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8 reasons to citybreak in Belfast - Lonely Planet's best place in the world to visit 2018

Whether you’ve been to Belfast lately or not, there is no doubting it has become a vibrant city break destination with plenty to see and do.

Top-class attractions abound, there is a fantastic foodie scene, cool pubs and clubs light up the streets and the city is compact enough to get from place to place easily. The dark nights of late autumn are the perfect time to take some time together to discover – or rediscover – the energetic city that Lonely Planet named the best place in the world to visit in 2018.

1. One of the secrets to having a great city break is choosing a good hotel, and with a wealth of new additions to Belfast’s accommodation stock, the options are excellent. Go with one of the most recent, the luxury Grand Central Hotel, standing tall in Bedford Street opposite the Ulster Hall. With 23 floors, 300 rooms and three restaurants, the Grand Central impresses with a fusion of glamour, grandeur and a uniquely Belfast spirit.

All rooms and suites are contemporary in design with touchable, tactile fabrics and state-of-the-art finishes. The bar and restaurant choices range from the chic Grand Café on the ground floor to the design-led Seahorse Bar and Restaurant overlooking Bedford Street. But the real star is The Observatory, located sky-high on the 23rd floor. Relax in this small plates cocktail lounge and be blown away by the spectacular views all across the city.

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2. Once settled in, the city is your oyster. Relax, shop to your heart’s content or even take a gentle walk in the pathways of the surrounding Belfast hills for amazing views of the city and lough below. You could also take a trip around the landmarks in authentic Belfast style on a Black Taxi tour, tour the City Hall or head to the Ulster Museum or Crumlin Road Gaol. Signing up for a food tour is another option, as is spending the afternoon wandering through St George’s market, a hive of food, craft and entertainment.

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3. Belfast’s food scene has never been stronger or more delicious, and one of its stand-out indulgences is the Michelin starred Ox restaurant. This fine-dining destination on Oxford Street was also recently named Ireland's Restaurant of the Year by Food & Wine Magazine. Eat superbly well here with the minimum of fuss, and discover new depths of seasonal flavours, textures and enjoyment.

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4. For a contemporary cultural experience, head to the MAC in the Cathedral Quarter. The arts venue’s must-see MAC International 2018 exhibition starts on 9 November, presenting significant international art from across the world. Be wowed and be inspired by the ambitious pieces from the 13 artists shortlisted for this year’s MAC International prize. The exhibition will include photography, film, installation, sculpture and drawing.

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5. Your city break must include an adventure into the trendy Titanic Quarter. It’s centrepiece, the incredible Titanic Belfast, tells the story of the world’s most famous ship right at the place where she was launched over 100 years ago. Discover the shipyard, travel to the depths of the ocean and see recreations of the cabins and much more.

In the history-laden quays, docks and riverside of Titanic Quarter you’ll also find the Titanic Pump House and Dock, the floating museums of SS Nomadic, which ferried passengers to Titanic, and the amazing HMS Caroline, the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland in World War I.

Finally, take a stroll down the Titanic Slipways. This beautiful public plaza, laden with maritime symbolism, is a lovely place to spend a little time together.

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For more autumn city break ideas, visit discovernorthernireland.com

Other attractions nearby

6. East Belfast

The east of the city offers self-guided trails featuring three of the area’s most famous sons – legendary singer-songwriter Van Morrison, football hero George Best and Chronicles of Narnia novelist CS Lewis. Literary fans should look also out for the CS Lewis Festival (November 3-7), when venues across the city will be filled with magic and imagination in a series of walks, talks, visual art, music, theatre, film screenings, faith and wellbeing events.

7. Belfast Cathedral Quarter

Soak up a traditional music session in one of the great beer gardens in the Cathedral Quarter, home to some of the best nightlife in Belfast and buzzing with hotels, restaurants and interesting street art. This historic part of the city has evolved from an old trade and warehousing district to a bustling destination with impressive entertainment, foodie, culture and arts scenes.

8. Friendship Four Ice Hockey

Take in the coolest game in town at the Friendship Four ice-hockey tournament on the US Thanksgiving weekend (November 23 – 24). This atmospheric face-off in the SSE Arena sees the next generation of world ice-hockey stars from four US National Collegiate Athletic Association teams compete for the coveted Belpot Trophy. A great night out, even if the two of you know nothing about the game.

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