probably take about five minutes.
The Harland and Wolff HQ and Drawing Offices is where the Titanic’s story began, because this is where the great ship, along with its sister vessel, was designed. This was the hub of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding empire when it was at its height in the early part of the 20th century.
It’s possible to tour this B+ listed heritage building thanks to the Titantic Foundation, which was awarded the building on a seven year lease back in 2012. The architecture is impressive and it’s well worth stepping inside to see these historic rooms.
Titanic’s Dock and Pump House
From the Harland and Wolff HQ, it’s just a short walk to the Dock and Pump House. It should take five to ten minutes.
The Titanic Dock and Pump House is another of the important Harland and Wolff’s sites in the Titanic Quarter and was where not only the Titanic, but also many of the other White Star Liners were constructed.
There’s an excellent visitor centre here where you can learn about how these huge ships were built and find out more about the varied equipment and engineering that went into producing them. The guided tours (which last around one hour) are especially worthwhile, as these lead you around every part of the dock and explain what happened where, as well as giving you an insight into what life was like for the workers.
A highlight of a visit to this attraction is seeing rare footage of the Titanic in the dry dock in 1912.
The Kit is a piece of public art that you can pass by on your way out of the Titanic Quarter. Head south along Queen’s Road, back towards the city, and then take a short detour to the Belfast Harbour Marina on the Abercorn Basin.
The Kit is just one piece of public art that’s been created in memory of the Titanic and Belfast’s shipbuilding heritage. This particular sculpture is 13.5 m high and is made of scale replicas of the Titanic’s component parts. It’s essentially a huge bronze skeleton of the ship and it’s hard to miss.
Donegall Place The walk to our final stop is very scenic, initially leading you along the banks of the river from the marina. Continue all the way down to Ann Street and then cross the river here. Follow Ann Street to the end, then take a left on to Arthur Street. At the bottom of Arthur Street, turn right on to Chichester Street and follow this until you can see the City Hall. It should take 20 to 25 minutes.
There are two Titanic-related sights here, the Titanic Memorial Garden and the Masts. The former was opened in 2012 on the 100th anniversary of the sinking and, in addition to being a pretty garden, it is home to a memorial to all those who died in the tragedy. A nine-metre-long plinth showcases bronze plaques bearing the names of all of those who lost their lives.
The Masts, meanwhile, is a series of eight huge masts that line Donegall Place, with each representing a famous Belfast-made ship. As well as the Titanic, the SS Nomadic, the Olympic and the Brittanic are commemorated here.
The Belfast Children’s Festival will be kicking off on March 8th and running for a week, with a host of exciting, family-friendly events planned. There’s no better time to visit the city as a family and there are plenty of other great attractions that you can explore in between the festival’s events.
Check out our top picks for parents and kids in Belfast.
Situated in north Belfast is the city’s zoo, which is home to more than 1,000 animals spanning 150 species. Among the creatures you and your children will encounter are giraffes, penguins, Malayan tapirs, Asian elephants, crowned sifakas and Sumatran tigers.
It’s a fantastic place to get children excited about the natural world, as well as to teach them about the importance of conservation, which is required to safeguard the natural habitats of many of the animals you’ll see in the zoo.
There are often family-friendly events taking place at Belfast Zoo, too, so make sure you check what’s going on before you travel, in case there’s anything that appeals to you and your youngsters.
W5 at Odyssey
W5 at Odyssey is a hands-on science and discovery centre that’s bound to captivate kids, while also teaching them a thing or two about the world around them. There is a vast array of interactive exhibits here that allow little ones to really engage with science and have a lot of fun at the same time.
There are galleries here relating to everything from aviation and weather to biodiversity and genetics. Inquisitive youngsters will certainly have plenty to keep them busy for hours, and mum and dad may even find they learn something new as well.
Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory
If you really want to treat your children, take them to Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory. This establishment uses 100-year-old recipes to create its chocolates and boiled sweets - and when you come here you can do much more than just pick up a few tasty snacks.
