Are you planning a trip to Northern Ireland? Here are some of the most exciting, unique, and family-friendly things to do in Northern Ireland this year. These beautiful landscapes, captivating coastlines, and vibrant cities are sure to make for an unforgettable trip.
Welcome, fellow explorers, to the land of mystic landscapes, vibrant cities. And a history that’s as captivating as it is complex. Northern Ireland is a gem tucked in the northeastern corner of the Emerald Isle. It is an underrated destination that promises an adventure like no other. From the bustling streets of Belfast to the awe-inspiring Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered.
Whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or a Game of Thrones fanatic, there are fun things to do in Northern Ireland for everyone. Its rich tapestry of culture, history, and natural beauty makes it a must-visit for any avid traveler. And if you’re wondering where to start – don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the 12 best things to do in Northern Ireland. We’ll explore ancient castles, walk along rugged coastlines. And delve into the vibrant nightlife of Belfast, and even step into the world of Westeros. So, buckle up and get ready to embark on an unforgettable Irish adventure.
Are you ready to discover the best things to do in Northern Ireland? As previously mentioned, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Northern Ireland. Keep reading to discover why it’s one of the most underrated places to visit in Europe.
If you’re looking for jaw-dropping landscapes and picturesque hikes, or if you wish to learn about Northern Ireland’s rich history and culture, Northern Ireland can accommodate your needs. Here are all the best places to visit in Northern Ireland that you should know about for your next trip!
Step into a world where nature’s creativity knows no bounds at the Giant’s Causeway. This geological marvel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a testament to the power of volcanic activity and time. The result? About 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, some towering as high as 12 meters. Creating a dramatic landscape that’s nothing short of breath-taking. Is this one of the coolest places to visit in Northern Ireland? You bet.
The Giant’s Causeway is steeped in local folklore, too. Legend has it that these were stepping stones built by the Irish giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) to cross the sea and challenge his Scottish rival. Whether you choose to believe the tale or not, the sense of awe and wonder remains the same.
When visiting, consider renting a headset at the visitor center to learn about the myths and legends as you explore. And don’t rush back the way you came. Follow the cliff path for a steep climb that rewards you with panoramic views of the Causeway Coast. It’s a sight that will etch itself into your memory. And a reminder of the raw, untamed beauty of Northern Ireland, and one I urge all travelers to visit.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Northern Ireland, look no further than the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. This simple yet exhilarating bridge suspended nearly 100 feet above the crashing waves of the Atlantic. This connects the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede.
Originally erected by salmon fishermen over 350 years ago, the bridge today offers visitors a unique way to take in the stunning coastal scenery. Feel the sea breeze on your face and listen to the symphony of waves crashing against the rocks below. It’s a heart-pounding experience that’s not for the faint-hearted but is incredibly rewarding.
Once you’ve crossed, take some time to explore the island. And enjoy the tranquility, and soak up the panoramic views of Rathlin Island and Scotland. The Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge is more than just a crossing. It’s a journey into the heart of Northern Ireland’s wild and rugged beauty. And one of the most exciting places to visit in Northern Ireland.
Are you a fan of Game of Thrones? Then a visit to the Dark Hedges is a must! This atmospheric tunnel of gnarled beech trees, with their intertwining branches creating a natural archway, is one of the most photographed locations in Northern Ireland. It’s not hard to see why – there’s a certain enchantment that hangs in the air here. Making it feel like you’ve stepped into a fantasy world.
The Dark Hedges were planted in the 18th century by the Stuart family. This was to impress visitors as they approached their mansion, Gracehill House. Today, they impress visitors from all over the world. Especially those who recognize them as the Kingsroad from Game of Thrones.
Whether you’re a fan of the series or not, a stroll down this ethereal avenue is a magical experience and one of the best things to do in Northern Ireland. The play of light and shadow, the whispering leaves, and the sense of history make the Dark Hedges a must-visit spot on your Northern Ireland itinerary.
Immerse yourself in the story of the world’s most famous ship at Titanic Belfast. Located on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard where the Titanic was built, this award-winning visitor attraction takes you on a captivating journey through the ship’s conception, construction, launch, and tragic end.
