There are so many things to do in Northern Ireland. Here are my highlights from 3 days in the country.
You shouldn’t travel to the island of Ireland without driving the Causeway Coastal Route of Northern Ireland. It’s one of the greatest road trips you’ll ever take, and it’s easy to explore it on your own. There are so many memorable things to do in Northern Ireland.
By starting and ending your journey with city breaks in Belfast and Derry respectively, you’ll discover spectacular sights and unique gems that should not be missed.
Here’s how I spent three days in the Northern Ireland. With one day in Belfast, one day on a self drive tour of the Causeway Coastal Route, and one day in Derry, I’m sure you’ll quickly fall in love with the region just like I did.
DAY 1: BELFAST
Although I always recommend devoting more time to a city if you have it, I managed to explore a few places within Belfast in a day.
Rated as one of the best things to do in Northern Ireland, Belfast, and even all of Europe, I highly recommend checking out Titanic Belfast. This popular museum serves as a memorial to the ill-fated RMS Titanic, which sadly plunged to the bottom of the ocean in 1912.
Why is this Titanic attraction in Belfast? The Titanic was designed and built in the city. In fact, Titanic Belfast sits right on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard, and you can wander around the original launching place before the Titanic headed out on her fateful journey.
Across nine interactive galleries, you can discover interesting facts and displays about the Titanic, from its conception to its demise. There’s even a ride partway through this self-guided museum tour.
1 Olympic Way, Queens Road,
Belfast BT3 9EP
See website for hours of operation
Of all the things to do in Northern Ireland, I suggest viewing the Peace Walls of Belfast and the People’s Gallery in Derry to understand the struggles and challenges the people of Northern Ireland have faced over the years.
These walls were constructed during The Troubles as a barrier between the Nationalist and Loyalist communities in Belfast. Today, the walls are covered with striking murals depicting the violence and tumultuous times in Belfast and Northern Ireland.
Some murals also commemorate other historic events and movements throughout recent history. Take the time to wander around these city blocks and examine each mural thoughtfully.
Although I explored the Peace Walls on my own, I will take a Black Cab Tour upon my return to Belfast. Through the personal accounts of a tour guide, I know I’d learn way more than simply observing and learning details on my own.
Wall along Northumberland Street, between Falls Rd and Shankill Rd.
Explore the streets between Northumberland and Lanark Way.
WHERE TO EAT
I’m always seeking the best vegan and vegetarian options when I travel. In Belfast, there were no issues finding vegan meals at plant-based restaurants. Here are a couple of my favourite spots.
THE HONEST VEGAN
The Honest Vegan is the best restaurant for breakfast or lunch. Your options are healthy, vegan meals that don’t skimp on flavour. In addition to a chocolate smoothie, I devoured my noodle salad, which had tons of veggies, peanuts, and a delightful Asian-inspired dressing.
My dining partner ordered a vegan chili and cauliflower bites that looked equally as delicious.
The Honest Vegan
336 Lisburn Road
Belfast BT9 6GH
Website: The Honest Vegan
387 ORMEAU ROAD
Named after its own address, 387 Ormeau Road is my choice for a dinner establishment. While it’s also a cafe and a small grocery store, there are tons of choices for scrumptious meals at this casual restaurant.
I ordered a chickpea “tuna” sandwich with a side tempeh salad, along with a slice of cake for dessert.
There’s also smashed avocado toast, sausage rolls, burritos, soups, sandwiches, and they’re all vegan.
387 Ormeau Road
WHERE TO STAY
I spent one night in Belfast at the Clayton Hotel Belfast. Centrally located, it was a breeze to walk around the city to many attractions, such as the ones I listed above. It’s also easy to Uber around Belfast if you need to get somewhere farther away.
For a quiet and comfortable stay in a hotel where the staff treats you like family, I recommend checking out the Clayton Hotel Belfast.
Interested to compare other hotels to the Clayton Hotel Belfast or stay somewhere completely different? You can search for hotels in your price range here.
Looking for more photographs of Belfast? Check out my entire Belfast travel photo album. You can purchase prints, canvas wall hangings, housewares, and more.
DAY 2: CAUSEWAY COASTAL ROUTE
Yes, you can discover the entire Causeway Coastal Route in one day! I highly recommend renting a car in Ireland and exploring this region on your own.
There are many things to do in Northern Ireland along this expanse of coastal land, teeming with stunning natural scenery and interesting historical places. Plan to head out as early as possible to reach your first destination as the sun rises, and you’ll have plenty of time for the full experience.
THE DARK HEDGES
Admire this unique row of craggy trees, known as the Dark Hedges, as seen in Game of Thrones. It’s in the middle of the countryside, and it’s one of the prettiest country roads I’ve ever seen. Plan to get here as early as possible before the swarms of tourists and tour buses arrive. Not only will your pictures lack the crowds, but you’ll also be able to easily find a parking space.
