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Coordinates: 54°35′49″N 5°55′48″W / 54.597°N 5.930°W / 54.597; -5.930

Belfast
Irish: Béal Feirste
Belfast Lead image.jpg
Top: Belfast from Cavehill, Middle: Belfast City Hall, Albert Clock Bottom left: Belfast City Centre, Bottom right: Obel Tower under construction.
Belfast is located in Northern Ireland
Belfast

 Belfast shown within Northern Ireland
Area  44.4 sq mi (115 km2)
Population City of Belfast:
267,500[1] 
Urban area:
483,418[2]
Metropolitan area:
579,276[3]
Irish grid reference J338740
    - Dublin 106 mi (171 km)  S
District City of Belfast
County County Antrim
County Down
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BELFAST
Postcode district BT1–BT17, BT29 (part), BT36 (part), BT58
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK Parliament Belfast North
Belfast South
Belfast East
Belfast West
NI Assembly Belfast North
Belfast South
Belfast East
Belfast West
Website www.belfastcity.gov.uk
List of places: UK • Northern Ireland •

Belfast (from the Irish: Béal Feirste meaning "mouth of the sandbars") is the capital of and the largest city in Northern Ireland, a constituent country of the United Kingdom. It is the seat of devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly.[4] It is the largest urban area in the province of Ulster, the second largest city on the island of Ireland and the 15th largest city in the United Kingdom. The city of Belfast has a population of 267,500[1] and lies at the heart of the Belfast urban area, which has a population of 483,418.[5] The Belfast metropolitan area has a total population of 579,276.[3] Belfast was granted city status in 1888.

Historically, Belfast has been a centre for the Irish linen industry (earning the nickname "Linenopolis"), tobacco production, rope-making and shipbuilding: the city's main shipbuilders, Harland and Wolff, which built the ill-fated RMS Titanic, propelled Belfast onto the global stage in the early 20th century as the largest and most productive shipyard in the world. Belfast played a key role in the Industrial Revolution, establishing its place as a global industrial centre until the latter half of the 20th century.

Industrialisation and the inward migration it brought made Belfast, if briefly, the largest city in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century and the city's industrial and economic success was cited by Ulster Unionist opponents of Home Rule as a reason why Ireland should shun devolution and later why Ulster in particular would fight to resist it.

Today, Belfast remains a centre for industry, as well as the arts, higher education and business, a legal centre, and is the economic engine of Northern Ireland. The city suffered greatly during the period of disruption, conflict, and destruction called the Troubles, but latterly has undergone a sustained period of calm, free from the intense political violence of former years, and substantial economic and commercial growth. Belfast city centre has undergone considerable expansion and regeneration in recent years, notably around Victoria Square.

Belfast is served by two airports: Belfast International Airport to the north-west of the city, and George Best Belfast City Airport in the east of the city.

Belfast is also a major seaport, with commercial and industrial docks dominating the Belfast Lough shoreline, including the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard.

Belfast is a constituent city of the Dublin-Belfast corridor with a population of 3 million, comprising of half the total population of the island of Ireland.

Contents

Name

The name Belfast is derived from the Irish Béal Feirsde, which was later spelled Béal Feirste. The word Béal means "mouth" while Feirsde/Feirste is plural and refers to a sandbar or ford across a river's mouth.[12][13] The name would thus translate as "mouth (of the) sandbars" or "mouth (of the) fords".[12] These sandbars formed where two rivers met (at what is now Donegall Quay) and flowed into Belfast Lough. This area was the hub around which the settlement developed.[14]

It is a common misconception that Belfast was simply named after the River Farset, which flows through the city. However, it would appear that both the settlement and the river were named after these sandbar crossings.[12]

History

Although the county borough of Belfast was created when it was granted city status by Queen Victoria in 1888,[15] the city continues to be viewed as straddling County Antrim and County Down.[16]

Origins

The site of Belfast has been occupied since the Bronze Age. The Giant's Ring, a 5000-year-old henge, is located near the city, and the remains of Iron Age hill forts can still be seen in the surrounding hills. Belfast remained a small settlement of little importance during the Middle Ages. John de Courcy built a castle on what is now Castle Street in the city centre in the 12th century, but this was on a lesser scale and not as strategically important as Carrickfergus Castle to the north, which was built by de Courcy in 1177. The O'Neill clan had a presence in the area. In the 14th century, Clan Aedh Buidh, descendants of Hugh O'Neill built Grey Castle at Castlereagh, now in the east of the city.[17] Conn O'Neill also owned land in the area, one remaining link being the Conn's Water river flowing through east Belfast.[18]

Growth

Belfast became a substantial settlement in the 17th century after being established as a town by Sir Arthur Chichester, which was initially settled by Protestant English and Scottish migrants at the time of the Plantation of Ulster. (Belfast and County Antrim, however, did not form part of the Plantation scheme.) In 1791, the Society of United Irishmen was founded in Belfast, after Henry Joy McCracken and other prominent Presbyterians from the city invited Theobald Wolfe Tone and Thomas Russell. to a meeting, after having read Tone's "Argument on Behalf of the Catholics of Ireland".

Belfast blossomed as a commercial and industrial centre in the 18th and 19th centuries and became Ireland's pre-eminent industrial city. Industries thrived, including linen, rope-making, tobacco, heavy engineering and shipbuilding, and at the end of the nineteenth century, Belfast briefly overtook Dublin as the largest city in Ireland. The Harland and Wolff shipyards became one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, employing up to 35,000 workers.[19]

In 1920-22, Belfast became the capital of the new entity of Northern Ireland as the island of Ireland was partitioned. The accompanyinging conflict (the Irish War of Independence) cost up to 500 lives in Belfast, the bloodiest sectarian strife in the city until the "Troubles" of the late 1960s onwards.[20]


Belfast was heavily bombed during World War II. In one raid, in 1941, German bombers killed around one thousand people and left tens of thousands homeless. Outside of London, this was the greatest loss of life in a night raid during the Blitz.[21]

The Troubles

Belfast has been the capital of Northern Ireland since its establishment in 1921 following the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Since its emergence as a major city, it had been the scene of various episodes of sectarian conflict between its Roman Catholic and Protestant populations. These opposing groups in this conflict are now often termed republican and loyalist respectively, although they are also referred to as 'nationalist' and 'unionist'. The most recent example of this is known as the Troubles – a civil conflict that raged from around 1969 to the late 1990s. Belfast saw some of the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, particularly in the 1970s, with rival paramilitary groups forming on both sides. Bombing, assassination and street violence formed a backdrop to life throughout the Troubles. On 30 January 1972, Bloody Sunday (1972), the British Army shot dead 13 unarmed nationalist civil rights marchers, of which 7 were teenagers, and injuring 14. The Provisional IRA also detonated twenty-two bombs, all in a confined area in the city centre in 1972, on what is known as "Bloody Friday", killing nine innocent people. The IRA also killed hundreds of other innocent civilians and members of the security forces trying to keep the peace. Loyalist paramilitaries the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA) claimed that the killings they carried out were in retaliation for the PIRA campaign. Most of their victims were Roman Catholic civilians unconnected to the Provisional IRA. A particularly notorious group, based on the Shankill Road in the mid 1970s, became known as the Shankill Butchers. In all, over one thousand five hundred people were killed in political violence in the city from 1969 until 2001.[22] Part of the legacy of the Troubles is that both republican and loyalist paramilitary groups in Belfast have become involved in organised crime and racketeering.

Governance

Belfast was granted borough status by James I in 1613 and official city status by Queen Victoria in 1888.[23] Since 1973 it has been a local government district under local administration by Belfast City Council.[24] Belfast is represented in both the British House of Commons and in the Northern Ireland Assembly. For elections to the European Parliament, Belfast is within the Northern Ireland constituency.

Local government

Belfast City Hall.

The city of Belfast has a mayoral form of municipal government. The city's officials are the Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and High Sheriff who are elected from among 51 councillors. The first Lord Mayor of Belfast was Daniel Dixon, who was elected in 1892.[25] As of June 2009, the Lord Mayor of Belfast is Alliance politician, Naomi Long, who is only the second woman Lord Mayor of the city. Her duties include presiding over meetings of the council, receiving distinguished visitors to the city, and representing and promoting the city on the national and international stage.[25] Long replaces the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor, Tom Hartley.

In 1997, Unionists lost overall control of Belfast City Council for the first time in its history, with the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland gaining the balance of power between Nationalists and Unionists. This position was confirmed in the council elections of 2001 and 2005. Since then it has had three Nationalist mayors, two from the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and one from Sinn Féin. The first nationalist Lord Mayor of Belfast was Alban Maginness of the SDLP, in 1996.

In the 2005 local government elections, Belfast voters elected 51 councillors to Belfast City Council from the following political parties: 15 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), 14 Sinn Féin, 8 SDLP, 7 Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), 4 Alliance Party, 2 Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), and 1 Independent (a former deputy mayor who takes the UUP whip was a member of the defunct loyalist paramilitary linked-Ulster Democratic Party).[26]

Northern Ireland Assembly and Westminster

The Parliament Buildings at Stormont. Built in 1932 and home to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

As Northern Ireland's capital city, Belfast is host to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, the site of the devolved legislature for Northern Ireland. Belfast is divided into four Northern Ireland Assembly and UK parliamentary constituencies: North Belfast, West Belfast, South Belfast and East Belfast. All four extend beyond the city boundaries to include parts of Castlereagh, Lisburn and Newtownabbey districts. In the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections in 2007, Belfast elected 24 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), 6 from each constituency. The MLA breakdown consisted of 8 Sinn Féin, 6 DUP, 4 SDLP, 3 UUP, 2 Alliance Party, and 1 PUP.[27] In the 2005 UK general election, Belfast elected one MP from each constituency to the House of Commons at Westminster, London. This comprised 2 DUP, 1 SDLP, and 1 Sinn Féin.[28]

Coat of arms and motto

The city of Belfast has the Latin motto "Pro tanto quid retribuamus". This is taken from Psalm 116 Verse 12 in the Latin Vulgate Bible and is literally "For (Pro) so much (tanto) what (quid) we shall repay (retribuamus)" The verse has been translated in different bibles differently – for example as "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?".[29] It is also translated as "In return for so much, what shall we give back?"[30] The Queen's University Students' Union Rag Week publication PTQ derives its name from the first three words of the motto.

The city's coat of arms shows a central shield, bearing a ship and a bell, flanked by a chained wolf (or wolfhound) on the left and a seahorse on the right. A smaller seahorse sits at the top. This crest dates back to 1613, when King James I granted Belfast town status. The seal was used by Belfast merchants throughout the seventeenth century on their signs and trade-coins.[31] A large stained glass window in the City Hall displays the seal, where an explanation suggests that the seahorse and the ship refer to Belfast's significant maritime history. The wolf may be a tribute to the city's founder, Sir Arthur Chichester, and refer to his own coat of arms.[31]

Geography

Cavehill, a basaltic hill overlooking the city.
The River Lagan in Belfast.

Belfast is situated on Ireland's eastern coast at 54°35′49″N 05°55′45″W / 54.59694°N 5.92917°W / 54.59694; -5.92917. The city is flanked to the northwest by a series of hills, including Cavehill. Belfast is located at the western end of Belfast Lough and at the mouth of the River Lagan making it an ideal location for the shipbuilding industry that once made it famous. When the Titanic was built in Belfast in 1911/1912, Harland and Wolff had the largest shipyard in the world.[32] Belfast is situated on Northern Ireland's eastern coast. A consequence of this northern latitude is that it both endures short winter days and enjoys long summer evenings. During the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, local sunset is before 16:00 while sunrise is around 08:45. This is balanced by the summer solstice in June, when the sun sets after 22:00 and rises before 05:00.[33]

Belfast is located at the eastern end of Belfast Lough and at the mouth of the River Lagan. In 1994, a weir was built across the river by the Laganside Corporation to raise the average water level so that it would cover the unseemly mud flats which gave Belfast its name[34] (from the Irish: Béal Feirste meaning "The sandy ford at the river mouth").[13] The area of Belfast Local Government District is 42.3 square miles (110 km2).[35]

The River Farset is also named after this silt deposit (from the Irish feirste meaning "sand spit"). Originally a more significant river than it is today, the Farset formed a dock on High Street until the mid 19th century. Bank Street in the city centre referred to the river bank and Bridge Street was named for the site of an early Farset bridge.[36] However, superseded by the River Lagan as the more important river in the city, the Farset now languishes in obscurity, under High Street.