It’s possible to see the whole production process - and sample a few of the sweets, fudges and chocolates that are made here every day. If you book one of these tours, you and the kids may even have the chance to make your own candy floss.
Belfast’s murals are truly fascinating and certainly worth seeking out on a visit to the city. As well as being incredible examples of modern art, these murals say a lot about the political history of the city and Northern Ireland as a whole.
A bit about the murals
Before we talk you through a route to see the murals, it’s important to understand why they were painted in the first place. Across Northern Ireland there are thought to be around 2,000 murals, most with a political message.
The first of these were painted in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, when the Troubles were at their height. As a brief overview, this conflict was over whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK or join Ireland as a united country. The Unionists and Loyalists, who are predominantly from the Protestant community, want to remain part of the UK, while the Republicans and Irish Nationalists support a union with Ireland.
Although many of Belfast’s murals are politically motivated, there are some depicting other subjects, such as CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the Titanic and Northern Irish footballer George Best.
Starting point: Sandy Row
Sandy Row is in a predominantly Loyalist part of Belfast and there are several political murals along the street, although some of these have been replaced in recent years. In 2012, for example, one of the most famous Ulster Freedom Fighters murals was painted over and a portrait of William of Orange created in its place.
There are also several football-themed murals on this stretch of road, most notably a painting of George Best, with the Northern Irishman famously playing for Manchester United at the height of his career. There are other Manchester United-themed designs in the area to look out for, while if you fancy a detour to see more football murals, head on to Lisburn Road, which joins Sandy Row at its southern end.
The next place to head to is Falls Road, which is around a half-hour walk from Sandy Row. When you reach the south end of Sandy Row, turn right onto Donegal Road and follow this until it joins Falls Road.
This is where you can see a selection of Republican murals, as well as the International Peace Wall. This is a really interesting spot, as people have created artwork to voice their opinions about everything from the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Spanish Civil War.
There are also pieces without a political slant on Falls Road, such as the mural depicting Jimmy ‘Jinky’ Johnstone, one of Celtic FC’s greatest ever players. Head north along Falls Road, taking your time to enjoy the myriad of artworks it’s decorated with.
It’s relatively straightforward to reach Cupar Way once you get to the northern end of Falls Road - shortly after you pass the Falls Leisure Centre on your left, you need to turn left onto N Howard Street. Follow this along until it joins Cupar Way - the walk should take around ten minutes.
Cupar Way is home to one of Belfast’s longest peace walls and features a varied collection of pieces, some of which have been made in 3D, combining sculpture and painting. Among the most famous panels along this street is the one commemorating the Battle of the Somme.
At the end of Cupar Way, turn right onto Lanark Way and then right again onto Woodvale Road, which eventually merges with Shankhill Road. The walk shouldn’t take longer than around 15 minutes.
Shankill Road is where many of the most famous Loyalist murals can be found, with these often depicting slogans and symbols associated with the various Unionist groups that sprang up during the Troubles. As with the Republican areas, many of the overtly paramilitary murals and images are being painted over and replaced, but there is still plenty to see.
The final call on our tour of the Belfast murals is Newtownards Road, which is around a 45 minute walk from Shankhill Road. Continue following the street when Shankhill Road ends, as it turns into Peters Hill, North Street and then Bridge Street.
At the end of Bridge Street, turn left and head towards Ann Street, which will take you across the river. This road turns into Bridge End and then Newtownards Road. This is home to more Loyalist murals, but it’s worth stepping off the main street and into some of the side roads to see some of Belfast’s non-political murals.
Dee Street is a particularly good place to explore, as it has one of the most iconic Titanic murals on its corner. This is a poignant black and white image of Captain Smith standing between the cranes on the docks and looking out over the liner.
Dee Street is also home to one of the two CS Lewis murals that features a scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The other CS Lewis artwork can be found on Ballymacarrett Road, which is also off Newtownards Road.
With 2014 now underway, we’re going to take a look at a few of the exciting events coming up in Belfast this year.
