The eternal dilemma of how to have an enjoyable family holiday to suit all age groups and interests.
- With an emphasis on arts and culture, check out the BIAF team’s Belfast for Families multi-day planner with something to suit pre-schoolers and school goers, teenagers, and adults!
- 4-night/5-day itinerary curated by the BIAF team
- Top tips and recommendations straight from our home to yours
- Adapt to suit your needs!
- Be sure to check out our festival programme to include our world-class contemporary arts events (including family events) into your Belfast family adventure
Day 1: Belfast City
Who doesn’t love a market?
Make your heart sing with an early morning stroll through the bustle of Belfast’s iconic St. George’s Market. Sample the city’s legendary artisan food produce while chatting with friendly stall holders.
Good to know:
- St. George’s market opens Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
- The market is Belfast’s last surviving covered Victorian market; originally built between 1890 and 1896
- It is located on May Street in the city centre, close to the River Lagan and Waterfront Hall
- All age groups LOVE the free LIVE music performances by some of Belfast’s best artists!
- Friday variety market: around 248 market stalls selling everything from fish to zips and from antiques to fresh vegetables!
- Saturday city food, craft, and garden market: highlighting the BEST of Belfast’s artisan food and crafts. Something for all ages.
- Sunday food, craft, and antique market: food remains a highlight while allowing Belfast’s craft and art producers take centre stage
Stroll to Belfast City Hall
One of Belfast’s most iconic buildings. First opened its doors in 1906 and is Belfast’s civic building. Constructed in the Classical Renaissance style in Portland Stone, this impressive building spans 1.5-acres and includes the Titanic Memorial Gardens.
- You can book a FREE one-hour tour. The guides here are BRILLIANT!
- Afraid that younger children will be bored? Why not split the group for a bit, treating little ones to a play at Cathedral Gardens
- There is a large green at Belfast City Hall that is ideal for picnics.
- If you have teenage children itching to do their own thing for a bit, let them burn off energy at We Are Vertigo in Titanic Quarter (about 20 minutes walk away) Or if you prefer a fun family workout together check out the sessions for younger kids and their parents
- Others may prefer to browse the shops in the city centre
- Picnic: Think smart and plan! Pick up something at St. George’s Market for an outdoor picnic at City Hall
- Home: Feel-good food within a short distance from Belfast City Hall on Wellington Place. Michelin Bib Gourmand Restaurant since 2014. Specialising in local and seasonal produce, the menu is ever-changing with dietary needs (including vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free) and children’s menus catered for.
Visit West Belfast, the city’s Gaeltacht area
- Check out a BIAF favourite & festival partner: An Chultúrlann
A bustling centre on the Falls Road with a packed programme of traditional Irish and contemporary music sessions, poetry readings, céilís, concerts, workshops.
Good to know:
- Bia is on site, serving hearty food, teas, and coffees in relaxed surroundings.
- The Family Corner (Cuainne na Clainne) is located right beside Bia; allowing adults to keep an eye on little ones while having a coffee or bite to eat.
- If you do not have your own transport, you can grab a taxi or a bus to reach the Falls Road
- Don’t miss the Irish language and Irish interest book shop.
- Check out the innovative programme content to find the best options for your family
- Listen to locals speaking the Irish language
Have you got the bandwidth to stretch your afternoon?
There is lots to see and do in West Belfast. If you have time (and your family is of an age that you can manage it!), try fitting in a Black Taxi Tour to explore West Belfast’s Murals followed by a guided visit of Victorian-era Crumlin Road Gaol
So much choice… why not
- Pizza Punks | Pizza with attitude
Masterpiece sourdough pizzas with over 50 unlimited toppings for one flat fee. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. Pizza Punks is all about awesome pizza, freedom of expression and no hidden charges.
- 44 Hill Street | Mediterranean flavours
Offering a casual dining experience for friends and families, their kids’ menu is great value and adults can choose from sharing platters, tapas, pizza, steak and creative Mediterranean dishes with wine, beer, cocktails or bubbles. Sunday roasts are popular with families, too.
- Pizza Punks is sure to please teenagers
Day 2: Victorian Belfast and Queen’s Quarter
- Stroll over to the Botanic Gardens. First established in 1828, the Botanic Gardens are public Victorian gardens occupying 28-acres on Stranmillis Road.
- The Playground here is a good shout for little ones.
