Belfast on a budget

Belfast Castle, County Antrim, © Emerald Sky Media

Exploring Belfast doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, this energetic city can be a bargain hunter's delight – you just have to know where to look!

A culture fix for free

There are so many things to see and do in Belfast that don’t cost a thing. The Ulster Museum mixes curious oddities with an impressive collection of art and historical objects. At the Discover Ulster-Scots Centre, exhibitions, artefacts and audio-visual displays examine the close connections between Ulster and Scotland, while free tours of Belfast City Hall and the Linen Hall Library explore Belfast's history and literary heritage. And while performances do have a cover charge at the MAC (Belfast's Metropolitan Arts Centre), you can enjoy dynamic changing art exhibitions in the centre's three galleries any time, free of charge.

Lose yourself in nature

Despite being a bustling urban hub, Belfast offers countless opportunities to get out into the great outdoors. Your first stop should be Belfast Castle Estate and Cave Hill Country Park. Overlooking the city, this huge park is home to challenging walking routes with stunning views, a castle dating from the 1860s and a rocky outcrop that is said to have inspired the giant in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver’s Travels. Thrill seekers will love the tracks and trails at Barnett Demesne in South Belfast while more leisurely explorers will enjoy the ecotrail, lush arboretum and woodland walks. Back in the city, you can lose yourself in the colourful oasis of Belfast's Botanic Gardens. Be sure to stop by the Tropical Ravine, where the sweet scent of tropical plants such as banana, cinnamon and orchid perfumes the air.

Let Belfast entertain you

One of the best parts of roaming around Belfast is stumbling across a rousing music session in one of the city's cosy pubs. Head to The John Hewitt, the Duke of York, Kelly’s Cellars and Fibber Magee’s for some toe-tapping tunes and budget-friendly entertainment. Bookworms will love CS Lewis Square, dedicated to the work of the Belfast-born author. Here, you can awaken your inner child and stroll amongst the bronze sculptures of beloved characters from Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series. Fancy taking a tour? For just £10 you can tap into the beating heart of the city's music scene on the Belfast Music Tour, and end on a high note at the free-to-enter NI Music Exhibition at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, which details the legacy of music legends such as The Undertones, Van Morrison and Snow Patrol.

Get a taste for the city

If you happen to be exploring at the weekend, make sure to check out St George’s Market where delicious street food, artisan cheeses and local crafts await. For a seriously tasty lunch, head to Established Coffee, where mouthwatering pies and savoury dishes are paired with aromatic coffee blends. Slums on Bruce Street serves up flavoursome street food, packed with spices. And any good bargain hunter knows it’s all about the early bird menu! So, tuck into great food on a budget at The Muddler's Club in the Cathedral Quarter or enjoy the pre-theatre menu at The Bar + Grill at James Street South where you can enjoy two courses for under £20!    

Getting around bustling Belfast

One of the best things about Belfast is how compact it is, so stroll around and take in the essence of the city on foot. You can go a step further (pardon the pun) by taking part in the Belfast Free Walking Tour, which connects the city's fascinating history with the people who shaped it. Cyclists should take advantage of the Belfast Bike Scheme, and, if you’ve registered once, you can rent these bikes in any city worldwide, including Dublin. Choose a three-day ticket for visitors and cycle anywhere you like – maybe the Titanic Quarter or perhaps the car-free waterside Lagan Towpath. Translink has a handy Visitor Pass for the city that offers unlimited bus and rail travel for one-to-three consecutive days within the Belfast Visitor Pass Zone. Even better, this pass grants you handy discounts at attractions including Titanic Belfast, W5 (Belfast’s Interactive Discovery Centre) and Crumlin Road Gaol.

Places to stay

Your mindset on hostels is about to change! Vagabonds Belfast Hostel was designed by two experienced travellers, so you can enjoy home comfort with an urban twist along with friendly and helpful staff. Just you and your backpack? Global Village in the Queen’s Quarter might be just up your street. For a homely B&B stay with a warm welcome, book into Roseleigh House – their Ulster fry is sure to fuel you for a day of sightseeing. If you’re not sure what type of accommodation is for you, check out the wonderful places you can rent on HomeAway. From townhouse chic to beautiful penthouse apartments, you’ll find the perfect base for your trip to this historic and eclectic city.

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