As we stepped out of our hotel, my friends and I stopped for a minute to decide where exactly we’d like to tackle first with our afternoon in Belfast.
An image from a peace line
No less than three separate individuals within the span of 5 minutes stopped to ask us if we needed help with directions – this city was unbelievably welcoming!
Unfortunately, we arrived too late in the day to be able to properly see the Titanic museum – one of the top things to see here since this is where the famous voyage departed from.
I saw an awesome exhibition on the Titanic once in San Francisco so I wasn’t too devastated to have missed out but if I come back again I will definitely be paying the building (in the shape of the ship!) a visit.
We spent some time walking around the main shopping area and quite enjoyed the Cathedral Quarter too which has a bit of a hipster feel to it among the religious scenery.
The number one thing to do in Belfast though in my opinion is signing up for Paddy Campbell’s Belfast Famous Black Cab Tour.
There was too many of us to be in an actual black cab sadly but our guides were superb – men who had grown up during ‘The Troubles’ and shared personal stories of what life was like in the city during this period.
Signing a peace line
If you want to learn more about this era of Northern Ireland’s history and see Falls Road and Shankill Road up close then this tour takes you to these areas and more.
You’ll also visit memorial sites and get to hear the guide recount the events of violence in which lives were lost on both sides between the loyalists (mostly Protestant) and the nationalists (mostly Catholic) people starting in the late 1960s until recent times.
I had known a little bit about the Troubles since my history teacher in high school was from here and mentioned it on occasion and I remember studying the music video for Zombie by the Cranberries in media and looking into what they were singing about.
It wasn’t until I was there in person though, with one of the peace lines looming high above me that I realised the extent of what life must’ve been like here.
Imagine having to put up a ‘peace line’ in the suburb you live in and have community gates locked at night in case people who literally live down the street from you decided to attack you based on your political/religious beliefs – hard to think this all happened not too long ago!
That night we checked out The Crown Saloon, which has the most beautiful detailing I’ve ever seen inside a drinking establishment and is a real life old style saloon. It’s over 100 years old and is one of Northern Ireland’s most well known buildings.
Afterwards, we visited the nearby bar called Filthy McNasty’s (the name was so tempting) which has a mini fairground with rides out back so needless to say it was amazing.
Belfast is a city full of political artworks and yet for a history so recently filled with violence I couldn’t get over how welcoming a place it felt.
I really enjoyed my short time here and think there’s so much more to see underneath its modest exterior.