Belfast cruise port guide
Bustling Belfast has put its troubles firmly in the past, boasting a thriving arts scene, gourmet food markets and a wealth of museums dedicated to its most famous creation, the Titanic. Cruise visitors are sure to fall for this dynamic and energetic city, packed full of diverse attractions and nods to its fascinating history.
Cruise port location
A new cruise ship dock opens in 2019 to accommodate the growing number of passengers visiting the city. Located to the north-east of Belfast, the dock is just under a 10 minute drive from the centre. Taxis are readily available when you step off the ship although cruise companies often run free shuttle buses to the centre of town.
Pollock dock will still be used occasionally for smaller ships starting or ending their itineraries in Belfast.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
No, you can’t walk out of the docks so will need to take a taxi or shuttle bus.
Although many city attractions can be reached on foot, the inexpensive and easy-to-navigate Metro Bus Service can speedily whisk you from A to B.
For those pressed for time, the 90-minute hop-on, hop-off open-top bus tour run by the Belfast City Sighting Tour is highly recommended, allowing you to do a recce of key landmarks before deciding which ones you want to explore.
Two airports serve Belfast: the George Best Belfast City Airport which is just five minutes from the city centre and Belfast International Airport which is a 30-minute drive. Both are served by Translink Airport Express buses which run between the airport and the city.
If you are travelling across the Republic of Ireland or from Dublin, then Irish Rail operates services to Belfast’s Lanyon Station and, if you are driving, the port is located close to the motorway off Junction 1 of the M2.
Alternatively, you can catch a ferry to Belfast from Liverpool, Cairnryan (Scotland) and the Isle of Man with Stena Line and P&O Ferries Ireland.
The grand doyenne of Belfast’s luxury hotel scene, The Merchant, is a gloriously opulent Art Deco number with a fabulous bar and enviable location in the Cathedral Quarter; a 10 minute walk from the city centre and in the heart of the restaurant and nightlife district.
If you fancy staying somewhere more modern with incredible views over the city, then book an upper room at the Grand Central Hotel. Sip a cocktail at the 23rd-floor Observatory bar and watch the city’s lights twinkle at twilight.
Families, meanwhile, are well catered for at the Radisson Blu hotel, just minutes away from the city centre with children under 12 sleeping and eating for free.
For the more budget-conscious traveller, the 19th century Crescent Townhouse hotel offers good value for money, is located close to Queen’s University and boasts an award-winning café with excellent coffee.
If you wish to escape the city altogether, then the Culloden Estate and Spa is set in 12 acres of beautiful gardens, nine miles from Belfast city centre and has an exceptional restaurant and spa.
What to see and do
What can I do in four hours or less?
Head to the Titanic Quarter and visit the aluminium-clad Titanic Belfast museum. Located on the very spot where the Titanic was designed, built and launched, Titanic Belfast tells the story of the ship from conception to its ill-fated maiden voyage through 10 award-winning interpretive and interactive galleries.
A short walk from the museum’s angular edifice you can board the restored SS Nomadic, tender to the Titanic and the last White Star Line ship in the world.
Finish your nautical-themed wanderings with a visit to HMS Caroline, the lone survivor of the famous Battle of Jutland. Now fully restored, you can stroll around the cabin and deck areas whilst hearing the personal tales of those who served onboard.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
Belfast is big on tours and one of the best is run by Belfast Black Cab Tours. Learn about the religious divide in Northern Ireland by visiting Catholic and Protestant areas, viewing wall murals and seeing the peace line, all from the back of a traditional black cab with knowledgeable commentary from your driver.
If you want to find out more about The Troubles from those directly involved, then join a Coiste walking tour of the Falls Road led by political ex-prisoners who share perspectives and memories of the areas where they grew up.
Art buffs are well catered for with first-class galleries dotted around the city including the Belfast Exposed Gallery (showcasing political and social-themed photographs), the Golden Thread Gallery (showcasing contemporary art) and the Metropolitan Arts Centre (three galleries under one roof).
The Parliament buildings of the Stormont Estate are open on weekdays to the public; take a free tour around the perfectly symmetrical structure and then explore the expansive gardens.
What can I do with a bit longer?
With more time, a trip to the myth-soaked Giant’s Causeway is a must. Walking trails across the jutting basalt columns allow you to enjoy the spectacular coastal scenery at your own pace.
Carrickfergus Castle, an imposing Norman structure with a fascinating museum and display of ancient cannons, will appeal to all the family, while Game of Thrones fans will enjoy visiting locations made famous by the fantasy series including Winterfell Castle and the Iron Islands.
Eat and drink
Champ (potato mash with spring onions), beer-fed beef, Irish Stew and butter fudge are among the smorgasbord of edible delights on offer at St George’s Market, Belfast’s last surviving covered Victorian Market.
Make sure you pop by Sizzle & Roll for the mighty Belfast Burger – a 6oz steak burger on soda bread topped with black pudding, bacon, egg and fried onions.
As you would expect, Belfast is home to many an atmospheric boozer including the Crown Liquor Saloon with its stunning décor and cosy nooks ideal for sipping a pint of creamy stout, and the Duke of York pub hidden down a cobbled alleyway in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter.
Don’t leave Belfast without
Stock up on delicious soda bread, local cheeses and Irish honey from Sawers; Northern Ireland’s oldest deli and one-time supplier of fine foods to the RMS Titanic.
If you’re more interested in fine art, a stroll around Studio Souk allows you to chat to local artisans as they create beautifully crafted products which make unique souvenirs for friends and family. It’s also worth checking out Avoca which stocks Irish homeware, clothes, toys, jewellery, books and food.
Need to know
Safety and crime
Belfast is a safe city and your visit should be trouble-free as long as you take the usual precautions.
Best time to go
The summer months of June, July and August tend to be the busiest in Belfast while the city gets packed with people toasting St Patrick with a pint of the black stuff on March 17.
Most attractions are open daily.
Day passes / multi-attraction passes
Snap up a Belfast Visitor Pass which gives you unlimited travel on buses and trains within the city zone as well as special offers and discounts on tours and attractions and in shops and cafes.