The city is flanked on the north and northwest by a series of hills, including Divis Mountain, Black Mountain and Cavehill thought to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. When Swift was living at Lilliput Cottage near the bottom of the Limestone Road in Belfast, he imagined that the Cavehill resembled the shape of a sleeping giant safeguarding the city.[37] The shape of the giant's nose, known locally as Napoleon's Nose, is officially called McArt's Fort probably named after Art O'Neill, a 16th century chieftain who controlled the area at that time.[38] The Castlereagh Hills overlook the city on the southeast.

Former poet and Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr William Philbin wrote this of Belfast: "Belfast is a city walled in by mountains, moated by seas, and undermined by deposits of history".

Climate

Belfast has a temperate climate. Average daily high temperatures are 18 °C (64 °F) in July and 6 °C (43 °F) in January. The highest temperature recorded in Belfast was 30.8 °C (87.4 °F) on 12 July 1983.[39] The city gets significant precipitation (greater than 0.01 in/0.25 mm) on 213 days in an average year with an average annual rainfall of 846 millimetres (33.3 in),[40] less than the Lake District or the Scottish Highlands,[39] but higher than Dublin or the south-east coast of Ireland.[41] As an urban and coastal area, Belfast typically gets snow on fewer than 10 days per year.[39] The city is also renowned for how warm it can get during the winter months at its high latitude. In February, temperatures have hit 17 °C, at the same latitude where it is ~-45 °C in Russia and Canada. It is not uncommon for temperatures in summer to reach as high as 27 °C (80 °F) on numerous days.[42] The consistently humid climate that prevails over Ireland can make temperatures feel uncomfortable when they stray into the high 20s (80–85°F), more so than similar temperatures in hotter climates in the rest of Europe.

Climate data for Belfast
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 13
(55)
14
(57)
19
(66)
21
(70)
26
(79)
28
(82)
31
(88)
28
(82)
26
(79)
21
(70)
16
(61)
14
(57)
31
(88)
Average high °C (°F) 6
(43)
7
(45)
9
(48)
12
(54)
15
(59)
18
(64)
18
(64)
18
(64)
16
(61)
13
(55)
9
(48)
7
(45)
12
(54)
Average low °C (°F) 2
(36)
2
(36)
3
(37)
4
(39)
6
(43)
9
(48)
11
(52)
11
(52)
9
(48)
7
(45)
4
(39)
3
(37)
6
(43)
Record low °C (°F) -13
(9)
-12
(10)
-12
(10)
-4
(25)
-3
(27)
-1
(30)
4
(39)
1
(34)
-2
(28)
-4
(25)
-6
(21)
-11
(12)
-13
(9)
Precipitation mm (inches) 80
(3.15)
52
(2.05)
50
(1.97)
48
(1.89)
52
(2.05)
68
(2.68)
94
(3.7)
77
(3.03)
80
(3.15)
83
(3.27)
72
(2.83)
90
(3.54)
846
(33.31)
Source: [40] 2009-10-08

Areas and districts

View of Belfast from The Ashby Building, part of QUB. The David Keir Building of Queen's University is in the foreground. The orange façade of Belfast City Hospital is visible in the centre background, with the city's current tallest building Windsor House in the right background.

Belfast expanded very rapidly from being a market town to becoming an industrial city during the course of the 19th century. Because of this, it is less an agglomeration of villages and towns which have expanded into each other, than other comparable cities, such as Manchester or Birmingham. The city expanded to the natural barrier of the hills that surround it, overwhelming other settlements. Consequently, the arterial roads along which this expansion took place (such as the Falls Road or the Newtownards Road) are more significant in defining the districts of the city than nucleated settlements. Including the city centre, the city can be divided into five areas with north Belfast, east Belfast, south Belfast and west Belfast. Each of these is a parliamentary constituency. Belfast remains segregated by walls, commonly known as "peace lines", erected by the British Army after August 1969, and which still divide fourteen districts in the inner city.

[43] In 2008 a process was proposed for the removal of the 'peace walls'.[44] In June 2007, a UK£16 million programme was announced which will transform and redevelop streets and public spaces in the city centre.[45] Major arterial roads (quality bus corridor) into the city include the Antrim Road, Shore Road, Holywood Road, Newtownards Road, Castlereagh Road, Cregagh Road, Ormeau Road, Malone Road, Lisburn Road, Falls Road, Springfield Road, Shankill Road, and Crumlin Road.[46]

Belfast city centre is divided by two postcodes, BT1 for the area lying north of the City Hall, and BT2 for the area to its south. The industrial estate and docklands share BT3. The rest of the Greater Belfast postcodes are set out in a clockwise system. Although BT stands for Belfast, it is used across the whole of Northern Ireland.[47]

Since 2001, boosted by increasing numbers of tourists, the city council has developed a number of cultural quarters. The Cathedral Quarter takes its name from St Anne's Cathedral (Church of Ireland) and has taken on the mantle of the city's key cultural locality.[48] It hosts a yearly visual and performing arts festival.

Custom House Square is one of the city's main outdoor venues for free concerts and street entertainment. The Gaeltacht Quarter is an area around the Falls Road in West Belfast which promotes and encourages the use of the Irish language.[49] The Queen's Quarter in South Belfast is named after Queen's University. The area has a large student population and hosts the annual Belfast Festival at Queen's each autumn. It is home to Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum, closed for major redevelopment until 2009.[50] The Golden Mile is the name given to the mile between Belfast City Hall and Queen's University. Taking in Dublin Road, Great Victoria Street, Shaftesbury Square and Bradbury Place, it contains some of the best bars and restaurants in the city.[51] Since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the nearby Lisburn Road has developed into the city's most exclusive shopping strip.[52][53] Finally, the Titanic Quarter covers 0.75 km2 (0 sq mi) of reclaimed land adjacent to Belfast Harbour, formerly known as Queen's Island. Named after the Titanic, which was built here in 1912,[32] work has begun which promises to transform some former shipyard land into "one of the largest waterfront developments in Europe".[54] Plans also include apartments, a riverside entertainment district, and a major Titanic-themed museum.[54]

Cityscape

Architecture

Belfast City Hall and the Big Wheel at night

The architectural style of Belfast's buildings range from Edwardian, like the City Hall, to modern, like Waterfront Hall. Many of the city's Victorian landmarks, including the main Lanyon Building at Queen's University Belfast and the Linenhall Library, were designed by Sir Charles Lanyon.

The City Hall was finished in 1906 and was built to reflect Belfast's city status, granted by Queen Victoria in 1888. The Edwardian architectural influenced the Victoria Memorial in Calcutta, India, and Durban City Hall in South Africa.[55][56] The dome is 173 ft (53 m) high and figures above the door state "Hibernia encouraging and promoting the Commerce and Arts of the City".[57] Among the city's grandest buildings are two former banks: Ulster Bank in Waring Street (built in 1860) and Northern Bank, in nearby Donegall Street (built in 1769). The Royal Courts of Justice in Chichester Street are home to Northern Ireland's Supreme Court. Many of Belfast's oldest buildings are found in the Cathedral Quarter area, which is currently undergoing redevelopment as the city's main cultural and tourist area.[48] Windsor House, 262 ft (80 m) high, has twenty-three floors and is the tallest building (as distinct from structure) in Ireland.[58] Work has started on the taller Obel Tower and in 2007, plans were approved for the Aurora building. At 37 storeys and 358 ft (109 m) high, this will surpass both previous buildings.[59]

Belfast Skyline at dusk

The ornately decorated Crown Liquor Saloon, designed by Joseph Anderson in 1876, in Great Victoria Street is the only bar in the UK owned by the National Trust. It was made internationally famous as the setting for the classic film, Odd Man Out, starring James Mason.[60] The restaurant panels in the Crown Bar were originally made for Britannic, the sister ship of the Titanic,[57] built in Belfast. The Harland and Wolff shipyard is now the location of the world's largest dry dock,[61] where the giant cranes, Samson and Goliath stand out against Belfast's skyline. Including the Waterfront Hall and the Odyssey Arena, Belfast has several other venues for performing arts. The architecture of the Grand Opera House has a distinctly oriental theme and was completed in 1895. It was bombed several times during the Troubles but has now been restored to its former glory.[62] The Lyric Theatre, (currently undergoing a rebuilding programme) the only full-time producing theatre in the country, is where film star Liam Neeson began his career.[63] The Ulster Hall (1859–1862) was originally designed for grand dances but is now used primarily as a concert and sporting venue. Lloyd George, Parnell and Patrick Pearse all attended political rallies there.[57]

Parks and gardens

Sitting at the mouth of the gentle River Lagan where it becomes a deep and sheltered lough, Belfast is surrounded by mountains that create a special micro-climate that is conducive and beneficial to horticulture. From the Victorian idyll that is Botanic Gardens in the heart of the city to the spectacular heights of Cave Hill Country Park, the great expanse of Lagan Valley Regional Park to the tranquil beauty of Colin Glen, Belfast contains an abundance of beautiful parkland and forest parks, all of which are in close proximity to Belfast city centre.[64]

Parks and Gardens are an integral part of Belfast's heritage, and home to an abundance of local wildlife and popular places for a picnic, a stroll or a jog. Numerous events take place throughout including festivals such as Rose Week and special activities such as bird watching evenings and great beast hunts.[64]

Belfast has over forty public parks. The Forest of Belfast is a partnership between government and local groups, set up in 1992 to manage and conserve the city's parks and open spaces. They have commissioned more than 30 public sculptures since 1993.[65] In 2006, the City Council set aside UK£8 million to continue this work.[66] The Belfast Naturalists' Field Club was founded in 1863 and is administered by National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland.[67]

The Palm House at the Botanic Gardens.

With 700,000 visitors in 2005,[68] one of the most popular parks[69] is Botanic Gardens in the Queen's Quarter. Built in the 1830s and designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, Botanic Gardens Palm House is one of the earliest examples of a curvilinear and cast iron glasshouse.[70] Other attractions in the park include the Tropical Ravine, a humid jungle glen built in 1889, rose gardens and public events ranging from live opera broadcasts to pop concerts.[71] U2 played here in 1997. Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, to the south of the city centre, attracts thousands of visitors each year to its International Rose Garden.[72] Rose Week in July each year features over 20,000 blooms.[73] It has an area of 128 acres (0.52 km2) of meadows, woodland and gardens and features a Princess Diana Memorial Garden, a Japanese Garden, a walled garden, and the Golden Crown Fountain commissioned in 2002 as part of the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations.[72]

In 2008, Belfast was named a finalist in the Large City (200,001 and over) category of the RHS Britain in Bloom competition along with London Borough of Croydon and Sheffield.

