Belfast is just 103 miles (166 km) north of Dublin. The two capitals are connected by major highways, so making the journey is quick and easy. Whether you opt to go by car, train or bus, you’ll reach Belfast in about two hours.
The most convenient way to make the journey is by car—rental or private transfer. You’ll have a smoother ride without any mandatory stops. Public transportation is also a great option. Ireland’s regional trains are quick and direct, departing from Dublin’s city center. If you prefer the bus, private companies are your best bet as they have shorter travel times. Regional buses take the longest at about 2.5 hours.
By Rental Car or Private Transfer
Duration: 2 hours
The most convenient way to get from Dublin to Belfast is by rental car or private transfer. The drive is fairly straightforward, following the M1 motorway—which transitions to N1/A1 at the border—the entire route. Note that the border is open, so you won’t have to stop.
Because you’ll stick to highways, the drive itself isn’t very scenic; however, there are some great stopping points along the way. Newgrange—a passage tomb built in the Stone Age—is a popular tourist site north of Dublin famous for its winter solstice sunrise. Although it's only about 10 minutes from the M1 motorway, keep in mind that visiting the site requires a guided tour. It's best to plan for about two hours in total.
If you're interested in a day hike, Ravensdale Forest Recreation Area is conveniently set just off the highway and offers leisurely trails. Another great detour is the Cooley Peninsula. After you pass Dundalk, you can veer right on the coastal route and stop in picturesque Carlingford for lunch or coffee.
Duration: 2 hours
Another great option is the train. Direct trains leave from Dublin’s Connolly station—set conveniently in the city center—and arrive in Belfast’s central Lanyon Place station. If you can snag a seat on the right side of the train, you’ll get views of the coast as you leave Dublin and views of the Mourne Mountains as you cross the border into Northern Ireland.
Duration: 2 - 2.5 hours
Slightly less convenient than the other options is the bus. The route between Dublin and Belfast is very popular, so there are many daily departures for you to choose. Private companies like Dublin Coach and Aircoach run frequent routes each day and make the journey in about two hours. Bus Éireann—Ireland’s regional bus service—offers a few departures each day, taking about 2.5 hours.