Day 1: make your heart sing!
1. Wake up! You are going to St. George’s Market
Make your heart sing with an early morning stroll through the bustle of Belfast’s iconic St Georges 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
- Check out 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.
- Sunday food, craft, and antique market: food remains a highlight with Belfast’s craft and art producers taking centre stage
2. Stroll to Belfast City Hall
One of Belfast’s most iconic buildings. Belfast City Hall 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.
Good to know:
- Located in Donegall Square
- Facing north, it is placed between the commercial and business areas of Belfast’s City Centre
- There is a large green that is ideal for picnics.
- Book in for a FREE one-hour tour. The guides here are BRILLIANT!
- Be sure to check out the visitor exhibition on the ground floor
3. Grab Lunch
A picnic: Think smart and plan! Pick up something at St. George’s Market for an outdoor City Hall picnic.
Go Asian fusion at Jumon. Tasty, healthy, and creative cooking, specialising in vegetarian and vegan dishes. Tucked away on Fountain Street, close to Belfast City Hall.
Treat yourself… at Home. BIAF recommends the feel-good food served up at Home. Within a short distance from Belfast City Hall on Wellington Place. The menu is ever-changing with dietary needs including vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free catered for.
Check out other options in EAT
4. Go West to Belfast’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 and workshops.
Good to know:
- Bia is on site, serving hearty food, teas, and coffees in relaxed surroundings.
- If you do not have your own transport, you can grab a taxi or a bus to reach West Belfast
- Don’t miss the Irish language and Irish interest book shop.
- Check out the innovative programme content to find options of interest to you.
- Listen out or join in with locals speaking the Irish language
5. Stretch your afternoon
There is lots to see and do in West Belfast. If you have time to spare BIAF recommends a visit to The James Connolly Visitor Centre. Located only yards from where Connolly lived on the Falls Road, Áras Uí Chonghaile is a modern, inspirational, visitor centre exploring the story of James Connolly. Don’t miss the library on the first floor.
6. It’s been a busy day! Have dinner.
So much choice… why not try The Crown or Mourne Seafood Bar?
Check out other options at EAT
The Crown | a piece of Belfast history
Traditional pub dating back to 1826, now owned by the National Trust. Known for its eclectic range of real ales and its hearty classic pub food, enjoy the lively Belfast buzz, or choose to have a quiet moment in a comfy snug!
Mourne Seafood Bar | a seafood lover’s paradise!
Enjoy a variety of fish dishes including fresh shellfish hand-selected from independently run beds. Located a stone’s throw off the main Royal Avenue shopping street on Bank Square.
- If you are staying in self-catering, you can also simply buy from the on-site deli and fishmonger at Mourne Seafood Bar.
- Pop next door for a nightcap in Kellys Cellars, dating from 1720, renowned for its lively trad music sessions.
Day 2: Victorian Belfast. Today is all about the Queen’s Quarter.
1. Get the day started with Queen’s University
Feel the buzz of the academic campus at Queen’s University. Learn about its history and illustrious alumni, including the Nobel Prize recipient Seamus Heaney.
Visit the Naughton Gallery at Queens in the historic Lanyon Building with a focus on contemporary visual arts, featuring work from the University’s collection, touring exhibitions and shows by both local and international artists. (Open 11am-4pm Tues-Sun)
- Pick up a map from the Queen’s University welcome centre for a self-guided campus tour
- Stop and admire the diverse style of architecture
- Check QUB What’s On programme to see if there is a concert in the Harty Room
2. Stroll over to the Botanic Gardens
First established in 1828, the Botanic Gardens are public gardens occupying 28-acres on Stranmillis Road. Home to the Palm House, Tropical Ravine, an extensive rose garden, long herbaceous borders, and rare oaks such as the hornbeam-leafed oak planted in the 1880s.
- Do not miss the Palm House and Tropical Ravine
- Breathe deep. This beautiful reflective space is wonderful for calming an occupied mind!
- While in the area, call into 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.
3. Head for the Ulster Museum
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. Definitely worth a visit to the Ulster Museum
4. Have lunch
Enjoy lunch at the Ulster Museum’s on site Loaf Café overlooking the Botanic Gardens.
- Be prepared! You can lose yourself for hours in the Ulster Museum.
- Afterwards, chill out by stopping for a coffee or a browse through shops on nearby Lisburn Road.
