Northern Ireland's capital is awash with castles and culture. On its doorstep too is dramatic, unforgettable scenery.
Belfast has experienced a tumultuous past, but that's behind it now. It is now an inviting tourist destination that's friendly, educational and manageable. Museums, castles, art and the famous Irish nightlife pull in visitors from all over. Many come for County Antrim's countryside and coast alone.
Begin your trip by acquainting yourself with the city. Stroll through the cobbled old centre, marvel at the grandness of City Hall and discover the city's links with the infamous liner Titanic. Climb to the heady heights of Belfast Castle, situated in Cave Hill Country Park, and gaze down on one of the best views of the city. Explore the eerie corridors and cells of Crumlin Road Gaol, opting for one of the paranormal tours if you're feeling especially brave. Venture out east to find the Stormont Parliament Buildings. Take a guided tour of Northern Ireland's “House on the Hill” and even watch members of the assembly battling it out in a debate.
Afterwards, head into the wider countryside. Giant's Causeway is an iconic feature of Northern Ireland. Learn how it was created millions of years ago by enormous volcanic activity. Take a pilgrimage to Dunluce Castle, once home to the McQuillan family and now an imposing cliff-top ruin. More breathtaking architecture with a sea view is to be found at Mussenden Temple, which itself is set in the grounds of a ruined house. Mount Stewart House, Gardens and Temple of the Winds are still in good shape; explore the historical artefacts in the house, walk around its unique gardens and admire the fascinatingly-named Temple of the Winds.
To taste County Antrim at its rawest, drive out to Torr Head. Spot sea birds sweeping the coast and squint to make out Scotland's Mull of Kintyre.
Revive yourself with a dram or two of whiskey at the Old Bushmills Distillery. On a detailed guided tour, you'll learn how the “water of life” is produced.
Central Belfast is small, and easy to get around without transport. Public buses service many of the major tourist attractions. For more freedom, hire a car. Though the summer months in and around Belfast can be warm, winters are bitterly cold, and rain falls throughout the year. Make sure you pack accordingly.