Visiting Belfast: Shopping and sight-seeing over the border

If you don’t normally go up the North for shopping or sight-seeing, you’re missing out. Recently I went on a weekend break to Belfast with my boyfriend and we had a brilliant time.

I’ve posted about visiting Belfast before but I spent less than a day there. This time around I spent more time in the city centre and was there for a full weekend.

I have only been to Northern Ireland four times including the last trip which is quite embarrassing!

Where to go shopping:

Belfast has two shopping centres, Castlecourt and Victoria Square. Castlecourt is slightly old-fashioned but has some decent shops, including a nice Debenhams.

Victoria Square is a more modern building and has all the high-street shops such as Topshop, H & M and River Island.

The Topshop is massive and I could’ve spent all day there! But that would’ve been the end of my relationship.. 😛

On the street there’s a massive Stradivarius (one of only three in Ireland), Zara, Primark etc.

What to buy: 

I always buy cosmetics in the North as they are a good bit cheaper. I picked up a new bronzer in Superdrug and got my eyebrows threaded there for only £5!

I also bought Queen of Shaves shaving gel for £2.99 (This is very gentle on your skin but can’t find it in ROI anymore). It was about €8 down here.

Nivea night cream was only £1.99 which was also good value, it’s about €5 here.

Perhaps VAT is to blame but when you factor in exchange rates, we seem to pay a lot more for clothes in shops like Topshop and River Island in the ROI.

For instance, this purple frill jumper was £15 on sale from £30 in Topshop. It ws €42 full price in ROI stores.

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Primark is similar value to what you get at home, one pair of nude tights were £1, a nail varnish £1.50 etc.

The Primark was undergoing a bit of a makeover and was VERY busy when we were there.

Overall the stock in Primark was only OK but the store isn’t the biggest.

 I bought a pair of Onitsuka Tigers for my boyfriend in Office, they were £65 with student discount.

Name brand runners aren’t much cheaper than at home.

Surprisingly I didn’t buy myself any shoes! Nor did I find a dress for my graduation but there’s plenty of time yet.

Bargain shopping/Charity shops

I visited two charity shops and both were pretty disappointing. If anyone can recommend a good one, please let me know.

Vintage shops

There are a few quirky vintage shops around Belfast and my favourite one was Octopus’s Garden on Wellington Street.

It sells records as well as deadly vintage threads and is a good spot for nabbing a band t-shirt.

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Markets

On Sunday, we visited St. George’s Market which reminded me of a smaller version of Spitalfields market in London.

We treated ourselves to a hearty Ulster fry and perused all the goodies the market had to offer.

There were loads of food stalls including some very tasty cupcakes, homewares, bric-a-brac, vintage records and jewellery.

I’d highly recommend this market to everyone, it’s an absolute gem.

Cash or card?

I brought cash which I’d changed commission free in the post office. If you pay in card in the North, there is a small fee, about 14 cent per transaction.

Withdrawing sterling with an Irish card from an ATM will incur a fee of at least €3. Ulster Bank customers can withdraw free from NatWest, EasyCash and RBS however.

Bag charges

FYI, there’s now a plastic bag levy in the UK, retailers must a charge a minimum of £0.05 per bag. Something to bear in mind if you are buying lots.

Where to eat/stay/have fun

Besides shopping, we did enjoy the sights of Belfast, including the Titanic experience which was fantastic. Give yourself a minimum of two hours if you are going here.

It’s an interactive exhibition and I learned so much, not merely about the Titanic but also the history of Belfast.

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We stayed in Jury’s Inn in the heart of the city and our room was gorgeous.

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On Saturday night we had dinner in Deanes Love Fish restaurant and the food was DELICIOUS! Hands down, one of the nicest restaurants I’ve ever been in.

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We also went for a drink in The Crown Saloon, which is one of the most popular bars in Belfast.

The beautiful Victorian decor has been preserved from the intricately-carved wooden booths and ceiling designs, to stained glass windows and funky floor tiles.

Unfortunately it was too busy to sit down.

Another watering-hole we visited was White’s Tavern which is one of Belfast’s oldest pubs. This is a nice little pub to relax and rest the legs in between shopping and sight-seeing.

Finally, City Hall is a must if you like architecture.

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 FYI, this was not a sponsored post.

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Edel

Bountiful Belfast

I’ve been enjoying life lately as I got to go to two amazing concerts,(Kings of Leon and Eminem) visit Belfast and go to the Ooh la la magazine blog awards and magazine launch party. All of these events were great fun plus great blogging fodder!

Recently I went to Belfast with my housemate Carol to the Tennent’s Vital music  festival.