The Dark Hedges
BT53 8TP, UK
It’s not so much the castle as the incredible scenery surrounding it that makes Kinbane Castle such a special place. I stumbled upon Kinbane Castle along the Causeway Coastal Route, and it’s a gem that you have to see.
Navigate the hiking path from the top of the cliffs to the rocky shores below before climbing the peninsula to the castle ruin grounds. You’ll feel on top of the world as you climb to the top of the vista, with views of the lush, rolling hills and the deep blue sea.
Hiking around Kinbane Castle quickly became one of my favourite things to do in Northern Ireland.
81 Whitepark Rd,
BT54 6LP, UK
CARRICK-A-REDE ROPE BRIDGE
Do you dare cross this swaying rope bridge? Suspended 100 feet in the air above the crashing waves, you’ll experience unforgettable scenery of this beautiful region if you don’t mind looking down!
Aim to arrive here as early as possible, as the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a popular attraction. You don’t want to wait in a huge line-up to cross the bridge, so aim to get there for when it opens at 9:30am.
Once I walked across the bridge, I admired these gorgeous Irish landscapes as much as possible before I treated myself to another jaunt across the bridge back to the mainland.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
119a Whitepark Rd
Ballycastle BT54 6LS
Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
For hours & ticket info: National Trust Website
BALLYCASTLE & URSA MINOR
Stroll around the idyllic town of Ballycastle, home to brightly painted houses and a charming cafe called Ursa Minor.
Ursa Minor has the richest coffee, the softest baked bread, and some of the most delicious meals around. If you’re feeling a little chilly from wandering around the Causeway Coastal Route in the morning, don’t fret – order a hearty bowl of soup to warm yourself up.
From the decor to the tasty dishes, I was thoroughly wowed by Ursa Minor and only wish I could frequent this cute little cafe more often.
45 Ann St,
BT54 6AA, UK
Wedged between the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the Giant’s Causeway on your road trip of the Causeway Coastal Route, you’ll find Ballintoy Harbour. Not only is it another Game of Thrones filming location, but it’s one of the most breathtaking scenes on this entire journey.
I think Ballintoy Harbour was my favourite place among all the things to do in Northern Ireland. It was very serene, peaceful, and beautiful. The water was so calm, and no one else was really around. I studied the nearby massive rock formations and the tiny rocks that dotted the sand.
It’s one place I’d have no difficulty spending the entire day. I’d love to bring a book and a cup of coffee, and allow myself to become completely enraptured by the scenery over many hours.
BT54 6NA, UK
WHITE BAY PARK
Beyond Ballintoy Harbour as you continue west along the Causeway Coastal Route, you’ll find a scenic outlook. There’s room to stop the car so you can fully take in your surroundings. Enjoy these panoramic views of White Bay Park.
It’s possible to hike from Ballintoy Harbour to White Bay Park, and I’d like to do this at some point in the future.
There’s not much left of Dunseverick Castle, but it’s worth a stop to learn about its history from a nearby historic plaque. Sadly, the main tower of Dunseverick Castle broke apart and tumbled to the sea below. However, Saint Patrick lived here in the 5th century, and it was once a mighty castle.
Perhaps the most famous stop on the Causeway Coastal Route, Giant’s Causeway is an impressive terrain to explore. It’s one of the top things to do in Northern Ireland. Wander around this famous site consisting of approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns of varying heights.
Giant’s Causeway formed after an ancient volcanic eruption, although there’s a local legend involving a duel between giants that ultimately created these hexagonal rocks.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a phenomenon of nature, you simply must stop here on your road trip of Northern Ireland.
44 Causeway Rd,
BT57 8SU, UK
Dunluce Castle is the site of medieval castle ruins in Northern Ireland. Surrounded by steep cliffs, it functioned as a home and a strategically placed fort. The ruins are largely in tact, with only a section of the kitchen collapsing into the sea (and taking staff members down with it, back in the day).
It’s another filming location of Game of Thrones as the great castle of Pyke.
Wander around the castle grounds, take a trip to the top of the tower ruins, and soak up the stunning views all around.
87 Dunluce Rd,
BT57 8UY, UK
Downhill Demesne is a massive estate, including the ruins of the Downhill House, the gardens, and the Mussenden Temple. The ruins of the home are impressive, although I loved the architecture of the temple the most. Based on the Italian Temple of Vista, Mussenden Temple sits on the edge of the escarpment, overlooking a beautiful beach.
Although the site was quite deserted when we walked around, I’d love to return sometime to see inside the temple itself (only by guided tour).
