Dublin or Belfast? Two cities come to mind when thinking of visiting Ireland. Even if it is generally known that they are in two different countries, most still couldn’t help but compare. These capital cities are in the same Emerald Isle, after all. However, as tempting as it is to visit both cities and soak up their cultures, travelers usually had to pick just one.
Dublin Or Belfast: Introduction
With a Celtic name that meant “Black Pool”, Dublin has quite a colorful, yet tumultuous history. From being an important Viking Town to becoming a place that has witnessed war and conflict for centuries, Dublin has come a long way.
It is now known as a UNESCO City of Literature and twice voted as Europe’s friendliest city.
As the capital of the Republic of Ireland, it is the center of business, culture, and political affairs in the country. With its reliable transport system, Dublin is the ideal base for exploring the rest of Ireland, known for its dramatic and unforgettable scenery.
From being Linenopolis in the 1800s to building the Titanic, to being one of the most dangerous places in the world for three decades – Belfast has quite a colorful history.
Today, the Northern Ireland capital is a fast-growing technology and entertainment hub. It has also attracted more visitors because it is the perfect base to explore the stunning landscapes and coastal scenery of Northern Ireland.
With its thriving arts, culture, and restaurant scene juxtaposed with historic buildings and lots of green spaces, Belfast is a fascinating city to explore. It has gone a long way and is now a must-visit city on the island of Ireland.
Dublin Or Belfast: Key Facts
Country: Republic of Ireland
Official Language: English, Irish Gaelic
Size: 45.5 squares miles (117.8 sq km2)
Population: 1,242,000 (2021)
Electricity: 220 v/ 3-prong outlet
Country: Northern Ireland
Official Language: English
Size: 44.4 square miles (115 km2)
Population: 634,594 (2021)
Currency: Great British Pound
Electricity: 220 v/ 3-prong outlet
Dublin Or Belfast: How To Get There
Dublin has one major airport, Dublin Airport which has flights coming in and out from Europe, the UK, and from around the world. The capital city of Ireland may also be reached by a combination of bus, car, ferry or train if coming from nearby islands or countries.
By plane – There are direct flights to Dublin from North America, the UK, Europe, and Asian cities like Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo. From the airport, travelers may board a bus, shuttle, taxi, or Uber to get to the city center.
By ferry – if coming from the UK or Western Europe, visitors may drive, rude a bus or train to a ferry port in France or the UK. From there, they can board a ferry (Stena Line and Irish Ferries) to reach Dublin Port.
By train – if traveling within the island of Ireland (including Northern Ireland), Dublin is easily reached by train via Irish Rail (Iarnród Éireann), InterRail, and Northern Ireland Railways.
By bus – Dublin may also be reached by bus if coming from within the island of Ireland and the UK. Bus services such as Eurolines (coming from the UK), Bus Eireann (within Ireland), and Ulsterbus (from Northern Ireland)
By car – Dublin is easily reachable by car from different parts of the island. However, please check the rental agreement first as it may be against the terms especially if coming from another country such as Northern Ireland.
There are many ways for travelers and visitors to reach Belfast. The city is connected to various transport networks and has two airports: Belfast International Airport and George Best City Airport. Whether you’re coming from within the island of Ireland, the UK, Europe, or other parts of the world, here’s how to get to Belfast:
By Plane – Both airports that service Belfast has flights coming in from both domestic and international destinations. Most direct flights come from the UK, Western Europe. If a visitor’s country of origin does not have a direct flight to Belfast, there are connecting flights from other UK cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow (Scotland), London, and Manchester (England). The best connecting flight, however, is from Dublin.
Both Belfast International Airport, the airport, and George Best City Airport have a shuttle bus (Airport 300 service), taxi, or private transfer service to get to the city center.
By Ferry – Two main ferry companies regularly travel to Belfast: Stena Line and P&O Ferries. These are convenient if going to Belfast from Cairnryan (Scotland), the Isle of Man. and Liverpool (England).