- The gardens offer well surfaced and accessible walking routes
- Do not miss the Palm House and Tropical Ravine greenhouses; packed with tropical and seasonal plants
- Breathe deep. This beautiful reflective space is wonderful for calming hectic family lives!
- While in the area, check out No Alibis bookstore. A veritable Aladdin’s cave for all ages with mystery fiction a speciality. This iconic Belfast store stocks Irish literature, historical, political and humanities titles along with children’s books.
- If you have time, stroll through Queen’s University.
- All ages enjoy the historic, Harry Potter Hogwarts-esque style buildings.
- Senior school goers can be inspired by illustrious alumni, including the Nobel Prize recipient Seamus Heaney.
- Pick up a map from the Queen’s University welcome centre for a self-guided campus tour.
- Some family members may wish to slip away for a short visit of the Naughton Gallery at Queens in the historic Lanyon Building with annual exhibitions featuring work from the University’s collection, touring exhibitions and shows by both local and international artists.
Time for a pit-stop?
Check out Kaffe O on Botanic – babyccinos for the little ones, full powered coffee for the grown-ups and maybe a peanut butter ball on the side.
Afternoon & lunch
- Head for the Ulster Museum for a visit and lunch
Lose yourself in treasure-filled galleries and art exhibitions. Come face to face with dinosaurs, meet an ancient Egyptian mummy and see modern masterpieces at Northern Ireland’s largest museum.
- Be prepared! You can lose hours in this place.
- Neighbouring Lisburn Road is ideal for browsing through shops
- Meals and snacks are available at Loaf Café overlooking the Botanic Gardens
- Villa Italia – Popular Italian serving classics from pizza and pasta to salads and sides in a listed Georgian building. Family run restaurant.
- SHU – Check out the fantastic kids menu at this iconic and multi-award winning Lisburn Road eatery
Looking for an escape?
- Older family members may wish to slip away to enjoy a game of pool at Laverys Belfast. A lively entertainment venue with the charm of a traditional Irish pub. Lots to do here with four bars, two roof gardens, a street-level beer garden and Northern Ireland’s largest pool room! Both drinks and food are available.
Day 3: East Belfast
Morning & lunch on the go
- Ease into the day with a stroll down Ballyhackamore or Belmont Road. These are popular munching and brunching spots!
- Make your way towards the fully illuminated CS Lewis Square. Dedicated to CS Lewis who was born in Belfast, this spectacular display of public art features seven bronze sculptures from the iconic Chronicles of Narnia.
- CS Lewis Square is an enchanting place for lovers of stories of all ages
- For more information on this area: www.visiteastside.com
- Check out JACK Coffee Bar at CS Lewis Square. Known as “Jack” locally, delicious artisan foods are available here. Ideal spot for grabbing an informal lunch.
Have an afternoon adventure
- Have an adventure. CS Lewis Square connects with Connswater Community Greenway with lots of pathways and cycling trails for adventurous family members to explore.
- Other group members will not want to miss the Strand Arts Centre. A main feature in East Belfast’s community since 1935, this beautiful Art Deco Cinema is home now to the Strand Arts Centre, which operates a diverse programme of new releases, classic and cultural cinema along with creative workshops in film, animation, music production, performing arts and playwriting.
- Stormont is a great place to go. The Mo Mowlam playground scores top marks as an all inclusive playpark. Kids love the boardwalk and themed trails. See if you can spot the hidden insects and fairy houses. Older members will enjoy learning about the history of the estate.
- Boundary Brewery tap room sessions (an independent cooperative brewery with a large cult following) is in this area if adult craft beer lovers are looking for a reason to vanish for a bit!
BIAF Tip: Check out opening times (usually Fridays 4-11pm and Saturdays 2-11pm)
- What to do for dinner?
- Bring the day full circle by heading for Ballyhackamore Road or Belmont Road to make a diplomatic decision about dining together (or not) in an area that is packed with diverse fantastic eateries to suit diverse age groups and tastes
- Cyprus Avenue and Oliver’s are worth checking out for family groups – See EAT
- Do something different and eat in Freight. Unusually located in shipping containers at C.S Lewis Square, Freight has quickly become one of the best contemporary eateries in Belfast serving both classic dishes and innovative dishes.
- Freight serves brunch 6 days a week and dinner Thursday-Saturday
- So unexpected, all age groups fall in love with it!
Day 4: The Cathedral Quarter is UP!