BMS 2014 International Festival of Chamber Music
February 13th to 16th
The Belfast Music Society is hosting its International Festival of Chamber Music next month, with a host of internationally-renowned musicians visiting the Northern Irish capital to put on performances. Olli Mustonen, the Fidelio Trio and Truls Mork are among those on the bill.
Belfast Children’s Festival
March 7th to 14th
The Belfast Children’s Festival is a great one for families, with a host of events and activities aimed specifically at youngsters taking place throughout the week at various places across the city. Expect theatrical productions, musical shows and lots of creative events.
Feile an Earraigh
March 10th to 17th
Feile an Earraigh (or the Spring Festival) is a celebration of Irish and international music, art and culture, all centred on the Gaeltacht Quarter. This is a vibrant and exciting time to be in Belfast, with workshops, musical performances, walks and exhibitions all taking place.
Belfast St Patrick’s Celebrations
St Patrick’s Day is a great time to visit Belfast, with a colourful parade winding its way through the city’s streets from 12pm and plenty going on in its bars and clubs, not to mention a free open-air concert in Custom House Square.
April 18th to 22nd
Head to Belfast Zoo over the Easter weekend for lots of fun for you and the kids. There’s an Easter egg trail around the park and all the usual animal attractions that enthral grown-ups and children alike.
July 21st to 27th
Held at the Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, Rose Week is a celebration of the beautiful blooms, with flower competitions happening throughout the week, as well as a host of entertainment and children’s events to look forward to. 2014 also marks the 50th anniversary of the City of Belfast International Rose Gardens.
CS Lewis is known the world over as the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, but what fewer people are aware of is that he grew up in Belfast and had a strong affinity with his Irish background.
The Dundela Flats themselves are not a building from Lewis’s era, but they stand on what was once the Dundela Villas - the author’s birthplace in 1898. The houses of Lewis’s childhood were demolished in 1952 and now all that remains to allude to their literary connection is a blue plaque on the side of the wall.
You’ll find the flats in a small cul-de-sac just off of Dundela Avenue if you want to take a look.
Little Lea on Circular Road is where CS Lewis spent much of his childhood, and was the family home until 1930. They moved in here when Lewis was seven and, although he was sent to England for school just a few years later, the house was fondly remembered by him.
In fact, it was here that he penned his first stories, so it’s a wonderful place for any fans to visit. You do, however, need to bear in mind that the properties here are private residences, so you should respect the current owners and their privacy.
Campbell College was one of the schools CS Lewis attended in his younger years, in this case he spent just half a term here in 1910. He left school due to illness at this time, but despite only spending a few weeks as a boarder, he had fond memories of his English master Lewis Alden.
You can simply observe the college from outside - you’ll find it on Belmont Road - or you can get in touch with the institution before you visit to see if it’s possible to enter the grounds and buildings.
Linen Hall Library
Linen Hall Library will be of interest to CS Lewis fans for two reasons; firstly, it is home to a unique collection of books both by and about the author, and secondly, because from November 7th until December 24th 2013, it is hosting a special installation entitled CS Lewis: Through the Wardrobe Exhibition. This is a fantastic collection of illustrations of the Chronicles of Narnia by Dublin-based artist and illustrator Jonathan Barry.
Barry has depicted scenes from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Magician’s Nephew and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Belmont Tower is situated on Belmont Church Road and isn’t too far from where the author spent his early years. The Gothic Victorian building is interesting in its own right, but what will draw CS Lewis fans here is the small exhibition dedicated to him.
What’s more, the venue also hosts lectures on the life and work of the author, so it’s worth checking if there are any of these talks scheduled during your trip to Belfast, as you can gain an interesting perspective on Lewis and his writing by attending one or more of these.
Holywood Road Library
When you visit Holywood Road Library, it’s not the library itself that you’ll be interested in, but the statue that stands outside. This sculpture is a fitting tribute to CS Lewis and his Narnia series, with the life-size likeness of Lewis depicted as Digory Kirke (the Narnia narrator).
As if that wasn’t enough of a hint to the writer’s best-known work, the statue is also stepping into a wardrobe. The piece was unveiled in 1998 to mark the centenary of the author’s birth and was created by sculptor Ross Wilson.
