Recently we have been spending more time in the (sometimes) sunny, seaside city of Bangor Northern Ireland. My hometown, which I admittedly did lose love for many years back, due mostly to boredom. It really isn’t the centre of excitement when it comes to the global stage. But as an almost mature 30-something-year-old, I have found myself taking a break from the otherwise extreme climates of Southeast Asia, and spending more time back home in Bangor Northern Ireland.
These days it would be roughly 6 months on each side, appreciating the best of both worlds. And while I originally moved to Thailand for warmth and sunshine, it is now the winter months and Christmasses that I love back home in Bangor, and the overall changes through the seasons. Anyway, here are some of the top tourist attractions in Bangor Northern Ireland.
1. Bangor Marina
Starting with Bangor Marina, as I assume most visitors to Bangor will be arriving by yacht, therefore Bangor Marina is the first port of call for most. At the same time, it probably is the main highlight in this scenic seaside city, meaning it will likely top most people’s to-do list for attractions in Bangor. Then, for the plebs arriving by bus or train, just follow to the bottom of Main Street and you’re pretty much there.
So Bangor Marina is just really nice for a walk around, and it’s somewhat central to the other seafront attractions that surround it (our Bangor Seafront guide here). And while the seaside-facing promenade is rather delightful, unfortunately, the old Queen’s Parade opposite is just a bit of a disaster these days. Just ask any Bangorian about it, and you’re guaranteed an hour or two of whining, so be sure to tell them “… those there art pods look fantastic”.
North Eisenhower Pier
Found pretty much next to the Marina is Bangor’s Pier, known officially as the Eisenhower Pier, although some locals are having none of it, and continue to call it the North Pier. I have no idea why. Anyway, Bangor’s Pier is the berth place of the larger boats visiting the city, and in the sea opposite, was once a huge gathering of ships led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, as they readied to storm the shores of Normandy during D-Day. Hence, the Eisenhower Pier.
The Pier is also home to some rather flaky Guillemots, who seem to come and go as they please (they’re migratory I think). And there’s also a smaller pier at the entrance, known as the long hole, which was once used to berth smaller boats, only it seems more for dog walkers and seagulls these days. Fishing and coastal boat tours are also an option and are organised from the Pier (as well as Pickie Fun Park) by Bangor Boat Tours. Anyway, here is our extensive guide to the Bangor Eisenhower Pier.
3. Pickie Fun Park
Pickie Fun Park is found on the opposite (south) side of Bangor Marina, and the venue was in fact once an outdoor swimming pool (Pickie Pool), which really is a bit nuts considering the ‘Baltic’ temperatures (as they say) around here. I definitely wouldn’t recommend swimming in the sea. But nowadays it is a Fun Park, with lots of fun for all the family, or at least the kids, with attractions like the Pickie Puffer (a kiddies train track), Disco Ducks (I dunno) and the main feature of the Swans (Pedalo Swans). Don’t forget your Lemon Top ice cream.
Pickie Fun Park was also home to one of the most revered monuments of Bangor, the “Pastie Supper Lover”, only it was removed due to its somewhat sketchy location next to a children’s play park. Pickie Fun Park opens every day from 09:00AM – 09:00PM through Spring and Summer, and on varying dates during the rest of the year. Here’s our full guide to Pickie Fun Park in Bangor.
4. The North Down Coastal Path
Following the coastal path from Pickie Fun Park, you can actually walk right from Bangor up to Holywood on the North Down Coastal Path, which is a good 10 miles or so, and 7 train stops along the lines. So you’d probably be best just taking the train there. But there are some scenic spots along the way (as seen in our awesome video below) including rugged coastlines and coves, various pebble and sand beaches, as well as connecting forest parks along the coastal path.
Highlights along the way include Strickland’s Glen, which is a great place for ‘carry-outs’ of beer, Buckfast and cider (2 leets obviously). And further along finds Crawfordsburn Country Park, which is worth a visit alone. Otherwise, is just the scenic Irish coastlines that are a highlight in themselves. We really do live in a beautiful part of the world. Check out our North Down Coastal Path guides from Bangor to Holywood and Bangor to Groomsport.
5. Bangor Main Street
Leading up from Bangor Marina (or down from the bus and train stations. Depending on where you’re coming from) is Bangor’s Main Street. Which has been a bit dead of late, or to be more specific, for the past 10 years. Or 15 years maybe. Which is the same for many/most British city centres to be fair, thanks to out-of-town shopping, and Amazon, and whatnot.
But, for tourism, I feel it works more to its advantage, as the typical high street shopping scene of the good ol’ days, has been replaced with a central cafe culture, as well as quaint/independent shops and charity shops. Although local business owners probably won’t agree. Then there’s the usual stuff, like Subway Sandwich, Boots, and whatnot. The (now closed) Flagship Centre, Bangor’s famous indoor shopping mall is also penned for a revival in the central shopping streets, where it’s found at the bottom corner of Main Street.
