Every year there’s an outcry from some about the Belfast Continental Market. Like a pantomime villain it raises its head outside City Hall to boos and hisses because it’s full of, well, continental-ness (were such a word to exist).
You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why… Santa Claus is coming to town… and shopping centre… and street corner and, heck, anywhere he can squeeze his sizeable belly into.
If like this festive-fatigued parent, the roar of Santa appearing in every nook and cranny fills you with dread, then fear not, I’m here to tell you which ones are on the good list.
Part of the joy of public art is that it sits all around us every day. Sometimes like a picture hung to disguise the bareness of a wall, we stop noticing it. We walk past things that we barely register. There are many pieces of art around Belfast, placed in many of the thoroughfares, which we are unaware of. The pieces, like the ship masts that decorate Royal Avenue, or the functional penny barriers in the Cathedral Quarter seem to be on the periphery of public awareness.
In the 18th Century, the passageways (The Entries) of Belfast were buzzing with commercial and residential premises and are often regarded as the area where Belfast was born. The Entries are now a network of historic lanes running off some of the city’s main shopping streets High Street and Ann Street. High Street was once the Farset River, so these passageways would have been the main area of the city for sailors and merchants. Today they are also home to a few of Belfast’s oldest pubs.
When it comes to things to do in Belfast, this vibrant city is brimming with social and cultural experiences...
Residents and visitors to Belfast will have noticed that over the last few years the city centre is looking different. It’s no coincidence of course - multiple initiatives have been in place since the Belfast Agreement and St Andrews Agreement (1998 and 2006 respectively) to create a new shared environment.
Belfast City Hall is the centre of the city - its white domineering stucco sits atop Royal Avenue like a vigilant watcher. Many residents of the city have never set foot inside and therefore don’t know it’s secret - City Hall is home to artworks by some of the most influential Irish artists of the last one hundred and fifty years.
Victoria Square is Belfast’s premier shopping centre and is somewhere you could easily spend a day shopping, eating and relaxing. There is plenty to keep you occupied for the day with lots of top brand shopping, coffee shops and restaurants, a cinema and a viewing gallery in the iconic Dome.
Visiting the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is a place often visited when you’re a kid and on a school educational trip. As an adult it just isn’t on the radar as somewhere you’d think to visit, which is a shame, because this treasure of a museum is packed full of our local history.
The Lyric on Ridgeway Street has been synonymous with theatre in Belfast since the 1950s. Entertaining the residents of South Belfast and further afield, it brings both new and established theatre to the stage. The Lyric was originally established in 1951 by Mary O’Malley and her husband Pearse as the Lyric Players in their home on Derryvolgie Street. Visitors to the theatre can see a bust of Mary O’Malley in the upper levels of the theatre just outside the studio space.
Heritage and character is a disappearing facet of many modern cinemas, so The Strand, occupying the corner site at the Belmont and Holywood Road intersection in East Belfast is a ‘must-see’ for arts enthusiasts.
In 2007, feeling inspired by visiting some of the world's greatest cities and by the great Andy Warhol's famous Popart, I began a journey to expand my long hidden creativity. It all started with a friend’s special birthday party and I was tasked to create an invite, and Warhol's famous Liz Taylor and Marilyn Monroe were the inspiration. The design for the invite led to a commission to recreate the Belfast Harland & Wolff cranes in Warhol style.
Have you ever thought about experiencing your own city as a tourist? Spending a day as a tourist in Belfast can be fun and enlightening but to get a proper experience you have to stay over in a hotel, or alternatively, if you’re feeling the need for a home from home experience, you could try out Airbnb Belfast. I recently discovered Airbnb and it has opened up a whole new world of accommodation options for me.
Opened in 1845, Crumlin Road Gaol (jail) was the city gaol until 1996 when it finally closed its doors after 151 years. The gaol was designed by Charles Lanyon who was a major player in Belfast architecture during the city’s booming Victorian years. Charles Lanyon also designed the Crumlin Road Courthouse which is directly across the road from the Gaol. The Courthouse and Gaol are connected by a tunnel underneath the road.
Groupon's 'Local Stars' awards are about to take place and businesses all over the world will be awarded for being the best in their locality. In the spirit of recognising the best of the best, I asked the bloggers who write for City Guide to recommend the best things to do in Belfast. Here's what they say:
Belfast tours are popular on the Irish tourist trail so I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about. After exploring Belfast by boat, bus, bike and belly I’ve come to the conclusion that the following tours are some of the best experiences in Belfast.
