Northern Ireland

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Northern Ireland - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Grand Opera House

    Golden Mile

    Shows from all over Ireland and Britain—and sometimes farther afield—play at this beautifully restored Victorian theater which reopened at the end of 2020 following a major refurbishment. Though it has no resident company of its own, major West End musicals and plays pass through, plus the occasional opera or ballet. It's worth attending a show just to enjoy the gigantic and splendid opera house itself. The Baby Grand—a theater-within-a-theater—hosts comedy, live music, and educational workshops, as well as film and special events. Guided backstage tours are available, mostly on alternate Saturday mornings (10:30--11:30) and cost £8.50; check the website for details.

    2 Great Victoria St., Belfast, Co. Down, BT2 7HR, Northern Ireland
    028-9024–1919
  • 2. Lyric Theatre

    University Area

    One of Northern Ireland's most prized cultural organizations, the Lyric presents a diverse repertory of classical, popular, and contemporary drama, frequently showcasing the work of local playwrights. With its angular brick bulk topped by three distinctive sloping roofs, the theater is an impressive modernist achievement. The Lyric's famed patron Liam Neeson made his 1976 stage debut here in Brian Friel's Philadelphia, Here I Come! Strong emphasis is placed on the use of natural light, with a glass-walled Long Hall running the length of the first floor and looking out over the River Lagan. The main auditorium is lined with iroko wood and has 33 different styles of brick, all specially fired so each one is complete and uncut. In addition to the main 390-seat venue, presided over by the Danske Bank Stage, the Naughton Studios, a theater space, holds up to 125 people. In the foyer look out for the stunning wall portraits of local actors, playwrights, and poets painted by the renowned Belfast artist Colin Davidson.

    55 Ridgeway St., Belfast, Co. Down, BT9 5FB, Northern Ireland
    028-9038–1081
  • 3. Arts Council of Northern Ireland

    The country's main arts agency supports a range of cultural events, including many Belfast festivals, and has information about them.

    The Sidings, Lisburn, Co. Antrim, BT28 3AH, Northern Ireland
    028-9262–3555
  • 4. Belfast International Arts Festival

    University Area

    This long-established Belfast festival lasts for three weeks in October and is the city's major arts festival.

    Northern Ireland
    028-9033–2261
  • 5. Belfast Waterfront

    Central District

    This world-class performance venue houses a 2,200-seat concert hall (for ballet and classical, rock, and Irish music) and a 500-seat studio space (for modern dance, jazz, and experimental theater). From the Waterfront bar you can have a pint and enjoy the river views before or after your culture fix. The main box office for booking events here is based at the Ulster Hall in Bedford Street.

    2 Lanyon Pl., Belfast, Co. Down, BT1 3WH, Northern Ireland
    028-9033–4455
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  • 6. Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival

    Cathedral Quarter

    This early-May festival, always buzzing with energy, attracts local, national, and international visual and performing artists. Its base of operations is the Black Box on Hill Street, at the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, where a café serves snacks during the day and light lunches. The same organization runs the very successful Out to Lunch festival in January.

    Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland
    028-9023–2403
  • 7. Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich

    West Belfast

    During 2021, this cosmopolitan arts center celebrated 30 years since it opened its doors in an area of the city that was seriously lacking visitor attractions. Promoting Gaeilge (Irish language) and culture, the center hosts exhibitions, book launches, concerts, theater, and poetry readings. Two choirs—one from a children's drama school and the other from resident theater company Aisling Ghéar—are based here. For travelers interested in the Gaeltacht experience, this is a great place to start. On the ground floor, the Dillon Gallery, named after the Falls Road artist Gerard Dillon, who spent much time painting in Connemara in the West of Ireland, mounts shows by top local and international artists. A shop, An Ceathrú Póilí (The Fourth Policeman), sells Irish-language and English books as well as crafts and the all-important West Belfast Mural Map. Also here are a tourist information point, Wi-Fi access, and Restaurant Bia. Ask for information about the Gaeltacht Way, a 4-km (2½-mile) walking route that takes in the major Irish language-related sites of the area.

