After spending two weeks road tripping through Scotland with my parents, I was eager to get back into the backpacking scene and independently explore Belfast. Upon arrival, I found my way to the Global Village Hostel, a wonderful hostel that I would highly recommend to anyone. It is owned and operated by a very friendly young couple who have traveled extensively themselves and therefore, know what travelers want in a hostel. The staff was also young, knowledgeable, and helpful, and many were travelers who had decided to stay in Belfast for extended periods to save money before continuing on their journeys, so they were there to enjoy the experience with the guests. I love hostels that are set up for socializing, and the Global Village has picnic tables and games in the kitchen to promote meeting, dining, and drinking with fellow travelers.
Upon checking into my room, I met four Swiss guys who were planning on going on an organized pubcrawl that evening, and they invited me to join in the fun. I think we all pictured a big group of backpackers with scantily dressed single girls in the mix, but when we arrived at the advertised starting point, we were the only 5 attendees. After briefly considering our options, we all forked over £20, collected our free t-shirt and drink tickets, and got the evening started with a couple beers. It turned out to be a great time and was well worth the money. The leaders took us to a popular lounge to begin with, where we could enjoy a casual drink and get to know each other. Next stop was Levry’s pool hall, a massive pool hall / bar / club that was packed with college aged locals. I would highly recommend checking out Levry’s if you are ever in Belfast as it is a wonderful concept and I have not come across any bars like it on my travels. After some fun drinking games played at the pool table, we were off to a club to finish off the night. At this point in the evening, we were all tuned up for the dance floor and were ready to be let loose in the club. It was probably the best five dude pub crawl that has ever happened, and I have no regrets handing over £20 for the privilege of tearing up Belfast that evening.
It was a slow start for me the next day and I spent a lot of the day hanging out in the hostel, catching up on e-mails, and meeting other people staying at the Global Village. I also wandered around the nearby area to get a feel for what Belfast was all about. That evening, the 2 litre bottles of Strongbow were out in force at the Hostel picnic tables and we played cards until late in the evening. It truly was a global crowd as our group consisted of two German brothers and girls from France, Italy, Germany, and Australia. The German and Australian girls taught us all a card game called “Snap” which is both highly competitive and addictive which provided hours of entertainment.
The next day was another lazy day at the hostel for me as the weather was poor and I was still recovering from the festivities of the two previous nights. The day consisted of nothing more than a bit of work, a long nap, and a Snap tournament that lasted for hours – the joys of backpacking! Even though I was already booked to arrive in Dublin the next day, I was having so much fun at the hostel and had seen so little of Belfast that I decided to skip my reservation in Dublin and stay an extra night in Belfast. This proved to be an excellent decision as the weather greatly improved and the sun was shining the next morning – perfect for sightseeing!
I started the day by exploring the area around Belfast’s city hall, where they had giant screens set up to show the Olympic Games in London, before eventually finding myself in the Crown Liquor Saloon for lunch. The Crown Liquor Saloon is an outstanding example of a Victorian Gin Palace and the architecture and interior design is well worth seeing.
After lunch, I met up with a German girl who was working at the hostel and we took the 1a bus up to the Belfast Castle. There is a large park surrounding the Belfast Castle and many locals were out walking, running, playing with their kids and enjoying picnics. We walked up the hill to the Castle and perused the gardens before finding our way inside for a refreshing cider. To prove that we had the right idea for the day, we were soon joined by another group from our hostel that had also decided to make their way to the Castle for the afternoon. It was a wonderful day and provided the perfect ending to my Belfast experience.
The next morning I packed my bags, said good-bye to the brilliant people I met at the hostel, and headed to the bus station to catch my £14 bus to Dublin.