By Train – if coming from within the island of Ireland, Belfast is easily reached by train. There are regular schedules from cities like Cork, Dublin, Galway, and Limerick. If traveling by Irish Rail, book in advance to avail of discounts.
By Bus – There are regular coach connections if going to Belfast from within Ireland or from other parts of the UK. If coming from England, Scotland or Wales, check out National Express for schedules of bus and ferry transport.
By Car – For visitors to Belfast who would rather travel by car, the Northern Ireland capital is easily reached in 2 to under 5 hours from Derry/Londonderry, Dublin, or Cork.
Dublin vs Belfast: Things To Do
What is Dublin known for?
- Trinity College and the Long Room in the Old Library
- As one of the 6 UNESCO Cities of Literature
- The historic Ha’Penny Bridge
- The almost 1,000-year-old Christ Church Cathedral
- O’Connell Street, the widest street in Europe (49 meters wide).
- The Guinness Storehouse
- The Temple Bar area and over a thousand pubs
- Trad (Traditional Irish music) Sessions at the Hairy Lemon Pub
- St. Stephen’s Green Park (and the ducks!)
- The massive Phoenix Park and Zoo (and its wild deer)
What is Belfast known for?
- Belfast City Hall (and the district stained glass windows and numerous memorials)
- Belfast Castle
- Belfast Black Cab Tours
- St. George’s Weekend Market
- Queen’s University Belfast
- The Obel Tower, tallest in Ireland.
- Salmon of Knowledge
- Titanic Belfast Museum and the entire Titanic Quarter
- The Stunning Street Murals
Dublin versus Belfast: Which is more expensive?
Beer – .5 L – 5.50 €
Accommodations (starts at)
- Budget – 60 €
- Mid – 110 €
- Luxury – 170 €
Restaurants (per person)
- Budget – 15 €
- Mid – 35 €
- Luxury – 80 €
- Bus, train, tram (pass / Leap card) – 10 € (1 day) 19.50 € (3 days) 40 € (7 days)
- Taxi – 4 € (start) 1.50 € (per 1 km)
Beer – .5 L – 4.50 £
Accommodations (per night)
- Budget – 46 £
- Mid – 74 £
- Luxury – 125 £
Restaurants (per person)
- Budget – 12 £
- Mid – 23 £
- Luxury – 34 £
- Metro (pass / Smartcard) – 3.50 £ (day) 15 £ (1 week) 55 £ (1 month)
- Taxi – 3.10 £ (start) 1 £ (per 1 km)
Which is better Dublin or Belfast?
Dublin is easier to reach, with many direct flights and connections, as well as a bigger transport system to get around in. People will argue, however, that even with the limited ways to get to the city, Belfast is a worthy place to visit.
The Northern Ireland city is compact, walkable, and closer to the country’s iconic attractions such as the Giant’s Causeway. It is also much cheaper in Belfast than in Dublin.
When considering between the two capital cities, it is more a matter of lifestyle and preference than which one is deemed better than the other. Those who prefer a more cosmopolitan vibe with plenty of space to get around in, a variety of attractions, and a thriving pub scene will love Dublin.
Meanwhile, people who are a bit more traditional and enjoy walking will appreciate the easy-to-navigate streets and neighborhoods of Belfast. One can walk from one end of the city to the other in 30 minutes while passing most of the city’s top attractions.
Dublin is for travelers who have more time allotted for their trip to the island of Ireland. Belfast, on the other hand, is best for those who may only have a few days but want to see the best that this part of Ireland has to offer.
Each has a distinct charm and character. Whether it’s Dublin or Belfast, the better choice is the city that best suits one’s need and preference.
Hi, I’m Christine – a full-time traveler and career woman. Although I’m from the Philippines, my location independent career took me to over 40 countries for the past 8 years. I also lived in 3 continents – from the Caribbean, South East Asia to Africa. But despite living in several countries, my love for Ireland remains the same. A country that had been a part of my life since I was 14 because of my love for Irish music and bands. Ireland Travel Guides was born because of this passion and hopefully, in some little ways, this website will be able to help you on your next trip to Ireland.