A weekend in Belfast



A weekend in Belfast
It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just a weekend if you just plan a little. Or a lot…  I like to plan my trips so that I get the most out of them. I recently travelled to Belfast for a weekend with a friend and we managed to experience both fantastic nature, some whiskey tasting, shopping and a local beer or three.

We landed on a Thursday afternoon and had a rental car waiting at the George Best International Airport. From what we had gathered it would be as cheap to rent a car for three days as it would cost to take the bus from and to the airport. Cheap, in other words. The only challenge was driving on the right side of the road, but I managed to not get us killed during any point of the trip. Goal one achieved.

The Crown Liquor Saloon
Once we had settled in we hit the streets for a bite to eat and some drinks. Everything is within walking distance so we left the car at the hotel.

Our first stop was the Crown Liquor Saloon, a former Victorian gin palace and one of Northern Ireland’s best-known pubs. We sat down at a table and although I’m used to finding Swedes wherever I go, I was a little surprised that the couple next to us were Swedish. I didn’t see Belfast as a typical destination for Swedish tourists, but there you go.

Anyway, the other couple told us to try the beer tasting option, so we did. You could choose three out of five different draught beers in smaller glasses which was perfect for me. I can’t drink three pints of beer in one evening.



Here are the hard working bartenders trying to explain to confused Swedes what to order.



Giant’s Causeway and the Dark Hedges
We got up early on Friday morning because we had a lot to cover during the day. We drove north for about an hour and 20 minutes to get to the natural wonders of Giant’s Causeway. This was a must see for me during this trip and I was not disappointed. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is nothing short of amazing. As a result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, there are now some 40,000 hexagonal shaped basalt columns down by the water and it’s just spectacular.

Goal two achieved.

Giants Causeway
Giants Causeway

Everywhere we went we were told that we were lucky because the weather was great. It was sunny with some light overcast, so it was a great day to take photos at the causeway. As one guide told us:

“two days in a row in Northern Ireland without rain is called a drought” 

Giants Causeway Northern Ireland

After our visit to Giant’s Causeway we drove only a few minutes to Old Bushmills Distillery, the oldest whiskey distillery in Ireland. Bushmills was founded in 1608 and has been producing whiskey for more than 400 years.

Once again we were lucky because a tour of the premises was starting only two minutes after we arrived. So we walked the tour and got to smell the different barrels used to store the whiskey. All barrels that they use are “second hand” because the whiskey is supposed to aquire taste during the aging process from the previous liquids. Bourbon barrels, sherry casks and madeira drums are used for example.

We finished the tour with some whiskey tasting and a visit at the store to bring some bottles home.

Old Bushmills Distillery
Old Bushmills Distillery

The Dark Hedges
On our way back from Bushmills we took a small detour in order to visit the Dark Hedges, which is a tunnel of old beech trees from the 18th century. The Dark Hedges have appeared on Game of Thrones and it is a magnificent place. Unfortunately it was damaged quite a bit during a recent storm, but it is still impressive.

Game of Thrones - The Dark Hedges
The Dark Hedges – as seen in Game of Thrones

Gobbins Path
After a short stop at the Dark Hedges, we were in a bit of a hurry. We had a tour booked at Gobbins Path at 4.30 PM and we had specifically been asked to arrive fifteen minutes before in order for us to be all set when the tour was about to start.

But it’s quite a drive from the northern parts of the region down to Islandmagee on the coast north of Belfast. Roads are small and we were starting to become just a little concerned that we might be late. At 4.26 PM we stormed into the reception only to find out that we weren’t the last of our party to arrive.

Anyway, Gobbins Path is a cliff path originally built in 1902 as a tourist attraction. It was rebuilt and opened to the public again in August, 2015, and consists of a path along the cliffs, through caves and more than 20 bridges. The Tubular Bridge below is a replica of the original and the most famous of all the bridges on the path.

The tour along the path took about 2.5 hours and it was a true one-of-a-kind experience. I don’t think you can find a similar path anywhere else.

Gobbins Path
Our guide Robert at the entrance to Gobbins Path

Gobbins Path

The Tubular Bridge below.

