Last updated on January 6th, 2019
House sitting opportunities often lead my family to places we’d never dreamed of visiting. We remember them all fondly and are so glad a house sitting opportunity introduced us to the lovely cities and off the beaten track – little towns we’re now so glad we got to know. All of those destinations evoked a curiosity and a bit of excitement because of the unknown.
But one invited even more interest and anticipation – Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Best known for “The Troubles” during the 1970’s and 80’s. Belfast, during that time of intense conflict was designated one of the world’s most dangerous cities. In more recent years Belfast has undergone a remarkable transformation. Today, the city is considered one of the safest in the UK!
When we saw the sit we remembered the struggles and violence in Belfast we’d seen on the news long ago but also remembered all of the great things we’d been seeing and hearing about the city recently.
We applied for the assignment because we wanted to see the transformation with our own eyes. Belfast did not disappoint! Here’s all the incredible stuff we saw and did house sitting in Belfast.
Getting To & Around Belfast
We were travelling and house sitting throughout Wales and England when we landed the assignment. All told for the six weeks we spent in the UK including our sit in Belfast we spent an average of $55 a day for our family of three!
To get to Belfast we opted to take a train to Liverpool and jump on a ferry to arrive in the city. Doing so was cheaper than flying and we got to see a lot more of England choosing to travel this way. Train travel can be expensive in England but we found booking in advance online and checking thetrainline.com and trainsplit.com to compare pricing and book our tickets made it a lot more affordable.
We didn’t have the use of a car in Belfast so we took public transportation. Doing so was easy but somewhat expensive. Buying round trip family all day tickets made our trips cheaper. Belfast is a small delightfully compact city so we found taking one bus to the center and walking to everything we wanted to see and do then one bus home was easy and enjoyable.
All told for the ferry, public transportation, and three cabs we took during our three week stay we spent $200.
Fun Things Locals Do
The best thing we did was to arrive 2 days before our house sit was to start. We decided to do this to attend a huge cultural event in the city, Belfast’s Culture Night.
Booking a hotel during this time would have been really expensive so we decided to book a room in a highly rated Airbnb hosts home. Doing so was the best thing we did because we learned the best places that locals in Belfast love!
Here’s where we visited thanks to our awesome Airbnb host, David.
St. Georges Market
David was a vendor at St. Georges Market, an award winning UK market and one of Belfast’s oldest attractions. The market happens every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There are so many awesome food vendors, produce growers, fish retailers, and local crafters at this market! The atmosphere is amazing; live music, delicious smells, and an energizing buzz of chatting locals, tourists, and vendors.
While this market is a tourist attraction the delicious fare you can buy from food vendors is really quite cheap! There’s a huge variety of local specialties to enjoy. We always had a hard time deciding what to eat but loved grabbing a cheap, delicious lunch at the market whenever we could.
Happy Hour in Belfast
Belfast is full of pubs! It felt like one was always within easy walking distance where ever we were in the city. This made it hard to decide on the best place for us to grab a pint! David recommended his favourite pub, The Morning Star, and told us about happy hour in Belfast.
Many pubs offer nice discounts on pints and cocktails during certain hours of the day-usually late afternoon to early evening. We enjoyed some delicious beers at great discounts during happy hour, between 5-7pm Monday through Friday at The Morning Star pub!
The Incredible Urban Parks
Belfast has a great variety of urban parks, but two came highly recommended by locals so we had to check them out.
The first one we visited was the Botanic Gardens, and important venue for concerts, festivals, and other local events in the city. As luck would have it a free festival was happening the day we decided to visit! The park is an important part of Belfast’s Victorian heritage. It was established in the 1820’s in response to public interest in botany and horticulture. The park contained exotic trees and impressive plant collections from around the world, some of which can still be seen there today.
The Ulster Museum is located inside the park. Admission is free and it’s loaded with a treasure trove of Northern Ireland’s past and present stories and other incredible collections. We enjoyed seeing the dinosaurs and mummies and learning more about “The Troubles” inside this beautiful museum.
The second park was recommended to us by the homeowners we were house sitting for. Belvoir Forest Park is an incredible urban expanse of towering trees and miles of trails. Literally a forest within the city, we spent hours exploring and searching for local wildlife in the park, including the two dogs we were house sitting!
Unmissable Tourist Attractions
Belfast has so much history and Northern Ireland is loaded with incredible natural beauty it was hard to narrow down the things we wanted to see and do there. Great value for money is always a priority for us when it comes to visiting tourist venues. Here’s our list of tourist attractions that were free or worth every penny and shouldn’t be missed.
Victoria Square Shopping Center
While this mall is the biggest and brightest in Northern Ireland, we didn’t visit it to shop. We went to check out the view from its massive sparkling glass observation dome!
The four level shopping mall houses over 70 shops and many great restaurants and cafes but we’re not much for shopping or mall food. The real highlights are the historic Jaffe Fountain and The Dome!
The view from the observation deck is spectacular. You can see every part of Belfast! Make sure you connect with the resident expert Gerry. He offers free information about the important places in and around Belfast that can be seen from The Dome.
The Titanic Quarter
The Titanic quarter is a huge waterfront attraction buzzing with a riverside entertainment district, historic maritime landmarks, and the world’s most extensive Titanic themed museum. Built on the site where the RMS Titanic was actually designed and built, a visit to this area is an absolute must!
Giant’s Causeway Tour
Visiting the Giant’s Causeway was a priority for us. Being the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland and one of Ireland’s most stunning landscapes this was our favourite experience by far! There are lots of tour providers that run tours from Belfast. We chose an all day tour to get to stop and see other attractions along the Causeway route.
Our Overall Impression of House Sitting in Belfast
We’d give house sitting in Belfast a 9 out of 10.
We loved house sitting in Belfast. The lovely people, the rich culture, the incredible things to see and do made this house sit one of our favourites. The only things that prevented it from being a 10 were the prices for public transit and for eating out. Both were among the highest costs of anywhere else we’ve travelled.
House sitting, visiting the local favourites recommended by our Airbnb host, David and the homeowners, and eating in helped us do a lot of incredible things and still keep our costs low. All told, we spent an average of $47 a day during our three week stay in Belfast.
BIO – Tracey & Rob Tullis travel full-time with their young son house sitting along the way. They explore the world looking for amazing low-cost destinations where they can live well for less. They share travel tips and advice to make destinations more affordable for travellers on their blog, the Expat Experiment.
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