Trying to decide between Dublin and Belfast? You’re definitely in the right place then because this guide will help you do just that!
I’ve covered everything you need to know about the two cities from the cost of travel to the top things to see and do in both Dublin and Belfast. Read on to learn which city is the better option overall, what you can see and do in both of them, and why there’s value in visiting both Dublin and Belfast!
Can’t be bothered to read through this detailed list of reasons why Dublin and Belfast are both worth visiting. That’s fine – if you can only visit one of the two cities, it should be Dublin.
It’s the bigger city with more tourist attractions, a richer history, and a wider array of things to do and see. Dublin is a proper metropolis with nearly 2 million residents in the Greater Area, as opposed to Belfast where you can walk from one end of the city to the other in less than an hour. Dublin is also the capital of the Republic of Ireland, so you can learn a lot about the country’s history in the city. Also, Belfast and Dublin are only two hours apart, so if you end up traveling to Dublin, you can easily organize a day trip to Belfast to see some of the top sights.
On the other hand, Dublin is much more expensive and a lot busier than Belfast. If you’re trying to travel on a budget and you prefer to avoid crowds of tourists, then Belfast might be the better option for you after all.
Although Dublin and Belfast are both geographically located on the same island, they’re in two different countries. Dublin is in Ireland and Belfast is in the UK – depending on where you’re from, there might be different requirements for your entry into the countries.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Dublin and Belfast are two very different cities. Dublin is a proper metropolis with some 1.9 million residents in the Greater Dublin Area. Greater Belfast Area, on the other hand, has an estimated population of 585,000, which is about the same as the population of proper Dublin.
Belfast doesn’t attract nearly as many tourists as Dublin, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you prefer less crowded cities, Belfast might just be the better option for you. On the other hand, Dublin has truly become a melting pot of different cultures over the years with a lot of immigrants from various European countries. That means you’ll be able to find all sorts of different cuisines throughout the city, as well as meet people from all over the world.
Dublin is easily the better option for people who like exploring new cities and seeing everything they have to offer. It’s the bigger city with a plethora of tourist attractions including parks, monuments, museums, cathedrals, and whatnot. If you want to learn about the history of Ireland, walk around the Guinness brewery, and get into the history of the Irish Whiskey, then it’s Dublin all the way.
Belfast, on the other hand, is the better fit for people who are into maritime history, medieval architecture, and sprawling city parks. The city boasts excellent history museums, thrilling hiking trails just minutes outside the city center, and even a zoo mostly filled with endangered animal species. The nature of tourist attractions in Belfast is quite different from those in Dublin – if you enjoy things that are unusual and different, you will love it in Belfast.
If cost is an important factor in your decision-making, Belfast is the better city hands down. It is a lot cheaper than Dublin in every area from accommodation to public transport. Restaurants and pubs are also much cheaper in Belfast than in Dublin, as are museum tickets, guided tours, and pretty much everything else.
One thing worth noting here is that different currencies are used in the two cities. Belfast is in the UK, so it uses the Sterling Pound. Dublin, on the other hand, uses the Euro just like the rest of the EU.
Dublin is a stunning city with parks, castles, and two cathedrals. It’s also home to too many pubs to count, and a proper Dublin pub crawl is just one of the many fun things to do in the capital of Ireland!
The Dublin Castle is a historic 13th-century fortress in the heart of the city. It was originally constructed as a defensive fortification, but later became the official residence of prominent figures in the Irish administration. Nowadays, Dublin Castle is a major tourist attraction with two museums, cafes, vast castle gardens, a library, and staterooms.
Phoenix Park is a vast green space commonly known as Dublin’s Playground. It’s home to the Dublin Zoo, Pheonix Park Tea Rooms, the spectacular Wellington Monument, and even the official residence of the President of Ireland. Phoenix Park is so enormous that it has its own visitor’s center, situated in a restored 15th-century castle.
