Belfast isn’t your typical tourist city. There’s no ‘tourist quarter’ packed with museums and galleries and cluttered with souvenir shops selling plastic tat, or grand cafés gouging you for daring to sit down while you drink your flat white and watch the city go about its business.
Tourism in Belfast is a little behind the times, and you can thank the Troubles for that – it’s not so long ago that the city centre was a ghost town at night, but thankfully those days are gone. And it’s true that it’s taken us a bit of time to catch up with the rest of the world on the tourism front. But the good news is that makes us a bit friendlier than most tourist cities – the smiles are more genuine and we have more time to chat or help a lost traveller find their bearings.
It’s also fair to say that most of the tourist attractions we do have are to be found just outside the city centre.
And maybe because of this, some people think there isn’t much to do or that the city isn’t much fun on a Sunday morning before the shops and pubs open. But they would be wrong. Very, very wrong. These people are idiots, ignore them.
Our blog is here to help you discover just some of the cool things you can do in Belfast on a Sunday morning. Just in case you need some inspiration.
All within walking distance (or a short bus ride) of the city centre you have:
The Ulster Museum. Open from 10.00am, it’s free and fantastic. Packed with art, history and natural science exhibition halls. Sunday mornings in the Ulster Museum should be top of anyone’s list.
Botanic Gardens. In the Queen’s Quarter on the south of the city. Open from the scrake of dawn and home to the Palm House, the Tropical Ravine and of course the museum. Make time to walk through Queens University’s main building too and check out the Quadrangle at its heart, a great place to relax, channel the intelligence of all the diligent brainiac students who study here and have some smart ideas about what to do with the rest of your day.
The Titanic Building & SS Nomadic. Open from 9am. You can fill more than a few hours of your day wandering around the Titanic’s interactive galleries and exploring the SS Nomadic before the pubs open. Spoiler Alert: It sinks.
There’s loads more to be found in the Titanic Quarter too – a themed Game of Thrones’ stained glass windows trail, various sculptures and murals, art installations, cafes and tons of maritime history of course. If you fancy a dander you can even head up to the Thompson Dry Dock, from where the liner was launched.
W5. Open from 10am. If you’ve got a stinking hangover and the kids are doing your head in, just bring them here, fire them through the door and let them run wild to discover over 250 interactive exhibits while you stumble around with an orange juice in your hand and munching on painkillers. You won’t be the first bad parent to do this.
Crumlin Road Gaol. Open from 10am. This Victorian prison is now Belfast’s No.1 tourist attraction and a firm favourite. Their one hour, self-guided tour comes highly recommended. If you’re currently considering a life of crime this will probably put you right off and keep you on the straight and narrow.
St. George’s Market. Five minutes walk from the City Hall and open from 10am, the Food, Local Crafts and Antiques market is excellent craic, if a little over-populated with hipsters. This Victorian market has deservedly won lots of awards, and has live music throughout the day. Probably the best place to get a sausage and egg soda and a good cup of tea on a Sunday morning in the city too.
The one place that isn’t open but really should be? – Belfast City Hall, an impressive building inside and out, with amazing architecture, exhibitions and stained-glass windows. It’s a firm favourite for guests to the city from Monday to Friday, but one that the Council have kept closed on weekends for more than 2 years now…
And then of course there are the tours:
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus tours. From 10.00am. 1 hour panoramic tours of Belfast, taking in loads of sights all from the comfort of an open top bus. Deservedly a huge favourite of the cruise ship passengers who just have a few hours in the city and want to see as much as possible. They start from Donegall Square West and visit all quarters of the city.
Black Taxi Tours. There are loads of taxi tours in Belfast. They’re probably the most famous tours the city has to offer. They’ll pick you up wherever suits you and drop you off again at the end. Because they are taxis as well as tours. The clue is in the name. Of vastly differing quality, it ‘s well worth doing your homework before choosing who you want to hire.
Walking Tours. There are quite a few walking tours available in the city centre on a Sunday morning. Our favourites include Seedhead Arts who do a fantastic walking tour of the street art in the city centre, and Taste & Tour who run amazing food tours, and of course we run two tours ourselves; A History of Terror, and the Best of Belfast.
Self-Guided Audio Tours. And for those who prefer to explore independently, in 2020 we launched our own app, ‘DC Tours Belfast’, with a range of free and premium self-guided audio tours available for download. Free tours include a really immersive tour called ‘Your Belfast’, the ‘Titanic Quarter Trail on the Maritime Mile’ which creates a trail between the city centre and the Titanic Quarter and even a ‘Line of Duty Locations Trail’ for a bit of fun. Premium tours include ‘West Belfast: Peacewalls, Murals & More’, the ‘Queens Quarter Trail’ and the ‘Best of Belfast Trail’. Some are even available in French and Spanish.
And if you still can’t decide what to do in the city on a Sunday just call into Visit Belfast’s shop on Donegall Square North. They’re open from 11.00am (earlier when a cruise ship is docked) and they’ll be happy to help you find something to do.
Or you could of course go to church. We have millions of those too.
Here endeth the lesson.