What to see in Belfast in 24 hours. That was our dilemma. With such a short period of time in Northern Ireland’s capital, we knew we had to condense our itinerary into only the main sites. We decided to hit up the Titanic Museum, SS Nomadic and a Hope On Hop Off Sightseeing Tour. It’s not ideal as there are lots of attractions and activities to do but it’s just an excuse to return, right?
Prior to visiting Belfast, we had actually spend a night in Armagh. J was competing in the Armagh 5K Annual International Road Race so we didn’t really get the opportunity to explore much. Because of this, we had arrived late and left early to travel down to Belfast. Although I did read a tourist leaflet and would easily return to do the Tayto crisp factory tour!
We got a bus from Armagh around 11am so arrived in Belfast Europa Bus Centre around midday. On a budget, we were staying in the Easy Hotel, just a 2 minute walk from the bus station. As we were unable to check-in so early, we ditched our hand luggage cases* at the hotel and headed out to the Titanic Quarter. We were unsure what to see in Belfast first, but Titanic was was top of my Belfast bucket list.
(*The hotel advertises that there is a fee to store luggage. However, the reception staff didn’t charge us to keep our luggage before and after checking in/out. But just something worth noting.)
What to See in Belfast in 24 Hours
Day 1 Afternoon – Titanic Museum & SS Nomadic
The Titanic Museum was number one on my ‘What to see in Belfast’ bucket list. I’ve always been obsessed with the ship and it’s untimely end since watching James Cameron’s Hollywood movie as a child. I know it’s not the most historically accurate piece of film, but it did open me up to a new world of naval and shipbuilding history; a topic close to my home in Glasgow.
How to get to the Titanic Museum
As we were coming from our hotel just a short walk from the Europa Bus Centre, it was easy to get public transport. There are local Tanslink buses that can take you to the Titanic Quarter, but we decided to hop on the G2 Belfast Glider. It only cost us around £1.60 for a single ticket and dropped us right outside the Titanic Museum.
Touring the Titanic Museum
Before even getting into the museum, we stopped off to take photos with the copper-coloured ‘Titanic’ sign outside as it was free of tourists. The building is very modern and looks symmetrical to the untrained eye. If you’re coming in from public transport, the main entrance is around the opposite side.
The bottom floor of the museum is filled with the usual museum attractions: ticket officer, information desk, cafe and gift shop. Standard general admission to the Titanic Experience for one adult cost us £18.50. It might seem quite expensive but there is a lot to cover in the museum and it gives you access to the SS Nomadic but more on that later.
The museum itself consists of various different galleries, exhibitions, artifacts and interactive features over four different levels. There are no shortage of things to read and do during your visit. It also offers multi-media guides for £3 as well as multi-language audio guides for non-English speakers. The museum also offer guides for visually impaired and sign-language visuals.
The nine different exhibits to cover are Boomtown Belfast, The Shipyard, The Launch, The Fit-Out, The Maiden Voyage, The Sinking, The Aftermath, Myths & Reality and the Titanic Beneath.
Each and every one is filled with written text and interactive displays, as well as video and audio information that makes immersing yourself in the history and legacy of the Titanic very easy. Whatever your means of consuming information, the museum has it.
The electronic dark ride was one of my favourite elements of the museum. It gives you a glimpse into the lives of the shipyard workers and what they went through to build such a ship. The seat was very welcoming, too!
The launch experience was also particularly impacting as we got amazing views over the slipway. It’s unimaginable to visualise such a huge vessel in the space below but the museum does well to set the scene and hype of the day.
Titanic Slipway & Plaza
After visiting the museum and paying £1 to get a cool fossil from one of the little vending machines, we headed outside to slipway and plaza. We stumbled upon the slipway by accident. We were on our way to find the SS Nomadic, but our mistake was a blessing in disguise. What an amazing experience to stand out in the space the Titanic was build and launched.
The space out on the plaza is huge and you don’t really get a sense of it’s vastness until you are standing out there. The buildings and shipyard equipment out there dwarf you and give you a better idea of the size of the Titanic. As you stand on the plaza and on to the slipway, there is a silver outline of where the Titanic sat. It stretches right up close to where the museum building stands today.
Walking down the slipway also gives you amazing views over the iconic Harland & Wolff gantry cranes – Samson and Goliath. Harland & Wolff are one of the biggest shipbuilders in the world, and at Belfast shipyards, they own one of the biggest dry docks in the world. It’s unfortunately closed to the public but the views from the museum are spectacular. I would love to get up close one day. You can find more information about the gantry cranes from the Discover Northern Ireland website.
