Wondering what to do in Northern Ireland? Discover this stunning country’s hidden gems and must-see attractions with this guide to the best things to do in Northern Ireland.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit Northern Ireland multiple times, and I can – hand on heart – say from personal experience that it’s an incredible place.
Not that you need me to tell you. It’s pretty clear that, from the rugged coastline to the rolling hills and pristine lakes, it’s a country of beauty. But I promise there’s more to Northern Ireland than just its breathtaking landscapes.
Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or an adventure seeker, Northern Ireland has something to offer that will leave you feeling inspired and fulfilled.
Ready to explore? Let’s take a look at the best things to do here so you can plan your next weekend away in Northern Ireland.
Looking for somewhere to stay? I recommend you book The Culloden Estate & Spa for a luxury break – read my review here.
Top 5 Things to Do in Northern Ireland
See the Famous Giant’s Causeway
I’ll be very surprised if you haven’t at least heard of Giant’s Causeway, one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic attractions. It’s a must-see for any traveller (which is why I’ve added it to my Ultimate Europe Bucket List).
What is Giant’s Causeway? Well, in short, it’s the site of more than 40,000 basalt columns – folklore dictates that Irish giant Finn McCool was the one who created it, so that he could head to Scotland and battle his enemy Benandonner.
Take your time to explore the area, hike the nearby trails, and learn about the local legends surrounding the formation of the basalt columns.
The site is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the summer when the weather is mild and the days are long. There’s also a visitor centre with informative exhibits and a gift shop.
Book Your Giant’s Causeway Tour Here
Discover the Wonders of Titanic Belfast Museum
The Titanic Belfast Museum tells the story of the world-famous RMS Titanic, from its construction to its tragic sinking. It blends history, technology, and art to create a powerful, immersive experience.
The museum is in a stunning building resembling the Titanic’s hull, with galleries and exhibits that take visitors through the ship’s entire history.
The exhibits are interactive and engaging, featuring state-of-the-art technology and multimedia presentations that bring the Titanic’s story to life.
You’ll see artefacts from the ship and its passengers, including personal belongings and photographs, and learn about the social and cultural context of the Titanic era.
Take a Game of Thrones Tour
Northern Ireland was a primary filming location for the show, and many of its most iconic scenes were shot there.
There are plenty of guided tours of various filming locations around Northern Ireland including the stunning forests and coastlines of County Antrim and County Down. Orrrrr, you can follow my self-guided tour to visit the locations independently.
Seeing the filming locations IRL was one of my favourite memories from my most recent Northern Ireland trip and if you’re even a passing fan of the programme, it’ll be yours too!
Some of the most popular locations include the Dark Hedges, (Kings Road), and the sprawling estate of Castle Ward (used as the set for Winterfell).
Read Next: A Guide to Game of Thrones Locations in Northern Ireland
Step Back in Time at the Walls of Derry
The Walls of Derry, AKA the Derry City Walls, are a historic landmark in the city of Derry in Northern Ireland.
Built between 1613 and 1619, they are among the best-preserved city walls in Europe and one of the finest examples of fortification in the world. The walls encircle the Old City and offer stunning panoramic views of the cityscape and surrounding countryside.
The walls span about a mile long, and the walking tour takes approximately an hour. Along the way, you’ll see key landmarks such as the four original gates, the cannons, and the bastions.
The walls symbolise the city’s resilience and a reminder of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and 1970s. The famous “Free Derry” mural just outside the walls commemorates the area’s role in the civil rights movement.
Book Your Derry Walls Tour Here
Explore Everything Belfast Has to Offer
Belfast is the vibrant capital city of Northern Ireland, known for its rich history, culture, and stunning architecture. Belfast has several top Northern Ireland attractions, from its bustling markets to its iconic landmarks.
For a taste of Belfast’s cultural scene, head to the Cathedral Quarter, where you’ll find art galleries, theatres, and live music venues.
Belfast is also home to several stunning parks and gardens, including the Botanic Gardens and Cave Hill Country Park, a popular hiking destination. Another must-see attraction is the Crumlin Road Gaol, a Victorian-era prison converted into a museum.
