Deal Kid was born in The Rotunda Hospital so my status as a Dubliner can not be questioned. However, it pains me to admit that taken as a whole, Belfast has more to offer tourists than Dublin. Here are my top five reasons why, please add your own (or tell me why I’m wrong) in the comments!
5. Tea on the Titanic: Some would say the entire Titanic Belfast museum, and it is quite striking, but I’m focusing on the Tea held every Sunday. The Tea, which especially for kids is a good value, is enough food for two meals if you plan it right and is held in a historically accurate re-creation of the grand staircase of the Titanic. The Deal Kids didn’t have any real understanding of what a “Tea” was and I can’t imagine a better introduction. Add in the fact that the Amazing Race filmed in that exact spot and you have a winner!
4. The (lack of) crowds. We went directly back to Dublin from Belfast and our first thought was “wow, it’s SO crowded!” Belfast just didn’t feel rushed or harried at all, no matter where or when we went. Dublin pretty much always felt bustling, which can be dynamic, but can also be draining with two kids in tow. In Belfast, tourists are still a bit of a novelty, so folks were much more likely to want to chat…not that any Irishman anywhere isn’t up for a chat! Also, the Belfast accent is MUCH stronger than the Dublin one…not better per se, just more “Irish” (compare say a Maine accent to a Mid-Western USA one).
3. The Natural Beauty (and Ease of Getting to it): Here I’m referring to how easy it is to get out of the city if you want to see some natural wonders by car and the natural wonders themselves, and I’m giving it to Belfast hands down. I related in detail the hassles of car rentals in the republic of Ireland compared to the UK (Belfast). As far as the sights themselves, at this point I’ve seen just about every shore in Ireland and I don’t think any compares to the Antrim coast drive north from Belfast to Giant’s Causeway. I also want to mention driving safety here. Maybe it’s just me, but I just felt the UK side was safer; in fact the week of driving in Western Ireland was about the most unsafe I’ve EVER felt driving, and I’ve driven in some unsavory places!
2. The History: This may seem a strange choice given much of Belfast has almost no age to it (courtesy of Hitler– did you know that? Me neither!), but a visit to the Ulster Museum shows that Belfast has been ground zero for conflict for pretty much all of it’s history. A Black Cab tour is highly recommended if you have time, but one quick drive around and you’ll find yourself deep in the neighborhoods with the wall murals and razor-wire fences- they’re all still there, living memorials to how little it takes for people to kill each other. Like your history with a little more age to it? Take the train or a car to nearby Derry- lots of castles and such there.
1. THE VALUE!!!: Not even close.
In Dublin, we paid an average of 11 Euro for a pub meal and 5 for a pint of Guinness. At current exchange rates that’s $21 for a single pub meal. In Belfast, we paid 6.99 pounds for a pub meal that INCLUDED a pint of Guinness, or $10.57!
How about hotels? Using Radissons downtown b/c they have properties in both cities that are comparable in location and amenities that I have seen and can vouch for. I had to pick different Fridays in September to get standard room availability:
Using points the difference is not nearly as stark, Dublin is 44k vs. Belfast being 38k, so clearly earn your points in Belfast to spend elsewhere! I’ll be publishing a full review of the Radisson Blu Belfast soon, but definitely give it high marks. There’s also a Park Inn in Belfast in a good location at 28k that gets good reviews.
Please share your thoughts! Have I convinced you to give Belfast a go?
Yes! I’m convinced! Belfast sounds terrific, and better yet, it seems like the kind of place that would fit into a 5-day getaway, a time constraint I seem to have more often than not. Officially on my list (albeit with a hundred other places).
Cool! What you do for a 5 day break is easy: fly into Dublin, catch a cab or airport bus to Connolly station (with 4 we broke even with a cab, with 2 the bus is marginally cheaper), then take the “Enterprise” train right into downtown. It’s a two hour ride, gorgeous and easy-peasy. Be sure to do it round trip as the one way is almost as much! Also a bus that goes directly from Dublin airport to downtown Belfast for about the same price but the train ride is SO pretty it be would a shame to miss it.
Regarding the value, that’s not enough information. You have to provide where you chose to eat, on average, in Dublin versus Belfast. I can eat quality meals and drink cheaper pints in Dublin than I ever could in Belfast. Just have to know where to go.
Fair points…posting on the road so a bit fast and dirty. “Pub Grub” refers to a fish/chips, pie, steak and mushy peas, etc. and a pint. etc. I lived in Dublin so submit to you I “know where to go” (see my post about Arnotts Cafeteria), but with the recent changes in the Euro/Pound exchange rate Belfast is much cheaper (and you might a free show to boot with all the protests;). Also remember I have two kids in tow so my criteria about where I take my pints and meals is probably MUCH different than yours.
Food aside, let’s just use the Guinness index as food quality can vary. In Belfast at the Radisson bar we paid 4 pounds ($6.04). Most places we paid 2.50 to 3 (3.78-4.53) and at Wellstone’s it came free with our meal. In Dublin (now remember I lived there so know the place pretty well) we couldn’t touch a pint under 5 Euro ($6.50) anywhere in Dublin 1 or 4 and 6 Euro (7.84) was more common.
That cupcake…OMG. Strawberry frosting? I must know.
I would kill for that scone and clotted cream.
What’s in the Vanilla Bean cup?
And, is the candy cane an unusual garnish for something mint-flavored? I love eating abroad. So weird, yet so delicious.
I think I’ll go raid the pantry now…
More like a cream than a frosting. Clotted Cream was amazing. Ice cream in the Vanilla bean cup.
Wait till you see the grown-up Tea setting…it’s twice the size!
I visited Belfast in ’96. Tourists were are real novelty then. People were scared to visit, with good reason as things were very tense then. We got shown around by a local and it was the highlight of my summer abroad. Interesting place and the people are so nice.
Thanks for sharing, Linda. My first visit was 2003 and the troubles were definitely not far in the rear view mirror.
Belfast I found people to be more sincere and not so sugary.
I preferred Dublin on the whole,more artistic.
Dublin is a lot closer to Beautiful scenery than Belfast . As a Dub did you forget that the Wicklow national park is just south of the city , where the North coast is well over an hours drive from Belfast . You might think it is a nice place in Belfast but live here as Dub and I will assure you you will see they are extremely 2 faced people , more often than not . And as for history are you joking Dublin is over a 1000 years old with vast stages of history and home to some of the worlds best writers . I am sorry I completely disagree Belfast and Dublin shouldnt be compared . One is very much larger than the other and Dublin has far more to see when it comes to buildings and amenities. This silly stream is a case of the grass is greener on the other side .
Oh dear Gina. You can’t possibly suggest that ‘Belfast people are two-faced’ ..that’s a huge generalisation. I am from Dublin, now living in Galway. For the record, I find Belfast people to be so very sincere, extremely welcoming and always courteous. I do not like to generalise negatively, so I will not comment on my personal experience of Dublin folk.