St Mark’s Church
Not far from Holywood Road Library is St Mark’s Church, which is also located on Holywood Road. This church was where CS Lewis was baptised and where he received his confirmation.
The entire Lewis family were regular church-goers and this was their local place of worship. Indeed, CS Lewis and his older brother Warren donated a stained-glass window designed by Michael Healy to the church in memory of their parents. As you can see, there are plenty of links to CS Lewis to be discovered in Belfast, despite the fact that the author moved to England at a relatively young age. The city is proud of its literary heritage and has done much to promote its association with the famous writer.
Indeed, there is much speculation about whether any sites or landmarks in Belfast - or elsewhere in Northern Ireland - inspired some of the locations that feature in Narnia. The mountains of County Down, Dunluce Castle in County Antrim and even the gas lamp posts in the grounds of Campbell College have been cited as possible inspirations for the author.
If you’re thinking of visiting Belfast at the end of the month to experience the spectacle of the Belfast Tattoo, spend the day before the event uncovering some of Ulster’s history. The Tattoo will take place on September 27th and 28th and is a real feast for the senses with some of the best local musicians and performers taking to the stage in a two-hour show.
Of course, you’ll want to spend more than just a single evening in Belfast, so we’ve come up with a few suggestions of places to explore if you’d like to learn more about the heritage of the province of Ulster before you take your seats for the Belfast Tattoo.
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
How to get there: The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is around 15 minutes outside the city centre on the road to Bangor. You can take a train to the Cultra Halt station or take a bus that will drop you outside the museum entrance.
The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is the perfect place to start, as it will take you back in time more than 100 years to a period when Ulster was very different. Spread over 170 acres, this living history museum features homes, schools, shops and farms, giving you an unrivalled insight into how people lived in years gone by.
You can wander between the buildings and chat to the guides who are dressed in period costumes and who practice a host of crafts that were the staple of life in Ulster in the past. Make sure you sample some home cooking at the farmhouse and take the time to learn a bit more about skills like sheep shearing and blacksmithing.
The Transport Museum is a separate gallery where you can find out all about the history of transport in Ireland, from the country’s rail network to its roads. You should leave at least an hour and a half to discover this museum, as well as a further two to three hours for the Folk Museum. Ideally, you’ll want to spend a whole day here.
Crumlin Road Gaol
How to get there: You’ll find Crumlin Road Gaol on Crumlin Road in the centre of the city. You can walk or take a bus to get there - the hop on, hop off bus tour of the city passes the attraction.
Crumlin Road Gaol is a fascinating attraction that will give you a glimpse of the darker side of Ulster’s history. This jail is a Grade A listed building and has an interesting past. It first opened its doors in 1845 and eventually closed in 1996. In those years it saw executions, held political prisoners and even women and children.
There are public tours of the facility every day of the week, with these typically lasting about one and a half hours. You’ll see some of its cells, the governor’s office and the hospital, as well as hear stories about the people who were held within its walls.
How to get there: You’ll find the Ulster Museum in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens. This is around a 20 to 30 minute walk from the city centre, or a ten minute walk from the Botanic station if you’re travelling by train. Alternatively, take the bus that will drop you right outside the museum.
Ulster Museum is home to a wide array of exhibits covering everything from dinosaurs and ancient Egypt to natural history and artefacts from the South Pacific. However, there’s also plenty of information about Northern Ireland’s history here too.
If this is what you’re after, head for the History Department where you’ll find a range of exhibits covering the likes of coins and money that’s been used in Northern Ireland through the ages, fascinating artefacts that are centuries old, Irish artworks and photos from the late 19th century through to the present day. It’s a truly comprehensive look at history not only in Ulster, but Northern Ireland as a whole.
There’s also an entire collection dedicated to military history where you can see items dating from as far back as the 1600s, as well as modern pieces from as recently as 2000. You’ll want to set aside a couple of hours to discover even a fraction of what this museum has to offer. It’s also free to enter, so you can make multiple visits during your stay in Belfast if you decide that there are collections you’ve missed that you’d like to see.