Don’t miss the stunning architecture, including the City Hall, a Victorian-era building that houses the city’s government offices. Don’t forget the Queen’s University Belfast, which features beautiful Gothic Revival architecture.
Brilliant Things to See & Do in Northern Ireland
Stop and Admire the Dark Hedges
Northern Ireland’s Dark Hedges is a stunning natural phenomenon that has made it onto many a UK bucket list. No wonder this is one of the best places to visit in Northern Ireland.
The Stuart family planted this picturesque tree-lined road in the 18th century to impress visitors to their estate. The trees have twisted branches and a dense canopy creates a dark and eerie atmosphere.
This unique landscape has made the Dark Hedges a popular filming location, featuring in the hit TV series Game of Thrones as the King’s Road.
Learn all about Whiskey at Bushmills Distillery
Now, it wouldn’t be a trip to Northern Ireland without indulging in a little bit of whiskey, would it? Founded in 1784, Bushmills Distillery has produced some of the world’s finest.
Situated in the picturesque town of Bushmills, County Antrim, the distillery offers a range of guided tours, tastings, and experiences.
During your visit, you’ll learn about the distillery’s history, from its humble beginnings to its current status as a beloved global brand. You’ll also get to see the entire whiskey-making process, from the barley’s malting to the whiskey-ageing step in oak casks.
Of course, no visit to the Bushmills Distillery would be complete without sampling some of the award-winning whiskey for yourself. The gift shop offers a range of Bushmills-themed souvenirs, from glassware to apparel, and a selection of rare and limited-edition whiskeys.
Visit the Ulster Museum
Looking for free things to do in Northern Ireland? The Ulster Museum inside the beautiful Botanic Gardens boasts a vast collection of over 8,000 works of art and 10,000 archaeological artefacts. Not to mention a variety of natural history exhibits.
One of the most impressive exhibits at the Ulster Museum is the Treasures of the Armada exhibition, with artefacts from the Spanish Armada shipwrecks off the coast of Ireland.
Admission to the Ulster Museum is totally free, although donations are welcome. The museum is open seven days a week, and guided tours are available upon request.
Drive the Causeway Coastal Route
So I’ve already touched on Giant’s Causeway, but the next attraction is a must. The Giants Causeway Coastal Route is one of the world’s most famous coastal routes, and it offers a chance to see Northern Ireland’s natural beauty up close.
The drive can take anywhere from a day to several days, depending on how many stops you want to make (I say, make as many as you can – you’ll find hidden gems along the way).
The route stretches for approximately 120 miles along the country’s northern coast, taking in incredible natural landmarks. Along the way, you’ll pass through charming towns and villages, with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore.
See the Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle is a mediaeval fortress located on the northern coast of Northern Ireland near Portrush. This striking ruin sits on a cliff edge, overlooking the turbulent sea below, making it a popular attraction for visitors to the region.
The castle has several buildings connected by a bridge spanning a 100-foot-deep chasm. You can explore the castle’s ruins, including the main gatehouse’s remains, kitchen, and servants’ quarters.
The site is open year-round, but it’s best to check the opening times before planning your visit.
Enjoy the Beaches
You might not think it, but Northern Ireland boasts some stunning beaches – offering miles of golden sands, crystal-clear waters, and breathtaking scenery to daring (and, most likely, freezing) visitors.
Portrush Whiterocks is one of the country’s top shores and one of the best beaches in the UK. This long stretch of beach is home to impressive limestone cliffs forming part of the Causeway Coast.
There are many other beaches to see, and even if the weather isn’t quite “beach weather”, the Northern Ireland cliffs and dramatic shorelines are picture-perfect almost any time.
Spend Some Time in Derry
Derry, also known as Londonderry, is a historic city on the banks of the River Foyle, surrounded by the rolling hills of County Derry.
While you’re checking out the walls of Derry, it’s worth spending some time in the centre of town as it has SO much history. A walk around this city (the second-largest in the country) allows for abundant learning.
Another highlight of Derry is St. Columb’s Cathedral, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. This impressive cathedral, built in the 17th century, has served as a place of worship for the people of Derry for over 400 years.
