Where to Stay in Belfast, UK by Best Areas and Hotels
If you’re wondering where to stay in Belfast, or where is the best area to stay in Belfast, you’re in the right place. In this article, I will give an insight into the best places to stay in Belfast for first-time visitors, couples, families, backpackers, all budget travelers; read on as I show you the best of Belfast.
No trip to Northern Ireland would be complete without a visit to its capital city, Belfast. With its origins dating back to the bronze age to its modern legacy as a major port and shipping town, Belfast has a vibrant history, that makes it an ideal destination for a city break.
Despite its compact size, Belfast is packed full of things to see and experience. Whether you want to get to grips with Irish Culture in the Gaeltacht Quarter, or explore the shipyards and docks where the titanic was built and launched, Belfast has something to excite any visitor.
Where to Stay in Belfast: Tips & Info
With so much to see during your visit to Belfast, you may be finding it difficult to decide which district is best for you to start looking for accommodation. The city is comprised of a number of distinct districts with their own unique attractions, that will appeal to different visitors.
I have a few suggestions to offer based on some of the most common preferences and requirements visitors to Belfast may have.
If it is your first-time visiting Belfast or you are staying for a shorter trip, you should consider the central districts of the City Centre or the Cathedral Quarter. These areas offer the most to see and do within a small area, as well as being central to other popular neighbourhoods and attractions.
If you are drawn to Belfast for its maritime history and connections to the titanic, consider the aptly named Titanic Quarter or the nearby East side district.
To make the most of the city’s famous nightlife, you will want to stay in the City Centre, near the iconic Golden Mile. The road, lined with pubs, bars, and restaurants, draws visitors from all over to take part in the famous pub crawl route.
To get in touch with the city’s Irish culture and heritage, head to the Gaeltacht Quarter. Meanwhile, to appreciate the history of the area, consider the beautiful Cathedral Quarter or head further out of the city to the Cave Hill area, where you can find Belfast Castle and historic forts.
Where to Stay in Belfast, UK – The 7 Best Areas to Stay in Belfast
To help you figure out where would be best for you to stay based on your personal needs and preferences, I have selected what I believe to be the seven best areas to stay in Belfast.
By providing helpful summaries of what each district has to offer, I hope to aid you in determining which best suits you.
Where to Stay in Belfast Map
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1. City Centre – Where to Stay in Belfast for First Time Travelers
Belfast City Centre is the contemporary heart of this historic town. This is where you will find the densest offering of commercial and hospitality offerings. There are several large shopping centres and high streets in the area, as well as a wide variety of dining options and cafes.
There is a wide range of accommodation on offer here, including both hotels and apartments, to suit a broad range of budgets. Staying in the City Centre would benefit both those visiting for the first time and those who are there for a shorter stay. There are many interesting sights withing walking distance of one another, making it incredibly convenient to move between points of interest.
Additionally, those travelling in or out of the city by train will find the City Centre convenient, due to the fact that two of the city’s major train terminals are located here. Great Victoria Street is in the west, whilst Lanyon Street is in the east.
If you enjoy shopping, you should head to historic St George’s Market, in the east of the City Centre. Established in the Victorian era, the covered market boasts stalls selling everything from clothes and books to flowers, antiques, and, of course, food. In addition to the vendors, weekends see emerging artists performing live music and a range of events are hosted here throughout the year, such as concerts and conventions.
Another popular attraction, the Belfast City Hall, is a beautiful building in its own right, but also worth visiting for the memorials that surround it. The Belfast Cenotaph and Titanic Memorial Garden can both be found in the grounds of this opulent building.
For nightlife, head the west end of the City Centre, to take part in the famous Golden Mile pub crawl. This area is well known and popular amongst both locals, the student population, and tourists.
