Northern Ireland may look small, but trust us when we say that this tiny country packs a punch. With some of the best road-trip drives on offer, staggering views for days (there’s a reason it’s the film location for epic, other-worldly fantasy dramas such as Game of Thrones, and more) and the unmatched warmth and charm of its people, it’s hard to ignore what Northern Ireland’s attractions will do to the traveller inside you.
Here’s our roundup of the 15 of the best things to do in Northern Ireland once you’re there.
You may well have heard of this incredible Northern Ireland attraction, which never disappoints, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. A UNESCO World Heritage Site that sits right at the bottom of the basalt cliffs in Northern Ireland, it’s made up of approximately 40,000 massive black basalt columns that stick out of the sea. It’s a unique landscape that’s incomparable to many others, one that’s inspired legends of giants who crossed the sea to Scotland via the huge columns.
St. George’s Market
Nestled right in the beautiful city of Belfast, this is easily one of the top things to do in Northern Ireland – especially if you’re a foodie. It’s one of the oldest spots to visit in the city and hands down one of the best markets in Ireland. Since 1604, there’s always been a Friday market in this location where you’ll find some of the best fresh produce and locally grown food. It makes it a popular stop for both travellers and Northern Irish folk.
See where Game of Thrones was filmed
From the location of Winterfell (Castle Ward), where Arya Stark escapes King’s Landing (The Dark Hedges) plus more, Northern Ireland boasts over 27 filming locations from Game of Thrones. If you’re a fan of the show you’ll be spoilt for choice, with countless IRL opportunities to experience the magic of Northern Ireland’s land, spirit and sea, movie-style.
Not a Game of Thrones fan? There are so many more reasons why you should visit.
Wander the streets of Belfast
This compact city is completely walkable with something beautiful to admire around every single corner. Explore the Titanic Quarter, see the slipways where Titanic was built, and visit one of the world’s leaving visitor attractions Titanic Belfast, where you can immersive yourself in the maritime heritage of the city. You can also marvel the stunning botanic gardens, ogle Belfast Castle, plus so much more. Walking is the BEST way to see all the hidden delights of Belfast.
Visit the Derry walls
These walls are the largest ancient monument in state care that you can find in Northern Ireland, built between 1613 and 1618. This was also the last walled city to be built in Europe – and it’s now one of the most popular things to do in Northern Ireland. If you decide to pay a visit (and it’s well worth it) then get ready for some walking because the wall is one full mile in circumference and has seven gates in total!
The Titanic Quarter
In the heart of Belfast, you’ll find an incredible waterfront building which holds a historic maritime landmark, film studios, an entertainment district, and more. The Titanic was built right in Belfast, and, this structure sits where all of this took place. The spot opened up in 2012 and it’s been a popular tourist attraction ever since.
The Gobbins Cliff Path
If you’re really looking to get the adrenaline going, this one’s a must do! The Gobbins Cliff Path hangs from the basalt cliffs right over the Irish sea, and the walk along the path lets you get as close to those views as possible. You’ll hear the crashing waves, feel the sea breeze, and immerse yourself fully in the vast landscape that surrounds. It’ll be an exhilarating stop on your visit to Northern Ireland.
Visit Mid Ulster
Nestled right in County Tyrone, a visit to Mid Ulster in Northern Ireland is the perfect place to stay. The adorable riverside town is the spot for travellers to slow down, relax and unwind for a few days, before heading back out on the road. Whilst you’re here, don’t miss out on a visit to the OM Dark Sky Observatory at night where ‘astronomy meets archaeology’ . In the daytime, you’ll also be able to see charming, quaint farms that have been around for generations throughout Northern Ireland’s history.
The Mourne Mountains are a sight you’ll want to see at least once in your life. This vast granite mountain range houses the highest peaks in Northern Ireland, which means you’ll experience incredible views no matter which direction you look. You don’t need to be a seasoned hiker to do this one either – the views alone, from high up or on the ground, make it well worth it the trip .
Get your camera out and make sure the battery’s charged ‘cause this area’s as Insta-worthy as it gets! Dominated by a long, narrow lake that stretches past over 150 islands and even more coves and inlets, it’s a traveller’s paradise. It’s a spot that’s perfect for the curious traveller who loves snapping photos for the feed. Whilst here, you’ll want to pay a visit to the Enniskillen Castle, walk the Cuilcagh boardwalk trail and just soak in the scenery along the way.
When you visit Northern Ireland, you can’t miss this stop. Dunluce Castle, a medieval sight, is located right on the edge of a basalt rock formation and accessible by a bridge that connects it to the mainland. When you visit this Northern Ireland attraction, you’ll notice the steep drops on each side, which make for stunning views of the sea and beyond.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
After another adrenaline kick? If so, this Northern Ireland attraction will be right up your alley. Located near Ballintoy in County Antrim, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge links mainland Northern Ireland to Carrickarede, a small island. There’s a 20 metre stretch to reach other side, and you’ll be suspended 30 metres above the sheer rock-bed below. The views are incomparable – if you’ve got the nerve to stop part way and take a photo!
Glens of Antrim
Off the Antrim Coast Highway, you’ll come across the Glens of Antrim, known locally as “The Glens.” The 9 valleys that make up this region are Ballycastle, Cushendun, Cushendall, Waterfoot, Carnlough and Glenarm. The main reason people visit? The natural beauty. These valleys make even the biggest outdoor enthusiasts, city lovers and photographers all ooooh and ahhhhh when they step foot in the area.
This stunning 19th century home and garden can be found in County Down and is a pit-stop for countless travellers. Located on the eastern shore of Strangford Lough, Mount Stewart was the Irish family home of the Marquesses of Londonderry who hail from British aristocracy. It’s a house filled with stories, history and grandiose design, and surrounded by beautiful nature – most of the woodland, orchards and bridle paths remain unchanged, which you can wander around when you visit.
This mountain of mystery, as locals call it, houses walking trails and drives that are perfect for any level of hiker. It’s located just south of County Armagh and it’s the heart of the Ring of Gullion. On top of that it’s also the highest point in the entire county, which attracts adventure seekers across the globe. If you decide to hike the famous mountain, you’ll find a beautiful small lake and two ancient burials up at the top. If you don’t like the idea of doing a big hike, the Slieve Gullion Forest Park is located just on the east side and offers plenty of incredible trails.
Still want to learn more about things to do in Northern Ireland? Here are the most common questions answered by our experts to help you plan.
What’s Northern Ireland famous for?
Northern Ireland is most famous for its incredible landscapes and views. It’s a country steeped in history, and home to so many idyllic quaint towns. Travellers are particularly drawn to the magnificent Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, and Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, which we’ve gone into in more detail above.
How many days do you need in Northern Ireland?
As Northern Ireland covers a relatively small area, you’ll probably need around 2-3 days to get around in full. Of course, we recommend spending more! A minimum of a week will give you the opportunity to properly explore, hike, eat, relax and enjoy everything the area has to offer – and you never know what you’ll discover along the way.
In partnership with Tourism Northern Ireland