Free things to do in Belfast

Northern Ireland's capital is an exciting place to visit for tourists on a budget: it's relatively cheap and has numerous free activities to offer. Wander the streets and marvel at historic architecture, learn about turbulent history in galleries and museums, roam the green spaces, and explore the industrial heritage. Our list of the best free things to do in Belfast is here to guide you.

Ulster Museum

At the top of our list of free attractions in Belfast is the largest museum in Northern Ireland, with a comprehensive collection of art, history, and natural history exhibits. Founded in 1821, the Ulster museum is located in the picturesque Botanic Gardens, which are also well worth a visit, with their gorgeous 19th-century Palm House conservatory.

Make sure you've got a few hours to spare! The galleries trace the history of Northern Ireland and beyond, from the earliest times to our days. From fossilized fish and dinosaurs to a piece of the Moon, from objects from the 16th-century Spanish Armada shipwreck to artifacts from the Troubles, fine and applied art from the 18th century to the present day, as well as the impressive fashion and textile collection — there's plenty to discover!

Best time to visit
Weekday mornings or late afternoons; also, avoid the school holidays

Perfect for
Families with kids


Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum

This museum is predominantly dedicated to Northern Ireland's role in WWII and the impact of the war on it. There's a unique collection focusing on the Blitz, which was a massive part of the local wartime history: Belfast was heavily bombed during the war in 1941, with over 1,000 people killed and half of the houses damaged after the four Luftwaffe raids. Part of our self-guided cemetery tour is devoted to the Blitz and its victims.

Among other things on display are sections on wartime American service personnel presence in Northern Ireland, the Home Front, and women's role in the war, featuring uniforms, photos, documents, weapons, and equipment. A small WWI collection is also exhibited at the museum, including typical examples of trench art and medals.

Best time to visit
Mornings after opening and afternoons before closing time on weekdays; weekends and school holiday times are the most crowded

Perfect for
War history buffs


Titanic Quarter

One of Europe's largest urban waterfront regeneration projects, this thriving district pays homage to Belfast's shipbuilding past, all the while looking into the future.

Located on the site of a former shipyard where the RMS Titanic was built, the quarter is also titanic in scale. It is home to historic maritime docks, Titanic Slipways where the unlucky ship was constructed, SS Nomadic, Titanic's tender ship — and the famous visitor attraction focused on the iconic ship. Walk along the quay and you'll see not only historical legacy: the SSE Arena, film studios, apartments, sculptures and installations, Glass of Thrones Walking Trail, and hip eateries — Belfast's Maritime Mile is chock full of places to go and objects to explore, many of which are free.

Best time to visit
a sunny day

Perfect for
maritime history buffs and urban development aficionados

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Belfast City Cemetery

One of the oldest public cemeteries in Belfast, the City Cemetery was founded in 1869. The city's first cross-denominational graveyard features cast iron fountains and separate Protestant and Catholic areas, divided by a sunken wall.

There's a historic Jewish section with a Hebrew inscription still visible. Parts of the area are dedicated to WWI and WWII soldiers. Many notable residents are interred here, including politicians, business people, inventors, and industrialists. One of the best-known sites is the plot of the Ulster Female Penitentiary: seven prostitutes are buried in a grave marked with a small cast-iron shield.

One of our walking tours has been developed to allow you to explore the burial ground at your own pace.

Best time to visit
When the weather is nice (remember, the cemetery closes at 6:00 PM — don't get locked in!)

Perfect for
Tombstone tourists who enjoy exploring things alone


Cave Hill Country Park

Now, you've done some sightseeing in town and feel like finding some outdoorsy free stuff to do in Belfast for a change? Put on your hiking shoes and head over to Cave Hill! It's a 368 meters high basaltic hill that offers stunning city views from different vantage points. You'll walk past a few artificial caves and eventually reach the hilltop fortification called McArt's Fort, nicknamed 'Napoleon's Nose' due to its shape.

It will take you a few hours to climb up there: the most popular trail is a circular route that starts and ends at Belfast Castle, a 19th-century structure built in the Scots Baronial style and surrounded by manicured gardens, another great free place to go. We challenge you to find all of the nine cats in the area!

