Belfast Mural Tour - The two political groupings in the Northern Ireland (Republican and Loyalist, the former predominantly being Catholic and the latter predominantly Protestant) have a strong tradition of large wall mural painting in their communities, particularly the poorer ones. If you head to The Falls Road or Shankill you will get a good look at what are some of the world's finest house sized political murals. They change frequently depending on the political climate but they are definitely something to see. The areas they are in are very safe, however do be aware that politics and religion can be tense topics. Ask around and somebody will be able to point you to the murals.
Black Taxi Tours provide a fascinating insight into west Belfast. These can be booked through all hostels, hotels and the Belfast Welcome Centre, and cost around £7.50-10 per person.
The Golden Mile is the name given to the mile or so between Belfast City Hall and Queen's University. It sometimes disappoints tourists because it's less immediately evident and less densely packed together than the name suggests. It's also not the safest part of Belfast at night, especially at weekends and a large police presence is usually in evidence. Be careful using cash machines, and if you're having trouble getting a taxi it's probably better to start walking than to stick around for too long on street corners. Exploring the area in the day time will help you if you come back later for a night out. You'll find the lion's share of the City Centre's best bars and some good places to eat here. The Golden Mile starts around the Europa Hotel on Great Victoria Street, takes a skip to the left to continue down Dublin Road, reaches a buzzing climax around Bradbury Place (just south of the big screen overlooking the junction) and graduates to student friendly but welcoming bars along Botanic Avenue and University Road. See the Drink section for specific recommendations.
Crown Liquor Saloon46 Great Victoria StPhone: +44 28 9027 9901Aka Crown Bar. Situated on the Golden Mile opposite the Europa Hotel, it is by some visitors rated to be the most beautiful pub existing in Northern Ireland today, and even if you don't drink, it's worth a visit. Apart from the stained glass windows (lovingly restored and replaced after several car bombs) it is largely unchanged since Victorian times, and the dark interior is still gas-lit. Inside, you'll find the famous booths which can seat about a dozen people, and be closed off from the bar with the attracted wood panneled doors. These are hot property after work on a Friday afternoon, so move quickly if you have the chance to occupy one. Note the button inside which was once used to summon a barman to take your order (sorry, these no longer work).
Odyssey Centre, 2 Queen's Quay, 028 9045 1055. Across the bridge from the Lagan Weir is the Odyssey centre. This complex contains a cinema, the Odyssey Arena (home of ice hockey team Belfast Giants), a bowling alley, W5 (an interactive science discovery centre) and a range of restaurants and bars.
Parks and open spaces Belfast is home to a wide range of parks and open spaces, making it one of the greenest cities in Ireland. The main parks include Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, Ormeau Park and Botanic Gardens (located in the south of the city), Waterworks, Belfast Castle estate, Cave Hill Country Park and Alexandra Park (north Belfast), Dunville and Falls Park (west Belfast) and Orangefield and Victoria Park (in the east of the city). There are a host of walking routes through these parks and many include play facilities for children. Slightly further out from the City Centre, the Lagan Towpath is a delightful, peaceful and safe walk particularly during the summer months.
Grand Opera HousePossibly the finest remaining example of Georgian theatre architecture in the UK, this century-old building is a must-see for theatre and art lovers alike. Plays tend to show every evening except Sundays, with matinee performances on Thursdays and Saturdays. Discount is often available for students and senior citizens. The theatre also features an art gallery, displaying local artwork: viewing the pictures is free. If you ask nicely staff are usually pleased to give you a short tour of the theatre so you can take photos and learn a little bit about the theatre's history. The theatre also has a contemporary bar and cafe for people to relax during the day or have lunch. The staff are very friendly and helpful, with a good knowledge of the area. The theatre is right next to Great Victoria Street Station, making it a perfect place to visit when you arrive.