Belfast Zoo is owned by Belfast City Council. The council spends £1.5 million every year on running and promoting the zoo, which is one of the few local government-funded zoos in the UK and Ireland. The Zoo is one of the top visitor attraction in Northern Ireland, receiving more than 295,000 visitors a year. The majority of the animals are in danger in their natural habitat. The zoo houses more than 1,200 animals of 140 species including Asian Elephants, Barbary Lions, a White Tigers (one of the few in the United Kingdom), three species of penguin, a family of Western Lowland Gorillas, a troop of Common Chimpanzees, a Red Panda and several species of langur. The zoo also carries out important conservation work and takes part in European and international breeding programmes which help to ensure the survival of many species under threat.[74]

Demography

Panorama of Belfast

In the 2001 census, the population within the city limits (the Belfast Urban Area) was 276,459,[75] while 579,554 people lived in the wider Belfast Metropolitan Area.[76] This made it the fifteenth-largest city in the United Kingdom, but the eleventh-largest conurbation.[77] Belfast experienced a huge growth in population around the first half of the twentieth century. This rise slowed and peaked around the start of the Troubles with the 1971 census showing almost 600,000 people in the Belfast Urban Area.[78] Since then, the inner city numbers have dropped dramatically as people have moved to swell the Greater Belfast suburb population. The 2001 census population within the same Urban Area, had fallen to 277,391[75] people, with 579,554 people living in the wider Belfast Metropolitan Area.[76] The population density in the same year was 2,415 people/km² (compared to 119 for the rest of Northern Ireland).[79] As with many cities, Belfast's inner city is currently characterised by the elderly, students and single young people, while families tend to live on the periphery. Socio-economic areas radiate out from the Central Business District, with a pronounced wedge of affluence extending out the Malone Road to the south.[78] An area of greater deprivation extends to the west of the city. The areas around the Falls and Shankill Roads are the most deprived wards in Northern Ireland.[80]

Despite a period of relative peace, most areas and districts of Belfast still reflect the divided nature of Northern Ireland as a whole. Many areas are still highly segregated along ethnic, political and religious lines, especially in working class neighbourhoods.[81] These zones – 'Catholic' or 'Republican' on one side and 'Protestant', or 'Loyalist' on the other – are invariably marked by flags, graffiti and murals. Segregation has been present throughout the history of Belfast, but has been maintained and increased by each outbreak of violence in the city. This escalation in segregation, described as a "ratchet effect", has shown little sign of decreasing during times of peace.[82] When violence flares, it tends to be in interface areas. The highest levels of segregation in the city are in West Belfast with many areas greater than 90% Catholic. Opposite but comparatively high levels are seen in the predominantly Protestant East Belfast.[83] Areas where segregated working-class areas meet are known as interface areas.

Ethnic minority communities have been in Belfast since the 1930s.[84] The largest groups are Chinese and Irish travellers. Since the expansion of the European Union, numbers have been boosted by an influx of Eastern European immigrants. Census figures (2001) showed that Belfast has a total ethnic minority population of 4,584 or 1.3% of the population. Over half of these live in South Belfast, where they comprise 2.63% of the population.[84] The majority of the estimated 5,000 Muslims[85] and 200 Hindu families[86] living and working in Northern Ireland live in the Greater Belfast area.

Economy

The IRA Ceasefire in 1994 and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 have given investors increased confidence to invest in Belfast.[87][88] This has led to a period of sustained economic growth and large-scale redevelopment of the city centre. Developments include Victoria Square, the Cathedral Quarter, and the Laganside with the Odyssey complex and the landmark Waterfront Hall.

The Waterfront Hall. Built in 1997, the hall is a concert, exhibition and conference venue.

Other major developments include the regeneration of the Titanic Quarter, and the erection of the Obel Tower, a skyscraper set to be the tallest tower on the island.[89] Today, Belfast is Northern Ireland's educational and commercial hub. In February 2006, Belfast's unemployment rate stood at 4.2%, lower than both the Northern Ireland[90] and the UK average of 5.5%.[91] Over the past 10 years employment has grown by 16.4 per cent, compared with 9.2 per cent for the UK as a whole.[92]

Northern Ireland's peace dividend has led to soaring property prices in the city. In 2007, Belfast saw house prices grow by 50%, the fastest rate of growth in the UK.[93] In March 2007, the average house in Belfast cost £91,819, with the average in South Belfast being £141,000.[94] In 2004, Belfast had the lowest owner occupation rate in Northern Ireland at 54%.[95]

Peace has also boosted the numbers of tourists coming to Belfast. There were 6.4 million visitors in 2005, which was a growth of 8.5% from 2004. The visitors spent £285.2 million, supporting more than 15,600 jobs.[96] Visitor numbers rose by 6% to reach 6.8 million in 2006, with tourists spending £324 million, an increase of 15% on 2005.[97] The city's two airports have helped make the city one of the most visited weekend destinations in Europe.[98]

Belfast has been the fastest-growing economy of the thirty largest British cities over the past decade, a new economy report by Howard Spencer has found. "That's because [of] the fundamentals of the UK economy and [because] people actually want to invest in the UK," he commented on that report.[99]

BBC Radio 4's World reported furthermore that despite higher levels of corporation tax in the UK than in the Republic. There are "huge amounts" of foreign investment coming into the country.[100]

The Times wrote about Belfast's growing economy: "According to the region's development agency, throughout the 1990s Northern Ireland had the fastest-growing regional economy in the UK, with GDP increasing 1 per cent per annum faster than the rest of the country. As with any modern economy, the service sector is vital to Northern Ireland's development and is enjoying excellent growth. In particular, the region has a booming tourist industry with record levels of visitors and tourist revenues and has also established itself as a significant location for call centres."[101] Since the ending of the regions conflict tourism has boomed in Northern Ireland, greatly aided by low cost.[101]

Der Spiegel, a German weekly magazine for politics and economy, titled Belfast as The New Celtic Tiger which is "open for business".[102]

Industrial growth

A 1907 stereoscope postcard depicting the construction of a liner at the Harland and Wolff shipyard.

When the population of Belfast town began to grow in the seventeenth century, its economy was built on commerce.[103] It provided a market for the surrounding countryside and the natural inlet of Belfast Lough gave the city its own port. The port supplied an avenue for trade with Great Britain and later Europe and North America. In the mid-seventeenth century, Belfast exported beef, butter, hides, tallow and corn and it imported coal, cloth, wine, brandy, paper, timber and tobacco.[103] Around this time, the linen trade in Northern Ireland blossomed and by the middle of the eighteenth century, one fifth of all the linen exported from Ireland was shipped from Belfast.[103] The present city however is a product of the Industrial Revolution.[104] It was not until industry transformed the linen and shipbuilding trades that the economy and the population boomed. By the turn of the nineteenth century, Belfast had transformed into the largest linen producing centre in the world,[105] earning the nickname "Linenopolis".

Belfast harbour was dredged in 1845 to provide deeper berths for larger ships. Donegall Quay was built out into the river as the harbour was developed further and trade flourished.[106] The Harland and Wolff shipbuilding firm was created in 1861, and by the time the Titanic was built in Belfast in 1912 it had become the largest shipyard in the world.[32]

Samson and Goliath, Harland & Wolff's gantry cranes.

Short Brothers plc is a British aerospace company based in Belfast. It was the first aircraft manufacturing company in the world. The company began its association with Belfast in 1936, with Short & Harland Ltd, a venture jointly owned by Shorts and Harland and Wolff. Now known as Shorts Bombardier it works as an international aircraft manufacturer located near the Port of Belfast.[107] The rise of mass-produced and cotton clothing following World War I were some of the factors which led to the decline of Belfast's international linen trade.[105] Like many British cities dependent on traditional heavy industry, Belfast suffered serious decline since the 1960s, exacerbated greatly in the 1970s and 1980s by The Troubles. More than 100,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since the 1970s.[108] For several decades, Northern Ireland's fragile economy required significant public support from the British exchequer of up to UK£4 billion per year.[108] Ongoing sectarian violence has made it difficult for Belfast to compete with Dublin's Celtic Tiger economy.[108] This has meant that wage rates in Belfast and Northern Ireland until recently were significantly lower that those in the Republic of Ireland. The effect of the economic depression in the Irish Republic on wage levels is not yet fully apparent. The cost of living in Northern Ireland is significantly lower than in the Republic and this has created a retail boom in border towns and cities.

Infrastructure

Belfast saw the worst of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, with nearly half of the total deaths in the conflict occurring in the city. However, since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, there has been significant urban regeneration in the city centre including Victoria Square, Queen's Island and Laganside as well as the Odyssey complex and the landmark Waterfront Hall. The city is served by two airports: The George Best Belfast City Airport adjacent to Belfast Lough and Belfast International Airport which is near Lough Neagh. Queen's University of Belfast is the main university in the city. The University of Ulster also maintains a campus in the city, which concentrates on fine art, design and architecture.

Belfast is one of the constituent cities that makes up the Dublin-Belfast corridor region, which has a population of just under 3 million.

Utilities

Silent Valley Reservoir, showing the brick-built overflow

Most of Belfast's water is supplied from the Silent Valley Reservoir in County Down, created to collect water from the Mourne Mountains.[109] The rest of the city's water is sourced from Lough Neagh, via Dunore Water Treatment Works in County Antrim.[110] The citizens of Belfast pay for their water in their rates bill. Plans to bring in additional water tariffs have been deferred by devolution in May 2007.[111] Belfast has approximately 1,300 km (808 mi) of sewers, which are currently being replaced in a project costing over UK£100 million and due for completion in 2009.[112]

Northern Ireland Electricity is responsible for transmitting electricity in Northern Ireland. Belfast's electricity comes from Kilroot Power Station, a 520 megawatt dual coal and oil fired plant, situated near Carrickfergus.[110] Phoenix Natural Gas Ltd. has been granted the licence for the transportation of natural gas across the Irish Sea from Stranraer to supply Greater Belfast from a base station near Carrickfergus.[110] Rates in Belfast (and the rest of Northern Ireland) were reformed in April 2007. The discrete capital value system means rates bills are determined by the capital value of each domestic property as assessed by the Valuation and Lands Agency.[113] The recent dramatic rise in house prices has made these reforms unpopular.[114]

Health care

The Belfast Health & Social Care Trust is one of five trusts that were created on 1 April 2007 by the Department of Health. Belfast contains most of Northern Ireland's regional specialist centres.[115] The Royal Victoria Hospital is an internationally-renowned centre of excellence in trauma care and provides specialist trauma care for all of Northern Ireland.[116] It also provides the city's specialist neurosurgical, ophthalmology, ENT, and dentistry services. The Belfast City Hospital is the regional specialist centre for haematology and is home to a cancer centre that rivals the best in the world.[117] The Mary G McGeown Regional Nephrology Unit at the City Hospital is the kidney transplant centre and provides regional renal services for Northern Ireland.[118] Musgrave Park Hospital in south Belfast specialises in orthopaedics, rheumatology, sports medicine and rehabilitation. It is home to Northern Ireland's first Acquired Brain Injury Unit, costing GB£9 million and opened by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in May, 2006.[119] Other hospitals in Belfast include the Mater Hospital in north Belfast and the Children's Hospital.

Transport

Belfast is a relatively car-dependent city by European standards, with an extensive road network including the 22.5 mile M2 and M22 motorway route.[120] A recent survey of how people travel in Northern Ireland showed that people in Belfast made 77% of all journeys by car, 11% by public transport and 6% on foot.[121] It also showed that Belfast has 0.70 cars per household compared to figures of 1.18 in the East and 1.14 in the West of Northern Ireland.[121] A significant road improvement-scheme in Belfast began early in 2006, with the upgrading of two junctions along the Westlink dual-carriageway to grade-separated standard. The Westlink, a dual-carriageway skirting the western edge of the city Centre, connects all three Belfast motorways and often suffers from chronic congestion[citation needed]. The work will cost UK£103.9 million and is scheduled for completion in 2009.[122] Commentators have argued that this may simply create a bottleneck at York Street, the next at-grade intersection, until that too is upgraded (planned for 2011).[123]

Black taxis are common in the city, operating on a share basis in some areas. These, however, are outnumbered by private hire taxis. Bus and rail public transport in Northern Ireland is operated by subsidiaries of Translink. Bus services in the city proper and the nearer suburbs are operated by Translink Metro, with services focusing on linking residential districts with the city centre on twelve quality bus corridors running along main radial roads, resulting in poor connections between different suburban areas[citation needed]. More distant suburbs are served by Ulsterbus. Northern Ireland Railways provides suburban services along three lines running through Belfast's northern suburbs to Carrickfergus and Larne, eastwards towards Bangor and south-westwards towards Lisburn and Portadown. This service is known as the Belfast Suburban Rail system. Belfast also has a direct rail connection with Dublin called Enterprise which is operated jointly by NIR and Iarnród Éireann, the state railway company of the Republic of Ireland.

