The Ultimate Guide To Studying In Belfast

The Ultimate Guide To Studying In Belfast
 Image by Nico Kaiser is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Belfast is the ultimate city when it comes to swagger, cocktails and having the craic. But how does it fare when it comes to higher education? If you’re thinking of studying in the cool capital of Northern Ireland, we’ve got the low-down on everything from fees to nightlife. Let’s take a look what being a student in Belfast is all about.

Universities In Belfast

Queen’s University is the only university in Belfast, so it’s a case of be there or be square. It was founded way back in 1845 when it was originally known as Queen’s College. Over the years it’s built a solid reputation and is currently in the top 1% of worldwide universities. That’s no mean feat but Queen’s’ place is well deserved; entry standards are high, research quality is awesome, while it sits 48th in the UK’s league table rankings.

Queen’s is also one of Britain’s top Knowledge Transfer Partnership universities and has worked with over 300 organisations to enhance their services and products. Current graduate prospects are well above average, while the University has been recognised for its work in creating greater equality for women in science and engineering. Queen’s accepts a wide range of qualifications, and there is no cap on the amount of international or GB students it can accept.

The University is located just 15 minutes away from the city centre by foot.

Fees, Living Aspects & Student Finance

One of the things you will most likely have to deal with for the first time when you go to university is budgeting. For some students, their maintenance loan is enough to cover their entire living costs, while others need to take on part-time work to help them pay the rent and bills, buy food and drink, as well as socialise with friends, pay for travel and purchase study materials.

A real bonus is that Belfast is actually the most affordable student city in the whole of the UK. In terms of living arrangements you have a choice between living in the University’s halls of residence or living in a house-share. The average weekly cost of university accommodation is £109, while the average weekly rent in a house-share in Belfast is £46.22. Students spend £16.13 on average on their weekly grocery shop, £8.35 on utilities, while the average cost of a pint of beer is £3.10.

General Info About Belfast

Belfast is the political and cultural capital city of Northern Ireland. Despite its large size, the centre is compact, and thus easy to get your bearings upon arrival. The University is situated amidst a slew of cafes, clubs, pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues in the Golden Mile, while there are also a host of part-time jobs available to students in the surrounding area.

The bus and rail network is reliable and fair priced; travel cards are available, while cycling lanes will also prove useful if you fancy getting on your bike – although the volatile and often harsh weather is notorious for putting people off! If you’re thinking of moving from England to study in Belfast, ferry services operate regularly from the city, as do airplanes. Flights from here to London take approximately one hour, while Belfast City Airport is also well connected to over twenty European cities. The train to Dublin takes around two hours.

It’s well worth knowing that if you are thinking of traveling from the UK or Ireland to study in Belfast, you will not need a visa.

But, come on, all you really want to know is whether or not Northern Ireland is really as bad as people make out. Truth be told, the climate in Belfast is mild during the summer and cold during the winter. With that in mind, snow is not exactly common, while summers are not what you’d call sunny!

Events, Venues & Points Of Interest

You’ll rarely be stuck twiddling your thumbs for something to do in Belfast, as the city has over 400 bars and restaurants. It also has numerous theatres, cinemas and galleries, as well as concert halls and sports stadiums. The trick is making sure you don’t spend all your student loan in your first weekend!

As mentioned previously, Belfast is a really compact city which means that getting around is really easy. One of the major attractions here to tourists and local residents alike is the St George’s Market. Built around 1896, it’s really managed to stand the test of time, from the Victorian era, through World War II and beyond. There is a variety market held on Friday mornings as well as a ‘food and garden’ market each Saturday which is really popular with students who enjoy a bit of home cooking with fresh, organic food.

If you like the idea of your university city having a bit of history, Belfast has a clutch of impressive statues, including a huge one of Queen Victoria (she granted Belfast its city status so she’s kinda important around these parts). The best way to discover the true riches of this famous city’s history is to hop on one of the Belfast City Sightseeing buses that take you past the shipyard where the famous Titanic was built. And if you’re a real history buff and want to find out all about Belfast’s infamous “Troubles,” you can book yourself a black taxi tour.

In terms of shopping, Donegall Place has long been the city’s main shopping street but the big-name retailers have since fled the nest to the nearby Victoria Square shopping complex. Here is where you’ll find all your favourite stores, while Botanic Avenue is famous for its coffee houses and independent shops, such as No Alibis, an indie bookshop that hosts regular jazz nights.

If you’re a music lover, there are plenty of gig venues in and around Belfast, ranging from the intimate and cosy The Black Box which doubles up as a cabaret, comedy and film venue, to the mahoosive SSS Arena that attracts the biggest names in music. There are also museums and galleries for culture vultures, with the Ulster Museum currently hosting a spectacular Rembrandt exhibition as we write this.


Belfast does the craic better than anywhere else, which means you’re going to be spoiled for choice when it comes to heading out at night.

Indeed, the only headache bigger than your hangover is going to come when you’ve got to decide whether to stay in or really knuckle down on that assignment that was due 2 hours ago.

As mentioned earlier, Belfast has more than 400 bars and restaurants. The good news is that it doesn’t really matter where your living quarters are because the city is so compact that everything is on everything else’s doorstep. Favourite student pubs include:

  • Bridge House (a Wetherspoons pub so it’s destined to be cheap)
  • The Dirty Onion (it’s dirty, it looks like it could collapse any minute, but students love it)
  • Eglantine Bar (one for the cocktail lovers)
  • Globe (popular with students and comes with karaoke. Get your best singing voice ready)

When you’re ready to hit the nightclubs at midnight, you’ll be pleased to know that the best ones are all right outside the pubs. The Box is well-known for being Belfast’s biggest nightclub and comes with 2 dance floors, while Club Mono has got you sorted at the weekend if you love your hip hop and indie. If you prefer to get your rave on to some international DJs, the basement dance floor at Shine is probably more your thing, while Alibi is the go-to place for smoky mirrors and monochrome floors.

But arguably the most popular club with students is The Limelight Complex, a multi-genre venue that always has a friendly vibe going on.

So There It Is…

Belfast might be cultured and academic, but it’s also pretty fun too. If you like what you’ve read and would like to know a bit more about studying in Belfast, why not start searching for university courses available in Belfast today…