A Jam-packed ‘Meander’ around Belfast

US visitor Jessica Pyhtila spends 5 days in the fair city


US visitor Jessica Pyhtila has visited the island of Ireland before and will visit again as she prefers to spend time “meandering to really get a feel for places”, rather than trying to “squeeze in a ton of things at breackneck speed”.

On this occasion she decided to spend five days in our lovely Belfast. All we can say is that Jessica meanders  at breakneck speed as she managed to do Belfast proud, visiting all the major sites, some top pubs, and also getting to enjoy live shows at the Grand Opera House and the Lyric Theatre.

Fast Facts

  • Visitor name: Jessica Pyhtila
  • Traveling: solo
  • Traveling from: US
  • When: February (early Spring) 2022
  • Destination: Belfast
  • For how long: 5 days

Here’s what Jessica says:

Here are some thoughts and tips on Belfast!

1. The Titanic Museum

The Titanic Experience
The Titanic Belfast Experience
I’m not a museum person, but this place turned me into one. It is amazing — my favorite parts are:
  • the sinking room (where are you hear the frantic Morse code tapped out while audio of survivors plays in the background, and the room is dark except for the shimmer of stars overhead, water-y lights, and a backdrop of the boat sinking slowly against the far wall, and
  • The glass floor in the underwater exploration room where you see the wreckage of the titanic pass under your feet.
Also, you get to board the RMS Nomadic, which was the Titanic‘s tender ship that was built at the same time by the same people using the same materials. Touching its hull is the closest you will get to touching the Titanic itself.

2. The pubs

Belfast Pubs
Belfast Pubs – ‘Trad’ at Fibber Magees and Kelly’s Cellars
I felt like I had a much more authentic pub experience in Belfast than in Dublin, especially with regards to trad music. Most of the people I met in Belfast pubs were locals. I went to White’s, Kelly’s Cellars, and McHughs as I was told they were the oldest in the city. (NI Holidays: yes, they all are!)

3. Black Cab Tour

The Troubles Taxi Tour
The Troubles Taxi Tour – Republic and Unionist communities just metres apart.
Super interesting with regards to the troubles, but honestly not my favorite part. There are so many murals in Belfast it is impossible to appreciate them all. It was amazing to get to see some of them in person, like of course the iconic Bobby Sands mural, but like I said there were so many that it was hard to get a full appreciation. For me, the salient point was learning how different the murals are on the unionist vs nationalist sides of the city: that exercise in compare/contrast was very enlightening. But I honestly feel like I learned just as much during my hop on/hop off bus tour, although I had more picture taking ability on the cab tour if that makes sense.

4. The arts

Jessica Pyhtila - Theatre in Belfast
Belfast theatre scene – The Grand Opera House (top), with singer / songwriter legend Phil Coulter and Callings at the Lyric Theatre (bottom right)
I like a good show as much as the next person, but something spurred me to try to see a bunch of live productions when I was in Belfast. They were all excellent, but theaters around the city are a bit far flung so Uber was my BFF. (And my drivers were invaluable resources in terms of recommending local pubs and the like). It was wonderful to get to see several quality local shows for dirt cheap.

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5. The Peace Wall

The Peace Wall, Belfast
The Peace Wall separating the Falls Road and Shankill Road areas
Signing it was nice, but for me the most interesting part was learning that the gate still closes at 7pm every day to keep out troublemakers, and that the houses on the other side of the wall still have fences over their windows to prevent getting broken by projectiles. As an American, I had no idea stuff like that was still on the radar as an issue.

6. Crumlin Road Gaol

The Crumlin Road Goal
The Cumlin Road Goal – The tunnel to the court house and the place you don’t want to end up.
This was fun but creepy! The dark tunnel leading to the abandoned courthouse is the stuff of horror movies! Take my word for it, when the zombie apocalypse starts, it will be here! 😝

More information

The Maldron Hotel
The Maldron Hotel
Jessica flew into Dublin and took the train up to Belfast from Dublin, and the Aircoach back down to the airport. She stayed at The Maldron in the city centre.

Thank you Jessica for sharing your experience. Photos copyright and courtesy of Jessica Pyhtila.


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