With the conflict and violence that marked the 1970s and '80s now a distant memory, Belfast has been reborn as a delightful and peaceful city of historic pubs, atmospheric lanes, upscale shops, and trendy restaurants. Tell your cab driver to take you to bustling Donegall Square, the best hub for shopping, strolling, and dining. Culture vultures should head to the University Quarter, the leafy area around Queen’s University where you’ll find the Botanic Gardens, art galleries, and museums.
What We Love
Belfast Castle: From its lofty position nearly 400 feet above sea level, the city’s namesake castle provides an impressive display of towers, battlements, opulent interiors, and fantastic views of the city.
Titanic Belfast: This remarkable, hull-shaped building is dedicated to the ill-fated Titanic, which was built in Belfast during the city’s shipbuilding heyday. It is the world's largest Titanic visitor attraction, comprising nine interactive galleries that let you explore the iconic ship’s decks and staterooms, and even travel virtually to the ocean floor to see the wreck.
Best Known For
Sectarian Neighborhoods: Soon after the end of religious conflict in the city, a thriving cottage industry sprang up to take visitors to areas that were once no-go zones. A standout is the Black Taxi Tour, which uses London-style cabs to ferry travelers on guided tours past the remnants of checkpoints, barbed wire, and partisan murals. Stop for photos at the peace wall.
Shop for Cruises
Who It's Best For
Pub Crawlers: If you visit only one Belfast pub, make it the historic Crown Liquor Saloon, a watering hole with beautifully detailed woodwork.
Shoppers: Begin your souvenir hunting on boutique-lined Donegall Place, whose Victorian arcades are full of gift shops and jewelry stores. Be on the lookout for good buys on Irish linen, china, and crystal.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Get Ready to Move: There's nothing near the dock. Be prepared to take a cab or bus before you start exploring. The good news is that central Belfast is a great walking town.
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for The Boston Globe.