The festival didn’t start until the evening so in between we had time to check out the local shops! We both love charity and vintage shops and there was incredible choice in Belfast. We had a wander around the city centre and the outskirts and found some really cool shops.

The best one we found was The Rusty Zip on Botanic Avenue. I was really impressed by this shop on several levels.

Firstly the selection of stock was awesome, real leather jackets including motorcycle jackets, great shoes, bags, hats, bow ties and other accessories, lots of menswear as well as ladies clothing and even wedding dresses!

The second thing I noticed was the prices were really affordable for good quality clothing. It irritates me when vintage stores bump up the prices of what essentially are old clothes! I love and appreciate vintage clothing but sometimes buying vintage items feels like a rip-off.

Leather jackets were approximately £35 to £70 which is great for real leather, some items were as cheap as £12 and even wedding dresses retailing at £30, £50 and upwards. I had to drag Carol away from a beautiful lace wedding dress with a long train which really was  beautiful but slightly unsuitable for the festival!

I think they had beautiful alternatives to ridiculously priced modern wedding dresses. I also really liked the layout and decoration of the store and thought it was easy to navigate and shop in.

Overall it was one of the nicest vintage stores I’ve ever been in and well worth a visit. If I had more money with me I definitely would’ve bought something and I hope to visit again to buy! Check out their website and Facebook here.

We also had a look around some charity shops where Carol picked up some  bargains and I got a pearl and lace hairband for 50p!

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We ended up at Queen’s University by accident while looking for a hostel and it’s a really amazing building!

After that we went into the city centre and wandered into Primark/Penneys, Zara, Boots and The Body Shop. While in Penneys/Primark (this English thing is a mindfuck!) I took a few pictures of their Autumn/Winter display and stock.

I saw some great pieces and a lot of tartan which will be really big this winter.

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I love the styling of these mannequins in Primark. The limited edition necklace is amazing and is available down here as is the black and white shirt.

I’m not sure about the availability of the other items. Beanie hats are going to be huge this A/W also, I’m not sure how I feel about them yet! 😛

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More tartan than the MacDougal family reunion in Sex and the City!

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I  love patterned tights and I’ve missed buying funky tights as I don’t wear dresses in my current job. These are gorgeous and I’ll definitely get a pair when they arrive in stores.

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This shirt’s a beauty! I don’t know if this is new season but I hope so!

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This lovely satchel bag in Primark/Penneys was only £9, styled with this animal print cardi to make a cool A/W outfit! It was in black also but the brown is more autumnal.

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I really liked this wallet  and matching bag. Studs are still around for this autumn!

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I think the blue is lovely alternative to the black bags with gold studs, switches things up a bit!

 Not remotely seasonal but I love these amazing tapestry and denim shorts!

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And in case that wasn’t enough tapestry, here’s a really cute purse.

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I’m in love with this tribal jacket! I really like all the little details, the leather cuffs, little studs and asymmetrical zip. It’s just calling my name! The cut and contrast of colours and textures is great.

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Animal jewellery like this lion necklace really appeals to me and this looks great for a glamorous occasion. However I haven’t bought any of Primark/Penney’s limited edition jewellery ever so if anyone has please let me know! I’m curious about the quality…

Torc style necklaces like this and thick chains are the trendiest options for Autumn/Winter.

Finally a few pieces that aren’t Autumn/Winter but caught my eye anyway!

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Grungy denim waistcoat.

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This was on the bargain rail, nice for the end of summer.

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Also had to include this short sleeve denim shirt, just perfect!

Belfast is pretty amazing, it was only my second time EVER in Norther Ireland but I will be back soon.If any of you have been there, let me know what you got up to and what you thought of the town.

In terms of money-saving by shopping in the North you will save a little but not necessarily. Primark prices are much the same as Penneys when you convert them back to euro. I bought some cosmetics in Boots, Barry M nail polishes and a Bourjois blusher thinking they were cheaper but when I saw the euro price on my bank statement, I realised it’s only a small difference.

However in stores like River Island, Topshop etc. the euro mark-up is well above the recommended conversion rate so next time I’ll be paying a visit there. The Body Shop is significantly cheaper i.e. a body butter retails at €18.95 in the Republic but only £13 in the North!

We went there on the Aircoach bus just over two hours journey from Dublin and our return fare was €20.

The easiest place to change your money to sterling is the post office as there’s no fee to change however  you have to use a bank if you have any left to change back! Be sure to spend any coins first before you leave as you can’t change these back to euro.

Thank you for visiting my blog, hope you enjoyed the post! Don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page here.

Edel