6. Castle Park and Bangor Castle
For those plebs arriving by bus or train, the first image in Bangor will likely be Bangor Castle and Castle Park, which sit directly opposite the two stations. Where the old Town Hall, or Bangor Castle as it’s now better known, is really just hard to miss. So this area makes a decent starting point when exploring the more central centre of Bangor city, starting with the surrounding Castle Park, which really is more of a wooded area, than your typical city centre park. As there’s not really much when it comes to activities, like ponds, and ducks, and swans.
But Castle Park is just rather nice for a romantic walk, and you’ll probably meet dog walkers along the way, and dogs, and squirrels, and dogs chasing squirrels. Also, for those big into botany, there’s a whole load of exciting trees dotted throughout the park, including a ‘fine collection of mature conifers and deciduous trees’. Castle Park and Bangor Castle is also home to the North Down Museum (Full tour of Castle Park Here).
7. North Down Museum
The North Down Museum connects to the side of the Bangor Castle, although the name is a bit misleading for newcomers, where it’s named after the old local borough council (North Down), just so other areas don’t feel left out. At the same time, most people just call it Bangor Museum, because it’s in Bangor. Or the Bangor Heritage Centre, which was its earlier and better name, before it received ‘museum status’ and they wanted to show off.
Anyway, I have little interest in even the most exciting of museums (I like food tourism and alcohol), but Bangor Museum probably isn’t the worst I’ve been to. My dad likes it. It’s also extremely convenient to find when in Castle Park. And to share some of the more notable attractions (at least for me) there’s the iconic Bangor Bell, a glass beehive in the upper floor, and a replica of the Bangor Castle made out of 2011 sugar cubes. The museum is also free of charge, and there’s some added incentive with the on-site Coffee Cure cafe (Full tour of the Museum Here).
8. The Walled Garden
This restored Victorian Garden is “a real hidden gem”, at least this is how it is touted by the local tourist board. It is definitely worth a walk around if you like gardens, and flowers, and there’s a fancy fountain smack back in the centre. My mum likes it. The Walled Garden also connects to the back of Castle Park, so you really don’t need to go far out of your way to find it.
However, it is a seasonal attraction in Bangor, because the UK is pretty much dead for half the year, meaning it only opens for the bloom in Spring through until the end of Summer. Next to the Walled Garden, you will also find Bangor Aurora Aquatic & Leisure Complex (the swimming pool) if you fancy a swim on your visit to Bangor (for some odd reason), as well as the rather retro looking Omniplex cinemas and Bingo which are also found nearby. Anyway, they’re there if you need them. Here for a full bit on the walled garden.
9. Ward Park
Following a slight detour from Main Street (following Hamilton Road), Ward Park is more like your traditional town centre park, with ponds, and ducks, and people feeding ducks. And there are even aviaries with more exotic birds. And I’ll be lazy here, with a copy/paste from the Discover NI website. “Ward Park covers an area of 37 acres and among its attractions are a children’s playground, all-weather hockey pitches, cricket pitch, bowling greens, putting green and tennis courts”.
Other notable attractions include the War Memorial monument and a U-Boat gun which is great for swinging upside down from. Fun fact. A good few years back (2005), some drunken louts broke into the bird cages and slaughtered 24 banty hens and a peacock (a very rare occurrence in Bangor, thankfully). So the local media obviously tracked down ‘Councillor Dianna Peacock’ to report on it. Check out our guide to Full Guide to Ward Park.
10. Bangor Dining and Nightlife
It’s been many years since my last night out in Bangor, partly because I don’t do nightlife, but the town centre is also geared more towards young adults. However, were I forced to go anywhere, it would maybe be Jenny Watts on the High Street or the Salty Dog on the seafront, or I’d probably just continue along the coast (north) to the Jamaica Inn. At least these are the more amiable options when it comes to grub and pints in Bangor.
Otherwise, the best part of the nights-out/nightlife in Bangor for me was the kebabs, which I can easily have delivered directly to my door. It’s a bit of a coin toss here between ‘Spice Island’ and ‘Chillies’ (chillies below). Ever had a Pastie Supper? A full list of Bangor restaurants to come.
Where to Stay in Bangor?
The obvious hotel for tourists in central Bangor is the Premier Inn, found just opposite the bus and train stations, otherwise, most accommodation and hotels in Bangor are found along the seafront stretch and coastal paths of Bangor. One of the more prominent would have been the Marine Court, which overlooks the seafront area, but this is now (temporarily) closed to tourists and visitors to Bangor. This follows many of Bangor’s seafront hotels that have shut up shop through the years (the Royal and Windsor Hotels) due to the whole collapsing of the economy etc.
Otherwise, the main seafront hotel is now the boutique hotel and bistro the Salty Dog (rates etc. here) next to the pier, along with a bunch of smaller guesthouses and B&B’s along the seafront road leading from the Pier (Seacliff Road) as well as a handful near Pickie Fun Park. Note, be careful when booking online, as the typical list of Bangor hotels (full list here) often includes hotels that are miles out from the city centre. They are all nice hotels tbf (e.g. the Old Inn especially), but they’re obviously not convenient for tourists in Bangor city centre.