Looking for more pictures? Check out my entire travel photo album of the Causeway Coastal Route.
107 Sea Rd,
BT51 4TW, UK
WHERE TO EAT
At last, you’ll end up in the city of Derry after a day exploring the Causeway Coastal Route. My best recommendation for a restaurant for dinner is Browns Restaurant at Bonds Hill in Derry.
With meals to satisfy both omnivores and vegans alike, this upscale establishment will satisfy your hunger and delight your senses. Through artful presentation and perfectly seasoned dishes, you’ll rave all night about the delicious meal you enjoyed at Browns Restaurant.
There’s a separate vegetarian menu with the vegan options clearly marked.
Browns Bonds Hill
1 Bonds Hill,
Londonderry BT47 6DW
WHERE TO STAY
I stayed at Bridge Bed & Breakfast, right across the bridge as you enter downtown Derry. From the moment I arrived, I was made to feel like a member of the family. The property and my room was comfortable, clean, and quiet. The owners even ensured that a traditional vegan Irish breakfast was prepared in the morning, and they’re happy to cater to any special diets.
Be sure to book your stay at Bridge B&B or read more reviews from trusted travellers around the world. If you’d like to take a look at other hotels in Derry within various price ranges, here is a full list of Derry accommodations.
3 Dacre Terrace,
BT48 6JU, UK
DAY 3: DERRY
Just as Belfast deserves some extra time, you should spend more time in Derry to fully appreciate it. While I didn’t get the chance to spend even 24 hours in Derry, I highly recommend that you visit a few key places around town to gain a better understanding of its history.
Staying overnight and spending time in Derry topped my list of things to do in Northern Ireland. The people of Derry are really friendly (as are most people in Ireland), so I suggest that you speak to the locals should you have any questions.
WANDER THE WALLS
Did you know that Derry is the only city in Ireland / Northern Ireland with fortification walls that remain fully intact? You can gain unique vantage points from up on the walls, and I suggest walking around the entire perimetre of the walls. There are cannons, scenic viewpoints, and interesting buildings to see on the way.
THE PEOPLE’S GALLERY
In the Bogside neighbourhood, the People’s Gallery is one of the most poignant collections of street art in the world. These murals on the sides of building are a testament to the resilience of Derry’s citizens and what they’ve collectively endured for decades.
Key events from The Troubles in Derry are depicted, including scenes of violence that resulted in the death of innocent people. Not only do the murals commemorate these happenings, but they showcase that Derry is working towards peaceful resolutions.
As an outsider, I gained a small window of understanding to Derry’s troubled past through these displays of public art.
FREE DERRY CORNER
As you’re viewing the People’s Gallery, you’ll discover the Free Derry Corner. The sign is all that remains of a row of homes, marking a self-declared nationalist region of town from 1969 to 1972.
The Free Derry sign is often painted with additional messages on it nowadays, aligning the city with various political movements around the world.
DERRY PEACE BRIDGE
The Derry Peace Bridge is a pedestrian bridge that connects two areas of town that are separated by the River Foyle. Historically, the river divided the Protestant Waterside and the Nationalist Bogside, but this bridge unites both neighbourhoods and political sides.
The Peace Bridge is another symbol in town of the unification of these communities, allowing people to freely move back and forth.
EXPLORE THE TOWN
I urge you to wander around town and explore on your own two feet. You’ll stumble upon ancient cemeteries and churches, shops, pubs, unique architecture, and all the town has to offer. One of my favourite things to do in a new place is walk around the streets of a city, and Derry is very walkable.
Take a few hours to try the local restaurants, pubs, and cafes. Poke your head into neighbourhood shops, and take photographs around town.
WHERE TO EAT
If you’re looking for a lunch spot after you’ve enjoyed your yummy homemade breakfast at Bridge B&B, I suggest checking out Hidden City Cafe. There’s a full salad bar with intriguing options, as well as sandwiches and even desserts. Hidden City Cafe has lots of vegan options, and most of their meals are vegetarian (if not fully vegan).
I sampled some salads and took a seitan and onion sandwich to go, as it ended up being the perfect picnic meal to satisfy my hunger on the road.
Hidden City Cafe
3-5 London St
Derry BT48 6RQ
If you’re looking for more restaurants to try, be sure to check out my vegan dining guide to Derry.
While you could choose to stay another night at Bridge B&B, I decided to venture on to new places beyond Northern Ireland by late afternoon.
Looking for more photos of Derry? Check out my entire Derry travel photo album.
LOOKING FOR TOURS?
While I saw all of these things to do in Northern Ireland by renting a car, you can also cover a lot of ground by booking a tour. There are tons of excellent tours to take around Northern Ireland:
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