The self-guided tour spans nine interactive galleries, each one offering a unique perspective on the Titanic’s story. From the shipyard where you can virtually ride through the ship’s construction, to the luxurious interiors of the ship, and finally the fateful iceberg collision, the experience is both educational and deeply moving.
Don’t miss the Ocean Exploration Centre, which provides insights into modern-day explorations and the Titanic’s resting place. And before you leave, take a moment to reflect at the Memorial Garden. This is where the names of all those who perished on that fateful night are etched on five bronze plaques.
Titanic Belfast is a poignant reminder of human ambition, ingenuity, and the power of storytelling. Whether you’re a history buff or eager to learn more about history of the iconic ship, the Titanic Belfast is one of the best places to visit in Northern Ireland and an experience that is sure to resonate with travelers for years to come.
For a taste of local life in Belfast, make your way to St. George’s Market. This Victorian-era market, dating back to the late 19th century, is a bustling hub of activity where you can find everything from fresh produce and artisanal food to antiques, crafts, and live music.
The market is divided into three sections: the Friday Variety Market, the Saturday City Food and Craft Market, and the Sunday Market. Each offers a unique shopping experience, but all are filled with the vibrant energy and friendly banter that Belfast is known for.
As you wander through the stalls, take the time to chat with the vendors, many of whom have been trading at the market for generations. Sample local delicacies like soda bread and Belfast baps or pick up a unique souvenir to remember your trip by. And don’t forget to enjoy the live music that fills the air, adding to the market’s lively atmosphere.
A visit to St. George’s Market is not just about shopping; it’s about immersing yourself in the local culture and experiencing the warm hospitality of Northern Ireland. If you’re looking for authentic things to do in Northern Ireland, don’t miss out on a visit to St. George’s Market in Belfast.
For one of the best outdoor things to do in Northern Ireland, head to the Gobbins Cliff Path. This dramatic coastal walk, located on the Islandmagee peninsula, offers an exhilarating experience as you traverse bridges, tunnels, and stairways carved into the cliff face.
The Gobbins, originally designed by railway engineer Berkeley Deane Wise in the early 20th century, takes you up close and personal with Northern Ireland’s rugged coastal landscape. As you navigate the path, you’ll be surrounded by the raw beauty of the North Channel, with stunning views of Scotland on a clear day.
Along the way, keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls this area home. From various seabird species nesting on the cliffs to seals lounging on the rocks below, the Gobbins is a haven for nature lovers.
Remember, the Gobbins Cliff Path is a challenging walk and requires a good level of fitness. But for those who dare, it’s an unforgettable experience that showcases the wild, untamed beauty of Northern Ireland.
Step back in time as you explore Derry, also known as Londonderry, the only completely walled city in Northern Ireland and one of the world’s best-preserved walled cities. The city’s rich history is evident in its well-preserved 17th-century walls, which you can walk along for panoramic views of the city and the River Foyle.
Start your exploration at the Guildhall, a stunning neo-Gothic building that houses the city’s council chambers and a museum. From there, make your way to the Tower Museum, where you can learn about the city’s history from the Plantation of Ulster to the modern era.
Don’t miss the Bogside neighborhood, known for its politically charged murals that tell the story of the Troubles, a period of conflict in Northern Ireland. The murals, known as the People’s Gallery, are a poignant reminder of the city’s past.
End your day with a stroll across the Peace Bridge, a symbol of unity and reconciliation in the city. Derry is a city that wears its history on its sleeve, offering visitors a deep and meaningful exploration of Northern Ireland’s past. It’s a city rich in culture, making it easy to see why it’s one of the coolest Northern Ireland attractions.
For outdoor enthusiasts, one of the best places to visit in Northern Ireland are the Mourne Mountains. This stunning mountain range in County Down is a haven for hikers, with a network of paths and trails that offer jaw-dropping views of the surrounding landscape.