How to get there: Schomberg House is on Cregagh Road in the Castlereagh area of Belfast to the south of the city centre. It’s just under an hour’s walk from the main part of the city, although you can ask at the tourist information office to find out which bus service will drop you closest to the attraction.
Schomberg House is the headquarters of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. The Orange Order relocated here in 2001 and although there’s not loads to see in Schomberg House, its small museum does offer an interesting insight into this aspect of Northern Ireland’s past.
Its exhibits tell the story of the early days of the Orange Institution and even include what’s known as the Williamite Archive - a selection of artefacts that belonged to William III, Prince of Orange, with these dating back to the late 17th century. Other pieces on show include documents relating to the order and busts of some former Irish Unionist leaders.
Leave around one hour to see what’s on show - Schomberg House is staffed by volunteers and is open during standard office hours throughout the week.
If you’re planning a trip to Belfast before December 25th and want something to get you in the festive mood, you’ll be pleased to learn there are a host of Christmas concerts taking place over the coming weeks. We’ve picked out a few of our favourites in case you fancy some carols or seasonal music during your trip to Belfast.
Ulster Orchestra: Handel’s Messiah
When and where: December 13th and 14th at the Belfast Waterfront
There are few pieces of classical music that capture the spirit of Christmas quite like Handel’s Messiah and this rendition of the famous composition is bound to be stunning. The Ulster Orchestra will be holding two performances of the piece, with Claudia Boyle, Paula Murrihy, Anthony Gregory and William Berger stepping up as soloists with the Belfast Philharmonic Choir.
It’s best to book tickets in advance if you want to be sure of being able to attend what promises to be a magical concert.
St Anne’s Cathedral Service of Thanksgiving
When and where: December 19th at St Anne’s Cathedral
This performance is the one for you if you’re looking for an evening of traditional carols and it forms part of the Linen Hall Library’s 225th year celebrations. The cathedral choir and organist will sing a host of classic festive carols, while there will also be readings and a special piece of music performed by Neil Martin on the night.
There are few better ways to get in the mood for Christmas than by attending this service.
The Music Box - A Christmas Extravaganza with Peter Corry
When and where: December 20th and 21st at the Belfast Waterfront
West End star Peter Corry will return to his native Ireland for a special festive performance that’s bound to have you singing along. This is a great one for the whole family, with Peter Corry putting together a show featuring everything from Christmas classics to modern seasonal songs.
Joining him on stage will be local school choirs, ballet dancers and a huge cast to make sure everyone gets into the spirit of the season.
Next Monday (November 11th) will see the start of Belfast Music Week, when the whole city will come alive with the sounds of all manner of musical genres, from classical and rock to folk and dance performances.
We’re going to give you the lowdown on some of Belfast’s top live music venues - we’ll also let you know if there are any Music Week events scheduled at these places, so you can get involved in the revelry if you’ll be in the city next week.
Where: Bedford Street, behind Belfast City Hall
Ulster Hall is one of Belfast’s grandest live music venues and it’s all set to play a prominent role in the forthcoming Music Week. Several performances of note will take place here over the course of the festival, including a show by Cara Dillon, a metal gig by Zombified and a performance by the Ulster Orchestra.
Even if you can’t make it for a performance here, it’s well worth a visit anyway as it’s got a rather illustrious history. The venue itself dates from 1862 and is a classic example of a Victorian music hall.
In its early years, the hall played host to a range of famous performers, including Charles Dickens, Ellen Terry and Lord Randolph Churchill. In more recent years it’s seen countless musicians take to the stage, and has held international boxing matches and a variety of lectures and theatre shows.
Where: 17 Ormeau Avenue
Since it first opened in 1984, Limelight has grown considerably and is now actually a complex of three venues - The Limelight, Limelight 2 and Katy’s Bar. The venue has a strong history of showcasing local talent, with a focus on the indie, rock and metal genres. Limelight 2 is actually the original venue, while The Limelight used to be known as Spring & Airbrake. Some impressive names have played here over the years, including Oasis, The Streets and the Kaiser Chiefs.
