Belfast, Northern Ireland
Get to know what it’s like to visit this destination.
Getting To Know Belfast – Cruise Port Guide
Our Belfast cruise port guide is an introduction to one of the most popular stops on a British Isles cruise itinerary. Belfast is Northern Ireland’s capital and the birthplace of RMS Titanic, among many other ships. It’s a hugely popular cruise port and quite frequently features on British Isles sailings. It is a vibrant city steeped in history and there are many things to see and do. First-time visitors should absolutely embrace the city centre and what it has to offer, including Belfast City Hall which is located opposite the shuttle bus drop-off point.
One of Belfast’s most popular attractions is undoubtedly Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience. It sits beside the Titanic Slipways, Harland and Wolff Drawing Offices and Hamilton Graving Dock, where Titanic was designed, built and launched in 1912. The experience walks you through Titanic’s conception all the way to her final resting place in history.
There is usually a shuttle bus service offered from the port to the heart of the city centre.
Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens and the Dome at Victoria Square can all be enjoyed FREE of charge. The Titanic Trail walking tour is a free self-guided tour that begins at the Titanic Memorial Garden at Belfast City Hall.
Key highlights of Belfast
- Titanic Belfast & SS Nomadic
- Belfast City Hall
- Ulster Museum
- Botanic Gardens
- Belfast Zoological Gardens
- Giant’s Causeway
- Belfast Castle
- HMS Caroline
- Crumlin Road Gaol
- Titanic Trail
Regular cruise line visitors
- P&O Cruises
- Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
- Princess Cruises
- Celebrity Cruises
- Oceania Cruises
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Cruise Expert Insider 🔎 Belfast Cruise Port by Lesley Bellew
Welcome to Belfast.
Cruise passengers know they have arrived at the Port of Belfast when they see Samson and Goliath, the two bright yellow Harland & Wolff gantry cranes emblazoned with the initials H&W.
Every tour guide insists H&W means ‘Hello and Welcome’ to Belfast – and what a warm introduction to this lively, cultural city which has a fascinating ancient and modern history as well as being surrounded stunning countryside and coastal landscapes.
It’s no wonder that in 2019 Belfast saw a record number of cruise ships sailing in through the Belfast Lough and, when cruising restarts, Belfast is ready with three dedicated berths including a new welcome point on Airport Road West which gives passengers access to the city centre on 10 to 15-minute journeys by taxi or shuttle bus.
The new terminal can accommodate ships with up to 6,000 passengers and crew and it has a smart cruise visitor information centre, a gift shop, plenty of seating and free wifi plus a large coach parking area and space for shuttle buses and taxis.
If more than one ship is sailing in, smaller ships can moor at Pollock Dock, a 15-20 minute walk into the city, while larger vessels dock at Stormont, that’s more like a 10-minute drive.
The only headache about visiting Belfast by cruise ship is working out how much you can see in one day, or perhaps two, if you are lucky enough to have an overnighter.
It’s best to make a call: The city or the coastline.
Time in the city
A black cab tour of the city can be a smart way of seeing the six quarters! It’s true, Belfast doesn’t have the obvious four – and that rather sums up it’s unique vibe.
The Troubles’ tour (touringaroundbelfast.com) focuses on the city’s recent turbulent history and a local driver takes passengers on ‘a journey of war and peace’ including the Shankhill Road and the Falls Road areas, with a few stops including the Peace Wall where you can add your message alongside that of former US president Bill Clinton and spiritual leader the Dalai Llama.
It’s a fascinating, but heavy few hours, so arrange to be dropped off in the Cathedral Quarter to find one the welcoming pubs for lunch and a decent pint of Guinness. There are plenty of watering holes to choose from including 17th century Whites Tavern which has open fires and oak beams while on a warm day there’s plenty of outdoor seating in the courtyard. The Crown Liquor Saloon, in Great Victoria Street, feels like a real gin palace with carved-mahogany booths and old-fashioned lamps or for a smaller traditional pub, call into Kelly’s Cellars in Bank Street.
There should still be time to head over to the Titanic Quarter – and you’ll be back closer to the ship –where Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic experience, is a glistening monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage.
The Titanic Hotel, opposite, was once the H&W shipyard’s drawing office where RMS Titanic was designed. This gorgeous barrel-vaulted room is now a bar-cum-restaurant so call in for a drink or book afternoon tea as your end of the day treat.
Coast and country
If you choose to head out to the countryside, most cruise tours include a drive along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route to the UNESCO-listed Giant’s Causeway. It makes for a full day out, with a stop at the world’s oldest Irish whiskey distillery, Bushmills.
The Giant’s Causeway, with its 40,000-plus hexagonal-shaped basalt stones, was created 60 million years ago, and tumbles down into the Atlantic Ocean – it’s an extra extraordinary sight and a bracing walk along the clifftop makes for a memorable day.
Another option, with drive through the rolling countryside, is a call to Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, Northern Ireland’s historic royal house and political residence. It’s been newly refurbished with tasteful décor and contemporary art. It was here, about 15 years ago, that The Queen met the President of Ireland Mary Macaleese; it was a landmark in history – the first time a British monarch had met a head of an independent Ireland leader on the island.
Picture postcard Hillsborough town was built around the castle so round off your visit with a toast to the Queen with a drink in The Hillside pub, followed by another to salute former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam (September 18, 1949 –August 19, 2005) who would frequent the pub after a day in the castle(hrp.org.uk/hillsborough-castle).
Garden lovers can to head to Mount Stewart, one of Northern Ireland’s most-visited gardens, in an eye-wateringly beautiful spot overlooking Strangford Lough. Look out for the red squirrels as you walk around this garden where Edith, Lady Londonderry, created one of the few late compartmentalised Arts and Crafts-style gardens (nationaltrust.org.uk/mount-stewart).
On the opposite shore is Castle Espie, a tranquil reserve run by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust which was founded by Sir Peter Scott. Almost the entire world population of Brent Geese live here during the winter as well as thousands more ducks, geese and swans. Birdwatchers will be in their element with recent sightings including cattle egret, greenshank, redshank and curlew (wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/castle-espie).
At nearby Castle Ward, there is plenty of family fun – it’s where much of the TV series Game of Thrones was filmed. Book ahead for an hour’s axe throwing or an archery movie set experience with Lord of Winterfell, Willard of Stark. It’s a real ‘Thronies’ delight! (gameofthrones-winterfelltours.com).
So how do you solve this problem of having so much to see? Book another cruise!