The park is certainly worth a visit and you can plan to spend at least a few hours here, much more if you’re also going to see the Dublin Zoo. The zoo is the largest in all of Ireland, popular for its diverse exhibits of African Plain, Asian Forests, and Fringes of the Arctic.
The Guinness Storehouse is easily one of the most popular tourist attractions in Dublin. The brewery/museum is one of the first stops on most Dublin tours, and for great reasons. Guinness is one of the most famous beers in the world, and a visit to the Guinness Storehouse will shed some light on why the brand is so famous all over the world.
The entire tour experience is rather immersive – it starts with an informative trip to the museum where you get to learn pretty much everything about the famous brand, and ends with a nice glass of cold Guinness beer in the rooftop bar with spectacular views of Dublin. It’s worth noting that they recently opened an outdoor Brewery Yard Bard so you might end up there and not at the top of the building, depending on the social distancing rules that are in place during your visit.
Dublin’s National Botanic Gardens are a must for anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors surrounded by lots of trees and flowers. The gardens feature several distinct areas, including an arboretum, a Victorian palm house, and a formal gardens section.
The botanic garden is situated in the same huge park as the Glasnevin Cemetery. If you’re up for a quick tour of Victorian burial grounds, you should also consider visiting Glasnevin Cemetery. It’s more of an open-air museum with excellent exhibits on Irish history and Celtic architecture.
Dublinia is one of the best museums in Dublin if you have kids. If you’re an avid Viking fan, you probably won’t enjoy the museum as much. But, the exhibits are all child-friendly, and some of them are even interactive.
The museum boasts exhibits on Viking history and medieval Dublin, and it’s a nice way to learn more about the city’s rich history. You can even climb to the top of a medieval tower and gain an entirely new perspective on the city of Dublin!
Ha’penny Bridge is a cast-iron bridge originally built in the 19th-century. It has been refurbished since, and it remains one of Dublin’s most important symbols. The bridge is right in the middle of the city, connecting the two banks separated by River Liffey.
As an important city symbol and a popular tourist attraction, it should come as no surprise that Ha’penny Bridge is always busy. There are always people on the bridge, whether they’re walking to work or snapping photos of the scenic river views.
The Irish Emigration Museum is one of the highlights of a proper Dublin tour. It boasts extensive exhibits on Irish heritage and emigration, and all the exhibits are separated into themed rooms. The museum tour is free for children, but this is not exactly the sort of museum that kids will enjoy, even though there are plenty of interactive exhibits.
The museum is best suited for adults who want to learn more about Irish heritage and see how the emigration of the people impacted their culture today.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. It was originally founded in the 12th century and it’s named after Ireland’s patron saint. It’s not the only Cathedral in Dublin, but it certainly is the most impressive one. Visit to admire the distinctly Gothic exterior, the vaulted ceilings, and the stunning stained glass windows.
It’s no secret that the Irish love their whiskey. The decadent drink is rather important for the culture, so a tour of the Irish Whiskey Museum is a great way to learn a little more about the history of the popular beverage.
The tour is fun and informative, and it ends with a tasting of Ireland’s finest whiskey. The tasting alone is worth the money if you’re into hard liquor! It’s probably better to do an afternoon tour of the museum though unless you want to be tipsy before breakfast.
Christ Church Cathedral is more formally known as the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, and it’s the older of the two cathedrals in Dublin. It was founded in the 11th century and it is built in Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles.
Tour the inside of the church to see the display of a mummified cat and rat chase, which is just as unusual as it sounds. The crypt is even more interesting than the ornate interior of the cathedral with many intriguing artifacts including a copy of the Magna Carta and many other items found in the treasury.
The National Gallery of Ireland is likely the best tourist attraction in the whole city of Dublin for art lovers. It’s located right in the center of Dublin, with two entrances – one is on Clare Street and the other one is right next to Leinster House.
It boasts a vast collection of European art from the 14th to the 20th century with examples from all the major schools. The gallery has a rather large collection of Irish paintings, as well as sizeable collections of Dutch masters and Italian Baroque paintings.