The highest peak, Slieve Donard, is a popular challenge for many. The climb may be tough, but the panoramic views from the top, stretching across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man and even the Lake District on a clear day, are well worth the effort.
The Mourne Mountains are also home to the Silent Valley Reservoir, a serene spot perfect for a picnic or a leisurely walk. And for Game of Thrones fans, the Mournes served as the backdrop for many scenes in the series, including the Haunted Forest and the lands Beyond the Wall.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just enjoy a leisurely walk in nature, the Mourne Mountains offer an escape into Northern Ireland’s stunning natural beauty.
Take a deep dive into Northern Ireland’s rich history, art, and culture at the Ulster Museum. Located in the Botanic Gardens in Belfast, this museum houses a vast collection that spans over 9,000 years of Irish history.
The museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of topics, from archaeology and ethnography to art and natural sciences. Highlights include the Takabuti, an Egyptian mummy over 2,500 years old, and the Armada Room, which houses artifacts from the Spanish Armada shipwreck, La Trinidad Valencera.
Art lovers will appreciate the museum’s extensive art collection, which includes works by renowned Irish artists as well as international masters. And for those interested in the natural world, the museum’s nature zone offers a fascinating look at Ireland’s diverse wildlife and geological history.
One of the best things to do in Northern Ireland for families, the Ulster Museum offers a comprehensive and engaging exploration of Northern Ireland’s past and present and promises a fascinating experience for everyone.
No trip to Northern Ireland would be complete without a visit to the Old Bushmills Distillery, the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery. Established in 1608, this distillery in the small village of Bushmills has been crafting smooth Irish whiskey for over 400 years.
Take a guided tour to learn about the distillation process, from malting and fermentation to distillation and maturation. You’ll get to see the copper pot stills, the oak casks in the maturation warehouse, and even the bottling line where the finished product is prepared for distribution.
The highlight of the tour, of course, is the tasting session. Sample some of the distillery’s finest whiskeys and discover the subtle nuances that make Bushmills whiskey unique.
Whether you’re a whiskey connoisseur or a curious novice, the Old Bushmills Distillery offers a fascinating insight into the art of whiskey making. As far as things to do in Northern Ireland go, this is among the coolest!
For a unique experience like no other, you’ll want to check out this top place to visit in Northern Ireland. Perched dramatically on the edge of a basalt outcropping along the Antrim Coast, the ruins of Dunluce Castle are a sight to behold. This medieval castle, once the stronghold of the MacDonnell clan, is now a hauntingly beautiful reminder of Northern Ireland’s past.
The castle’s precarious location and its history of battles, power struggles, and even a tragic kitchen collapse into the sea, lend it an air of mystery and intrigue. As you explore the ruins, you can almost hear the echoes of the past in the wind.
Don’t forget to take in the stunning views of the rugged coastline and the crashing waves below. And make sure to visit the nearby Giant’s Causeway, another must-see attraction on the Antrim Coast.
Whether you’re a history lover or simply appreciate stunning landscapes, Dunluce Castle is a must-visit on your Northern Ireland adventure.
Venture beneath the surface of Northern Ireland and discover a hidden world of beauty at the Marble Arch Caves. This fascinating cave system, located in County Fermanagh, offers a unique adventure as you explore a subterranean landscape of rivers, waterfalls, winding passages, and lofty chambers.
The guided tour begins with a short boat ride on an underground river, leading you into the heart of the cave system. As you journey through, your guide will illuminate the caves’ features and share tales of their discovery and exploration.
Marvel at the stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones formed over thousands of years, and listen to the eerie silence of the caves, broken only by the drip of water. It’s a surreal and captivating experience that offers a different perspective on Northern Ireland’s natural beauty.
Remember to dress warmly and wear sturdy shoes, as the caves can be cool and the paths slippery. But for those willing to venture beneath the surface, the Marble Arch Caves offers one of the coolest things to do in Northern Ireland. It’s truly an unforgettable journey into the depths of the earth.
Looking for more information on the best things to do in Northern Ireland? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Northern Ireland:
What is Northern Ireland best known for?