Best time to visit
Warmer months and clear days: if you're lucky, you can see the Isle of Man and Scotland!

Perfect for
Hiking enthusiasts

Cathedral Quarter

Named after St Anne's Cathedral, this former trade and warehouse district is today Belfast's vibrant and rapidly developing cultural quarter. After a period of decline, it has emerged as a buzzing creative neighborhood with numerous arts and culture organizations, historic buildings, independent shops, Ulster University's Belfast campus, bohemian cafes, trendy bars, and atmospheric pubs.

Now, of course, you might be better off with some cash to spare. But we think one of the most fun free things to do in Belfast is to simply wander around the narrow streets of the Cathedral Quarter, explore its murals, trace the literary heritage, visit a free exhibition at the MAC or the Golden Thread Gallery, and drop by the eponymous cathedral.

Best time to visit
When it's not raining

Perfect for
An afternoon stroll when you just started dating and are strapped for cash


Golden Thread Gallery

Located between the trendy Cathedral Quarter and the historic Sailortown, this contemporary visual art center was established in 1998 in a former linen mill and is one of the nicest free places to go in Belfast. Northern Irish and international art is exhibited here. The two main gallery spaces feature established artists, while the Project Space program is concentrated on promoting emerging artists and experimental work. The gallery organizes talks, workshops, and tours. Moreover, it's actually quite kid-friendly.

So, should you be eager to learn about contemporary Northern Irish art, this is the place to go: the industrial vibe of the spacious red brick building and carefully curated exhibitions create a delightful atmosphere.

Best time to visit
Just before closing time if you wish to see fewer visitors — or exhibition openings to combine art, drinks, and sociality!

Perfect for
Contemporary art lovers


Belfast Exposed Photography

Another cultural venue sitting in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, this photography gallery was established in 1983, following a period of strife, as Northern Ireland's first photography gallery. The first exhibition sought to portray daily life in Belfast from the inside, from a working-class perspective.

Over the years, new exhibitions and photographic practices have emerged and developed, but the gallery kept its commitment to its original principles, allowing creativity to thrive. The collections change every couple of months and highlight the issues of identity, place, space, history, memory, and belonging — with a strong local focus and reflection on how social relationships and the history of conflict intertwine in the Northern Irish context.

Best time to visit
Weekday mornings (or exhibition launches)

Perfect for
Social photography enthusiasts


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CS Lewis Square

Fans of CS Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia looking for free stuff to do in Belfast, rejoice: there's a whole square in town celebrating the Belfast-born author and his most famous creation. Established in 2016, this plaza is home to seven bronze statues inspired by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and created by the Irish artist Maurice Harron. You'll come across Mr. Tumnus, Maugrim, the White Witch, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, the Stone Table, the Robin, and the majestic Aslan the Lion.

There's also Jack Coffee Bar, named after the writer ('Jack' was the nickname of CS Lewis), and The Lamppost Cafe in less than a 5-minute walk. And if you're looking for other places in town related to CS Lewis, check out the special trail, or go as far as to locate his mother's grave during the tour of the City Cemetery.

Best time to visit
Sunny afternoons

Perfect for
Fans of the World of Narnia


Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Council's civic building was constructed in the Baroque Revival style and completed by 1906. You can explore it with a free guided tour. Check out the impressive interiors, the decor that is similar to the Titanic's paneling, and the stained-glass windows throughout the building.

There are many statues and memorials on the grounds, including the 1903 statue of Queen Victoria (who granted Belfast the status of the city), the 1920 Titanic memorial, and Northern Ireland's main WWI memorial — the Garden of Remembrance and Cenotaph, unveiled in 1929. Also, the building is beautiful at night when it's illuminated to celebrate some special occasions and holidays.

Best time to visit
Daytime for tours, evenings for admiring the building from the outside

Perfect for
Any first-timer in Belfast

St George's Market

Built between 1890 and 1896, the lively St George's Market is the last surviving Victorian covered market in the city, and we think it's one of the most exciting tourist attractions as well as a great place to hang out for the locals on days out.

