Review: 7 things I discovered while being a tourist in Belfast
Full disclosure, I'm 100% born and raised in Belfast.
I know not to even contemplate going to Primark on a Saturday afternoon if I want my sanity to remain intact and I know 'the back of Boots' is an acceptable city landmark.
So when I was offered the chance to spend a few days as a tourist, I was intrigued but also skeptical that I would see Belfast in any other way that the place I grew up in.
Turns out I haven't actually got a clue.
There is a reason Belfast, along with the Causeway Coast, was named the Lonely Planet's number one region to visit in 2018.
Actually, there's lots of reasons, but here are seven things I discovered being a tourist in Belfast:
1. We have a great sense of humour
During my Belfast excursion I stayed in the still relatively new Bullit Hotel on Church Lane and if anyone was to ask me what I enjoyed most about it, I would say it was travelling in the lift.
Yes, the rooms were stylish, the bars were cool, and the staff were really friendly and accommodating - all excellent attributes one would expect from a hotel - but, for me, the lift is the Bullit's main attraction.
Upon reaching my allocated floor in search of my room, the lift dinged and was followed up with a man with a comically broad Belfast accent telling me: "Third floor, so it is!"
When we later exited the lift on the ground floor, we were waved off with the same broad Belfast accent wishing us well with a hugely cheerful "Bye now!" - I honestly laughed everytime.
Some may say I'm easily amused (and they'd be right), but during my stay I spoke to other guests who were also tickled by the lift and agreed they really enjoyed the Belfast sense of humour being highlighted in such an odd, but, let's face it, genius way.
But as well as the lift, the Bullit Hotel is great spot.
The location is central to pretty much everything, the bustling atmosphere in the reception bar is a real hive of activity on a Saturday night and rooms are modern, clean, and most importantly, comfortable.
What I also enjoyed was the fact the food selection at the Taylor and Clay restaurant was hipster enough to make you feel cool, but with enough of a local stamp to know you're still in Belfast.
For more information, visit www.bullitthotel.com
2. It's good to get on your bike
One of the many activities I took part in over two days was a bike tour courtesy of Belfast City Bike Tours.
Baring in mind I hadn't been on a bike (bar the odd dreaded spin class) since I was a child, I was a bit wary of how this was gonna go.
Turns out riding a bike is like... well you get the idea.
What I wasn't expecting is to see such a different side to the city. As a local, I had been to most of the allocated stops along the way - the Titanic Quarter, Botanic Gardens, Queens University, City Hall etc.
But our tour guide John was able to provide an informative view of the city, providing little tidbits that even I wasn't aware of and offering a fresh look to us seasoned locals.
Including a short stop off at St George's Market, this three hour tour really is a great way to take in the sights, even if you have seen them over and over again.
It easy to overlook the beauty of Belfast when you are going about your daily business, so to see it through the eyes of a tourist brought an unexpected sense of pride and love for our local landmarks.
And those not accustomed to riding a bike need not worry as it is a relatively easy route and a really enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.
For more information, visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. We can tell a good story
People from Belfast can spin a good yarn - this is a fact.
But what's great to see is that we have easily incorporated this into our tourist attractions.
I spent a few hours on the HMS Caroline in the city's Titanic Quarter and as a secret history buff I was impressed with how the naval ship's story was brought to life.
I've been to a few maritime museums in my time and I can say without bias (kind of) that a visit to the HMS Caroline was one of the best.
Pulling together it's colourful story with captivating visuals and atmosphere building audios, visitors really get an immersive experience of the ship's history from the Battle of Jutland in World War I, to how it came to be in Belfast.
As a history nerd I found it very fascinating, but I truly believe someone who has been brought along to make up the numbers would also get a kick out of it.
Within the vessel we see history brought to life, making the HMS Caroline a must-see attraction in an already bustling tourist spot of Belfast.
For more information, visit www.nmrn.org.uk.
4. Our food is world class
Over the weekend I enjoyed lunch at Babel on Anne Street and dinner at the Bull and Ram on University Road and I fear my uneducated pallet was not worthy.
Here's was I was lucky enough to enjoy:
Starter: Halloumi corn fritters - £6.00
Main: Wagyu beef shin burger, kimchi onions, & fries - £13.00
Starter: Broccoli salad, whipped St Tola goats cheese, homemade salad cream, pine nut - £6.50
Main: Hegarty’s vintage cheddar & onion pie & mash - £13.00
It's not very often I would indulge in such a way, but I learnt a valuable lesson - the cuisine on offer in Belfast is something to be proud of.
Babel's atmosphere was one of being effortlessly cool - the rooftop venue offers great views with your food and a meticulously thought out cocktail menu that is executed to perfection.
The Bull and Ram is a perfect dinner date spot if you're looking for somewhere to chat for hours in a corner while sampling delicious food. The staff are also really friendly - classic Belfast, really.
For more information, visit www.bullitthotel.com/babel and www.bullandrambelfast.com.
5. Art is everywhere
My biggest surprise of the weekend was the amount of art I rudely pass by on a daily basis.
I'm guilty of plodding along the streets of Belfast with my head down and my thoughts on what I'm having for dinner, and in doing so I missed the amazing pieces of art that are showcased within the city centre.
I was shown the error of my ways during a Street Art Walking Tour which leaves from outside the Dark Horse in Commercial Court every Sunday at noon.
Under the guidance of the very funny and well informed Adam, we embarked on a two hour dander around the streets of Belfast which was both eye-opening and really good craic.
Street art culture is booming in Belfast and it's easy for it to go unnoticed if that's not what you're into - but I highly recommend educating yourself if you can.
It's a fun way to spend a few hours, and at the very least you'll get some great content for your Instagram account.
For more information, visit www.seedheadarts.com.
6. There's nothing wrong with a bit of luxury once in a while
My social activities usually consist of the odd dinner and a lot of drinks in the city centre and I would guess most people would be the same.
So my few hours spent having afternoon tea and a massage at The Culloden Spa was definitely not the norm, but definitely something I'll be doing again (after pay day, obviously).
I couldn't say I would have the disposable income to be treating myself every week but there's is nothing wrong with a bit of luxury once in a while - especially if that involves lounging in a spa robe drinking tea and eating cakes.
And as for the massage, I would have stayed there for hours if the lady conducting my treatment didn't have a family and a life to be getting back to.
The Culloden's Spa-tisserie package offers a choice of treatments from full body massage, facial, luxury manicure or luxury pedicure along with a choice of Morning Coffee or Afternoon Tea.
From £100 per person, it is a pricier way to treat yourself in Belfast but The Culloden is renowned for its luxurious setting and you definitely get that luxury in all aspects of your stay - from the hugely helpful staff to the relaxing atmosphere.
For more information, visit www.hastingshotels.com/culloden-spa.
7. People think we're class craic
Throughout my 'tourist in Belfast' experiment I did actually meet some out-of towners and it was interesting to get their views on the city.
Bottom line? They think we're class craic.
I visited a few bars from Bootleggers to The Duke of York to The Dirty Onion and it's always great to hear other people's appreciation of the city. (There's nothing wrong with a bit of self-congratulation!)
In many bars in Belfast on a Saturday night, you are nearly always guaranteed to find a group of tourists being entertained by a group of locals who are a few pints in - and this is great to see.
They will be told where to go, what to see, and when to do it because the city has become immensely proud of what's now on offer and we want people to get the most out of it.
With a long list of bars, restaurants, tours, shows and people to meet I would highly recommend exploring it all - especially if you are from Belfast, because it's all, rather handily, right on your doorstep.
Book your short stay in Belfast at www.discovernorthernireland.com.
Belfast Telegraph Digital