Gobbins Path
Gobbins Path

On Saturday it was raining, so apparently there was no drought this weekend 😉

We spent most of the morning at the Titanic Belfast, the museum to honour the legend of Titanic. We could have spent some more time there but we had an appointment after lunch, since we had managed to get tickets to the Irish Cup Final in football.

Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast

We had to grab a taxi in order to make it to the game in time and 30 seconds before the referee kicked the game off, we sat down in our seats.

It was a great atmosphere with fans from both teams singing and chanting throughout the game. In the end, Glenavon beat Linfield 2-0 to become champions.

Irish Cup Final 2016
Irish Cup Final 2016

We had dinner and beer at McHughs, a classic pub located in the oldest building in Belfast.

Belfast Castle
Belfast Castle

Our KLM flight back to Stockholm on Sunday was scheduled at about 2PM so we had the morning for some last minute excursions.

We drove past Falls Road which is a road with significant political history. It has several political murals that we stopped to look at.

Then we drove up to Belfast Castle which was situated beautifully on the hillside with a view of Belfast. At least it used to have a great view, now trees blocked some of the view for us. We skipped the wedding exhibition inside the castle, since neither of us plan to get married again 😉

If we had had more time, I would have loved to walk up to Cave Hill, which is at the top of the hill, but that will have to wait until next time.

Before we left we stopped by the Victoria Square Shopping Centre. It has a really cool domed ceiling and you can go up to the top and get a great view of the entire city through the glass.

We did that one evening at sunset and it was a really cool view.

Victoria Square Dome
Victoria Square Dome

All in all, we had a great time and Belfast can be recommended as a weekend destination, at least if you make that a long weekend. There were a couple of things we didn’t have time to see, so maybe we’ll meet again…

The streets of Belfast

I think that one of the best ways to get to know a new city is to walk. That way you get a better sense of what life looks like in the city and how everything is connected. And you can take some great photos.

I took a series of black and white photos last weekend in Belfast and here are a few of them.

Image above from the area near Windsor Park, the national football stadium.

Above: beautiful building across the road from City Hall.

McHughs is a classic pub and it is located in what is claimed to be the oldest building in Belfast. And of course, we visited the pub to grab a Belfast Lager!

The Bank Buildings in Belfast

I spent the weekend in Belfast with a friend and had a great time. This is a thriving city with a nice mix of both old and new architecture.

We really didn’t have much time for shopping so we just walked by this nice old building called the Bank Buildings.

Originally it was home to a bank, and because the four founders of the bank all had the first name of John, the bank was called The Bank of the Four Johns.

Now the building houses a slightly less prominent business – a Primark store.

Valencia – The City of Beautiful Architecture

Bridge above City of Arts and Sciences Valencia
Bridges above the City of Arts and Sciences

You have to give it to the people of Valencia, they sure know how to dream big. Home to the architectural genius of Santiago Calatrava, Spain’s third largest city hosts a range of buildings and bridges that are among the most spectacular you can find anywhere in Europe.

Already in the 1960’s, the city of Valencia made some big decisions in that the river Turia was diverted away from the city centre to the outskirts of the city. This was done in order to avoid further serious floodings. The remaining old riverbed was later on turned into a sunken park, Turia Gardens, that now stretches about 9 km through the city, giving locals and visitors large areas for recreation, walking, running or biking.

l'hemisferic valencia

Striking architecture
The old riverbed also houses the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences (Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències), a huge cultural and architectural complex designed by Calatrava and Félix Candela. This complex was one of the main reasons why we chose to go to Valencia in the first place. It’s made up of several spectacular buildings like the giant eye L’Hemisfèric which includes an IMAX cinema and a planetarium, the open-air oceanographic park L’Oceanogràfic and the El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia opera house and performing arts cente and much more.

Shallow pools of water are placed in front of many of the structures which gives a magnificent mirror effect, especially at night when the buildings are lit up. It is simply one of the coolest places I have ever visited and a great place to take some stunning photographs.

City of Arts and Sciences Valencia
El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe

Travelling to Valencia from Sweden takes a bit longer than to some of the most popular tourists destinations in Spain, since there are no direct flights. We went from Stockholm with Lufthansa and SAS via Frankfurt which took between six and seven hours including transfer. But it is absolutely worth it.


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