YOU SHOULD STAY IN THE CITY CENTRE IF:
- You are staying for a shorter visit
- It’s your first time visiting Belfast
- You love shopping
- You are travelling in or out of the city by train
- A vibrant nightlife scene is essential
2. Cathedral Quarter – Best Area for History Buffs
The historic Cathedral Quarter is a popular destination of choice for first time visitors to Belfast. Located directly north of the City Centre, the Cathedral Quarter is a slightly quieter and more aesthetic alternative to staying in the bustling inner-city district.
The star of the Cathedral Quarter is the eponymous Cathedral itself, St Anne’s Cathedral, also simply referred to as Belfast Cathedral. The towering Cathedral overlooks can be seen from many of the surrounding streets. The surrounding area complements the architecture of this beautiful structure, full of narrow cobbled streets, and small independent shops and cafes.
The historical vibe continues throughout the area. Across the street from the cathedral, you can find the Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum. Further east towards the river you can view the stunning Albert Memorial Clock Tower, erected in the 1800s, and the Calder Fountain Memorial.
This area is known for being an epicentre of Belfast’s art community. In addition to some of the best examples of street art and murals in the city, The MAC art centre is located just north of the cathedral, across the street from the Belfast School of Art.
A number of galleries and arts stores are dotted around the area and every year the neighbourhood hosts the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, celebrating a wide variety of performance and visual art. Along the waterfront you can spot a number of art installations, including the iconic Belfast Buoys and The Big Fish.
A number of bridges cross the River Lagan here, connecting the Cathedral Quarter to the Titanic Quarter. This is a convenient place to stay if exploring the history of the titanic is a priority for you but you wish to stay nearer the convenience of the inner city.
YOU SHOULD STAY IN THE CATHEDRAL QUARTER IF:
- You love historic churches and architecture
- It is your first time visiting Belfast
- You want to appreciate Belfast’s art scene
- You want convenient access to both the City Centre and the Titanic Quarter
3. Titanic Quarter – Where to Stay in Belfast for Families with Children
The Titanic Quarter consists of the docklands east of the River Lagan, where the infamous Titanic was built and launched. The area has undergone heavy renovation to accommodate and cater to the tourist crowds who flock to visit the site of the notorious ocean liner’s birth. The result is an ultra-modern district, with plenty to keep everyone occupied.
The biggest draw to the area is the towering Titanic Belfast museum. Housed in a stunning post-modern, metal-clad building, the museum offers a range of exhibitions and experiences to let visitors learn about life on the ship. From recreations of the Titanic’s living areas to rides that carry you through the bustling shipyard, this museum is ideal for the whole family.
If the museum doesn’t sate your appetite for Titanic related entertainment, head to the north end of the docklands, past the Titanic Film Studios, to the Titanic’s Dock And Pump House. The historic building sits at the site where the Titanic was launched and offers tours, a café and souvenir shop.
Several other structures also stand as testaments to Belfast’s maritime heritage. The huge Samson & Goliath Cranes loom in the east, preserved to honour Belfast’s industrial past and shipbuilding legacy. In the west, at the end of the Titanic Walkway, sits the 130-year-old Great Light, one of the largest and brightest maritime illuminations in the world.
Accommodation here is limited compared to surrounding commercial areas. The hotels here do cater to both smaller and more generous budgets, but there are few options to pick from. If the venues on offer don’t appeal to you, you may want to consider staying just a short distance away in the neighbouring Cathedral Quarter or East Side.
YOU SHOULD STAY IN THE TITANIC QUARTER IF:
- You love maritime history
- You want to explore the area where the Titanic was built and launched
- You are visiting with family and children
- You are not overly picky about your accommodation
- You are attending an event at the TEC Convention centre or SSE Arena
4. Queen’s Quarter – Best Trendy Local Neighborhood Area
The Queen’s Quarter, in the south of Belfast, is the city’s student neighborhood. The area is named for the Queens University that sits at the heart of the district and the many students that reside here bring with them a demand for trendy cafes and affordable bars and restaurants.
South of the university are the sprawling Botanic Gardens, stretching from the campus down to the River Lagan. Here you can appreciate an array of exotic plants, as well as the beautiful glass conservatory. In the north end of the gardens, close to the university, sits the Ulster Museum, displaying a broad range of fascinating exhibitions.