In April 2008, the DRD reported on a plan for a light-rail system, similar to Dublin. The consultants said Belfast does not have the population to support a light rail system, suggesting that investment in bus-based rapid transit would be preferable.The study found that bus-based rapid transit produces positive economic results, but light rail does not. The report by Atkins & KPMG, however, said there would be the option of migrating to light rail in the future should the demand increase.[124]

[125]

The city has two airports: the Belfast International Airport offers domestic, European and transatlantic flights and is located north-west of the city, near Lough Neagh, while the George Best Belfast City Airport is closer to the city centre, adjacent to Belfast Lough. In 2005, Belfast International Airport was the 11th busiest commercial airport in the UK, accounting for just over 2% of all UK terminal passengers while the George Best Belfast City Airport was the 16th busiest and had 1% of UK terminal passengers.[126]

Belfast has a large port which is used for exporting and importing goods, and for passenger ferry services. Stena Line run regular routes to Stranraer in Scotland using its HSS (High Speed Service) vessel – with a crossing time of around 90 minutes – and/or its conventional vessel – with a crossing time of around 3 hours 45 minutes. Norfolkline – formally Norse Merchant Ferries – runs a passenger/cargo ferry to and from Liverpool, with a crossing time of 8 hours and a seasonal sailing to Douglas, Isle of Man is operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

Culture

Belfast's population is evenly split between its Protestant and Catholic residents.[75] These two distinct cultural communities have both contributed significantly to the city's culture. Throughout the Troubles, Belfast artists continued to express themselves through poetry, art and music. In the period since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Belfast has begun a social, economic and cultural transformation giving it a growing international cultural reputation.[127] In 2003, Belfast had an unsuccessful bid for the 2008 European Capital of Culture. The bid was run by an independent company, Imagine Belfast, who boasted that it would "make Belfast the meeting place of Europe's legends, where the meaning of history and belief find a home and a sanctuary from caricature, parody and oblivion."[128] According to The Guardian the bid may have been undermined by the city's history and volatile politics.[129]

In 2004–05, art and cultural events in Belfast were attended by 1.8 million people (400,000 more than the previous year). The same year, 80,000 people participated in culture and arts activities, twice as many as in 2003–04.[130] A combination of relative peace, international investment and an active promotion of arts and culture is attracting more tourists to Belfast than ever before. In 2004–05, 5.9 million people visited Belfast, a 10% increase from the previous year, and spent UK£262.5 million.[130]

The Ulster Orchestra, based in Belfast, is Northern Ireland's only full-time symphony orchestra and is well renowned in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1966, it has existed in its present form since 1981, when the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra was disbanded.[131] The music school of Queen's University is responsible for arranging a notable series of lunchtime and evening concerts, often given by renowned musicians which are usually given in The Harty Room at the university (University Square).

There are many Traditional Irish bands playing throughout the city and quite a few music schools concentrate on teaching Traditional music. Well known city centre venues would include Kelly's Cellars, Maddens and the Hercules bar. Famous artists would include The McPeakes, Brian Kennedy and the band 9Lies.

Musicians and bands who have written songs about or dedicated to Belfast: Van Morrison, Snow Patrol, Simple Minds, Elton John, Katie Melua, Boney M, Paul Muldoon, Stiff Little Fingers, Nanci Griffith, Glenn Patterson, Orbital, James Taylor, Spandau Ballet, The Police, Barnbrack, Gary Moore.

Further in Belfast the Oh Yeah Music Centre is located (Cathedral Quarter), a project founded to give young musicians and artists a place where they can share ideas and kick-start their music careers as chance to been supported and promoted by professional musicians of Northern Ireland's music-scene.

Although, like the rest of Northern Ireland, the city has no 'mother-tongue' community of Irish speakers, the language is heavily promoted in the city and Belfast has the highest concentration of Irish speakers in the north. Projects to promote the language in the city are funded by various sources, notably FORAS NA GAEILGE, an all-Ireland body funded by both the Irish and British governments. There are a number Irish language Primary schools and one secondary school in Belfast, this however is not funded by the British exchequer as it is funded by individual fundraisers and the charity TACA.

Media

Broadcasting House on Ormeau Avenue, home to BBC Northern Ireland.

Belfast is the home of The News Letter, the oldest English language newspaper in the world still in publication.[132][133] Other newspapers include the Irish News and Belfast Telegraph and – until its recent closure due to poor sales, the state-funded Irish language daily newspaper Lá Nua (from the Irish: Lá Nua meaning "New Day"). The city also contains a number of free publications including Go Belfast, Fate magazine and the Vacuum that are distributed through bar, cafes and public venues.

The city is the headquarters of BBC Northern Ireland, the ITV station UTV and the commercial radio stations Belfast CityBeat & U105 Two community radio stations, Féile FM and Irish language station Raidió Fáilte broadcast to the city from west Belfast, as well as Queen's Radio – a student-run radio station which broadcasts from Queen's University Students' Union. One of Northern Ireland's two community TV stations NvTv is based in the Cathedral Quarter of the city. There are two independent cinemas in Belfast, the Queen's Film Theatre and the Strand Cinema, which host screenings during the Belfast Film Festival and the Belfast Festival at Queen's. Also broadcasting only over the internet is the Cultural Radio Station for Northern Ireland, supporting community relations, Homely Planet.[134]

The city has become a popular film location, with The Paint Hall at Harland and Wolff becoming one of the UK Film Council's main studios. The facility comprises four 16,000 sq ft stages. Films shot at The Paint Hall include City of Ember. Filming for HBO's Game of Thrones will begin in late 2009.

Sports

George Best mural, close to his childhood home in the Cregagh estate.

Watching and playing sports is an important part of Belfast culture. Almost six out of ten (59%) of the adult population in Northern Ireland regularly participate in one or more sports.[135] Belfast has several notable sports teams playing a diverse variety of sports including association football, rugby, Cricket, Gaelic games, and ice hockey as well as many urban sports like skateboarding, bmx and parkour/freerunning. The Belfast Marathon is run annually on May Day, and attracted 14,300 participants in 2007.[136] The Northern Ireland national football team, ranked 27th in September 2007 in the FIFA World Rankings,[137] and 1st in the FIFA rankings per capita in April 2007[138] plays its home matches in Windsor Park. The 2008–09 Irish League runners-up Linfield are also based at Windsor Park, in the south of the city. Other teams include current champions Glentoran based in east Belfast, Cliftonville and Crusaders in north Belfast and Donegal Celtic in west Belfast. Belfast was the home town of the renowned player George Best who died in November 2005. On the day he was buried in the city, 100,000 people lined the route from his home on the Cregagh Road to Roselawn cemetery.[139] Since his death the City Airport was named after him and a trust has been set up to fund a memorial to him in the city centre.[140]

Gaelic football is the most popular spectator sport in Ireland,[141] and Belfast is home to over twenty football and hurling clubs.[142] Casement Park in West Belfast, home to the Antrim county teams, has a capacity of 32,000 which makes it the second largest Gaelic Athletic Association ground in Ulster.[143] The 2006 Celtic League champions and 1999 European Rugby Union champions Ulster play at Ravenhill in South Belfast. Belfast has four teams in rugby's All-Ireland League: Belfast Harlequins (who play at Deramore Park in south Belfast) and Malone (who play at Gibson Park in south-east Belfast) are in the Second Division; and Instonians (Shaw's Bridge, south Belfast) and Queen's University RFC (south Belfast) are in the Third Division. As well as Rugby Union, Belfast is also home to the East Belfast Bulldogs Rugby league team who are competing in the new NI rugby league conference.

Belfast boasts Ireland's premier cricket venue at Stormont. The Ireland cricket team plays many of its home games at this venue, which in 2006 hosted the first ever One Day International between Ireland and England. In 2007, Ireland, India and South Africa played a triangular series of one-day internationals at Stormont, and in 2008 the qualifying tournament for the ICC World Twenty20 was held there. At club level, Belfast has seven senior teams: Instonians (Shaw's Bridge, south Belfast) and Civil Service North (Stormont, east Belfast) are in Section 1 of the Northern Cricket Union League; CIYMS (Circular Road, east Belfast), Cooke Collegians (Shaw's Bridge) and Woodvale (Ballygomartin Road, west Belfast) are in Section 2; and Cregagh (Gibson Park, south-east Belfast) and Police Service of Northern Ireland (Newforge Lane, south Belfast) are in Section 4.

Ireland's first professional ice hockey team, the Belfast Giants play their home matches at the Odyssey Arena, watched by up to seven thousand fans.[144] The Belfast Bulls and Belfast Trojans American football teams represent Belfast in the IAFL, competing for the Shamrock Bowl. Other significant sportspeople from Belfast include double world snooker champion Alex "Hurricane" Higgins[145] and world champion boxers Wayne McCullough and Rinty Monaghan.[146] Leander A.S.C is a well known swimming club in Belfast.

Education

The Lanyon Building of Queen's University in south Belfast

Belfast has two universities. Queen's University Belfast was founded in 1845 and is a member of the Russell Group, an association of 20 leading research-intensive universities in the UK.[147] It is one of the largest universities in the UK with 25,231 undergraduate and postgraduate students spread over 250 buildings, 120 of which are listed as being of architectural merit.[148] The University of Ulster, created in its current form in 1984, is a multi-centre university with a campus in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast. The Belfast campus has a specific focus on Art and Design and Architecture, and is currently undergoing major redevelopment. The Jordanstown campus, just seven miles (11 km) from Belfast city centre concentrates on engineering, health and social science. The Conflict Archive on the INternet (CAIN) Web Service receives funding from both universities and is a rich source of information and source material on the Troubles as well as society and politics in Northern Ireland.[149]

Belfast Metropolitan College is a large further education college with several campuses around the city. Formerly known as Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education, it specialises in vocational education. The college has over 53,000 students enrolled on full-time and part-time courses, making it one of the largest further education colleges in the UK.[150]

The Belfast Education and Library Board was established in 1973 as the local authority responsible for education, youth and library services within the city.[151] There are 184 primary, secondary and grammar schools in the city.[152]

The Ulster Museum is also located in Belfast.

Tourism

Frommer's, the American travel guidebook series, listed Belfast as the only United Kingdom destination in its Top 12 Destinations to Visit in 2009. The other listed destinations were Istanbul, Berlin, Cape Town, Saqqara, Washington DC, Cambodia, Waiheke Island, Cartagena, Waterton Lakes National Park, the Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail, Alabama and the Lassen Volcanic National Park[153]

To further enhance the tourist industry in Northern Ireland, the Belfast City Council is currently investing into the complete redevelopment of the Titanic Quarter, which is planned to consist of apartments, hotels, a riverside entertainment district, and a major Titanic-themed attraction. They also hope to invest in a new modern transport system (high-speed rail and others) for Belfast, with a cost of £250 million.[154]

Sister cities

Belfast is twinned with:[155]

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Osborne 21:49, 15 February 2010 (UTC)==Further reading==

  • Beesley, S. and Wilde, J. 1997. Urban Flora of Belfast. Institute of Irish Studies & The Queen's University of Belfast.
  • Deane, C.Douglas. 1983. The Ulster Countryside. Century Books. ISBN 0903152177
  • Nesbitt, Noel. 1982. The Changing Face of Belfast. Ulster Museum, Belfast. Publication no. 183.
  • Gillespie, R. 2007. Early Belfast. Belfast Natural History & Philosophical Society in Association with Ulster Historical Foundation. ISBN 978-1-903688-72-4.
  • Walker, B.M. and Dixon, H. 1984. Early Photoraphs from the Lawrence Collection in Belfast Town 1864–1880. The Friar's Bush Press, ISBN 0946872
  • Walker, B.M. and Dixon, H. 1983. No Mean City: Belfast 1880–1914. ISBN 0 946872 00 7.
  • Nesbitt N. 1982. The Changing Face of Belfast. Ulster Museum Belfast, publication no. 183.

External Links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

For other places with the same name, see Belfast (disambiguation).
Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall

Belfast [1] (Irish: Béal Feirste, meaning "the mouth of the river Feirste") is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland and the second largest city on the island of Ireland after Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland. Situated at the mouth of the River Lagan on Belfast Lough, Belfast is surrounded by low hills and has a population of 267,500. This figure refers only to the Belfast City Council area whose borders date back to the 1950. Since then the city has expanded and the population of the Belfast Metropolitan Urban Area which incorporates the surrounding suburbs and towns is 483,000.

Understand

Belfast gained notoriety around the world during The Troubles (1969-1997) due to the frequency of gun and bomb attacks in the city. Parts of Belfast were effectively no-go areas for security forces and therefore took on a lawless quality. Today, the scars of Belfast's troubled past make it an intriguing destination for travellers from around the world.