Before you leave for the SS Nomadic, I recommend just stopping to take in the history that was made here. Imagine the bustle of busy shipyard workers, the clanging of steel and the hammering of iron rivets. The setting today still gives us a glimpse of life in the dockyard.
After finally walking the slipway, we ventured around to the opposite side of the museum to hop aboard the SS Nomadic. Our Titanic Experience included a ticket to explore this historic vessel.
The SS Nomadic is sometimes known as the RMS Titanic’s little sister. It’s the last remaining White Star vessel and was the Titanic’s original tender ship. In other words, she transported passengers and mail to the Titanic!
Serving the Titanic was probably her most famous duty, however, she was also in service in two world wars and served Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth liners.
Considering the fate of the Titanic, the SS Nomadic gives you an opportunity to walk the same deck that Titanic passengers would have. As well as the outer decks, you’re also free to discover the engine room and first and second class lounges inside. The vessel has been fully restored, however, you can still see elements of its original features.
What to See in Belfast in 24 Hours
Day 1 Evening – The Crown Liquor Saloon
When night comes along, something you have to see in Belfast is the famous Crown Liquor Saloon. Belfast is quite well known for it’s night life, and for sure, it did not disappoint. After dinner at a nationwide chain restaurant, we done a bit of bar hopping. Almost every bar had some sort of live music or performer on stage which continued the city’s lively atmosphere into the wee hours. One of the main bars that you should most definitely visit is The Crown Liquor Saloon.
The bar is located right across from Victoria station and Europa Hotel so very central. It dates back to the 1800s and has been very well preserved to showcase some of it’s original features, including gas lighting. The pub has cosy nooks where you can grab pint and relax in your very own little corner of this Victorian-era bar.
As well as great beers, the bar are known for their gin as well as excellent food menus. We didn’t try food but I highly recommend visiting even for one drink just to experience this unique listed building.
What to See in Belfast in 24 Hours
Day 2 Morning – Belfast Sightseeing Bus Tour
As we only had 24 hours to see Belfast, we were up early to check out and catch our sightseeing bus. We had a Groupon voucher for a City Tours of Belfast bus tour which was basically a 2 for 1 deal – bargain! It’s exactly like the well-known Hop on Hop off bus tour, but fulfilled by a local company. The buses were regular and we didn’t have to wait long to ‘hop on’ just at the City Hall stop.
The tour allows you to see a lot of Belfast in a short period of time, around 90 minutes. It boasts over 30 stops that you can get on and off at, and includes the likes of Titanic Belfast, Wall Murals, Stormont, Belfast Castle, Peace Wall and Queens University.
The tour was very interesting and informative but the guide truly made the experience very enjoyable and fun. By the end, we couldn’t believe we had been on the bus for 90 minutes and wanted to stay on even longer! It was one of only a few tours that also goes as far up as Belfast Castle and through the Cavehill Country Park. It did take a bit of time to go through the park but we were well entertained by the guide who whipped out his guitar and had us all singing ‘Belle of Belfast City’!
You could easily hop on and off the bus at any stop, just had to ask the guide. But we opted to stay on as we were having so much fun just sitting and learning about each sight.
If you’ve got a tight time frame in the city, I would highly recommend grabbing a ticket for one of the sightseeing bus tours as it allows you to see a lot of Belfast in such a short period of time.
What to See in Belfast in 24 Hours
Day 2 Afternoon – Shopping & Sightseeing
The sightseeing bus tour unfortunately came to a conclusion in the early afternoon. So we had a bit of time to fill until we had to leave for our flight around 6pm. We decided to do a bit of shopping around the High Street and Victoria Square. Belfast is very similar to Glasgow in that it has a lot of shops to suit any taste – from Primark to little boutiques.
After shopping and a coffee break at Clements Coffee, we went a wander around the city to take photos of the various sights. A lot of sights are very close together and within walking distance. We walked from the River Lagan back up to the City Hall, Titanic Memorial Garden, Ulster Hall and Opera House.
It was now time to head back to the bus station to catch the airport bus. There is so much to do in Belfast but I hope that my quick ‘What to see in Belfast in 24 Hours’ guide helped you plan your short stay. I highly recommend dedicating a lot of your time to the Titanic museum and slipway, and to tick off a lot of the bucket list items using the handy sightseeing bus tours.
See more of my city trips here