For many years in Belfast, no one spoke about the fact that we built one the largest ships in the world. The feat of engineering that was the Titanic had many innovative and groundbreaking features on board but not a word was uttered about it after it’s tragic sinking.Thankfully, those days of silence have long gone and now this part of our history
Looking for a great night of entertainment in Belfast? Look no further than the theatres with a great selection of drama, dance and comedy.
The Linen Hall library is a unique Belfast institution in the heart of the city centre, just across the road from the City Hall. The Library celebrated its 225th Birthday in 2013 and remains the last library in Ireland to be part funded from membership fees and is one of the last remaining independent libraries in the world.
The City Hall in Belfast city centre is surrounded by perfectly manicured lawns and a wealth of memorials to the history, people and events associated with the city.
Northern Ireland and world class golf go hand in hand, from globally acclaimed courses to golfing legends such as Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, all of whom mastered their game on local turf. You don’t have to venture far from the heart of Belfast City to find some of the best golf courses in the UK. While it's not a spot where you'll often find me, I'm married to a pro who lives and breathes the game - and kindly shared the lowdown on his favourite Belfast golf courses for this feature.
When you visit Belfast, make sure you add Belfast Zoo to your itinerary for a fun and educational day at this zoo with a view. The zoo is one of Northern Ireland's oldest and top visitor attractions and it's a great place to spend a few hours getting back to nature and learning about the animal kingdom.
Nestled in the heart of Belfast's Cathedral Quarter is one of the most stylish and accessible entertainment venues in the city. The MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre) houses music, theatre, dance and art under one roof. If you haven't been yet, it's worth popping in for a look around - no need to be shy as it's open to the public and everyone is welcomed through the doors.
Belfast has numerous indoor and outdoor activities to help out on the route to fitness. Some of the options you can try out in the city include walking in the hills, trying the cycling routes, or if you like more structure in your exercising, there are plenty of gyms, inside and outside. Here are my top five tips on exercising and getting fit in Belfast.
Think world class art gallery - Belfast might not necessarily come to mind, but it turns out there's more than one art gallery Belfast can be proud of. Inspiring works by both established and upcoming artists are showcased all around our city and there's something to suit every taste and budget.
Co Couture, the Belfast based award winning chocolatier is only moments away from the iconic City Hall. They make all their amazing creations in their stylish basement shop at 7 Chichester Street. From Christmas to Valentine’s and from Mother’s Day to Halloween - they have all the holidays covered in the most delicious chocolate.
If you're searching for things to do in Belfast, the Ulster Museum mixes old with new, presenting exciting exhibits in a bright, modern space that offers something for everyone. My earliest memories of it are as a school girl, when my history of art teacher dragged a gaggle of us to sit on the lawn outside to discuss and sketch the architecture of the old building. We were happy to be there - anything outside the classroom was a bonus - but in those days the museum's interior was a dark, shadowy place that held little allure to us.
Home to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Stormont Parliament Buildings is one of Belfast's main tourist attractions and a popular destination for locals. While its many visitors walk or run the mile-long Prince of Wales Avenue, the vast Estate houses many hidden treasures - each time I visit, I stumble across something new. It is the perfect destination for a (free!) day out with family and friends in impressive surroundings. Here are a few of the reasons I love to visit...
St. George’s Market, Belfast is somewhat of an institution in this city. Built in the late 1800s, it now boasts three market days. Friday is the 'variety market' and is always very popular with people going to buy fresh fish and seafood. Saturday is the ‘city food and craft market’ which is a food heaven for anyone who has watched one too many episodes of Man vs Food!
As a local, I'm extremely proud of Titanic Belfast
, one of the city's biggest tourist attractions and the world's largest Titanic visitor experience. The 150,000 sq ft exhibition space celebrates the craftsmanship behind RMS Titanic, revives its heritage and gives Belfast the credit. Located next to the very spot where the original ship was built - once the busiest shipyard in the world - six floors house its story, with breathtaking views overlooking the slipways where the Titanic was launched.
The Cathedral Quarter Belfast has been compared to the famous Temple Bar in Dublin, but I think the Cathedral Quarter is better - now there’s a recommendation. This little treasure of an area is so called because its focal point is the 1899 Church of Ireland landmark, St. Anne’s Cathedral. It's in this quarter that you'll find some of the most lively and iconic bars that Belfast has to offer:
I started blogging as Belfast Times in 2011, but I have been dabbling in blogs since probably 2000! Wow! That's a lifetime ago!