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Belfast and Northern Ireland

Must-See Places to Visit in Belfast at its Most Beautiful

Fourth year student Kathryn shares her favourite parts of the campus and the city to take in the scenic views of Belfast and beyond.

Student on Cavehill Walking Trail
The walking trail at Cavehill

There’s a quote that opens the Christmas movie Love Actually that I was reminded of recently when it went viral on TikTok; “If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.” And I do think it rings true – whether it’s love, beauty, little moments of joy – if you’re looking out for it, it’s much easier to spot.

Amidst the bustle and busy-ness of everyday student life, I try to take my time to slow down and appreciate what’s around me, especially the scenery. Thankfully, Belfast makes this super easy by being a beautiful city! With views ranging from water at your side to mountains in the distance and lots in between, the university area of Belfast is a lovely place to live during your studies. Over my years at uni, I have had plenty of time to scope out some of the best spots Belfast has to offer, and I thought I’d recommend them to you to check out – I hope the photos speak for themselves!

Cavehill Country Park

Located to the north of Belfast, Cavehill sits above the city and makes up a distinctive part of the hill landscape surrounding it. Named for the 5 caves in the rockface there, Cavehill is a Belfast staple for a walk and for good reason – the stunning panoramic views over Belfast, the lough and those that are available from the top.

The routes in the park range from a short hike to the summit, or a longer loop of the whole area, based on what car park you end up in; and both offer lovely views and a feeling of being out in nature, despite still being in the city. I know many groups of students who also make a pilgrimage of sorts to watch the sunrise from the summit – an idea to consider if you can hack an early morning.

Belfast Castle also sits in the shadow of the hills and is a beautiful building with extensive gardens – also worth checking out if you’re in the area!

Cavehill view

Stunning scenes from Cavehill

Divis and the Black Mountain

If you’re willing to do another light hike again for the views, then Divis and the Black Mountain, set to the south of the main city of Belfast, is a must-visit. It’s a short 15-minute walk on the main trail leading to the perfect spot to take in another panoramic view of Northern Ireland, this time of Belfast and all that lies south. Sunset is a personal favourite time to visit this spot.

Divis and Black Mountain view

View from Divis and Black Mountain

Ormeau Park and Botanic Gardens

Much closer to campus, you’ll find some of the lovely parks of Belfast. Botanic Gardens runs right alongside the McClay, making it the ideal spot for a quick study break. On a warm day, the large grassy area will be filled with students soaking up the sun under the trees; but regardless of the weather, there are beautifully maintained flower beds and a greenhouse, perfect for marvelling at the colour and variety of plants and giving you an escape in the middle of a busy day of studying!

Just across the embankment, you’ll find the 100 acres of tree-lined paths that is Ormeau Park. Ormeau has a lovely atmosphere about it, and one of my fondest memories of the lockdowns is a day it snowed and I spent a morning appreciating the scenery there in the freezing cold. Ormeau also hosts a park run on a Saturday morning, making it a great way to get outside into nature and get moving.

Botanic Gardens Tropical Ravine

Botanic Gardens Tropical Ravine

The Lagan Towpath

From the part of the River Lagan beside the embankment, you can follow the path either direction – towards the city centre or towards Belvoir Park forest. Both offer a nice walk with lovely views along the river – definitely a part of Belfast I think feels so calm as I watch the water.

The walk from the city centre back to the university area is one I enjoy the most at golden hour, with light bouncing off the water (maybe it’s because I’m northern Irish, but you can always count on me to be over-excited by the sun!). 

Lagan Towpath

The Lagan Towpath

The journals room, third floor, McClay Library

This is the best kept secret on campus, I am certain of it. The journals room on the third floor has been my go-to study spot for years, so if you’re checking it out and see a girl hiding behind anatomy textbooks down the back, it might be me! I’ve taken up residence here for good reason, though – it’s so peaceful, and the huge windows offer a beautiful view of the Queen’s campus with the hills and Belfast skyline stretching out beyond it. When you’re stressed out studying, being able to look out at a lovely view definitely helps!

Journals Room in the McClay

The Journals Room, McClay Library

The Everyday

If you’re looking out for it, Belfast is also beautiful in a lot of everyday and mundane ways – have you seen the Lanyon Building lit up golden by the sun? Or watched seasons come and go via the many tree-lined streets in the university area?  Strolled through the courtyard at Queen’s to get to lectures among the ancient red-brick buildings? Slowed down and looked up at the right moment, catching a sunset?

Street in Queen's University area

Enjoy picturesque walks around the university area

I really do think Belfast is a beautiful city, in both its overtly stunning views and small, simple ways. University can be tough at times, and I’ve found it’s really beneficial for my mental health to get out into nature in some of the places listed above and make a conscious effort to appreciate what’s around me every day – I hope this inspires you to do the same!

If you’re exploring the rest of Northern Ireland while a student here, the whole country boasts beautiful scenery, from the coastlines to the Mournes and tiny country roads – but I’ve done enough gushing about nature for today – that’s a topic for another blog…

Find out more

Enjoy Outdoors And Sports in Northern Ireland

Also by Kathryn: Things you should know before you move to Northern Ireland, from someone who grew up here!

More blogs about Belfast And Northern Ireland

Kathryn Allen

Medicine| Undergraduate Student | Lisburn, NI

I’m a 21 year old student originally from Lisburn and starting my fourth year of Medicine at Queen's in September- I love my degree because it combines caring for people, learning fascinating things and working as a team. When I’m not busy surviving placement and exams, you can find me in one of Belfast’s great coffee shops with a friend, going to concerts to get my fix of live music, or curling up to read a book with a carefully curated Spotify playlist on in the background!

Kathryn Allen