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, most of the politically-motivated violence has evaporated. Belfast was recently awarded the accolade of being the safest city in the UK, based on a comparison of nation-wide crime figures, and, as part of its commitment to maintain peace, now seeks tourism from all around the world, especially from countries other than the Irish Republic and the rest of the UK.

Those who live in Belfast tend to either absolutely love the city or loathe it, although the outsider's perspective tends to be more forgiving, as Belfast was voted the fourth best city in the UK for a city break in the Guardian/Observer travel awards. Needless to say, a visit to Belfast will be rewarded by a glimpse of a unique city that has finally begun to celebrate, rather than fight over, its place as a cultural meeting-point of Britain and Ireland. Belfast is certainly exhibiting an air of determined optimism, with new hotels, bars, restaurants, clubs and shops opening at an incredible rate. It is a city that is proud of its Victorian and Edwardian heritage and efforts to restore historic buildings are proving successful. Tourism is on the increase in Northern Ireland, especially among those seeking a weekend away or short break in Ireland as Belfast can offer a significantly cheaper and more rewarding alternative to the busier, more expensive and more tourist-driven Dublin.

Belfast remains a great place to explore, as it is still relatively undiscovered compared with its neighbour in Dublin and is ideal for the tourist who enjoys a city with character, yet still has a raw, unspoilt energy. A visit to the capital of Northern Ireland will provide a more stimulating trip as, once you scratch the surface, it is easy to see beyond the ethno-political conflict of past years. It is a city which has changed dramatically in a decade due to this peace and prosperity and you will be greeted with warmth from locals who feel a new-found sense of pride in their city. Indeed, the old cliche that you will be welcomed like an old friend by the patrons of Belfast's many pubs and bars is actually true, as the locals love to find out what draws you to their little part of the world and, of course, they like the chance to share a little bit of their history with you! Ask any local and they will tell you that a trip to Belfast will mean that you learn far more about the Irish and British psyche than a trip to a cheesy Irish pub in Dublin or on a tourist-orientated tour in London.

Get in

By plane

Belfast has two airports.

George Best Belfast City Airport [2] (IATA: BHD) is just two miles from Belfast's city centre, with magnificent views of the city of Belfast or Belfast Lough on approach and departure. The airport principally serves routes to domestic UK and Ireland, however bmi has extensive worldwide connections the Star Alliance Network. Airlines using the airport include:

  • Aer Arann [3] to Cork
  • bmi [4] to London Heathrow (connections to bmi's international network and the Star Alliance)
  • EasyJet [5] to London Luton (from 7 January 2010).
  • Manx 2 [6] to Blackpool and the Isle of Man.
  • Euromanx [7] to the Isle of Man.
  • flybe [8] to Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cardiff, Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Guernsey, Inverness, Jersey, Leeds/Bradford, London Gatwick, Newcastle, Southampton, Manchester and Rennes.
  • Ryanair [9] to London (Stansted), Glasgow (Prestwick), Bristol, East Midlands and Liverpool.

The terminal is served every 20-30 min 6AM-10PM by the 600 Airport bus [10] (£2 single, £3 return). Depending on traffic, the journey to Belfast's Laganside and Europa Buscentres should take no more than 15 minutes.

Alternatively, NIR trains serve the airport at Sydenham station twice an hour on the Portadown/Belfast/Bangor line. Upon arrival, ask at the airport information desk for a free shuttle ride to the station. If arriving by train, the courtesy bus may be requested just inside the airport perimeter across the bridge from Sydenham station. A single fare to Belfast Central, Botanic, City Hospital or Great Victoria Street costs £1.60. A single to Bangor costs £3.80

Taxis cost approximately £10 to most parts of the city and are an economical choice for small groups.

Belfast International Airport [11] (IATA: BFS) is further from Belfast than City Airport, lying closer to the towns of Templepatrick and Antrim, but offers significantly more international destinations. Continental Airlines has connections available to destinations throughout the Americas and beyond.

  • Aer Lingus [12] to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Faro, Lanzarote, London-Heathrow, Malaga, Milan Malpensa, Munich, Nice, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Rome Fiumincino. British Airways codeshare with Aer Lingus to London, and offer international connections from Heathrow.
  • Air Transat (seasonal) to Toronto
  • bmibaby [13] to Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester and Nottingham East Midlands
  • Continental Airlines [14] to New York (Newark)
  • Easyjet [15] to Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin Schoenefeld, Bristol, Edinburgh, Faro, Geneva, Glasgow, Ibiza, Krakow, Liverpool John Lennon, London Gatwick, London Luton (until 6 January 2010), London Stansted, Malaga, Newcastle, Nice, Palma, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Prague, Rome Ciampino, Venice
  • Globespan [16] to Orlando Sanford and Toronto
  • Jet2 [17] to Blackpool, Chambery, Dubrovnik, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Jersey, Leeds Bradford, Malaga, Murcia, Palma, Pisa, Tenerife South and Toulouse
  • Manx2 [18] to the Isle of Man

The terminal is served up to every 30 min from 5:35AM-11:20PM by the 300 Airport bus [19] (£7 single, £10 return). Depending on traffic, the journey to Belfast's Laganside and Europa Buscentres takes about 45 minutes. Taxis should cost no more than £25-30 to Belfast City Centre.

There is a cheaper, but slower route available by taking the 109A (hourly service Monday-Saturday) Ulsterbus 109A service to Antrim from the stand outside the airport, leave the bus at Antrim Bus station (£2.60 one way). Take a train from Antrim to Belfast Great Victoria Street. This, however, may be complicated for tourists due to the connection at Antrim and the infrequency of the train service to Belfast.

From Dublin

It is also possible to get to Belfast from Dublin Airport 160 km (100 mi) to the south. Ryanair, Aer Arann [20] and Aer Lingus (the national airline of the Republic of Ireland) serve many international destinations in Europe and North America (including Boston, Los Angeles and New York). Hourly buses (24 hours, daytime services operated by Ulsterbus, night services by Bus Éireann) [21] link Dublin Airport and the Belfast Europa Buscentre.

By train

Despite decades of underinvestment and service cutbacks, Northern Ireland Railways [22] (a division of Translink, Northern Ireland's public transport operator) manages to maintain a small but increasingly reliable passenger rail network around the province, with four 'domestic' lines radiating out from Belfast. Great Victoria Street Station is in the centre of Belfast on, as the name suggests, Great Victoria Street. Just yards from the Grand Opera House and beside the Europa Hotel, the Great Victoria Station is part of a combined bus/rail station, the bus centre being called Europa Bus Centre. Look for the sign above the door to access the station from Great Victoria Street. Great Northern Mall, the so called "Central Station", is not very central at all - it's about half a mile from the city centre.

There are four rail corridors in/out of Belfast:

  • Belfast - Bangor
  • Belfast - Portadown
  • Belfast - Larne
  • Belfast - Coleraine - Londonderry/Derry or Portrush

Service is most frequent and reliable on the Portadown - Belfast - Bangor corridor, on which new trains offer frequent and fast suburban service. The line to Londonderry/Derry is exceptionally beautiful as it passes along the north coast after Coleraine, however travellers should note that the railway line is slower (two hours or more) than the equivilent Ulsterbus Goldline express coach (one hour and forty minutes). Contact NIR for information on tourist passes for exploring Northern Ireland by bus and train: with integrated bus and train stations in most major towns, the province is easily explored without a car.

Services to Dublin (with connections to other destinations in the Republic of Ireland) is offered by the Enteprise, a modern, comfortable, but relatively slow train jointly operated by Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnrod Eireann (which operates trains in the Republic of Ireland). Journeys between Dublin and Belfast take two hours and twenty minutes, and there are up to eight trains a day, offering two classes of service. The train takes a less direct route than the road, but offers some superb views and is still generally quicker than equivalent buses. Cheap day returns are available to those willing to book online [23]. Standard fare is £25 one-way when purchased on the day of travel.

By bus

Ulsterbus [24] (a division of Translink, Northern Ireland's public transport operator) operate the intercity bus network in Northern Ireland, linking most major towns and cities. Services are well-used and, in most cases, reasonably priced. The most frequent service is to Londonderry/Derry. Bus Éireann [25] jointly operate cross-border services with Ulsterbus and operate almost all intercity routes in the Republic of Ireland. The Belfast to Dublin Airport and Dublin route is becoming increasingly competitive, with independent operator Aircoach [26] offering a regular service from Dublin and Dublin Airport to Belfast. Bus Éireann offer a €7 single fare (stopped as of 14th March 2009, maybe reintroduced after St. Patrick day price hike season) from Dublin Busaras (bus station) and Dublin Airport to the Europa Buscentre in Belfast; Ulsterbus offers similar specials in the opposite direction. There is also a daily bus to Cork, via Athlone and one to Galway via Cavan.

Under the Eurolines banner, Ulsterbus offer 2 daily services to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and 2 daily services to London via Manchester and Birmingham. All of these are via the fast ferry Stranraer. Connections are available via National Express to virtually every destination in mainland Great Britain.

For less independent travellers, you can also book day trips from Dublin to Belfast on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. This includes a bus trip to Belfast followed by a black taxi cab ride through the two neighbourhoods and a visit to the peace wall. See Paddywagon Tours [27] for info.

Local bus travel in Northern Ireland can be expensive outside of Belfast, but services are frequent and reliable. Belfast itself is small enough to walk anywhere comfortably.

There is also a bus based Park and Ride facility available, see National Park and Ride Directory [28]

By car

Belfast is the focus of the road network in Northern Ireland, and as such is very well connected to the road network in Northern Ireland. While there are only three motorways in Northern Ireland (M1, M2 and M22), the rest of the country is very well provided for with high quality trunk roads.

Access to Belfast from the Republic of Ireland has never been better. Due to the great improvements the peace process in Northern Ireland has gained, crossing the border into Northern Ireland is now nothing more noticeable than a change in signposts and road markings. The M1 connects Dublin to Dundalk and almost to the border with Northern Ireland. The M1 is 83km long and has one toll over the bridge of peace in Drogheda (€1.80 for a car).

Car rental

Belfast is not as well served by car rental companies as Ireland in general. Some Irish car rental companies offer a drop off option in Belfast while others have locations in Belfast City. If you plan to rent a car in the Republic of Ireland and drive it into Northern Ireland be aware of the additional insurance cost. Dan Dooley are the only car rental company operating in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland not to charge for additional cross border insurance.

  • Logan Car Hire, Belfast International Airport, Tel: 02895 81 0701
  • Logan Car Hire, Belfast City Airport, Tel: 02895 81 0701
  • Avis Rent a Car Ltd - 69-71 Great Victoria St.
  • Dan Dooley [29] - Belfast International Airport. Offers meet and greet service at Belfast City Airport and in the Belfast Docks.
  • Budget - Great Victoria St.
  • Europcar - 105 Great Victoria St.
  • Car Rental Ireland Thrifty [30] - Drop off option at Belfast International.
  • Enterprise Rent-a-car [31], Unit 1 Boucher Crescent, Tel: 9066 6767. If you need a car for the duration of your stay, the branch at Unit 3, Bldg 10 Central Park Mallusk, Tel: 9084 3749, will be able to meet you and drop you off at either airport or the ferry terminals.
  • Frequent sailings across the Irish Sea connect Belfast to mainland Great Britain. All the operators listed below offer special promotions throughout the year, and some also offer through ticketing with rail and bus services at each end.
    • Stena Line [32] offer two types of service from the Port of Belfast to Stranraer in Scotland, with up to six sailings a day. The HSS Stena Voyager is a high speed catamaran (the fastest ferry from Northern Ireland to mainland Great Britain) and the Stena Caledonia is a more traditional and slower ferry. Stena offer 'rail and sail' tickets with First ScotRail [33] train connections to destinations in Scotland from Stranraer: the railway station is directly adjacent to the ferry terminal in Stranraer.
    • Stena Line also offer up to three sailings a day from Larne (accessible from Belfast by train or bus) to Fleetwood, near Liverpool.
    • P&O Irish Sea Ferries runs two sailings a day each way between Larne and Troon in Scotland [34]
    • Norfolk Line [35] offer daytime and nightime crossings to Birkenhead, near Liverpool. Cabins and meals are available.