Northern Ireland is best known for its rich history, cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and landmarks. Highlights include:
- Giant’s Causeway: An iconic natural formation of hexagonal basalt columns, created by ancient volcanic activity and steeped in myth.
- Troubles and political history: A significant period of conflict between nationalists and unionists that shaped its modern history, memorialized at various sites and in murals around Belfast.
- Titanic Belfast: An impressive museum located at the birthplace of the RMS Titanic. It details the ship’s history from construction to tragic end.
- Game of Thrones locations: As a filming location for the popular TV series, many sites, like the Dark Hedges and Castle Ward, have become major tourist attractions.
- Cultural festivals: Events such as the Belfast International Arts Festival that showcase music, dance, and theater.
- Historic castles: Including Carrickfergus Castle and Dunluce Castle, which dot the landscape.
- Lush landscapes: Including the Mourne Mountains, Lough Neagh, and various national parks.
This region blends the ancient and contemporary, offering visitors a taste of its storied past and its vibrant present.
Is Northern Ireland worth going to?
Absolutely! Northern Ireland is well worth a visit for a multitude of reasons:
- Stunning natural beauty: From the unique hexagonal pillars of the Giant’s Causeway to the rugged beauty of the Mourne Mountains and the captivating coastline, the region’s landscapes are diverse and breathtaking.
- Rich history and culture: The area offers insights into centuries of intriguing history. This includes everything from enchanting castles to its more recent past, marked by the “Troubles.” Belfast, its capital, is a testament to resilience and rebirth, with murals and museums detailing its storied history.
- Film tourism: As a primary filming location for “Game of Thrones,” fans can explore iconic sites like the Dark Hedges, Castle Ward, and more.
- Vibrant cities: Apart from Belfast with its Titanic Quarter and lively cultural scene, cities like Derry/Londonderry beckon with their historic walls and youthful energy.
- Warm hospitality: Known for its friendly people, Northern Ireland offers a welcoming atmosphere, making travelers feel right at home.
So whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or someone looking for unique cultural experiences, Northern Ireland provides countless attractions and is certainly worth the journey.
Northern Ireland can be visited at any time of the year. However, the best time to visit is generally during the summer months (June to August). This is when the weather is warmer and days are longer, allowing you to make the most of the outdoors. This is also the peak tourist season, so attractions may be busier. The shoulder seasons of spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) can also be a good time to visi. This is due to milder weather and fewer tourists.
While public transportation is available, having a car gives you the flexibility to explore at your own pace and reach more remote areas that are not easily accessible by public transport. Car hire is widely available, and the road network is good, making it easy to get around. However, be aware that in rural areas, roads can be narrow and winding.
Yes, Northern Ireland is generally safe for tourists. The region has come a long way since the Troubles. As such, visitors will generally find it to be as safe as any other part of the UK. However, like any travel destination, it’s always important to stay aware of your surroundings. Avoid isolated areas at night and take basic safety precautions.
Northern Ireland uses the British pound (£) as its currency. While some larger shops and tourist attractions may accept euros, it’s best to have pounds for smaller establishments and rural areas. Currency exchange is widely available, and credit cards are accepted in most places.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Therefore, your need for a visa depends on your nationality and the current UK immigration rules. It’s best to check the latest information from the official UK government website. Note: if you plan to also visit the Republic of Ireland (part of the EU), different visa rules apply.
Final thoughts on exploring Northern Ireland
And there you have it, the ultimate guide to the best things to do in Northern Ireland. From the mystical landscapes of the Giant’s Causeway and the Mourne Mountains to the historic walls of Derry and the bustling St. George’s Market, Northern Ireland is a land of diverse experiences.
Whether you’re exploring ancient castles, walking along rugged coastlines, delving into the vibrant nightlife of Belfast, or stepping into the world of Game of Thrones, Northern Ireland promises an adventure that’s as captivating as it is unforgettable.
So lace up your walking shoes and get ready to explore the Emerald Isle’s northeastern gem. Northern Ireland is waiting to share its stories, its beauty, and its warm hospitality with you. Here’s to an Irish adventure that you’ll remember forever!