09:00 You’ve got a big day ahead, so fuel up on a giant plate of bacon, sausages, potato bread, hash browns, mushrooms and tomatoes – otherwise known as an Ulster Fry. Enjoy Belfast’s finest at Maggie May’s (maggiemaysbelfast.co.uk), in Botanic Avenue.
10:00 Get your bearings in this beautiful city and burn off your calorific eats by treading the pavements. Some of Belfast’s oldest, cobblestoned streets are in the cultural centre, the Cathedral Quarter. The city’s 19th-century renaissance architecture is mostly concentrated here, the focal point being St Anne’s Cathedral, which dazzles with glass mosaics, and has the largest Celtic Cross in Ireland. In May, during the annual arts festival, this area comes to life with street theatre, comedy shows, visual art and live music.
11:00 Belfast’s rise to muck-and-brass prosperity during the industrial revolution is exemplified in the City Hall. Pop over to Donegall Square to see this impressive building, built in a classical Renaissance style in 1906. It is fronted by a dour-looking Queen Victoria.
12.00 Tuck into some lunch at Cafe Grand Dame, Ulster Hall (cafegranddame.com). The hall itself, built in 1859, is an iconic venue, having hosted everyone from Charles Dickens to the Dalai Lama.
13:00 Head towards the River Lagan and take in the city’s most distinctive landmark, the Albert Clock. This is Belfast’s ‘leaning tower’, built in 1865. The area around it was once the stomping ground for the ladies of the night who ‘serviced’ visiting sailors.
14:00 Belfast came to international prominence from 1909 when it began to build the Titanic – the most luxuriously appointed ship ever. Cross over to the east side of the river and take a tour around the shipyard of Harland & Wolff with Titanic Tours Belfast (titanictours-belfast.co.uk). Susie Millar, a direct descendant of a crew member, will explain the history of this feat of Edwardian engineering, which was proudly sent on its ill-fated maiden voyage on April 10, 1912.
16:00 Jump on bus number 23, or a hail a cab to the dazzling white neoclassical Parliament House at Stormont – the seat of power for 40 years until 1972. On May 8, 2007, it returned to the forefront of Irish politics when enemies Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, were sworn in as first minister and deputy first minister respectively.
19:00 After an action-packed day, you’re definitely deserving of a pint of Guinness. A little revelry at The Crown Liquor Saloon (crownbar.com) is a must. It’s Belfast’s best-known bar – and most bombed throughout the city’s period of unrest. Owned by the National Trust, this Victorian gin palace has scalloped gas lights, gleaming brasswork and a fine long bar inlaid with coloured glass. Plus, the service bells still work in the booths. You can eat in the upstairs dining room.
22:00 Now, the real party starts. Head to the Queen’s Quarter. It’s Belfast’s university area and, as you would therefore expect, home to a suitably pulsating nightlife.
03:00 Lay your weary head to rest at Ark Hostel (44 University Street) in Botanic Avenue, the heart of Belfast’s Golden Mile. Beds cost from £5 per night.
11:00 Grab yourself something greasy for the hangover, then get back on the tourist trail. Belfast’s recent history was marked by sectarian violence from 1960 through to the mid-Nineties, known as The Troubles. To get a grip on it all, hop into a black cab with Big E Taxi Tours (big-e-taxitours.com) for a mural tour. It’ll take you past the political-oriented murals of the loyalist lower Shankill area, the republican lower Springfield/ Falls area, and the 6m-high ‘peace wall’ along the way.
13.30 It’s a sobering experience, so cheer up with some lunch at St George’s Market (2-20 East Bridge Street). Weave through the various cooked food and produce stalls. We dare you to choose just one thing!
15:00 For a fresh perspective on the city, get out and climb Divis or Black Mountain. Divis, the larger of the two, is 1500ft high, and provides stunning views of Belfast city. It’s a 15-minute ride on bus route 10. Prefer some retail therapy? Then go shopping at Lisburn Road.
19:00 Thankfully, it’s time to eat. Line your stomach with some of the best pizzas in town at Speranza (speranzabelfast.com) in Shaftesbury Square.
09:00 Not flagging are you? Tick off the rest of Belfast’s nightlife in Laverys Bar (laverysbelfast.com). It consists of four individual venues in one complex – the elegant Public Bar, the bohemian Back Bar, the alternative Bunker and the Ballroom. There’s something for everyone, so you’ve got no excuse to wimp out.
Return flights from London Stansted to Belfast with bmibaby start from £39.98 bmibaby.com