Seat61.com [36] offers informed and independent advice on how to book combined train and ferry tickets from any railway station in Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Get around

The centre of Belfast is small enough to be explored by foot. Translink [37] operate Belfast's urban bus network, called Metro (previously Citybus). Buses run along colour coded high frequency routes that radiate from the city centre from around 6AM until 11PM. All major bus routes start or pass through Donegall Square, and a Metro information kiosk is on the north-western side of the square. Tourist passes are available from here, or for the more frequent traveller, you can purchase and pre-load a Smartlink card with credit for bus trips. While the routes are extensive, the travel is expensive, as it is for the whole of the country. Buses frequently do not turn up and staff can at times be unhelpful.

On Friday and Saturday night, Metro Night Link [38] buses operate limited service from Donegall Square to Antrim, Ballygowan, Ballynahinch, Downpatrick, Bangor, Carrickfergus, Comber, Lisburn, Newtownabbey, and Newtownards. These pass through most suburban areas of Belfast: however, the fixed-fare system means that a taxi may be better value if you're only travelling within Belfast.

If your time is limited, the open-top 'Belfast Sightseeing' bus tours are recommended, costing about £10 per person for a 2 hour journey. You will be shown the sights in the city centre and suburbs including famous murals painted on the ends of terraced houses during 'The Troubles' in the Falls Road area, the Harland and Wolff shipyards where the Titanic was built and Queens University. The guides are friendly, well informed and interesting, although many locals still remark that is unusual to see bright red open top tour buses passing through once troubled neighbourhoods. You may prefer a less obvious exploration of the city.

Belfast is now famous for its Black Taxi tours of the city, which are highly recommended, and can be arranged by most hostels, hotels and at the tourist office (47 Donegall Place, above the Boots pharmacy, just north of the City Hall). These tours are given by regular taxi drivers who have worked through the troubled years, and have a wealth of knowledge and very personal experiences, which they are glad to share during a tour that can last up to two hours.

Also of interest are the shared taxi routes of North and West Belfast. These run along set routes and cost around £1, no matter how long the journey. Their origins date from the darkest days of the troubles, when city bus services were frequently disrupted by violence and attacks. There are fixed locations in the City Centre where these begin their routes, and will generally queue until filled with 4 or 5 people. Note that minicabs (regular saloon cars with taxi licence plates and illuminated roof signs) generally do not operate as black taxis.

See

To make the most of your time in the city your first point of contact should be the centrally located Belfast Welcome Centre (Tourist Office) [39] at 47 Donegall Place, just north of City Hall. The first floor centre is accessible by elevator and escalator just to the left of the Boots Pharmacy. The staff can provide maps, book accommodation and tours, recommend itineraries and places of interest and sell you overpriced and tacky souvenirs. There is also a useful left luggage facility.

  • Taxi tours, 07907769797, [40]. £30.  edit
  • Black Taxi Tours, 07907769797, [41]. £30.  edit

Central

Belfast city centre is focused on Donegall Square and Belfast City Hall in its centre. All major city bus routes converge here and, on sunny days, this is where shoppers and office workers can be found enjoying their breaks. The City Hall is the grand centerpiece of the city and the orientation point for your exploration of Belfast. Running north from the centre of Donegall Square is Donegall Place, a broad and bustling shopping street, which will lead you towards the Cathedral Quarter and the Arts School. The city centre is bordered to the east by the River Lagan, and to the south by the area around Donegall Pass. Where Belfast city centre meets the River Lagan, windswept pavements prove that meaningless sculptures and grandiose attempts at urban planning do not necessarily make for a popular urban space. The horrendous dual carriageway known as the Westlink separated the centre of Belfast from the western suburbs of the city in the 1970s; this borders the city centre to the west. On the plus side, the network of dual carriageways and motorways mean that one can get from the city centre to all the surrounding suburbs and satellite towns in less than fifteen minutes, even during the rush hour, something which is impossible in many other cities, for example Dublin.

In between these rough boundaries, you'll find Belfast's heart. Parts of it are blighted by dereliction, others are blighted by narrow-minded money-grabbing redevelopment. Note that while largely safe at all times, years of city centre curfews during the troubles means that the centre of Belfast can be startlingly empty of pedestrians after 8PM. City centre living has yet to become as popular here as in other parts of Britain and Ireland.

  • City Hall, Donegall Sq, Tel: 9032 0202 - Opened in 1906, the City Hall will possibly seem familiar to South African visitors, who may notice a resemblance to the city hall in Durban. This is a fine example of turn of the century architecture from the heart of the British Empire's drafting office. The City Hall houses Belfast's Council chambers and administrative offices. Excellently presented free guided tours are available every day; ring ahead for details of times. Also of note are the grounds, containing a memorial to victims of the Titanic and a statue of Queen Victoria. The spacious grassy square and broad pavements that surround the City Hall are also where local youths gather to perform complex mating rituals. The City Hall will temporarily close to the public from November 2007 for essential renovation works. However, the grounds of the building will remain open and will continue to play host to popular events, such as the Continental Christmas Market. The building is scheduled to reopen in 2009 and, until then, most Council services, including the Registrar's office for births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships, will relocate to Adelaide Exchange in nearby Adelaide Street.
  • Place [42], 40 Fountain St, Tel: 9023 2524. This diminutive shop space was recently taken over by the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) as a small gallery space to promote the built environment in Northern Ireland. Regular exhibitions and workshops are held here.
  • Ormeau Baths Gallery, 18a Ormeau Ave, Tel: 9032 1402, [43]. Significantly lacking in credibility, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has now taken over the running of this once-lively and vibrant art gallery. This change of direction has left the OBG without a single artist involved in the running of the museum. A group of local artists has subsequently formed the Ormeau Baths Gallery in Exile, a mobile venue which hopes to 'return' to the OBG building in 2007.
  • Saint Anne's Cathedral, Donegall St, Tel: 9043 4006. The stunning cathedral building is situated at the opposite end of Royal Avenue, the main shopping street, from the City Hall. It is a fascinating building, and is at the centre of the "Cathedral Quarter", which is reluctantly being redesigned and cleaned up by various investment agencies to become Belfast's 'cultural' district. Thankfully, a lot of work remains to be done, and the area contains many fine cafés, bars and interesting buildings that recall the city's commercial and industrial heritage. Rent prices have yet to jump significantly, so keep an eye out for the small galleries and studio workspaces that remain in this area.
  • Belfast Exposed, 23 Donegall St, [44]. Tu-Sa 11AM-5PM, Tel: 9023 0965. Belfast Exposed is Northern Ireland's only dedicated photography gallery, and as well as operating a fine exhibition space in a refurbished warehouse building, also provides local photographers with dark room and processing facilities and a well maintained library. Exhibitions are usually free and always worth seeing.
  • Belfast Print Workshop and Gallery, 30-42 Waring St, Tel: 9023 1323, [45]. This gallery is combined with an active workshop, where local artists are able to use the facilities to print their work. Usually a good selection of local work.
  • Belfast Central Library, Royal Ave, Tel: 9050 9150. Opposite the road from the Cathedral, the Victorian library building houses an excellent Irish section and a newspaper library, containing archives of all Northern Irish newspapers.
Belfast Big Fish, beside the Lagan Lookout
Belfast Big Fish, beside the Lagan Lookout
  • Titanic Boat Tour, [46]. Belfast takes a bizarre pride in that the ill-fated Titanic was built here (not caring to promote the many hundreds of other ships that were built here which did not sink) and you can now take a boat tour around the area that the ship was built. The former boat yards of Belfast are being ambitiously redeveloped into a residential and commercial neighbourhood that will be called (you guessed it) the Titanic Quarter. Tours cost £5. Check sailing times on their website.
  • The Waterfront Hall, 2 Lanyon Pl, Tel: 9033 4455, [47]. Standing on the northern side of Donegall Square, Belfast's imposing concert and conference venue is visible to the east where Chichester St meets the riverside. Built in 1997, it has been credited with generating £10 for the Belfast economy for every £1 spent on its construction . The main auditorium offers some of the best performance hall acoustics anywhere in Europe, and it is worth checking with the box office for upcoming shows.
  • The Bar Council & Bar Library of Northern Ireland, 414 Chichester St, [48]. Not open to the public, but notable for its striking architectural design. The northern half of the building is the opulent home of Belfast's (privately employed) barristers; meanwhile the southern end of the building (visible from May St) is occupied by the more modest Royal Courts of Justice Stamp Office (a tax-payer-funded government agency). Presented with two clients with two wildly different budgets, local architects Robinson McIlwaine successfully designed one building which seamlessly merge a more modest design and cheaper materials for the southern half of the building and a more elaborate and expensive design at the northern end.
  • Cornmarket is at the centre of Belfast's retail area. Visitors from Britain and Ireland will feel immediately at home with the bland selection of high street chains.

South

Belfast's leafiest and most accessible suburbs are found south of the city centre along Botanic Ave, and University Rd around the Queen's University. Apart from the small loyalist community around Donegall Pass, the areas between University Rd and Lisburn Rd are mostly mixed, and there is a dense student population living in rented accommodation. It's a twenty-minute walk from Donegall Pl to Botanic Ave. The commercial core of Belfast is apparent on Bedford St, and the lively bars, take-aways of Dublin Rd are busy most nights of the week. Botanic Ave is somewhat quieter with less traffic, and is lined with cafés, restaurants and small shops. Further south, beyond the University, is the Lisburn Rd, recently christened "Belfast's Bond Street", with its eclectic mix of boutiques, chic bars and restaurants, and lively coffee shops. This part of town is the most affluent of the city, and is regularly referred to by its postcode - BT9.

