How to enjoy the city in the sun
Almost all of Belfast's media coverage over the past half a century has focused on austere looking streets in built up areas. This can leave a very misleading impression on your mind as Belfast is actually a great place to be in the sun. Canal side walks, hilltop castles and beautiful parks - Belfast is the place to be when the sun has got his hat on. Hip hip hip. Hooray.
The original Belfast Castle was built in the 12th century in what is now the city centre. That was burnt down by the Normans in the 18th century and a new castle was rebuilt in the suburbs of Belfast around 200 years ago by the 3rd marquess of Donegal. It has since undergone significant refurbishment and boasts an antiques shop, a restaurant and a fancy venue space.
It is ideally located for dramatic photos. Perched on the edge of Cave Hill, the mountain overlooking Belfast, the gardens have a beautiful panoramic of the city and the lough. The manicured gardens themselves are beautiful in the summer and a lovely place to sit and take in the view, and you can see without a doubt why it is one of the most popular wedding reception venues in the city.
The surrounding grounds are a lovely uphill forest and lead to Cave Hill adventure playground which is definitely worth a visit if you have youngsters with you.
Tow path/lagan river walk
The tow path is part of the remains of the old Belfast shipping industry but is now a scenic and picturesque nature walk. Very popular with cyclists and dog walkers on a sunny day, it follows the tree-lined River Lagan on both sides surrounded by meadows and forest - an ideal place for Sunday stroll. There is plenty of parking and several places where you can join the route. It also boasts the Lock Keeper's Cottage, which has been refurbished into a lovely café along the route where you can stop for an ice-cream or a cup of tea.
Sir Thomas & Lady Dixon Park
This lovely council kept park is the go-to spot for locals when the sun shines. The park has a lovely playground for the kiddos, a sunken Japanese garden, and an absolutely stunning rose garden. The rose garden plays home to Rose Week which runs for one week every July. This popular urban park is definitely worth a visit for a romantic stroll or for the flower enthusiast.
Belfast Botanic Gardens are the most central outdoor area on this list, so if you don’t have much time or are stuck for transport, this is the most accessible location for a visit. Right beside the Botanic Rail Station, a short walk from the city centre, and nearby Queen's University there are plenty of ways to directly get to the gardens. There are several featured gardens to walk around, including the Palm House Conservatory that predates the Glasnevin Conservatory in Dublin and also built by the same guy, and the tropical ravine house, as well as a rose garden and other grassy areas. Fair warning - being in the centre of a student village this place gets busy on a sunny day, however it is heavily patrolled by local authorities as drinking in the gardens is prohibited and those pesky students need constant reminding.