My good friend Megan Crotty and I ventured on a road trip last month! We drove through Northern Ireland and Ireland for a few days. With her background in Irish history, she’s taken the reigns with our time in Belfast. Megan will conclude her Belfast story with her experience on an eye-opening Black Taxi Tour very soon.
After a quick jet-lag fueled and giddy drive from Dublin, we arrived in Belfast’s city center on a bustling Friday afternoon (after a bit of practice, Eileen drove on the left like a boss). The downtown area is a small one, which is lucky for those travelers who find themselves in Europe with little time and no cell service. It is easy to see a large swath of the city in a day or two, and that’s exactly what we aimed to do.
I must admit, we did get a bit lost on the way to our hotel, which quickly made us realize that we rely way too heavily on GPS in our everyday lives, but also allowed us to peruse Great Victoria Street, a main road that cuts a line through Belfast’s growing city center. It may be home to Europe’s most bombed hotel, the aptly named Europa, but it also clearly shows a city in transition. Memories of Belfast’s turbulent past sit alongside signs of its future, and Great Victoria Street has a bit of both, with new shops, cafes, and hotels nestled alongside historical buildings. It almost made being lost tolerable, and we got to ask a handsome Northern Irishman in a perfectly tailored suit for directions, so it was a win-win, really.
We finally arrived at Malmaison on Victoria Street (this is just ok Victoria, not to be confused with Great Victoria of the other street we were just on–you see our difficulties, I am sure). The hotel is next to a bomb-proof police station, another relic from the troubles, but it’s all rich hues and luxe furniture inside. I imagine that if Tim Burton opened a hotel somewhere in Wonderland, it would look something like Malmaison does on the inside. Malmaison is chic and modern and right up our alley.
Once we settled into our hotel room, we meandered through Royal Avenue in the Cathedral Quarter, a pedestrian shopping district that is definitely worth a visit. Royal Avenue is near both Victoria Street and Great Victoria Street, and just to keep from being repetitive I will throw in that basically everything is close to everything else. Belfast is a pretty great walking city when you are sticking to the city center and the quickly developing waterfront, and it’s probably best to wander a bit on foot during the day.
At night we made our way over to one of Belfast’s many modern eateries, Hadskis. We were really spoiled for choice with restaurants in the city. I can’t speak for Belfast specifically, but when I first came to Ireland and England in 2003, the cuisine was less than exciting, so it was great to have one of many delicious meals at Hadskis. The restaurant was down a medieval-looking alleyway that also housed a lively bar with a large outdoor seating area. We were treated to German wines and a host of small savory plates, though dessert was probably my favorite.
Speaking of Game of Thrones, I highly recommend one of the tours that stops at some of the show’s most iconic locations. While there are several to choose from, the Stones and Thrones Tour is probably the most popular. It stops by the King’s Road, the Iron Islands, Giant’s Causeway, and the studio where you may even get a chance to sit on the iron throne and command your subjects to do your bidding. While you can drive to most of these sights with relative ease, some may be a bit difficult to find. For example, the King’s Road, or more rightly the Dark Hedges, are a bit tricky to locate.
Megan will conclude her Belfast story with her experience on an eye-opening Black Taxi Tour very soon.