  • Queen's University, University Rd, Tel: 9024 5133, [49]. Take any number 8 bus (8A - 8C) from the city center. At the southernmost end of the Golden Mile, the university is a fine Victorian building with extensive grounds. It contains a visitors' centre in the main central building.
  • Queens Film Theatre, 20 University Sq, Tel: 9097 1097, [50]. Belfast's art house and repertory cinema, and is the central location for the annual Belfast Film Festival.
  • Botanical Gardens, accessed from University Rd beside the university and at the southern end of Botanic Ave, [51]. Very popular with locals and visitors alike. The Palm House contains local and interesting plants, such as carnivorous plants. Beside it is the Tropical Ravine, unique to the British Isles, where visitors walk around a raised balcony observing tropical flora and fauna. With large lawns and well maintained planting, the park is a popular destination in the summer. Fans of the BBC TV hidden camera comedy show 'Just for Laughs' will recognise the park from many hidden stunts. During the summer months be on the lookout for cameras pointing at you from parked vans and badly disguised tents.
  • Ulster Museum, Tel: 9038 3000, [52]. Accessed off Stranmillis Rd in the Botanic Gardens, Tel: 9038 3000. This excellent museum has much to see, including a large section on the history of Irish conflict, Northern Ireland's marine life and a significant collection of art. While many locals dislike the 1970s extension, it is one of the finest examples of a Brutalist modern extension being added and successfully integrated to an older classically designed museum. The museum is closed until the end of October 2009 for major redevelopment. Free.
  • Lyric Theatre, 55 Ridgeway St, Tel: 9038 1081, [53]. The diminutive Lyric remains the only full-time producing theatre in Northern Ireland. A busy schedule of productions can be found online. A major redevelopment is planned to take place in the next few years.
  • Belfast Zoo, Antrim Road, Tel: 9077 6277, [54]. Open daily 10AM-5:30PM, admission £6.70, take any number 1 bus (1A - 1G) from the city centre. A substantial modernisation programme has recently been finished, and the zoo has a very good variety of animals. The prairie dogs are of particular interest, as their tunnels extend throughout the park, rendering any open space looking like a giant game of 'whack-a-rat'. Much merriment was caused when the zoo was praised for letting the prairie dogs run wild and free, an accident that was caused after much effort was spent preventing them from digging out of their enclousre but noone checked on their ablity to climb and they simply scampered over there small enclosing wall. The Zoo has recently welcomed Lily, the first Barbary lion cub to be born in Ireland.
  • Belfast Castle, Antrim Rd, Tel: 9077 6925, [55]. Daily 9AM-6PM, admission free, take any number 1 bus (1A - 1G) from the city centre. The castle (more accurately a large stately home) dates from 1870 and was restored in 1988. It is situated on Cave Hill and has good views of the city and coast. Cave Hill Country Park has marked walking routes and is an excellent viewpoint from which to get a view of Belfast.
  • West Belfast Taxi Association 35a King St, Tel:(028) 9031 5777, operate a remarkably efficient service from Belfast city centre to nationalist areas of West Belfast. Taxis run every few minutes up the Falls Road to destinations including Whiterock, Andersonstown and Twinbrook. The services operate as taxi buses, with passengers sharing a black cab with others who are going to roughly the same place. The routes are similar to bus routes, but the driver will stop and let you out at any point. Taxis can be hailed along the Falls and Andersonstown Rds. Fare from the city centre to Andersonstown are £1.30 one-way, cheaper and more convenient than the equivalent bus service.
  • Fáilte Feirste Thiar (Welcome West Belfast) [56], 243 Falls Rd, Tel:(028) 9024 1100, Tourist Information office and welcome centre located in the heart of the Falls. The office distributes free maps, offers tours and general information about this part of the city.
  • Political Murals, throughout Falls Rd and Shankill Rd. Visit the world renowned murals in the nationalist Falls and unionist Shankill portions of West Belfast. The main murals are situated on gable walls of buildings on both the Falls and Shankill roads, but others are located in the lower Shankill estate (off the lower Shankill Rd onto North Boundary St) and Bombay St (off the Falls Rd onto Clonard Gardens).
  • Milltown Cemetery, 546 Falls Rd. One of the two massive cemeteries of West Belfast. Milltown is dripping with history, being the final resting place for many Republican paramilitary members (mostly buried at the Republican plot, beneath the tricolour flag). There is also a memorial garden for IRA members killed during the Troubles, including those who took part in the 1981 Hunger Strike. Milltown cemetery is also the site of the notorious killings in 1988 of three mourners at an IRA funeral by Loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone. The attack took place near the Republican plot.
  • Falls Park, Falls Rd, Tel: 07917 543 626. A large open space populated by a huge cemetery, gardens, Gaelic Football and Hurling pitches. Falls Park is a pleasant place to visit on a sunny day and provides a welcome respite from the city.
  • Casement Park (Páirc Mhic Asmaint) is the principal stadium of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) in the province of Ulster. The sports of Gaelic Football and Hurling are played here, both of which provide a unique experience for visitors to the city. Tickets are extremely well priced (admittance to a major game would not be more than £20) and are, in most cases, available on the gate. For match dates and times check the Irish News newspaper or online[57].
  • O'Neills Sportswear, 14 Andersonstown Rd, Tel: (028) 9062 7032. O'Neills is the largest manufacturer and retailer of Gaelic Sports equipment and memorabilia, ideal for a more individual souvenir. Merchandise such as team or county jerseys are well priced, with a clearance department in-store where factory seconds and older stock are on sale at very low prices.
  • Eileen Hickey Republican History Museum[58], Conway Mill, Tel: (028) 9024 0504. Museum exploring the history of Republicanism in Belfast, containing many interesting exhibits on the IRA and political figures of the movement. Free.

East

East Belfast is the largest of the cities' 4 electoral wards and is serviced by a number of large arterial roads (Cregagh Road, Castlereagh Road, Newtownards Road and Holywood Road), which all start in or close to the city centre.

East Belfast is a mainly residential and largely Protestant area encompassing a wide range of housing from the working class terraced streets along the Beersbridge road, to wide tree lined avenues of Belmont, and all areas in between. Despite its largely Protestant nature East Belfast is generally the area of the city where newcomers to Belfast of all religious and political persuasions from within Northern Ireland will look to purchase houses in when they arrive in the city. The rationale for this may be that although South Belfast is often thought of as a desirable locale it is in many cases prohibitively expensive. North and West Belfast are even cheaper than the East but whilst both contain many pleasant neighbourhoods they still have a lot of echoes from the troubles that can put newcomers off. North Belfast especially has a large number of "interface areas" (regions where working class loyalist and republican areas meet) that can occasionally flare up into trouble. East Belfast, possibly because it has only one interface area and is relatively homogeneously Protestant, was less on the "coalface" of the troubles than both the North and the West.

  • Stormont Parliament Buildings, Tel: 9025 0000. The parliament buildings are the home of the recently reinstated Northern Ireland Assembly. The buildings are massive and have marble interiors. The grounds are interesting in themselves, and a walk down the mile long road to the main parliament buildings is well recommended. Guided tours may be possible, telephone in advance.
  • Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra, Tel: 9042 8428, [59]. Approximately 8 miles north-east from Belfast City Centre and most easily reached by train from Culta station. Open daily 10AM-6PM, admission £6.50. It is one of Ireland's premier tourist attractions. It has a vast collection, and you could spend days exploring all of it. Highlights of the transport museum include a DeLorean (great scott!, etc.) and two train sheds full full of old steam locomotives and buses from Northern Ireland's past. The Folk Museum, on the other side of the railway line features a re-creation of an old Irish town. On Saturdays, there is a miniature railway operating, which is great fun. The folk museum is outdoors, so come prepared for the changeable Irish climate.
A Republican Mural
A Republican Mural
A Loyalist Mural
A Loyalist Mural
  • Belfast Mural Tour - The two political groupings in the Northern Ireland (Republican and Loyalist, the former predominantly being Catholic and the latter predominantly Protestant) have a strong tradition of large wall mural painting in their communities, particularly the poorer ones. If you head to The Falls Road or Shankill you will get a good look at what are some of the world's finest house sized political murals. They change frequently depending on the political climate but they are definitely something to see. The areas they are in (i.e. the poorer ghettos) are very safe by day (and by night for that matter due to the communities self 'policing') so long as you're not selling drugs or spouting political nonsense. Ask around and somebody will be able to point you to the murals.
  • Black Taxi Tours provide a fascinating insight into west Belfast. These can be booked through all hostels, hotels and the Belfast Welcome Centre, and cost around £7.50 - £10 per person.
  • The Golden Mile is the name given to the mile or so between Belfast City Hall and Queen's University. It sometimes disappoints tourists because it's less immediately evident and less densely packed together than the name suggests. It's also not the safest part of Belfast at night - local taxi trivers will tell you some horror stories about things they see on Friday and Saturday nights and a large police presence is usually in evidence. Be careful using cash machines, and if you're having trouble getting a taxi it's probably better to start walking than to stick around for too long on street corners. Exploring the area in the day time will help you if you come back later for a night out. You'll find the lion's share of the City Centre's best bars and some good places to eat here. The Golden Mile starts around the Europa Hotel on Great Victoria Street, takes a skip to the left to continue down Dublin Road, reaches a buzzing climax around Bradbury Place (just south of the big screen overlooking the junction) and graduates to student friendly but welcoming bars along Botanic Avenue and University Road. See the Drink section for specific recommendations.
  • Enjoy a long, slow afternoon with a pint or two of Guinness in one of the bars listed here.
  • Crown Liquor Saloon, 46 Great Victoria St, Tel: 9027 9901, aka Crown Bar. Situated on the Golden Mile opposite the Europa Hotel, it is by some visitors rated to be the most beautiful pub existing in Northern Ireland today, and even if you don't drink, it's worth a visit. Apart from the stained glass windows (lovingly restored and replaced after several car bombs) it is largely unchanged since Victorian times, and the dark interior is still gas-lit. Inside, you'll find the famous booths which can seat about a dozen people, and be closed off from the bar with the attracted wood panneled doors. These are hot property after work on a Friday afternoon, so move quickly if you have the chance to occupy one. Note the button inside which was once used to summon a barman to take your order (sorry, these no longer work).
  • Odyssey Centre, 2 Queen's Quay, Tel: 9045 1055. Across the bridge from the Lagan Weir is the Odyssey centre. This complex contains an IMAX cinema, the Odyssey Arena (home of ice hockey team Belfast Giants), a bowling alley, W5 (an interactive science discovery centre) and a range of restaurants and bars.
  • Parks and open spaces Belfast is home to a wide range of parks and open spaces, making it one of the greenest cities in Ireland. The main parks include Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, Ormeau Park and Botanic Gardens (located in the south of the city), Waterworks, Belfast Castle estate, Cave Hill Country Park and Alexandra Park (north Belfast), Dunville and Falls Park (west Belfast) and Orangefield and Victoria Park (in the east of the city). There are a host of walking routes through these parks and many include play facilities for children.

Buy

Belfast has the full complement of high street chain stores that can be found in any other UK and Irish city. It does however have a variety of more interesting places to browse and shop, and a visit to Belfast would not be complete without experiencing them.

A trader at St. George's Market
A trader at St. George's Market
  • St. George's Market, on May Street, is situated near Belfast Central Station, [60]. It is Northern Ireland's largest indoor market and one of Belfast's major attractions for visitors and locals alike. Farmers markets are held on Saturdays 9AM - 3PM, and variety markets are held on Fridays 6AM - 1PM. It sells a fascinating range of foods, clothing and crafts. You can pick up some real bargains here, and the market itself provides a charming glimpse into Belfast life both past and present.
  • Smithfield Market, Winetavern Street, behind the Castle Court shopping centre, [61]. A treasure trove of independent retail outlets, and provides a much more authentic experience than the afore mentioned Castle Court centre in Royal Avenue.
  • No Alibis, 83 Botanic Avenue, Tel: 9020 1261, [62]. One of the finest independent bookstores anywhere in Northern Ireland or the Republic, this is a must for fans of British, Irish and American crime fiction, with a wide selection of books imported from the USA. No Alibis reassures book-lovers that there is more to life than Borders or Waterstones.

You will also find a number of interesting shops on and around College Street, and on Dublin Road.

Eat

Belfast has everything to quench any appetite, and best of all, eating meat on a Friday during Lent is no longer regarded as an expression of anti-Nationalism.