Brave the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Initially built by fishermen in the 18th century to access a prime salmon fishing spot, the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge is now a popular tourist attraction. You can access the bridge via a scenic coastal path that takes visitors past cliffs, caves, and stunning sea views.
Crossing the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge — stretching 20 metres above the rocky coastline and connecting the mainland to the tiny island of Carrick-a-Rede — is a thrilling experience.
Expect breathtaking views of the surrounding coastline and the rugged cliffs below, but be aware that the bridge sways slightly in the wind. It’s a knee-wobbling experience.
Visit the Ulster American Folk Park
Time for something a little bit unusual, I think – Northern Ireland’s Ulster American Folk Park is set in beautiful parkland and home to various historical buildings and exhibitions, including a full-scale replica of an American street from the 1800s.
Discover the important role that the Irish played in shaping American history, from their involvement in the American Civil War to their contributions to the growth of the country’s cities and industries.
Unique Things to Do in Northern Ireland: Hidden Gems Off The Beaten Track
Take a Breather in Tollymore Forest Park
Tollymore Forest Park spans over 1,600 acres and offers diverse landscapes, including ancient woodland, rivers, and meadows.
This tranquil spot is also home to various wildlife, including red squirrels, otters, and kingfishers. History buffs will also appreciate the park’s traditional features, such as the stunning 18th-century Tollymore House and the Gothic-style Hermitage.
Hike in the Mourne Mountains
Looking to get your blood pumping in Northern Ireland? I’ve got you – head to the Mourne Mountains, where you’ll find plenty of hiking trails.
Though trails range from easy walks to challenging hikes, the most popular is the Slieve Donard Trail, which takes you to the highest peak in the range.
Another popular hike is the Hare’s Gap Trail, which leads you through a narrow mountain pass and offers spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. This trail is relatively easy, making it a great choice for beginners or those looking for a shorter hike.
Explore the Marble Arch Caves
The Marble Arch Caves, located in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, is one of the country’s most unique and fascinating natural wonders.
The limestone that makes up these caves dates back over 330 million years; underground rivers carved out the caverns over thousands of years. You can take guided tours of the caves, which lead through a series of chambers and passages, some with stunning stalactites and stalagmites.
Visit the Dunseverick Castle Ruins
Dunseverick Castle Ruins is a historic landmark on the north coast of County Antrim in Northern Ireland.
The castle was built in the 5th century by the Irish chieftain Donnchad mac Cinnfhaelaidh, though the Vikings later took it over in the 10th century.
Today, you can explore the remains of the castle ruins and learn about its rich history. The castle’s walls and towers still stand tall, despite centuries of wear and tear from the harsh weather conditions of the north coast.
Witness the Many Wonders of the Glens of Antrim
Last (but certainly not least), one of my favourite destinations in NI. The Glens of Antrim are a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities, including hiking, fishing, cycling, and horseback riding.
The Glens consist of nine distinct valleys, each with its own unique character and charm.
But I love this region so much for its several scenic hiking trails, including the Causeway Coast Way, which runs along the coast and offers stunning views of the North Atlantic Ocean. There’s truly nowhere more beautiful to hike than in this beautiful green country.
Things to Do in Northern Ireland: Practical Tips for Your Trip
Where Should I Stay in Northern Ireland?
Malmaison Belfast (Mid-Range)
Housed within a majestic Victorian warehouse, Malmaison Belfast is the city centre’s premier boutique hotel experience.
Each of its lavish bedrooms features mood lighting, power showers, deluxe beds as well as satellite TV for extra style and comfort, while historic iron pillars or imposing stone gargoyles stand guard to lend an air of intrigue.
The Culloden Estate & Spa (Luxury)
Escape the hustle and bustle of city life at The Culloden Estate & Spa. This grand 5-star hotel is on 12 acres of gardens and woodland — a perfect retreat to relax your mind and body.
If you need any more convincing, read my review of the hotel first.
Recommended Tours in Northern Ireland
- From Belfast: Giant’s Causeway and Game of Thrones Day Tour
- Derry: Walled City Private Tour
- Private Tour, Belfast: More Than The Troubles Walking Tour
- Belfast Murals – Street Art Tour