Ireland’s low, viridescent plains and astronomical coastal mountains are cherished by locals and regular visitors of the peculiar island nation. While the largest island is well-known for landmarks such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Cliffs of Moher, and the Blarney Stone, the lesser known Northern Ireland offers an experience beyond a typical study abroad excursion. Just a short drive from the main island, Northern Ireland offers a candid European getaway.
Belfast, the county’s capital, is now an impressive cosmopolitan destination with a growing population and enigmatic allure. You’ll find culturally conscious, award-winning restaurants, art, and theaters. It’s the birthplace of the famously destitute Titanic, and Jonathan Swift’s inspiration for Gulliver’s Travels. If you’re looking to escape the summer heat, Belfast is cool year round, with temperatures rarely reaching 80 degrees during its hottest months. It’s also home to Titanic Studios, where Game of Thrones is shot. Treat yourself to authentic Irish countryside and cuisine in Belfast for truly unparalleled stories.
Titanic Memorial Garden
This two-tier grassy terrace pays tribute to the 1,512 men, women, and children who lost their lives during the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Featuring fifteen bronze plaques, this collection of names is the first time in history all who perished are memorialized in one place, including crew members, postal workers, and musicians. The garden features a collection of whites, silvers, and blues, the colors of ice and water, to encourage reflection and healing.
Belfast Castle Estate
No trip to Northern Ireland is complete without a tour of traditional architecture. Built in the 12th century and recently remodeled, Belfast Castle and the region surrounding it, locally known as Cave Hill, are thought to be the inspiration for Gulliver’s Travels. Cave Hill Visitor Centre gives visitors a historical look at the castle and its contributions to Belfast throughout the years.
The Belfast Baking Company
When traveling abroad, supporting local businesses, rather than international chains, is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture. With more than 100 years of baking expertise, Belfast Baking Company offers freshly made baked goods for on the go. Just a short walk from the Titanic Memorial Gardens, the smell of rosemary and potato bread permeate the block with mouthwatering buttery aromas.
For both modern and traditional European and Asian cuisine, Cafe Conor is open seven days a week with handmade ingredients and aesthetic. The restaurant, refurbished from a 1940s art gallery, features everything from pasta to Satay chicken and remains one of Belfast‘s most popular eateries.
Capturing sleek, modern ambience in the city’s center, Apartment and Zak’s Restaurant is Belfast’s Little Manhattan. Overlooking Belfast City Hall and a parade of city lights, the bar offers award-winning cocktails with a splash of sophistication and classic dishes for doing dinner in style.
Window on Wildlife
— RSPB NI (@RSPBNI) July 14, 2017
Nature lovers will have a field day at Belfast’s coveted wildlife reserve. Home to more than a hundred species of birds and other wildlife in the heart of the Belfast Harbour Estate, the reserve offers trained staff to help guide your viewing experience.