Pre-1890, there was an open market and probably a slaughterhouse here. The red brick structure faced other grim episodes in its past: after the Blitz, it was temporarily used as an emergency mortuary. But worry not: these days are long gone. Currently, St George's is a vibrant place with over 200 vendors selling pretty much everything: from fruit and veggies, meat and fish, cheese, and coffee to antiques, clothes, crafts, plants, and pottery. There's a range of eateries: would you prefer a burger, crepes, or paella? On top of everything, there's live music and other events!

Best time to visit
During off-peak times on Fridays and Saturdays, from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM, and on Sundays from 10:00 AM to 11:AM

Perfect for
Urban market enthusiasts and shopaholics

Peace Walls

Peace Walls, or Peace Lines, were built in so-called interface areas in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland since the 1960s to separate mainly Irish republican and nationalist Catholic neighborhoods from mainly British loyalist and unionist Protestant areas.

More than 20 years after the Good Friday peace agreement was signed, the walls remain: some are made of concrete, some are metal fences, and some gates are still locked at night. The walls are often covered in murals with political messages and peace signs and attract tourists as one of the free things to do in Belfast.

Yet a public discussion has been ongoing regarding the need for the removal of the walls — and the local community is still on the fence about it. Do they help keep the peace or further divide society? One more serious issue for you to explore.

Best time to visit

Perfect for
Irish history buffs

The Linen Hall

Located in the heart of Belfast, the Linen Hall is the oldest library in the city that was founded in 1788 by a group of artisans as the Belfast Reading Society. It's still functioning as a library — generating some income from membership, providing reference service, and having an extensive lending collection.

The historical organization is also much more than a library, but rather a unique cultural institution promoting the pursuit of knowledge and preservation of the historical legacy of Belfast and Northern Ireland. For example, it hosts a one-of-a-kind collection related to the Troubles that includes over 350,000 items — artifacts, books, pamphlets, leaflets, posters, and periodicals. Events such as art exhibitions and book presentations are held here regularly.

Best time to visit
During the opening hours, between 9:30 AM and 5:30 PM (also, check their events)

Perfect for
Bookworms (if you're not into books, they also have a quaint cafe)


Irish Republican History Museum

The Eileen Hickey Irish Republican History Museum is named after the woman who was the Officer Commanding of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners in Armagh Women's prison. Hickey's family set up this memorial museum to preserve what is, evidently, a one-sided version of Northern Ireland's tumultuous history. Be warned that the exhibition should be taken with a grain of salt!

However, it's a genuinely exciting museum, provided that you take it as one part of a very complex subject. You'll see Hickey's recreated prison cell and numerous artifacts donated by individuals and their families, including prisoners' handicrafts, prison outfits, posters, paintings, and weapons used by the republicans.

Best time to visit
The museum is only open for a few hours a day — Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM and Thursday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Perfect for
Irish politics and history buffs


Museum of Orange Heritage

This museum is located at the Headquarters of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Schomberg House. The Orange Order, or the Orange Institution, is a Protestant Order that was established in 1795 and is a conservative, British unionist, and Ulster loyalist organization.

The museum explores the organization's history from the 17th century through the modern day. Some of the artifacts on display used to belong to William III of Orange. Among the items related to more recent history, there's a memorial that commemorates more than 300 Orange members who were killed during the Troubles.

Overall, this is another one-sided political museum that we also recommend not to take at face value. However, it's free, and if you find the presented version of history too slanted, they have a nice cafe.

Best time to visit
The museum is open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM from Monday to Saturday

Perfect for
Irish politics and history buffs

  • 1
    What museums are free in Belfast?
    • Ulster Museum
    • Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum
    • The MAC (exhibition galleries)
    • Golden Thread Gallery
    • Belfast Exposed Photography
    • Irish Republican History Museum
    • Museum of Orange Heritage
    • Royal Ulster Rifles Museum
  • 2
    What are the best free things to do in Belfast?
    • Peace Walls
    • Titanic Quarter
    • Cathedral Quarter
    • Cave Hill Country Park
    • Belfast City Cemetery
    • Belfast City Hall
    • St George's Market
    • CS Lewis Square
  • 3
    What are the best free things to do in Belfast with kids?
    • Ulster Museum
    • Botanic Gardens
    • St George's Market
    • CS Lewis Square
    • Titanic Quarter

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