If trawling around the local pubs and restaurants isn’t enough to keep you entertained of an evening, there are a number of venues in the area hosting live arts performances. The Lyric Theatre produces modern stage shows and boasts a riverside bar, where you can relax and chat about the show. Meanwhile, the Queens Film Theatre is an independent cinema showing a range of films from the classics to recent blockbusters.
Accommodation is typically cheaper here than in the city centre, catering largely to those visiting the university or students. If you are working with a smaller budget but want to stay conveniently close to the city centre, the Queen’s Quarter is definitely a place to consider.
YOU SHOULD STAY IN THE QUEEN’S QUARTER IF:
- You are on a budget but want to stay relatively central
- You want to stay in a quieter but still trendy neighbourhood
- You are visiting the university or a student
5. Gaeltacht Quarter – Best Area to Learn Traditional Irish Culture
If you are looking to experience the traditions and culture of Ireland, the Gaeltacht Quarter in West Belfast should be at the top of your list of considerations. The neighbourhood has a thriving population of people who speak the native Irish Gaelic language, so if you want a high chance of hearing it, take a wander through these streets or stop for a drink in a local pub.
In the south of the district, you can find the Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich art centre, offering Irish language tuition, as well as workshops for learning about the local culture. The centre frequently hosts events and performances of Irish arts, from traditional music to Gaelic poetry.
The nearby Áras Uí Chonghaile James Connolly Visitor Centre is dedicated to the history and memory of local philosopher and freedom fighter James Connolly. The centre also houses exhibitions on early 20th century Ireland.
Dublin was a centre point for the violence of the Troubles in the latter half of the 20th century and the Gaeltacht Quarter in particular retains a number of artifacts harking back to that history.
In the north of the district, part of a wall erected as a defensive measure during the 70s still stands. Now known as the Peace Wall, it acts as a canvas for political street art and graffiti. Just a short way away is the Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden, dedicated to local freedom fighters.
A largely residential neighbourhood, the quarter has only in recent years begun to become popular with visitors. Accommodation is not as abundant here as it is closer to the city centre, but rates are typically much more affordable.
YOU SHOULD STAY IN THE GAELTACHT QUARTER IF:
- You want to learn about traditional Irish culture
- You want the chance to hear people speaking the native Irish Gaelic language
- You don’t mind staying further out from the city centre
6. East Side – Best Area for C. S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia Fans
East Side is, as you might expect, a large residential district in the east of Belfast. Once a heavily industrial region, the area is now a trendy, up and coming neighbourhood, filled with hip cafes and fashionable boutiques.
In addition to the independent, artisan stores that have been popping up around the area, there are a number of more contemporary shopping centres and retail parks. If shopping is a priority for you but you would rather avoid the dense crowds of the City Centre, East Side is a good option.
Fans of C. S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia will want to visit C. S. Lewis Square, a plaza dedicated to the Belfastian writer and filled with bronze statues of his characters.
Somewhat removed from the City Centre, rates for accommodation here are generally more affordable. However, if you do have a larger budget, there are some stylish hotels and guesthouses in keeping with the fashionable vibe of the area.
YOU SHOULD STAY IN EAST SIDE IF:
- You want to stay in a trendy up and coming suburb
- Being right in the city centre is not a priority
- You are a fan of C. S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia
7. Cave Hill – Best Area to Stay Near Belfast Zoo
Cave Hill is a large country park in the outer suburbs to the north of Belfast. The area is a great place to visit for those travelling with family, particularly children. The park boasts walking trails suitable for all abilities and the view across Belfast and the Irish Sea from atop the hill is spectacular.
The main attraction of the area is Belfast Castle. The Castle has a long history dating back to the 1200s and has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries. A beautiful building set in manicured gardens at the eastern edge of Cave Hill park, Belfast Castle is a wonderful place to spend a day out with the family.