As you can probably imagine, there are lots of gigs planned for the two Limelight bars during Belfast Music Week, with Satyricon, Lucy Spraggan, Sea Pinks and The Wonder Villains among the musicians who will be entertaining the crowds here.
The Belfast Empire
Where: 40 Botanic Avenue
The Belfast Empire is a truly unique venue, as it’s a converted 19th century church. This gives it incredible acoustics and the ambience is enhanced by the music hall theme that permeates the main performance area.
It first put on a show in 1987 and since then some pretty impressive names have stepped into the spotlight here, including Snow Patrol, Sigur Ros, Ash and Death in Vegas. What’s more, Empire also hosts a long-running comedy club, which has seen comedians including Michael McIntyre, Dara O’Briain and Lee Evans gracing its stage.
During Belfast Music Week, artists such as Soulshaker and Simon McBride will be performing at the venue, while it will also host themed evenings like Havana Nights.
Oh Yeah Music Centre
Where: 15-21 Gordon Street
The Oh Yeah Music Centre is much more than a performance venue, although it has hosted its fair share of exciting live gigs over the years. It’s actually a charity that aims to make music accessible to all - and as you’d expect it’s heavily involved in Belfast Music Week.
Since opening in its current home in 2007, the likes of Elbow, the Undertones, Iain Archer and Lisa Hannigan have all played shows here. The coming week will see more famous names take to the stage as part of the Northern Ireland Music Prize, with the event being hosted during Music Week.
Among the artists who will be performing live this year are The Bonnevilles, Girls Names and Anthony Toner. The shortlist for the 2013 award includes the aforementioned musicians, as well as Foy Vance, Two Door Cinema Club and Jetplane Landing, among others.
Where: 2 Lanyon Place
The Belfast Waterfront is a performance and arts centre, which means not everything that’s on show here is music related. However, its main auditorium does play host to some famous names every now and then - and this is certainly the case during Belfast Music Week.
One of the highlights of the festival is a show by Van Morrison, who will be appearing at Belfast Waterfront on Friday November 15th for a one-off concert that’s bound to wow the crowds.
Having opened in 1997, the Belfast Waterfront has put on a number of amazing gigs, including performances by Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, James Brown and Dolly Parton.
Where: 2 Queens Quay
Odyssey is a truly world-class venue located in the heart of Belfast’s Titanic quarter. Having opened in 2000, it’s already built up quite a reputation for itself having hosted the MTV European Music Awards, as well as a number of high-profile concerts.
That’s all set to continue during Belfast Music Week, with the Stereophonics playing here on the opening day of the event. The Odyssey Arena is a huge venue, with an 11,000 capacity, which means it consistently attracts big-name stars.
On November 16th, Belfast Christmas Market will open its doors for its tenth year, with a host of festive crafts, food stalls and entertainment on offer until December 21st.
The market is located right in front of Belfast City Hall and is a picturesque place to do a bit of Christmas shopping, spend time with friends and to generally get into the mood of the season.
We’ve put together a brief guide to some of the things you shouldn’t miss this year.
See the lights switched on
The opening of the Christmas market will coincide with Belfast’s festive light switch-on this year - something that’s not to be missed. Once darkness falls on November 16th, the streets will be illuminated with a host of seasonal displays.
Moving among the stalls with the twinkling fairylights all around will definitely get you in the mood for all the parties, present buying and family gatherings that are to come.
Grab a Gluhwein
Gluhwein (or mulled wine) is a staple of any visit to a Christmas market and you’ll find several stalls selling steaming mugs of the festive tipple in Belfast. There are also a host of other food vendors offering everything from bratwurst to crepes, so whether you’re in a sweet or savoury mood, you should find something that appeals to your taste buds.
For an extra injection of Christmas cheer, add a shot of amareto to your mulled wine - it’s delicious.
Take the kids to meet Santa
Father Christmas will also be putting in an appearance at this year’s market, with his snowy grotto somewhere that your little ones will certainly want to visit. There’s also going to be a post box within the market where you can send Santa a letter.
