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Visit Belfast during Covid-19
Visit Belfast during Covid-19
Posted at: 11:00pm , 25 Oct 2020 By James Eacott

Visit Belfast during Covid-19

Laura Jones travelled to Belfast at the beginning of October for a city break. I wanted to share with you my experience of travelling in these current times, as well as write a general blog with a suggested itinerary. This was my first trip to Northern Ireland, so we spent our time sightseeing and exploring the city and coast.

Airport - Journey

We arrived at Bristol airport two hours before departure, allowing time for any additional measures. As you enter Bristol airport you walk through a white tent which checks your temperature. Baggage drop off has screens between the self-service kiosks and there are hand sanitising stations everywhere. There wasn't a queue at security and additional space had been made to maintain social distance whilst re-packing your bags. Infact, the airport was very quiet and a pleasant experience, we had time to sit and have a coffee and a bite to eat, as well as buying a sandwich from the shops.

The EasyJet flight from Bristol to Belfast was 50 minutes. Masks are mandatory; however, you can remove briefly whilst eating or drinking.

We took the Airport Express 300 service, which is located outside of arrivals and a 35-minute bus journey to the centre, Europa Bus Station and operates every 15 minutes. If you download the Translink app you can purchase tickets in advance and see further information, a return ticket cost £11.50 per adult.

Belfast City Hall

We stayed at the Maldron Hotel City Belfast, a well-located, central hotel, within walking distance to all attractions and a three-minute walk from the bus station. The reception staff were always very friendly and informative - upon check in we were informed that our room was located to the front of the building as there are currently building works behind the hotel. 

Day 1 Sunday City Centre

After arriving late afternoon, we went for a stroll around the city to get our bearings. We walked to Belfast City Hall, which looks just as impressive lit up at night and Victoria Square, a large shopping, and leisure complex. Unfortunately, the dome offering 365 views was currently closed. We had planned and pre booked our dinner reservations in advance. The first evening we went to Stix and Stones which I can highly recommend, the restaurant specialises in steak and seafood and the concept of cooking your own steak on hot stones, at the table was a novelty as well as tasty. Staff were very welcoming and friendly and there was a great atmosphere.

Day 2 Monday - Titanic Museum, South Belfast & Cathedral Quarter

I was very excited for today as we had booked to visit the Titanic museum. We decided to walk the Titanic Trail, a 30-minute walk, sign posted through the city and along the river Lagon. Passing the Salmon of knowledge, 'The Big Fish' statue is worth a photo stop. 

The Titanic museum was an impressive building filled with lots of information and various galleries on life in Belfast, working conditions, emphasis on the building of the ship, the launch, sinking and discovery of the wreck. There is even a shipyard ride which you can go on halfway through. I would recommend the audio guide - it costs a little more but I think you get a lot more from the exhibition as there is a lot of information to read. We spent over 2 hours in the museum overall. 

Dunluce Castle

After the museum we walked to Queens quarter in South Belfast, where the botanical gardens and Queens University are. Unfortunately, the Ulster museum located in the gardens was closed on a Monday, the museum is free so check opening times if you wish to visit. This evening we walked to the Cathedral Quarter, an upbeat cultural hub with street art, pubs, and restaurants. Being a Monday evening and in current times the area was quiet. We had booked to dine at Made in Belfast, where I had the best prawn and crab risotto I have ever tasted! We went to the Dirty Onion afterwards for a drink, a bar which had been recommended to us and we were able to walk in, normally the venue hosts live music 7 days a week but due to current restrictions a recording of the live Irish music was being played.

Day 3 Tuesday - Giants Causeway Tour

Today we joined a coach tour with Irish Tour Tickets from Belfast to the Giants Causeway. We had considered hiring a car, however due to only having the one day we thought it would be easier and more enjoyable to relax on an organised tour. The coach was full, masks adhered to and we all had a mandatory temperature check before boarding. We were pleased we had joined the tour as the guide was brilliant and we learnt so much about the history whilst driving from site to site. The Giants Causeway and Game of Thrones tour had been combined, due to some sights such as Carrick rope bridge currently being shut. As we had both watched Game of Thrones this suited us, and we really enjoyed visiting Carrickfergus Castle, Carnlough harbour, Cushendun and the caves, Antrim Coastal Road drive, Giants Causeway, Dark Hedges and Dunluce Castle.

Giants Causeway

That evening we ate at the Crown liquor saloon, a recommendation from our hotel for a traditional Irish stew. The pub was once a Victorian gin Palace dating back to the 1820's (refurbished since!) still with many original features. You'll find carved-mahogany booths, stained glass windows and gas lamps.

Tip - sit in booth F, the bell still works to ring for service!

Day 4 Wednesday Cab Tour - Belfast Murals Tour

We really wanted to find out more about the Cities history, so we took a cab tour.  A very informative driver/guide collected us from our hotel and began the tour. We found this both fascinating and insightful, surprised at how recent the troubles in Northern Ireland were, the peace agreement only signed in 1998. The tour began in Shankill Road, a protestant/British area. We visited the Peace Walls designed to separate the Nationalist and Unionists populations after the outbreak of the 1969 riots. We then travelled to Falls Road to see the memorial garden in Bombay Street seen on the Catholic/Nationalists side of the wall, as well as visiting the iconic Bobby Sands Mural. Our guide recommended a series to watch on BBC I player, to learn about the history called Spotlight on the troubles, a secret history. We have started watching this and this really is interesting.

After our tour we went for a coffee and bite to eat in the centre. Later we visited a rooftop bar called The Perch before collecting our luggage and heading to the airport. We wish we had found the Perch earlier on, a great relaxed spot for a cocktail, located right next to our hotel.

Bobby Sands Mural

Journey Home

We caught the Airport Express 300 back to Belfast International Airport and had a comfortable easy journey back to Bristol. 

Final Points

  • We felt safe and that Covid-19 Guidelines were applied in all restaurants, hotel, attractions we visited.
  • It's important to spend some time organising and planning your trip ahead of travel, due to many attractions and restaurants needing to be pre booked in advance. In fact, this makes for a very enjoyable seamless trip away. 
  • We felt that this was a sufficient time for what we did, the city is compact and easily walkable. If you planned to stay in Belfast and not venture out of the city a two-night stay would be sufficient.  
  • Belfast was one-two degrees Celsius colder than Bristol.
  • Since our trip away, Northern Ireland has since introduced further Coronavirus restrictions.
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