A rising star among UK cities, Belfast, North Ireland maintains an eclectic mix of history, culture and urban development. A more authentic experience than touristy Dublin, Belfast is a cultural juncture between Ireland and Britain creating a blend of people and experiences. The city has made large strides from its troubled political past and was recently awarded the title of safest city in the UK. Locals are inviting, friendly and love to chat with foreigners traveling and living in the city. With a lively nightlife and thriving music scene, Belfast is an excellent city to study abroad.
Areas for Students
The south district of Dublin is a popular area for students, especially those attending Queen’s University, which is situated in the area. Nearby Dublin Road is known for its numerous bars and takeaway restaurants, staying busy most nights of the week. Botanic Avenue is lined with bookshops, cafes, restaurants, and bars frequented by students. The Botanical Gardens, located directly next to Queen’s University, has beautiful gardens and outdoor areas for students to lounge, relax and meet. Cathedral Quarter is another great section for students, housing galleries, music venues and pubs with live music.
- Belfast Castle Estate
- Cave Hill
- Ulster Museum
- Victoria Square
- St. George's Market
- Falls Park
- Belfast Exposed
- Titanic Belfast
- Saint Anne's Cathedral
- Irist Language Cultrural Center
- Crumlin Road Gaol
Local businesses, restaurants, theatres, and city attractions in Belfast frequently offer students discounts. Be sure to check with local establishments to see what savings students can receive! The photography gallery Belfast Exposed provides free exhibits, admission to the endless Ulster Museum is free, and entry to the historical Belfast Castle is free as well.
Cost of Living
As a member of the United Kingdom, the currency used in Belfast is the British pound. Belfast is less expensive than other UK cities, such as Dublin or London, but isn’t exactly cheap. Queen's University Belfast estimates students’ living expenses are about $4,000 to $6,000 USD per semester. Numbero is a great resource for determining the cost of living in particular cities and countries. The average monthly rent for an apartment in the Belfast city center is about $900 USD, while outside the city center rent can dip down to $650 USD. The cost of a monthly public transportation pass is about $85 USD, an inexpensive restaurant meal $16 USD, and a beer $6 USD.
US citizens studying abroad in the UK less than six months do not need a visa. Those planning to stay longer than six months do require a study visa. Check out the official UK visa website to ensure you are up to date on all required documentation.
Study Abroad Support Systems
Each university or college has its own methods of organizing and assisting international students. Prominent higher education establishments found in Belfast include Queen’s University Belfast, the smaller University of Ulster and Belfast Metropolitan College among others. Queen’s University Belfast has an extensive international student support system with a department of advisors ready to help incoming students transition to a new country, succeed in school and answer questions about most anything. Their website has some great advice if you're new to Belfast.
It is also prudent for anyone traveling internationally to find out where the nearest US embassy is located. Lucky for students living in Belfast there is one located right in the city.
Things to Know
Talking about politics or religion in public places is considered inappropriate and should be avoided. Tipping bartenders and taxi drivers is unnecessary, while tipping at a nice, sit down restaurant need not be more than 10%. The weather is mild but never hot, even in the summer, so plan on layering. Everyday items such as medicines, makeup, spices, and even dishware are more expensive and some students bring a stockpile from home to avoid the higher prices. Read more great tips from this student on things to know before traveling to North Ireland.
Sources say Belfast is small enough to explore comfortably on foot, which is a big plus for university students. There is an established bus system called the metro that radiates from the city centre. Routes run between 6am and 11pm every day. Pre-loaded cards can be purchased to make traveling all the easier. Be advised though, buses aren’t entirely reliable and are known to be late at times. After 11pm taxis are the only option.
Local Areas of Interest
Belfast is filled with bars and restaurants, some with history dating back to the 1700’s. McHugh’s Bar & Restaurant frequently has live music and is situated in one of the oldest buildings in the city, dating back to 1711. The Kitchen Bar, one of the city’s most historic bars, has personality and allure dating back to 1859. Nothing comes more highly recommended than the Belfast Pub Crawl, taking night goers around historic bars such as McHugh’s Bar, White’s Tavern, Kelly’s Cellars and Maddens.
Beyond food and booze, Belfast takes great pride that it was the building site of the Titanic. There are several homages to the fateful ship such as the immense Titanic Belfast exhibits, the Titanic Quarter of the city and Titanic walking tours. Also worth a visit is Cave Hill with its commanding views of Belfast, cliff caves and the Belfast Castle Estate with its own beautiful grounds, architecture and history.
Belfast is a treasure trove of unique experiences, energetic bars, fashionable restaurants and great live music. The city has stories to share from its past and awaits more stories to be told. It is rich in history, has a spirited nightlife and comes complete with friendly citizens. It is a thriving, exciting, youthful city that is perfect for any student looking to study abroad!
Contributed by Alecia Weaver
Scholarships for Belfast, North Ireland
- Marshall Scholarship: For US students studying at UK universities
- Queen's University Belfast International Scholarships: For various majors
- Fulbright Scholarship: Queen’s University Belfast Summer Institute scholarship