Weekend in Belfast, Northern Ireland, one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge.
Trip tips: The capital city of Northern Ireland (population 333,000) has seven distinct quarters of neighborhoods. The most popular for the arts (the Mac arts venue, www.themaclive.com), dining, pubs and night life is Cathedral Quarter with some of the city’s oldest streets near St Anne’s Cathedral. Lisburn Road, 2 miles southwest of the city center, is an extension of the “Golden Mile” with high-end boutiques and Victorian and Edwardian architecture. The Titanic Quarter, 2 miles east of the center, represents the city’s ship-building history. The University in Queen’s Quarter is a lively spot for evening entertainment, cafes and bars. By day, take a tour of the campus or visit the Botanic Gardens, Ulster Museum, galleries and the quarter’s eclectic shops.
Belfast is a base from which to tour the many filming locations for “Game of Thrones” such as Dunluce Castle (Castle Greyjoy), Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Tollymore Forest Park (40 miles south) is the Haunted Forest of White Walkers in the show. Book full-day escorted “Game of Thrones” tours departing Belfast at Viator.com ($40-$75).
One of the city’s oldest attractions is St George’s Market, built 1890-1896. The covered market houses over 200 stalls selling Atlantic seafood, antiques, crafts and specialty foods from around the world. Open Fridays-Sundays with live local music. 12-20 E. Bridge St., www.belfastcity.gov.uk/tourism-venues/stgeorgesmarket.
When dialing direct, use the prefix 011 followed by 44 (country code) + 28 (city code) + the phone number shown below.
Getting there: Round-trip rates from $711 starting March 30 on JetBlue and Aer Lingus (via Boston). From $819 United/Aer Lingus (via D.C.) prior to March 30.
Stay: Harpers Boutique Bed and Breakfast, in Queen’s Quarter, is a grand Victorian townhome located within a short walk to the Central rail station or 15 minutes into the town center. Accommodations feature luxury carpets, Egyptian bedding, a seating area and heated bathroom floor. Rates from $78. 121 University St., Belfast. 9031 3025, http://harpersbelfast.wixsite.com/harpers-boutique.
Eat: Considered one of the most beautiful pubs in Ireland (built 1826), the Crown Liquor Saloon was once a Victorian gin palace. Enjoy classic dishes such as lamb, venison and wild boar, or pop in for a burger, Irish Stew ($11.25) or fish and chips with mushy peas ($15.50). 46 Great Victoria St., Belfast. 9024 3187, www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/scotlandandnorthernireland/thecrownliquorsaloonbelfast.
Experience: From Belfast, take a train north to Coleraine (100 minutes, from $9). From Coleraine, board bus service (purchase an integrated bus/rail ticket) to travel onto the Giant’s Causeway. The Causeway Coast (a World Heritage Site and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) is one of the most scenic regions and home to the Bushmills Distillery and the lovely towns of Portrush and Portstewart. Rail from Coleraine to Londonderry (45 minutes, from $5), considered one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world. In riverside Derry-Londonderry, walk along the only remaining walled city in Ireland. Completed in 1618, walls rise 26 feet high and are as much as 30 feet thick. Full timetables at www.translink.co.uk.
Stay: The Citygate Apartment has a 24-hour check-in desk, an elevator, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen, and balcony with rates from $180-$190 per night. The modern apartment is a five-minute walk to City Hall. Rent bikes just outside the front door. 18 Citygate, 2 Sussex Place, Belfast.www.airbnb.com/rooms/8332785.
Eat: The cozy Lantern bistro serves high-quality Northern Irish dishes with a varied menu. The best value is the Pre Theatre menu (5-7 p.m.) with choice of a starter, main course and dessert for $21 for two courses; $26 for three. It’s a BYO restaurant with wine corkage fee of $3.50. 58 Wellington Place, Belfast. 9032 8844, http://thelanternbelfast.uk.
Experience: Explore historic Belfast from an open-top double-decker bus. With a 48-hour pass ($14), hop on and off at any of the route’s 20 locations. While on board, hear colorful commentary from a local guide. www.belfastcitysightseeing.com. Don’t miss Belfast Castle, a parkland estate with wildlife, woodlands and vantage points for city views; free admission.
Stay: The Fitzwilliam is a four-minute walk to Victoria Street rail station and just steps to the Grand Opera House theater. This luxury boutique property offers a February at the Fitz package including bed and breakfast, a four-course dinner, chocolates and a bottle of Champagne from $250. Non-package rates from $130-$175 (breakfast for a fee). Great Victoria Street, Belfast. 9044 2080, www.fitzwilliamhotelbelfast.com.
Eat: The Barking Dog serves legendary cocktails and a signature dish: Beef Shin Burger ($14), said to take three days to prepare. This modern gastropub offers a small plates menu and fixed-price lunch and dinners (up to $40). 33-35 Malone Road, Belfast. 9066 1885, www.barkingdogbelfast.com.
Experience: The Titanic Belfast now offers three new galleries that transport visitors to Titanic’s promenade deck. Guests see and hear the ocean and feel the ship’s engines rumbling and get to meet Fredrick Dent Ray, a dining room steward and survivor, using multidimensional/sensory technology. Timed-entry tickets are $22 adults; $9 ages 5-16. A White Star Premium Pass includes admission to the Titanic Experience, Discovery Tour and SS Nomadic, the last remaining White Star Line vessel; $32 adults, $19 children. Enjoy Sunday Afternoon Tea in the opulent surroundings of the Titanic suite featuring the stunning replica staircase with jazz musicians, $30. 1 Olympic Way, Queen’s Road, Belfast. 9076 6386, www.titanicbelfast.com.
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Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.