Belfast is still very much a hidden gem among Europe's cities. You won’t have to stroll behind a horde of tourists, and it still has a lot to offer culturally. There’s a great selection of pubs, which is, for many, one of the main reasons to visit Ireland. A tour of the city will take you past some impressive buildings, such as the City Hall, the Botanical Gardens and Ulster Hall (the city's entertainment centre). Be sure to check the event planner before your stay; you might be able to attend a unique concert or comedy performance at the country’s premier concert hall. In the evening, of course, there’s no way around a pub. After all, it's the perfect way to spend an evening – with a pint, some live music and a mix of locals and travellers.
In Belfast, you can sleep in one of the hostels in the city centre. For €20 per night, you can get a bed in an 8-bed dorm.
To get up north to Bushmills, it’s best to hire a car. The quickest route to the north coast is about an hour and a half by car. Bushmills is a small Irish town, just like you’d imagine. But it’s best known for something else: it’s home to the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. Even if you’re not a fan of whiskey, you should definitely make a trip to the Old Bushmills Distillery.
You’ll stay in Bushmills for the next few days, as you can explore the wonders of the Causeway Coast from here without having to move each day. You can spend the night in a local hostel for €20 per night. For this price you’ll get a bed in a 4-bed dorm and potentially meet some fellow travellers for your excursions.
Just a few minutes’ drive from Bushmills, there’s a unique natural phenomenon – Giant’s Causeway. These are formations of stones arranged in columns and steps along the coast. Irish legend says it
must’ve been built by giants. The shape and arrangement of the stones are so precise that it’s hard to believe that they were formed by nature. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes because you won’t want to stop exploring!
The Dark Hedges became well-known through the television series Game of Thrones, in which it was called the King's Road. The seemingly endless avenue of beech trees is a must-see, even if Game of Thrones isn’t your thing! On sunny days, the light falling between the thick branches creates a play of shadows on the ground. On foggy, rainy days the avenue looks like the entrance to a mysterious world.
Also on the north coast, not far from Bushmills, is the Carrick-A-Rede region. Most visitors come here to cross the suspension bridge that connects Carrick-A-Rede Island with the mainland. The thrill of crossing the bridge and the incredible views it provides has made this a popular tourist attraction where admission is charged. In any case, leave enough time for a walk along the coast. The flora and fauna up here are very unspoiled and if you pay attention, you might even see dolphins or porpoises swimming along the coast.
Besides the attractions mentioned above, there’s of course much more to discover, like Dunluce Castle or the endless sandy beach of Benone. Your time in Northern Ireland will be exciting and full of new discoveries.
After exploring the north of Northern Ireland, it’s back to the capital. Depending on your schedule, you can spend some more time in Belfast or catch your flight home.