When planning a UK city break, thoughts of London, Edinburgh and Glasgow spring to mind.
But feeling uninspired by the usual suspects, I was in the mood for somewhere new.
I wanted culture, good food, fantastic shopping and a bit of history thrown in for good measure. And Belfast seemed to offer it all.
I was surprised by the number of low cost airlines offering reasonably priced flights , even at the last minute.
The flight from Manchester Airport into Belfast International took less than 45 minutes, and from there it was just a short bus ride into the centre of town.
We decided to stay in the Europa Hotel - which I’m lead to believe also happens to be the most bombed hotel in Belfast. Well, I did say I wanted some history on my trip.
The lobby area was stunning, with a roaring fire, comfy chairs and gleaming floors. My expectations of my room soared.
After a swift check-in we took the lift up to our room. And we were not disappointed.
The luxurious and well equipped room had a huge bed, desk, comfy chairs and a side table. The bathroom boasted a deep bath big enough for two and a separate shower. For that added luxury there were bath robes and slippers - and a little rubber duck!
There was also an extra little treat with three mini cakes for us to enjoy while we unpacked our bags.
There was a temptation to relax in our stylish room, but there was so much to see and do we headed out to start exploring.
We decided to hit the shops. Belfast has everything from your high street favourites to wonderful little boutique stores. There was more than enough to keep us entertained for the entire afternoon.
We took in some of the main sites including Belfast City Hall and The Linen Hall Library, before taking a stroll down the waterfront.
In the evening we met some friends for dinner at Made in Belfast at City Hall before exploring some of the cities many pubs and bars. The food was stunning, a real celebration of good quality local ingredients, with a funky atmosphere to match.
We finished our night in the Europa bar - a glamorous room with the biggest chandelier I have ever seen.
After a good night’s sleep and tasty buffet breakfast it was time to get my hit of culture.
We headed out for the short stroll down the Botanical Gardens near Queens University. The impressive palm house housed a vast array of weird and wonderful plants from around the globe, as well as some found closer to home. And the fernery was just as impressive.
When we couldn’t manage being out in the cold any longer, we headed into the Ulster Museum - a must do when in Belfast.
Entry is free and there really is something for everyone within the sprawling building. On our visit there was a street art exhibition, which was simply stunning.
We stayed in the university area for food, trying out the Barking Dog on Malone Road. In candlelit surroundings, the excellent quality, local food was to die for. One not to be missed if you are in the vicinity.
Belfast exceeded all of my expectations. We had an action packed couple of days, but there was so much we didn’t have time to do, we could have easily stayed for much longer.
The city is steeped in history, a lot of it very recent, and the people are warm and friendly.
If you are looking for an exciting city break that won’t break the bank, then give Belfast a try. You won’t be disappointed.
For more information about planning your trip to Belfast, visit www.gotobelfast.com
Rooms at the Europa are available from £120 a night. Visit www.hastingshotels.com for details.