- Start your day at Oh Yeah Music Centre – NI Music Exhibition
Born out of a vision from some of Belfast’s leading music industry pros from Stuart Bailie to Snow Patrol, Oh Yeah is a dedicated social enterprise music hub offering an affordable inspirational space for local musicians.
- Check out Oh Yeah Music Centre’s café. Spot local and rising music talent. All age groups enjoy the buzz!
- If your diary coincides with a Seedhead Arts Street Art Tour (and your group is up for it), don’t think about it, just brighten your day by adding that too!
Seedhead Arts | Street Art Tour
Every Sunday at noon, join a gently paced, two-hour walk around the ever-changing face of Belfast exploring the symbolism behind diverse street art and the shared spaces where people of all backgrounds co-exist in this vibrant city.
- Head for the neighbouring MAC Galleries.
The MAC is a cultural hub with an eclectic programme of exhibitions, theatre performances, experimental works, visual art, theatre, dance, and family workshops.
- Check out The MAC’s programme for options that suit all age groups.
Have lunch at The MAC Café where delicious lunch, brunch coffee and treats are served. Other potential lunch options include:
Buba | Eastern Mediterranean
Lots of delicious small plate dishes designed for sharing. Eastern Mediterranean-inspired food and cocktails. Funky décor and impressive vegan range. Located on Saint Anne’s Square
Coppi | Italian
Italian cuisine using the best of local seasonal produce. From cicchetti (a Venetian-style tapas) to lavish dinners with all the trimmings. Contemporary décor with warm, moody lighting! Located on Saint Anne’s Square.
- Something for Children
If little ones are looking for a change of scene, head for Cathedral Gardens Playpark. Bringing a splash of colour to Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, this family-friendly zone features outdoor seating, a picnic area, new lighting, and fun equipment including a giant spinning hamster wheel, outdoor musical instruments, a swinging bridge, and colourful mushrooms on a carpet of rainbow grass!
- Something for Adults in need of an escape!
For advanced age groups looking for some headspace or simply retail therapy, chill for a bit by exploring stores that champion Northern Ireland’s leading arts and crafts professionals. The BIAF shout out goes to
- Craft NI Gallery. A champion of Northern Ireland’s many talented design-makers, discover unique pieces from jewellery, ceramics and textiles to homewares, gifts, and cards.
- Born and Bred. So much more than a shop! On a mission to help artists thrive while making art accessible, Born and Bred showcases high quality Belfast designs. Meet artists at work in studio spaces while discovering clothing, jewellery, prints, homewares, cards, and candles in a beautiful space on South Ann Street.
- All age groups enjoy watching the artists at work in their studios in Born and Bred
- For dinner, head to Victoria Square with lots of choice including Zizzi, Five Guys, and the Kitchen Bar.
Day 5: You decide!
By now you will know that Belfast’s has so much to offer, you could stay for days and days. Today, all decisions are yours…
- We HIGHLY recommend
Cityside Retail & Leisure Park Just north of Cathedral Quarter, this is one of Northern Ireland’s largest leisure and retail developments. Soon to be home to The Grimm Hotel by Cahoots NI, opening in October at our festival, Cityside comprises Moviehouse Cinema, Black Axe Throwing, Funky Monkey soft play area, Virtual Reality City X, Lost City Indoor Golf, Galaxy Bingo Hall, a health and leisure club, and several retail stores. Oh and there’s ample free parking. https://www.facebook.com/CitysideBelfast/
Be sure to check out The Grimm Hotel by Cahoots NI that opens its doors for the first time at BIAF this October 12-31. We promise you will have experienced nothing quite like this before. Featuring magic, music, cutting edge technology and some of the most recognisable characters from fairytale folklore, Cahoots NI’s The Grimm Hotel takes inspiration from the much loved ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ in this groundbreaking new walk-through theatre experience.
- Alternative choices
- You could walk to Belfast Castle and take in the stunning views of Cave Hill OR
- Take a deep dive into Belfast’s characters, history, and contemporary story with Northern Ireland Tourist Guide Association. Guided adventures range from the Belfast City, Belfast Cathedral Quarter and CS Lewis tours to the Titanic Quarter, Linen Quarter and Pubs of Belfast tours. https://nitga.co.uk/tours/
- Be sure to check out the dedicated tours taking place during our festival.
BELFAST INTERNATIONAL festival programme with your FAMILY Belfast adventure.
Tell the world about Belfast!
VISIT AND come back