It’s no secret that the Irish love to drink, whether we’re talking about Jameson or Guinness. St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in Ireland meant to commemorate the death of Ireland’s patron saint. How do the Irish celebrate? By drinking themselves blind and getting kicked out of pubs.
To really get to know Dublin, you need to gain a deep understanding of the city’s pub culture. That’s why a self-guided pub crawl is one of the top things to do while you’re in the city! There are a plethora of amazing pubs to visit in Dublin, so the ideal pub crawl route is highly customizable to your personal preferences.
But there are some pubs that you really shouldn’t skip – The Brazen Head is Dublin’s oldest pub, the Palace is the oldest bar that’s still preserved in its original structure, and O’Donoghue’s is a true Irish pub that doubles as an inn. Countless other names should be in the mix, so be sure to check out what others are saying before you start to explore Dublin’s best pubs pint by pint.
Just because it’s not as popular with tourists doesn’t mean that there’s nothing fun to do in Belfast. The city is full of interesting spots, from the Titanic Museum to the iconic Belfast Castle!
The Titanic Belfast Museum is one of the best-known and most popular tourist attractions in the city. The museum is entirely dedicated to the sunken liner and it features an extensive exhibit on the Titanic. There are recreated passenger cabins, hands-on displays, and an underwater exploration theatre.
There’s a restaurant at the museum, as well as a souvenir shop where you can purchase all sorts of Titanic memorabilia. If you’re interested in the history of the Titanic and want to buy some cool souvenirs, definitely don’t miss out on a visit to Belfast’s most popular museum.
CS Lewis Square is a Narnia-themed plaza with sculptures of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s a fun place to visit for all Narnia fans, but it’s not something you should plan to spend a lot of time exploring. The plaza is quite small and the only things worth seeing there are the statues.
Ulster Museum is one of Belfast’s most important museums. It boasts exhibits on Irish culture and history, spanning a period over the last 9000 years. It’s a great place to learn more about the Irish and their history, plus you can see all sorts of interesting objects including furniture, art, ceramics, and costumes.
The largest museum in Northern Ireland even boasts a mummy, as well as other exhibits on natural sciences. It’s an educational and entertaining museum, so plan to spend at least 2-3 hours exploring it.
The Belfast Peace Wall was originally erected to quell the Northern Irish conflict. Although the war is in the past, Northern Ireland still has some issues with ethnonationalism. The Peace Wall is a testament to the bloody history of the region, but nowadays it’s a much more pleasant sight. It’s adorned with murals, graffiti, and various messages, most of which are promoting peace and celebrating the friends of Northern Ireland.
The Belfast Castle is situated in a vast country park, so you could spend an entire day in the area. Explore the castle grounds, have lunch at the restaurant, and then head to the adventure park or explore the nearby hiking trails.
The castle is exceptionally beautiful with a landscaped garden and quite a lot of cat statues and murals. A tour of the castle is a must and be sure to glance out the castle windows to admire the panoramic views of Belfast.
Saint Anne’s Cathedral is a Romanesque cathedral famous for serving two different dioceses – Down and Dromore and Connor. It’s a Church of Ireland cathedral and it is more commonly known as just the Belfast Cathedral.
The Romanesque building is certainly an interesting sight and it’s the focal point of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. It boasts a war memorial façade and it’s known for being spireless, which is probably the most interesting fact about the Belfast Cathedral.
St. George’s Market is a 19th-century (farmer’s) market that’s open from Friday to Sunday. It’s very popular with tourists and even more with locals since you can get pretty much anything here, from vintage art to fresh fish. The indoor market is also popular for food, flowers, souvenirs, cafes, and restaurants, so be sure to check it out if you need to do some shopping while you are in Belfast!
The Belfast Zoo is special because it contains around 150 species of animals, most of which are endangered. That’s amazing because you get to see animals that you might have never seen before in your life. Also, the Belfast Zoo is doing its fair share in the breeding of these endangered animals, and that’s the main reason why everyone should visit the zoo – they truly deserve the support.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.