Further up the hill are several other historic landmarks that are worth the walk. McArt’s Fort in particular is an interesting ring of ruined castle walls to explore, with stunning views to reward you for the trek.
Not far from the castle is another popular family attraction, Belfast Zoo. The zoo houses a wide variety of animals and offers informative programmes and workshops to educate visitors on conservation efforts and respecting wildlife, ideal for an educational and fun family day out.
Cave Hill is a few miles from the city centre, so staying near here isn’t ideal for shorter trips or those visiting Belfast for the first time. I recommend it most for those travelling by car or with children.
YOU SHOULD STAY IN CAVE HILL IF:
- You are travelling with family and young children
- Visiting Belfast Zoo is a priority
- You want to stay in or near Belfast Castle
- You enjoy walking and exploring the outdoors
FAQs on Where to Stay in Belfast
- How Long To Stay In Belfast?
- Where To Stay In Belfast City Centre?
- Where To Stay In Belfast For Nightlife?
- Where To Stay In Belfast Cathedral Quarter?
- Can You Stay In Belfast Castle?
How Long To Stay In Belfast?
How long you should plan to stay in Belfast largely depends on how much of the city you want to see. The city is fairly compact and most of the major attractions are close by to one another. If a quick pass through the main sights is enough to satisfy you, then with a well-planned itinerary, the city is perfect for a weekend break.
If you want to take a more thorough look at the locations, or want to visit some smaller or more niche attractions, you could comfortably spend a week’s vacation in Belfast. This would also give you time to visit some of the interesting historical sites that lay just outside of the city’s borders.
Where To Stay In Belfast City Centre?
Belfast City Centre is one of the most popular places for visitors to Belfast to choose to stay. There is a wide selection of accommodation here to cater to all budgets and preferences.
If you are looking to sample the best of the city’s nightlife, you will want to stay in the west end, around the Golden Mile. The Jurys Inn is a ‘fabulous’ hotel, located right in the heart of this bustling district. Set at the junction of two main roads, you will have no trouble finding your way back to your stylish room after a long night exploring the local pubs.
Where To Stay In Belfast For Nightlife?
Belfast’s nightlife scene inarguably centres around the iconic Golden Mile. This area in the west end of the City Centre, between Great Victoria Street and Belfast City Hall, is well known for its high density of pubs, bars, restaurants, and general nightlight establishments.
If you really want to get the most out of the Golden Mile, you should try following a Golden Mile Pub crawl route, to sample as many of the area’s venues as you can in a single night. The area is hugely popular amongst both the local student population and tourist crowd. It’s a great opportunity to have a memorable night out and meet some like-minded party animals.
Where To Stay In Belfast Cathedral Quarter?
The Cathedral Quarter offers a wide range of beautiful accommodation to suit every budget. If you can afford to do so, you should consider staying near to St Anne’s Cathedral, to take advantage of the unique aesthetic of the area.
If you are looking to indulge, the Merchant Hotel is a ‘superb’ luxury option, in a stunning 1860s Grade I listed building, at the heart of the quarter.
The Bullitt Hotel is a ‘fabulous’ option for smaller budgets. The rooms offer stylish functionality, just minutes from the high street, art installations and monuments along the riverbanks.
Can You Stay In Belfast Castle?
Whilst there are many castles across Ireland that offer overnight accommodation, sadly Belfast Castle is not one of them. While visitors are free to explore the castle and grounds and enjoy the food and drink on offer at the Cellar Restaurant and Castle Tavern, hotel facilities are not available.
If you have a particular occasion you were hoping to celebrate at the castle, aside from the aforementioned hospitality, rooms in the castle are available to rent as events spaces. For overnight accommodation though, you will need to look at what is available in the surrounding town.
Belfast is a vibrant, modern city, with a fascinating history and thriving culture. With iconic nightlife, world famous attractions, historic streets, and contemporary shopping district, Belfast is truly a city with something for everyone.
Ideal for a romantic weekend break, or a longer family vacation, you are sure to find your perfect Irish adventure here.