Things to get up to over the festive season in Belfast

Belfast is an amazing, vibrant city and a great place to visit for a weekend over the holidays. recently contacted me and asked me to give some of my "must visit" places in the city.

Full of culture, food and fantastic shops, I’ve highlighted some of my favourites to make your weekend away a little easier. If you're a local, I hope these ideas inspire you too!

Culture is abundant in the historic city with an array of museums and theatres to pick from. The classic city centre Grand Opera House is a stunning location to go and see the Christmas pantomime. This years offering comes in the form of Aladdin. It’s always sure to bring lots of laughs with Belfast’s beloved May McFettridge celebrating 25 years of panto giggles. The Lyric Theatre located on the Stranmillis Road is offering two shows- Sleeping Beauty for the family and Mistletoe & Crime for those looking for some Northern Irish humour. The MAC located in St. Anne’s Square (which is also full of fabulous restaurants) is showing the Christmas Mystery Palace- a mixture of theatre and magic! The MAC also has numerous galleries that are worth a look around.

If history is your thing, take a tour of the Ulster Museum and a walk round the stunning Botanic Gardens where it is located, just next door to Queen’s University Belfast. Whilst your there, you might even want to catch a movie at the QFT (Queen’s Film Theatre). Showing iconic blockbusters and independent harder to find films, you are sure to find something to suit all tastes.

Huge high-street offering come in the form of Castlecourt and Victoria Square. Castlecourt is home to stores such as department store Debenhams, Gap and Dorothy Perkins whereas Victoria Square is home to LK Bennett, River Island and Topshop. Victoria Square is also a great place to visit to get something to eat, catch a film at the Odeon see Belfast lit up at night from the “Dome” on the top level of the centre.

St. George’s Market is the perfect spot to visit for handmade gifts and delicious cake treats. With traders such as The Lily Pink Bakery and Belfast Times, all the things the market has to offer along with the fun banter from the numerous market traders will make you understand why Belfast is such a unique place. Get down early on a Sunday morning, sit with a coffee and soak up the atmosphere.

If you are in the mood to do some serious shopping and take home some goodies that are hard to find anywhere else, then the Lisburn Road is a must visit for you. A road filled with independent traders, stores such as Harrison, Blush and Déjà Vu are filled with fashion offerings and interiors come in the form of Maven that stocks a treasure trove of Irish home-wares.

Food is really precious to the city and most of the great restaurants use locally reared produce. Ox and James St South are great examples of this and have been highly rated by food critics across the UK. If some local catch is more your thing, the Mourne Seafood Bar will delight your taste buds. The oysters are legendary and the restaurant is hugely popular because of them. The Mourne Seafood’s sister restaurant, Home, located yards away from City Hall is also a fantastic place to visit, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan as they offer an array of hearty and different tastes. If you are in a rush and want a coffee, Ground Coffee Bars are a locally run company and their new Purple Dragon blend coffee is sure to keep your body fuelled for some serious shopping. Co Couture is also a great pit-stop shop for all things chocolate- the truffles and brownies are not to be missed. Finally, if you’ve had a hard night on Irish whiskey, a lunchtime visit to Boojum for a burrito the following day is sure to make your sore head feel just that little bit better.

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I hope you enjoy your time in Belfast. Be sure to tweet me @GemmaLEBond and let me know your thoughts on your visit.