I’ve stayed in hundreds of hostels down the years on my backpacking journeys. Each one has its own style and uniqueness about it and that is one of the joys of travel to me. Belfast City is Northern Ireland’s capital and November 2015 saw me staying in a Belfast hostel for the first time ever.
Yes, I have been to Belfast more times than I can count. I used to work, study and live in the city. But when staying overnight in buzzing Belfast, I normally stay with friends or family. However in 2014, I stayed in a Belfast Hotel for the first time, I chose the Europa Hotel as it is prestigious – Bill Clinton once stayed here and it was also once the most bombed hotel in Europe, maybe even the world. Times have changed in Belfast city and this place is buzzing. So this time, I checked into the Belfast International Hostel in the city centre, it is part of the world famous Hostelling International/YHA group and happens to be the largest hostel in not just Belfast, but in Northern Ireland. Here are some of my favourite things about my stay and why you should stay here when you visit Belfast.
Location wise, for a hostel, this one is great. There are three train stations close by including Great Victoria Street and Botanic as well as the bus station, the Europa Bus Centre.
Also nearby are most of the main sights of central Belfast including the magnificent Crwon Bar and the prominent City Hall.
Northern Ireland is a culturally strong country with little evidence of outside influences. The raw local culture exists here and dominates local news and daily proceedings. Indeed the local 12th July parades are still huge and the hostel sits right on the corner by Sandy Row, a proud Unionist part of the city. The city of Belfast is divided between Unionists and Nationalists, which normally dictates religion too – Unionists tend to be Protestants and Nationalists tend to be Catholics. For a good insight into both sides, organise a “Black Taxi here” – check the hostel noticeboard for details.
The hostel itself helps you organise local tours and even outside the hostel are some cool wall murals including tributes to the Titanic and local hero, Alex “The Hurricane” Higgins, a snooker player who drank in the pub opposite the hostel.
The downstairs lounge is cosy and welcoming and has good WiFi. It’s a cool place to meet people.
4.Free Walking Tour
For a city as ice cool as Belfast, it is often hard to find any decent walking tours. Well, all you need to do is book into the HI for a night at the weekend and you can get a free walking tour of this iconic city. Get to see all the top sights in this iconic Northern Irish gem such as St. Anne’s Cathedral, the Opera House, Europa Hotel, Crown Bar and City Hall to name a few.
5.Range of Rooms
The hostel caters for all types. Families are welcome, as are solo backpackers, couples and groups of friends. The capacity is around 200, so you can decide what room you want at off peak periods. I stayed in a cosy twin room on the third floor and loved it. I had a tremendous view of the city. The dorms are great for meeting fellow backpackers.
Belfast is a city I love and always have a piece of my heart here as I studied in Belfast in the late 90s and also spent a spell living there. I later returned to Belfast to work and currently try to visit it at least once a year. Here are some other articles I have written about Belfast City, a true gem:
And you can get to enjoy spending Northern Irish money – most people don’t even know there are separate banknotes in Northern Ireland.
Here is a video of my room at the Belfast International Hostel: