Belfast is the gem of Northern Ireland, with a magical mix of classic Irish charm and modern flair. Historically, Belfast is known as the centre for the Irish linen industry as well as hosting the world's biggest and most productive shipyard. While these industries are still firmly rooted at the heart of Belfast, the city has blossomed into Ireland's second largest city with some of the world's best golf courses and international shopping. Belfast has managed to intermingle the quaint small town Irish atmosphere with all the marvels of modern architecture.
Shop Until You Drop at Victoria Square
Victoria Square is Belfast's number one shopping destination and is easily the most recommended destination for any luxury vacationer. This massive shopping centre is home to hundreds of shops spread over four levels. Originally, Victoria Square served as a bridge between Northern Ireland and the world. The square introduced stores previously absent from Ireland such as Urban Outfitters, Cruise, LK Bennet, and Apple. Now the Victoria Square includes everything from affordable outlet stores to fashion boutiques that host some of the worlds hottest fashion items.
Outside of Victoria Square lies a quaint piece of history – the Victoria Jaffe Fountain. The Fountain serves as a centrepiece in front of the massive building, sitting on the same spot since 1870. However, the most noticeable piece of Victoria Square is the giant blue dome that serves as its roof. For visitors who have had their fill of browsing and shopping, there are daily tours of the dome that provide panoramic views of the surrounding city.
While Victoria Square may be the main shopping attraction, the surrounding streets are lined with unique boutiques that showcase great Irish made products. The nearby Arthur Street houses the Avoca Handweavers boutique, which is not only Ireland's oldest manufacturing company, but the oldest surviving business. Avoca as well as the Belfast native Copeland Linens and Thomas Ferguson Irish Linens are some of the luxurious big names that have helped Belfast become and remain the jewel of the Irish linen industry.
For those looking to pick up some souvenirs from their trip to Belfast, head down to China Craft on Royal Street. This deceptively named shop deals in locally crafted glassware from local craftsmen around Ireland including the finest of Ireland's glassware – Waterford Crystal. Waterford Crystal creations are something that one simply cannot miss out on during a trip to Ireland.
Tee Off at the Royal Belfast Golf Club
Belfast is one of the world's top golfing destinations. With 14 golf courses throughout the city, Belfast houses some of the favourite layouts of golf greats such as Rory Mcllroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell. While any of the golf courses throughout Belfast are a great experience, the oldest course truly is the best of them. Founded in 1881, the Royal Belfast Golf Club is not just the oldest golf course in Belfast but the oldest in Ireland. Today, the Royal Belfast course provides the truest test of one's golfing prowess while providing one of the most scenic settings out of any courses throughout Ireland, showcasing views of the Belfast Lough and Antrim plateau in the distance.
The Malone Golf Club and Royal County Down Golf Club also come highly recommended for those truly serious about golf or even just those who want to work on their game while surrounded by the some of the sparkling green landscape that helped Ireland earn the nickname of the Emerald Isle.
High Tea at The Merchant
There is no more elegant and luxurious place to sit down for tea than at The Merchant Hotel. Aside from being a great place to enjoy afternoon tea, The Merchant hosts rooms designed in traditional or art deco style as well has a five star spa, though many find the rooftop hot tub much more to their liking.
However, tea is served in the newly renovated atrium that has been gilded and hung with sparkling chandeliers. Enjoying tea cakes and macaroons all baked within the hotel on plush and luxurious couches makes guest feel like they have stepped straight into the glittering 1920s.
Indulge in the Secret Day Spa
creativecommons.org/D Sharon Pruitt
The Secret Day Spa, owned and run by sisters Lynsey Bennett and Leah White, is a stylish and fresh spa dedicated to providing rejuvenating spa treatments to Belfast locals and visitors alike using the highest quality products. While this hip new spa lacks the quaint feel of the surrounding city, it makes up for in the best service around.
Guests can expect all the average spa treatments including aromatherapy, tanning, body wraps, nail treatments and more. However they are all done with the best quality materials by well trained professionals. The Secret Day Spa’s most renowned treatment is their signature massage. The massage is adaptable and catered to requests or crafted specially to give optimal results to the needs of their guests. The Special Day Spa is the only place to go in Belfast for a day of absolute pampering.
Enjoy Local Cuisine at James Street South
While there are hundreds of great restaurants in Belfast, it is universally agreed that in terms of service and quality James Street South is the best there is. Located on a quiet side street off of Belfast City Centre, James Street South serves up European delicacies while being within walking distance of Belfast's main hotels, theatres and shopping areas. The menu changes depending on the season, however that means the cuisine is consistently comprised of fresh local Ireland fair. The friendly staff can easily quote off what part of the Emerald Isle the crab was caught from or what outlying ranch the artisan cheese was made.
While the food may be local, their wine collection is not. James Street South has collected some of the best wines from around the world to pair perfectly with their flavourful and expertly crafted food. The food is a bit pricey, but for the quality and craftsmanship that is provided one would be expected to pay double in places like London or Paris. This makes James Street South consistently praised for its affordable luxury fair as well as the great service and atmosphere it provides.
Drinks at the Duke of York
Just like it wouldn't be a trip to the United Kingdom without afternoon tea, it wouldn't be a trip to Ireland without at least one stop at a pub. The Duke of York is popular among locals and tourists alike. It's traditional decor and warm atmosphere encourages guests to feel like they could walk up to any stranger and strike up a conversation over a pint of Guinness. The earthy tones, wooden slab bar and golden accoutrements give the Duke of York a feeling of glowing warmth. While not the most luxurious bar in Belfast, it has the luxury of giving a real experience of both Ireland.