If you get yours in the post by December 18th, you can even expect to receive a reply - a wonderful way to bring some extra magic to the season for your little ones.
Pick up some presents
Of course, the main point of a Christmas market is for you to have the chance to buy some unusual gifts and there’s plenty of variety among Belfast’s stallholders. Everything from knitwear and handbags to wooden toys and pottery will be on offer this year, with lots more besides.
Enjoy wandering among the colourful stalls, chatting to the vendors about their products and finding the perfect gifts for all your family and friends.
Belfast Restaurant Week, which this year takes place from October 5th to 12th, has become a real highlight on foodies’ calendars. Every year more and more restaurants are taking part in the culinary extravaganza, offering amazing discounts on excellent food.
Now, many of these deals centre around lunch and dinner menus, but what if you’re looking for somewhere wonderful to start your day? We’ve picked out a couple of options if you need some inspiration for breakfast spots to visit during Belfast Restaurant Week.
Jazz Brunch - Posh Nosh
When: 6th October 2013
Posh Nosh is holding a special Jazz Brunch during the foodie festival, with the SS Nomadic providing the venue. This ship is docked in the Titanic Quarter, so this is a great place to head to if you want to do a spot of sightseeing in between your culinary adventures.
The Jazz Brunch will be a feast for the senses, with delicious breakfast and brunch specialities served up while you listen to some chilled out jazz music - a quirky and fantastic setting for your first meal of the day.
Coffee Brew Bar Masterclass - Canteen at the MAC
When: 8th October 2013
The Canteen at the MAC is hosting a must-visit event for anyone who needs a cup of coffee to start their day. During the Coffee Brew Bar Masterclass you’ll have the chance to sample various blends of coffee from around the world and can pick up tips from expert baristas about how to make the perfect brew to kick-start your morning.
If you get peckish, you can always order something from the venue’s delectable breakfast menu, which is on offer from 10am to 12pm every day.
Stables Coffee Shop
When: Throughout Belfast Restaurant Week
The Stables Coffee Shop in Lady Dixon Park is the perfect place to come to if you want to enjoy your breakfast in picturesque surroundings. You can dine here whether you visit during the festival or not, but throughout the event the establishment is running a special offer.
You can enjoy its scones served with cream and preserves, as well as a cup of tea or coffee for just £2.50 if you order before 11am. This might not be the healthiest breakfast option - but it’s certainly a tasty one - you can treat yourself if you’re on holiday.
A venue for live music bands, IMAX theatre, cinema, ice hockey games and a variety of restaurants and bars. Take bus 600 or 100.
Located at the Odyssey Arena. Bus 600 or 100. Interactive discovery centre - ideal for all the family.
An amazing place to visit for adults and children alike! W5 is Ireland's first purpose-built interactive discovery centre and is located at the Odyssey complex in the heart of Belfast. The centre has amazing interactive exhibits, which offer fantastic fun for all the family.
Monday - Friday 10am - 5pm, last admission 4pm
Saturday 10am - 6pm, last admission 5pm
Sunday 12pm - 6pm, last admission 5pm
Botanic Gardens, Belfast. Citybus 69. Open daily, admission free. Historical museum and art gallery.
Off Antrim Road, 3.5 miles north of city centre. Citybus 45-51. Admission free, historical atmosphere and beautiful gardens.
Just a short walk from Jurys Inn and admission is free. Guided tours Monday to Saturday.
Off Antrim Road, 3.5miles north of city centre. Citybus 45-51. Open daily April to September, 10am to 5pm; October to March, 10am to 2.30pm.
At Cultra, seven miles east of Belfast, near Hollywood.
111 Old Dundonald Road, five miles east of Belfast. Bus 21. Ice rink and bowling alley.
University Road, Belfast. Citybus 70/71. Admission is free. A self-guided tour leaflet is available.
Lanyon Place, a 10-minute walk from the hotel. A venue for concerts and conferences.
The Belfast city marathon route takes participants the length and breadth of Belfast. The cost of entry is £20. Visit the Belfast City Marathon website for more information on the next event.