    216 Falls Rd., Belfast, Co. Down, BT12 6AH, Northern Ireland
    028-9096–4180
    View Tours and Activities
  • 8. Festival of Fools

    Cathedral Quarter

    This vibrant three-day street-theater event coinciding with the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival spills into public spaces across Belfast the first weekend in May. The popular event has been running since 2003 and features world-class entertainers in the form of acrobats and visiting artistes.

    Belfast, Co. Down, Northern Ireland
    028-9023–6007
  • 9. Millennium Forum

    West Bank

    This catchall venue hosts everything from boy bands and comedians to plays, musicals, tattoo conventions, and even weddings (invitations required). The Arbutus at the Forum restaurant on the ground floor offers discounts on show nights and snacks during the day from noon.

    Newmarket St., Derry, Co. Londonderry, BT48 6EB, Northern Ireland
    028-7126–4455
  • 10. Playhouse

    West Bank

    With its impressive auditorium and workshop spaces, the Playhouse stages traditional and contemporary plays and holds concerts.

    5–7 Artillery St., Derry, Co. Londonderry, BT48 6EG, Northern Ireland
    028-7126–8027
  • 11. Queen's Film Theatre (QFT)

    University Area

    Belfast's main art cinema shows domestic and foreign movies on its two screens.

    20 University Sq., Belfast, Co. Down, BT7 1PA, Northern Ireland
    028-9097–1097
  • 12. SSE Arena

    Titanic Quarter

    The Belfast Giants hockey team is the main tenant of the 10,000-seat SSE Arena, but Northern Ireland's biggest indoor venue also hosts rock, pop, and classical concerts. The box office for tickets opens one hour before each event or you can book tickets online. The adjacent SSE Pavilion complex has bars, restaurants, shops, and nightclubs.

    2 Queen's Quay, Belfast, Co. Down, BT3 9QQ, Northern Ireland
  • 13. The Crescent Arts Centre

    University Area

    Based in a beautifully restored rambling stone building—a former girls' high school—the Crescent presents an all-year-round series of events. Experimental dance and theater, concerts, and workshops are all part of the program. The center also hosts the Belfast Book Festival (in the second week of June) during which writers participate in lively talks, lectures, and readings. Exhibitions are held in the upstairs gallery. Light meals and snacks are available at lunchtime in the Pantry Café, where storyboards tell the history of the building and famous locals connected to it. Nature note: between May and July, common swifts fly in from southern Africa to nest above the center's stone walls. Special "swift bricks" have been installed to provide nesting sites.

    2 University Rd., Belfast, Co. Down, BT7 1NH, Northern Ireland
    028-9024–2338
  • 14. The Ould Lammas Fair

    Every year since 1606, on the last Monday and Tuesday in August, Ballycastle has hosted the Ould Lammas Fair, a modern version of the ancient Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasa (Irish for "August"). Ireland's oldest fair, this is a very popular two-day event with entertainers, several hundred shopping stalls, and even a pony show. Treat yourself to the fair's traditional snacks, dulse (sun-dried seaweed; also known as dillisk), and yellowman (rock-hard yellow toffee).

    Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland
  • 15. Ulster Hall

    Central District

    The historic Ulster Hall (it once hosted Rachmaninov) is the permanent home of the Ulster Orchestra. The classical music season runs here from September through April. Concerts are mostly held on Fridays, but you can call or check online ( www.ulsterorchestra.org.uk) to learn about other dates, free open rehearsals, and 50-minute lunchtime concerts. Apart from classical, the hall presents rock, folk, traditional Irish, blues, jazz, and other forms, along with comedy and cabaret acts. With its superb acoustics, Ulster Hall provides the perfect listening and foot-tapping experience.

    Belfast, Co. Down, BT2 7FF, Northern Ireland
    028-9033–4455
    View Tours and Activities
  • 16. Movie House Cinema

    Golden Mile
    Closed Permanently

    This major showplace hosts 10 screens of major British and American box-office favorites.

    14 Dublin Rd., Belfast, Co. Down, BT2 7HN, Northern Ireland
    028-9075–3300

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