5 things to do in Belfast
Get spooked out at Crumlin Road Gaol
If you aren't faint hearted, love ghost stories and even hope to see one, here's your chance. Crumlin Road Gaol, which dates back to 1845, closed it's doors as a working prison in 1996. Reopened now after extensive renovations, take a guided tour of the prison and hear about the history of the site. You can visit the reception area of the prisoners, where their details were noted, photographs taken, clothes and personal belongings surrendered and the place where they would bathe, were de-liced and taken to their cells after they changed into their uniforms. Other stops include the Governor's room, where you will have a chance to pose with the Governor and the room used for legal visits; the cells. You can also visit the spooky areas including 'The Tunnel', which is an underground tunnel that connected the gaol to the Crumlin Road Courthouse, where it is believed that the ghost of a little girl called Isabel tugs on the trousers of women and plays with their hair and the condemned man's cell before seeing the execution cell where the majority of the 17 men were hanged.
Go 'click click click' at Belfast Castle
Situated on the slopes of Cave Hill Country Park in north Belfast, this brown castle with red piping is a photographer's delight. While the first Belfast Castle was built by the Normans in Belfast in the late 12th century, the second castle was constructed by Sir Arthur Chichester, Baron of Belfast, on the same site in 1611, using stone and timber. However, it burnt down almost 100 years later leaving only street names to mark its location. It was rebuilt in 1862 by the third Marquis of Donegall; it was finished by 1870. It was subsequently passed down within the family until it and the surrounding estate was presented to the City of Belfast in 1934. Today, it is popularly used for weddings, private dining, conferences, high-tea and other events, but a walk through the palatial rooms will let your imagination run wild to the days of the past. Step out onto the staircase leading down to the gardens and pose for a few pictures. The staircase was not part of the original castle plans, but was added in 1894 by the ninth Earl of Shaftesbury as a present to his mother. Don't forget to visit the Cat Garden, the castle's formally landscaped gardens. Tradition has it that good fortune will come to those who visit the castle, as long as the castle has a resident white cat. Try and spot the nine cats, while you're there.
Visit the birthplace of the Titanic
Thrown open to the public on 31st January 2012, the towering silver structure of Titanic Belfast, shaped like the ship's bows, is home to nine galleries that tell you the story of RMS Titanic. Titanic Belfast is located in the heart of Belfast, right beside the historic site of this world-famous ship’s construction. You can learn about her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, the construction and launch, the famous maiden voyage and tragic end. You can also hear stories about the survivors and watch footage on the discovery of the Titanic's at its resting place about 4,000 m below sea level. Also visit, SS Nomadic, the vessel that transferred passengers from Cherbourg Harbour to RMS Titanic which, due to its size, was obliged to anchor well off shore.
Go pub hopping
Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter is the area for a great night out, offering a range of lively pubs and restaurants. Located in Great Victoria Street, The Crown Liquor Saloon is a traditional little pub. Don't miss the mosaic crown on the floor at the entrance to the pub; once you enter settle down in one of the 10 booths or take a seat at the bar, relax and try their stew or probably a pie. Nestled in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, if you head up to the first floor of the Spaniard, you might wonder if you've rightly stepped into a pub or into a church. Sit down and enjoy a drink, surrounded by holy pictures and relics. Some of the other pubs worth visiting include Duke of York, The Dirty Onion, The Harp Bar and The John Hewitt.
Shop till you drop
Head to the city’s main shopping areas, which includes Donegall Place, Royal Avenue and Cornmarket, where you will find well-known brands including Marks and Spencer, Next, Boots, Debenhams, House of Fraser and French Connection. If it's malls you're looking for, make your way to Victoria Square Shopping Centre and Castle Court on Royal Avenue, which are home to brands such as H&M, Tio Shop, River Island, Urban Outfitters, Hugo Boss, Dorothy Perkins and more. For art and craft shops selling one-off pieces, check out Donegall Arcade and Dublin road, or Queen’s Arcade if you're interested in jewellery.