5. Take time out to eat dinner
Deans at Queens – Bar and grill with a glorious terrace in a leafy location overlooking the superb architecture of Methodist College. Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, this is a quality venue with carefully cooked dishes that are packed with flavour.
French Village – Natural. Uncomplicated. Utterly delicious food. From home baked desserts and breads to burgers to Ulster fries and comfort food. Great for brunch too.
Check out other options at EAT
Day 3: Let’s go East-side
Ease into the day with a stroll down Ballyhackamore Road or Belmont Road. These are popular munching and brunching spots!
Make your way towards 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
- Check out JACK Coffee Bar in the EastSide Visitor Centre at CS Lewis Square. Known as “Jack” locally, delicious artisan foods are available here. Ideal spot for grabbing an informal lunch. Check if there is an art exhibition upstairs.
Take a stroll up the Holywood Road to the Strand Arts Centre (close to the start of Belmont Road). 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.
A short distance from CS Lewis Square, craft beer lovers will appreciate Boundary Brewing based on the site of a former linen spinning mill. Specialising in modern American and traditional Belgian beers, check out the tap room sessions (Fridays and Saturdays) at this independent cooperative brewery with a large cult following.
What to do for dinner?
Bring the day full circle by heading for Ballyhackamore Road, an area that is packed with diverse fantastic eateries.
Cyprus Avenue – across from its namesake, which Van Morrison made famous, this recently extended bistro with a wonderful covered outdoor eating space offers gorgeous fresh locally sourced produce. Look out for fresh daily fish and seafood specials. An extensive drinks and cocktail list complements the Avenue’s take on modern European fusion cooking at its best.
Neills Hill – this neighbourhood brasserie serves up small plates, local cuts, fresh fish, a dedicated menu as well as a great value mid-week set menu. The decor is modish with artwork from local illustrator Peter Strain, a popular talking point.
Day 4: dive into the vibrant arts community in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter
1. Begin with visit to the galleries at The MAC
The MAC is a cultural hub with an eclectic programme of exhibitions, theatre performances, experimental works visual art, theatre, dance, and family workshops.
BIAF Tip: In need of an edible boost? The MAC Café Bar serves delicious lunch, brunch coffee & treats.
2. Take a Street Art Tour
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 these new icons of Belfast.
3. Retail therapy
Afterwards, chill for a bit by exploring some 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.
4. For lunch, check out:
Black Box | beer, pizza & entertainment
The Green Room serves cracking craft beers, along with homemade pizzas and coffees. The Black Box is a home for live music, theatre, literature, comedy, film, visual art, science, circus, cabaret, check out the busy performance schedule for when you are in Belfast.
2Taps | tapas & wine bar
From the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, with a relaxed outdoor terrace, 2Taps Wine Bar serves an extensive and tasty tapas menu.
5. In the afternoon, visit
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 for local artists and aspiring musicians. Visit the NI Music Exhibition (free) charting the history of Northern Ireland music from folk to Snow Patrol, featuring Van Morrison, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, and Gary Moore. A must for music fans and those new to Belfast or Northern Ireland!
- Check out Oh Yeah Music Centre’s café. Spot local and rising music talent
- If your diary coincides with a Seedhead Arts Street Art Tour, don’t think about it, just do it!
6. Dining out
You really are spoilt for choice in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The following options get the BIAF vote!
Check out other options at EAT
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.
Muddlers Club | Seasonal. Hidden away between Waring Street and Exchange Place, Muddlers is a Michelin star restaurant offering elegant dishes in a cool atmosphere.
Sample the buzzing nightlife in the area’s many pubs and bars, see PUBS
Day 5: Belfast your way
By now you will know that Belfast’s has so much to offer, you could stay for days and days
Today, take time out to wander. Not forgetting to look up to witness Cave Hill and the iconic ‘Napoleon’s Nose’ landmark rising to 370m (1,207ft). If you get the chance to hike to the top, you will see stunning scenery overlooking the city of Belfast.
Check out 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.
BIAF Tip: Be sure to check out the dedicated Cultural Walking Tours taking place during our festival
Once our festival programme is launched, make sure to integrate it with your adventures in Belfast.
We have teamed up Hastings Hotels, our official accommodation partner, to offer special rates to guests attending our festival (subject to availability). Check out WHERE TO STAY
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