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Belfast on a budget

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Belfast Botanic Gardens. Pic: DiscoverNorthernIreland.com

Belfast Botanic Gardens. Pic: DiscoverNorthernIreland.com

Under the microscope - Belfast on a budget.

Under the microscope - Belfast on a budget.

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Belfast Botanic Gardens. Pic: DiscoverNorthernIreland.com

With Sterling at a 22pc advantage, every penny counts in Northern Ireland. Here's how to enjoy more for less on a Belfast city break.

Things to do...

If you're a first-timer to Belfast then you absolutely must do the city bus tour.

For as little as £20/€25 (two adults and one child) we bagged a two-day hop-on hop-off bus ticket which has no fewer than 20 stops from the Titanic Quarter to Stormont, Belfast Castle, St Anne's Cathedral, Queen's University to the political murals (or Muriels as our guide called them).

Halloween may have passed, but you and your little ghouls could have spook-tacular time at Crumlin Road Gaol with the Paranormal Tour.

This spine-chilling 60-minute scream-athon is guaranteed to scare the pants off you, from the condemned man's cell to the execution chamber, tunnel and - yuck! - flogging room.

Not for the faint-hearted, tickets for this creep-fest cost £15/€18.75.

After the fright night one could combine a leisurely walk around the Botanic Gardens with 8,000 square metres of  history, ancient and modern crammed into one building.

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Belfast Botanic Gardens. Pic: DiscoverNorthernIreland.com

Belfast Botanic Gardens. Pic: DiscoverNorthernIreland.com

Belfast Botanic Gardens. Pic: DiscoverNorthernIreland.com


The Ulster Museum has everything from dinosaurs, to Egyptian mummies, to treasure from the Spanish Armada and it even has its own dead zoo with a selection of stuffed creatures including a Dodo - captured in the Victorian era.

There is a special map with sticker rewards for the children who hunt down certain artefacts or animals.

It’s so diverse, you can lose yourself in the Ice age while fashionistas can take a trip down memory lane with a special Parisian dress section.

There's even a detailed section on the Troubles should you want to go back there.

Definitely something for everybody here and all under the one roof, but best of all - it's free.

How to get there...

Parking is costly and with very competitive rates from Irish Rail it's a bit of a no-brainer.

With fares from as little as €14.99 you can get your weekend off to an early start with a beer whilst not having to worry about rush-hour traffic either end.

It's less than two hours door-to-door and the last time we drove, parking - even at the reduced rate of £27/€35 from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon - is steep enough and that's before we even factored in the diesel.

Where to stay...

There are lots of boutique hotels dotted around the city but if a central location is your thing then you won't get any better than Jury's Inn.

Situated in the heart of the city, the 190-bed hotel is a basic-but-comfortable stay, and the best of Belfast is literally on its doorstep.

Great Victoria Street is home to the Grand Opera House, the iconic Crown bar and a mere 10 minute walk from the Botanic Gardens or 15 mins from Titanic Belfast.

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The Crown Bar,  owned by the National Trust in Belfast city centre, which has closed its doors because its licence has lapsed. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire

The Crown Bar, owned by the National Trust in Belfast city centre, which has closed its doors because its licence has lapsed. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire

PA

The Crown Bar, owned by the National Trust in Belfast city centre, which has closed its doors because its licence has lapsed. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire


City Hall is just around the corner, as are the main shopping areas of Royal Avenue, home to Castlecourt or a stone's throw further - Victoria Square.

Jury's is running two special family packages - Belfast Zoo which gives 2 adults and 2 children a family pass with their bed and breakfast accommodation from €109 per night.

You can also choose the W5 Package - the award-winning science and discovery centre with 250 interactive exhibits answering the big 5 (Who, What, Why, Where and When) at the Odyssey.

And another thing...

MAC International  2014

Real culture vultures will not want to miss this one.

A live contest with a £20k first prize was decided on the opening night this October.

The winner, Mairéad McClean - one of 1,000 contestants - now has her work shown over all three MAC galleries. among the best in contemporary art including painting, photography and film.

It runs to January 18th.

For further information see www.discovernorthernireland.com

Online Editors