Belfast is only an hour’s flight from home - your perfect weekend getaway awaits
It’s never easy to know how to spend a weekend getaway. Getting to grips with if you’ll see all those sites friends have recommended or if you’ll catch the sun can be the source of some real anxiety.
But choose the right city, at the right time of year with a well-organised itinerary and you’ll be in for a treat. Belfast will be the city you’re telling friends they need to see.
It truly is a place that will leave you in amazement at the history, art, food, and vibrant music scene which is enjoying a popular resurgence. You’ll be able to firmly say that you can easily experience what this charming city has to offer in only 48 hours.
Whether you're looking to absorb yourself in the culture of local and globally renowned artists alike, or looking for a cosy pub to down a pint of Guinness while listening to the sound of Irish Uilleann pipes - there’s something for everyone in Belfast to enjoy on a weekend break.
There are luxury hotels to rival most top-end experiences in other European capitals - such as the Culloden Estate & Spa or the Grand Central Hotel Belfast right in the city centre. You might even see some of the art leftover from the International Art + Sculpture Fair 2023 at The Culloden too which is curated by Gormleys Gallery - also located in Belfast.
The owner of the gallery, Oliver Gormley, often stays on site while the fair takes place (this year, that was from 19 August to 10 September). A few big names with prints and original pieces on-site include Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol and works from the designs of Salvador Dali. They’re even on sale too for those looking for a new art piece to dominate their home.
And a recent £750k revamp of the spa facilities makes it a great place to relax in the evening before heading down to the Cultra Inn - also on the estate - for a traditional Irish pub dinner. Within moments of arriving, it’s easy for me to see why The Culloden has joined the very exclusive list of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
Thanks to Hastings Hotels and Tourism Ireland’s Northern Irish team, Belfast is ready to be experienced for the first time in arguably the best way possible. After a brief hour’s flight, you’ll find yourself looking at some sites familiar to other British town centres, but with a very different atmosphere and culture. You’ll be in the beating heart of Belfast before you know it - and there are a few things you’ll need to make sure you do.
Belfast is a city packed with many familiar features of other cities - stunning Victorian architecture, some modern tall buildings, and a great sense of industrialism from the past. But that’s where the similarities arguably end - and a traditional black cab tour is not only a must, but shows you exactly why this is the case.
This is also a city where lines of division are still drawn. And many gates and fences splitting Unionist and Loyalist territories still exist. It’s quite something to see and any good taxi driver in the city will have a tale or two to tell you about a time many still remember with horror, and others might fail to comprehend.
You’ll also want to make sure you head to Whites Tavern - the oldest tavern in the city. A filling pub meal with generous portions will keep you fuelled for a day on your feet and you might even be able to catch some rugby. Oh and once again, Guinness is customary.
Tourism Ireland runs a host of excursions and experiences across the island of Ireland including The Traditional Music Trail. Black Cab Tours of the city are also run by the marketing as well as stays in unique resorts and lodges, and great days out in nature along the Causeway Coastal Route.
Another ‘must’ during your time in Belfast is the Titanic Belfast - the city’s museum dedicated to the famous ship built there. The museum underwent a £4.5 million refurbishment and only reopened earlier this year. There are eye-opening exhibits on how the ship was built, what it was like on board, how it came to sink and displays dedicated to those who died among recollections of survivors. It truly is a breathtaking maritime museum. The scale of the building puts the size of the ship into perspective too as it stands as tall as the ship was before it was launched.
If you think you’d run out of things to do in Belfast after all of this, you’d be wrong. Traditional Irish music is as popular now as it has ever been - as any musician leading the Tourism Northern Ireland trail will let you know - and it truly is an experience to see a room come to life when various slip and slip-jigs are being played.
The music is unlike anything heard anywhere else and adds something vibrant to the usual pub experience.
Luxury is also an experience you can find in Belfast, and the palace for this is the Grand Central Hotel Belfast. A grand evening here has to start at the Observatory on the top floor. Grab a cocktail and enjoy views of the city - there simply isn’t a corner of it that isn’t visible from up here. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better spot for a classy drink anywhere.
Once you’re done, it’s time to head to the Seahorse Restaurant where you’ll have time to enjoy an eight-course taster menu recently launched by Executive Head Chef Damian Tumilty.
It’s carefully curated with amazing food like roast Turbot, and roast Sirloin of Moiled Irish Beef - all eloquently packed with flavour. Each meal is also carefully paired with wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rias Baixas in Spain. You’ll undoubtedly come away scouring the web for a bottle of at least one wine which has satisfied your palate.
Belfast is an exciting city full of life that needs to be experienced to be truly understood. So what are you waiting for?
Those who have not yet discovered Belfast can experience the very best of the city with Hastings Hotels’ brand new ‘48 hours in Belfast’ package.
The Weekend Getaway Package costs from £269 per night including a full Irish Breakfast.
Suites at Culloden Estate & Spa (https://www.cullodenestateandspa.com// 028 9042 1066) start from £650 per night and Garden Rooms from £350 per night, including breakfast.
Suites at The Grand Central Hotel Belfast (www.hastingshotels.com/grand-central // 028 9047 1066) start from £650 per night and a double room from £300 per night, including breakfast.
For more information about the Seahorse Restaurant and to make a reservation, please visit www.grandcentralhotelbelfast.com.