FOR most children at the moment, life is about fidget spinners and Pokemon. That's not the case with my ten-year-old niece Freya, who has developed an abiding and slightly unexpected interest in the plight of the Titanic. It was her unusual passion that inspired a recent family trip to Belfast and its historic shipyards, where the doomed vessel was built.

Dublin has long been the Irish destination of choice for North-East holidaymakers but, cheap and easy to get to from the region, the quieter and far less touristy Belfast is proving increasingly popular – and understandably so.

Four of us travelled from Newcastle to Belfast International Airport on an Easyjet flight so quick we barely had time to enjoy our overpriced airline refreshments. A short taxi ride took us from the airport to the centre of the historic city, which enjoys a landscape rich with diverse architecture – as well as its fair share of predictably unpredictable Irish weather.

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The first day of our family friendly trip saw us pay a visit to the award-winning Titanic Experience, a stunningly designed seven-storey building that houses every single thing you ever wanted to know about the ship and its history, and a lot more besides. The Northern Echo’s pioneering editor William Stead, who went down with the Titanic, makes an appearance, pictured alongside some of the influential passengers aboard the vessel for that fateful journey. When we emerged blinking into the light some hours later, we were full to the brim with information and instilled with enough Titanic trivia to ensure victory at any future pub quizzes.

Also worth exploring in the city’s Titanic Quarter is the SS Nomadic - the only White Line vessel still in existence – and the dry-dock that once held the Titanic, both of which are situated next to the museum. For those of us with mobility issues or children to shepherd, the Wee Tram tour – with stops outside the Titanic Experience - was the perfect way to sightsee around that area.

An exhausting first day ended with us checking into the Belfast Radisson Blu, a hotel in the Gasworks Quarter that offers ideal accommodation for a city break such as ours and is well situated for exploring the city.

Having honoured our Titanic related commitments on our first day, we decided to try and see as much of the city as we could throughout the remainder of our four-day stay. Our next stop was the historic St George’s Market, which comes to life every weekend with arts, crafts, live music and an array of absolutely delicious food.

From there, it was into the care of Billy Scott, who gave us a fascinating ‘blue badge’ tour of the city and its suburbs in his black cab. In the company of a lively raconteur with a careful line in objectivity, Mr Scott’s tour proved the highlight of the trip for us and allowed our party – including two with disabilities – to explore Belfast and learn of its complex history without wearing ourselves out physically or mentally.

The tour also brought with it the opportunity to delve into the history of the Troubles, to catch a glimpse of some of the surviving political murals and to visit the Peace Wall, where Freya was invited to leave a message of her own. A free tour of Belfast’s elaborate City Hall proved another worthwhile use of our time, with special mention having to be made of the eccentric mayoral portraits that line its corridors.

As much as we enjoyed our introduction to Belfast, we certainly didn't spend enough time there to exhaust its possibilities. With every person we met – and we met many, the city being one of the friendliest places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting – we came away with recommendations of yet more places to visit.

The city’s tourism figures are rocketing and it is not difficult to see why – it’s accessible, interesting and still relatively cheap to explore with plenty to do for all ages. I hear it’s especially interesting for fans of Game of Thrones, with much of the series being set around the city.

Sadly, we didn’t get to explore the beautiful countryside that inspired the show’s creators to film in Northern Ireland – but at least we have the perfect excuse to return again to a wonderful city.

  • Rooms at the Belfast Radisson Blu start at £87.20 per night.
  • For more information about Belfast, go to or call 0289-024-6609.