When you land in Belfast, your best option for getting into town is to hop on a bus to the Great Victoria Street station. If you only have one day to explore, you’ll want to stick to the city center and nearby areas to make the best of your time. But chances are, one night in Belfast is only going to convince you to stay a little longer.
Your first order of business should be getting an Ulster fry. A short walk to Maggie Mays on Castle Street will provide this high-calorie meal, which is the perfect fuel for a busy day of sightseeing.
The center of Belfast is built around the Victoria Square shopping center. Across three stories of covered walkways, you’ll find a mixture of high-end brands and locally owned boutiques. The ground floor is also home to frequent temporary exhibitions, and artisan market stalls on the weekend. But, because shopping is mostly a waste of time and money, hit Victoria Square for its domed lookout point, which gives you a 360-degree view of the city. There’s also historical information about the different points of interest in frosted glass, so you learn a thing or two.
Any local worth their salt will recommend that you have lunch at Boojum, Belfast’s premier burrito bar. You may have to spend some time in line to get your food, but it’s worth every minute. If you can’t wait, or you want something a little more traditional, check out the pub grub at The Garrick next door.
Newly replenished, your next step should be to head across the river to the Titanic Quarter. The walk itself will take in most of Belfast’s popular photo ops, including the Big Fish and Custom House Square. The Titanic Quarter is, of course, the site of Titanic Belfast, voted the world’s top tourist attraction in 2016. The museum stands on the site where the world’s most infamous ship was built. If it’s not lashing rain, take the time to walk the Maritime Mile, which takes in a range of other sites from Belfast’s nautical history, including the SS Nomadic, HMS Caroline, and the optic from Tory Island lighthouse.
If you’re looking for something local, Made in Belfast would be the natural choice, or the Mourne Seafood Bar if you’re after something a little fishier (remember Ireland is an island, and Belfast a port city). For something modern and innovative, it’s hard to look past Jumon’s pan-Asian vegan offerings. If you’re on a budget, Pizza Punks is by far your best option, with everything on the menu costing an even tenner. No matter what you opt for, you’ll be pleased by the casual aura and friendly service characteristic of Belfast’s food scene, so don’t feel like you need to pack your tuxedo or anything.
There’s one thing Belfast does better than anywhere else: pubs. The best pub in Belfast (and by extension the world) is the Sunflower Bar, with its cozy inside, vast beer garden, and live music every night of the week. It claims its core values are “good beer and good music” and nobody can argue with that. Indeed, it only stocks independent brews and permanently dedicated one of its taps to Donegal’s Kinnegar Brewery.