  • Archana, 53 Dublin Rd (Just opposite Pizza Hut), 9032 3713. A great Indian restaurant with even better deals at lunchtime.  edit
  • Boojum, Botanic Ave. Opened in 2008, this Mexican grill offers superb burritos, fajitsa and tacos. Similar in style, and layout to the U.S. chain Chipolte. All ingredients are sourced direct from Mexico. A delicious, reasonable and very satisfying alternative. £4.50-5.50.  edit
  • Bright's Restaurant, 41-43 Castle St and 23-25 High St, 028 9024 5688. Two locations in the city centre known for serving the best traditional breakfast in town for only £2.95 before 11am. Large portions and good service. Can be very busy at times.  edit
  • Crown Dining Rooms, 46 Great Victoria St, 9027 9901. Above the Crown Liquor Saloon, this is a great place to eat local food in cosy surroundings. Ticks all the boxes for a warming meal on a cold day, but can be a little crowded with tourists: don't be surprised if you hear more American accents than Northern Irish.  edit
  • Delaney's, 19 Lombard St, 028 9023 1572. A diner with a cosy, old fashioned interior Cooked breakfast from £1.50 and lunches from £2.95. A local favourite.  edit
  • Doorsteps Sandwiches, 455 Lisburn Rd, 9068 1645. A good place for sandwiches, which are large enough to justify the name of the café, and which are exceptionally good value.  edit
  • The John Hewitt, 51 Donegall St, 9023 3768. Decently priced meals are available during the day and until 9PM in this popular Cathedral Quarter pub. Big plates with well sourced local ingredients and traditional meals. One of the best pubs for lunch in the city.  edit
  • Little Italy Pizza, 13 Amelia St, 028 9031 4914. If you're out on the town, this is the perfect place for something to soak up the booze. Just around the corner from the Crown Bar, this place does the very best (and the cheapest) pizza in Belfast.  edit
  • Loaf Cafe, Maureen Sheehan Centre, 106 Albert St (Just around the corner from the International mural wall on the Falls Rd and across from St. Peter's Cathedral), 02890900071. M-F 8:30AM-3PM. This lovely little cafe which serves a great range of breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea options. Check out their lovely lunch specials and pizza meal deal for 2 on a Wednesday! Profits from Loaf are used to support local people with learning disabilities. Lunch £3.50.  edit
  • Maggie Mays, 50 Botanic Ave, 9032 2662. Anyone who has had a hangover in Belfast has had Maggie Mays' Ulster fry. Serves a hefty traditional Irish breakfast (bacon, sausage, egg, fried bread, soda bread etc). The cosy interior is decorated with paintings and street signs from around Belfast. Service can be patchy, but the main reason to come here is the food. Often difficult to get a table, but well worth it if you can! Avoid more than weekly visits, your heart will thank you.  edit
  • Moghul Restaurant, 62a, Botanic Ave, 9032 6677. This fine Indian restaurant has good value lunch deals, and is a handy starting point for a night out on the Golden Mile.  edit
  • Nex D'Or, 34 Castle St and 13 Rosemary St. Oh, Belfast, where did you go? Proof that some parts of this city are resisting the onslaught of urban renewal, café lattés and trendification. When you really need classless comfort food in a smokey low level diner, nowhere is better than the two branches of Nex D'Or. Don't expect the world's finest food, but do expect fond memories of what this town used to be like. Cheap as hell, and that's not just the menu.  edit
  • SPUDS, 37 Bradbury Pl. Long established (since 1971) and very popular traditional diner and take-away serving an array of local specialities. Known for its baked potatoes, served with pretty much anything you can imagine. Serves the best 'champ' in the city (a local dish consisting of creamed potatoes, butter and spring onion).  edit
  • Apartment, 2 Donegall Square W, 9050 9777, [63]. Belfast's most stylish venue with amazing views over City Hall. Raised above Belfast's bustling streets this cosmopolitan bar & restaurant has it all to offer - whether its coffee & croissants, lunch & cocktails or wine & dinner. At night Apartment transforms from a modern eatery to a busy lounge bar with cool urban beats from some of Belfast's top DJ's. Apartment's ever evolving Cocktail List is the most extensive in Belfast with some of the city's finest & most original blends.  edit
  • Lee Garden, 14-18 Botanic Ave, 028 90278882, [64]. Popular during the day, mainly due to its £6.95 lunch specials. Evening meals are of average quality and are quite expensive.  edit
  • Scalini, 85 Botanic Ave, 028 9032 0303. A very good Italian restaurant located in the trendy Botanic area of the city and close to Queen's University. Food and drink is very well priced and the portions are generous. Reservations not always required apart from on peak nights.  edit
  • Aldens Restaurant, 229 Upper Newtownards Rd, 9065 0079. This restaurant is further out of town but serves excellent food with great service.  edit
  • Cayenne Restaurant, 7 Ascot House, Shaftsbury Sq, 9033 1532. Famous chefs Paul & Jeanne Rankin's Cayenne is a well established place for quality and funky food. Pre-theater menus cost £12.  edit
  • The King's Head, 829 Lisburn Rd, 9050 9950, [65]. A recent, major refurbishment has seen The King's Head re-open and quickly become one of the Lisburn Road's finest venues, combining both fresh food and local character. A 120 seater restaurant, dedicated Live Lounge, Gastro Pub & beer garden allow you to have the complete entertainment experience under one roof. All the luxury touches with excellent customer service without the formality.  edit
  • The Merchant Hotel, [66]. Belfast's most opulent hotel. A sumptuous, intimate and welcoming hotel in the heart of The Cathedral Quarter, in Belfast’s city centre. The Merchant Hotel offers unrivalled service in a luxurious, historically significant building.  edit
  • Restaurant Michael Deane, 1F 36-40 Howard St (Brasserie on ground floor), 028 9033 1134. Belfast's only Michelin Star restaurant, ideal for all the frills dining but despite the accolades it is not overly stuffy.  edit

Drink

Belfast has a vibrant and bustling nightlife even though it is a relatively small city. Pubs around the city centre are generally open until 1AM several days a week, though some may close around 11:30PM. Clubs generally run from around 9pm through until 2AM, though a small number do stay open much later.

  • The Northern Whig [67], 2-10 Bridge St, Tel: 9050 9880. The Northern Whig is Belfast's most unique bar oozing sultry European style!! What is most striking about The Northern Whig is the set of huge granite statues depicting Communist workers, which were acquired by the owners after the fall of Communism in Prague. Whether its brunch, lunch dinner or simply drinks The Northern Whig has it all. At night this smart & cosmopolitan venue comes to life with a varied mix of people & live music by some of Belfast's finest Dj's. The Northern Whig has an extensive choice of original & house cocktails which are a must to try!!
  • The Botanic Inn [68], 23-27 Malone Rd, Tel: 9050 9740. Affectionately known as 'The Bot', this bar is very popular, especially with students during the university term. It has a reputation for great atmosphere and craic, though can get very crowded at weekends. Downstairs is a large, attractive bar that regularly shows live sport, while upstairs has a highly regarded club. Good food is offered and drinks are reasonably priced.
  • Scratch Nightclub [69], 5-6 Lower Cresent, Tel: 9050 9750. Centrally located just off Botanic Avenue, Scratch has been recently refurbished and regularly hosts popular club nights. The bar/club stretches over three floors and has a great reputation as the place to dance the night away! Open six nights a week, Scratch caters for all tastes. Friday and Saturday nights are the most popular; with famous local DJ Paul Kennedy spinning dance classics every Saturday.
  • The Globe [70], 36 University Rd, Tel: 9050 9840. Another popular university area bar, the Globe is open 7 days a week, serving fantastic food at a reasonable price. Like most of the university area bars, The Globe hosts regular club nights, but is also popular for big screen sports.
  • The Stiff Kitten [71], 1 Bankmore Sq. The Stiff kitten is another of Belfast's best clubs which regularly attracts big name DJs at weekends, and has excellent house DJs during the week. The bar is sleek and modern, while the crowd tends to be young, friendly and has plenty of students. For those on a budget, Tuesday and Thursday nights are excellent student nights with cheap drinks and good music. The bar is open 7 days a week, while the club runs on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
  • Brickies Bar (aka The Speakeasy) Brickies is in Queen's University Student Union and is usually a good starting point for a night out. Don't hesitate to ask the students about the best place to go on any particular night!
  • Thompsons [72], seems to be the place to be. This club plays music too loud and too late, with good DJs and a foggy somewhat underground atmosphere. Next to the City Hall, look for the narrow entry across the street from the Belfast Eye.
  • The Kitchen Bar [73], 36-40 Victoria Sq, Tel: 9032 4901. One of the most historic bars in Belfast, the original Kitchen Bar dates back to 1859 and was one of the favourite watering holes of the star performers of Belfast's famous Empire Music Hall. Relocated just round the corner from its original site to an old converted warehouse, it retains all the charm and charisma that visitors experienced at the original venue. Real Ale...Real Food...Real Craic...is the keywords for The Kitchen Bar and it certainly delivers on all three points, a must for any visitor to Belfast. Traditional fresh food is served daily including the renowned soda bread based 'Paddy Pizza'!
  • McHugh's Bar & Restaurant [74], 29-31 Queens Sq, Tel: 9050 9999. Situated in Belfast's oldest building, dating back to 1711. McHugh's has a 100 seater restaurant, a basement bar offering live entertainment and the main gallery, providing enough space and atmosphere for a great night out. The Basement & main bar hosts live traditional music sessions at various times of the week and weekend so make sure you go along and catch one of these free sessions! The restaurant provides impeccable service and great food with sacrificing value. With entertainment, art & culture, McHugh's is a traditional bar with a difference.
  • Madison's Hotel [75], 59-63 Botanic Ave, Tel: 9050 9800. Set amidst the bustling Botanic Avenue this rather sexy boutique hotel is just a stones throw away from Belfast City Centre, Queens University & Botanic Gardens. The hotel has an excellent restaurant serving early morning breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. The main bar in Madison's is popular with locals & tourists alike with live music being played in the bar most nights. Offering all modern features a guest expects today, Madison's has an established reputation for great food, fine wines, amazing cocktails and fabulous entertainment all under the one roof.
  • Ryan's Bar & Restaurant [76], 116-118 Lisburn Rd, Tel: 9050 9850. The emphasis in Ryan's is on providing good food, good value and great service. The ground floor provides an informal & comfortable venue for craic & conversation where you can partake of great all day bar food. One thing you have to be sure to try are Ryan's World Famous Chicken Wings - the recipe is a secret but it's no secret just how good they are!! Best washed down with a pint of the black stuff. Ryan's 75 seater restaurant offers a comfortable setting to enjoy traditional meals cooked to perfection. A rather intriguing & tasty choice are the 'Boxty' selections - a kind of irish potato pancake!
  • The Parador [77], 116-118 Ormeau Rd, Tel: 9050 9850. The Ormeau Road's Parador Hotel has been given a new lease of life with a complete facelift and a packed schedule of nightly entertainment. There is a mix of live traditional music on a Tuesday, Pub Quiz on a Wednesday and live Jazz every Thursday. The Jazz Session has been described as one of the best in the city which draws jazz lovers from far and wide. The Parador Hotel offers the best budget accommodation in the city starting at only £25 per night for a single room and £38 for a twin or double. There's no need to venture out looking for somewhere to eat either as the hotel provides a great selection of homemade food....
  • Auntie Annies Porterhouse, 44 Dublin Rd - A nice bar downstairs where punters get together and chat over a pint. Upstairs has regular gig nights, where some brilliant local bands can be heard.
  • Limelight/Katy Dalys/Spring and Airbrake [78], 17 Ormeau Ave. A great trio of adjacent venues that open up into each other for live music and alternative club nights. Tuesday nights are the most popular and can be very crowded; be sure to come before 10pm to make sure you get in. Famous bands can regularly be found gigging here, and there are always a at least a couple of live gigs a week.
  • The Rotterdam Bar [79], 52-54 Pilot St, Tel: 9074 6021. One of Belfast's oldest bars, with great personality and character. Features music every night.
  • Pats Bar, 19-22 Princes Dock St, Tel: 9074 4524. Right next door to the Rotterdam, this bar has also great character. What a lot of people do is go between the two pubs.
  • The Menagerie Bar, 130 University St, Tel: 9023 5678. This hidden away place near the Holiday Inn Express is a fun, atmospheric place. Dilapidated, but nice. Note: its popularity has declined a lot recently, not as funky as it used to be.

The following four bars are all beside each other in the Cathedral quarter. These are the best bars in Belfast and get a friendly alternative crowd:

  • The Spaniard, 3 Skipper Street, Tel: 9023 2448. A fantastic small friendly bar.
  • Duke of York [80], 7-11 Commercial Ct, Tel: 9024 1062. A very popular bar, check it out on Thursday where they have traditional music.
  • Whites Tavern, 2-4 Wincellar Entry. Founded in 1630, one of the many bars to claim to be Belfasts oldest. Cosy downstairs bar, upstairs has a jumping alternative disco on Friday and Saturday nights that is usually crammed to the roof.
  • Cafe Vaudeville [81], 25-39 Arthur St. A huge over-the-top, 1920's Paris themed restaurant and bar. The upstairs section features Northern Ireland's first "Bollinger bar".
  • Europa Piano Bar, Europa Hotel, Great Victoria St, Tel: 9027 1066. For the more mature drinker, this place is relaxed and offers great views of the Golden Mile below.
  • Empire Bar, 40 Botanic Ave, Tel: 9024 9276. This place, a former church, is a cosy bar downstairs, featuring traditional Irish music some nights. The upstairs section features live music and comedy.
  • Errigle Inn, 320 Ormeau Rd, Tel: 9064 1410. Unchanged since the 1930's, this bar is a popular authentic Belfast boozer. A great local bar, but a bit out of the way if you are only in Belfast for a short space of time.
  • Odyssey Complex [82], depending on your point of view its either a souless hole of a place populated with underage kiddies, or Belfast's entertainment mecca. It features about 3 bars, 6 restaurants, cinema, IMAX and a bowling alley. At weekends it gets a boozy slightly rough 'beautiful people' crowd. The best place to go to if you want girls in short skirts and guys who look like they're auditioning for a boy band.
  • The Cloth Ear and The Bar [83], 35-39 Waring St, Tel: 9023 4888. The Cloth Ear is The Merchant Hotel’s comfortable public bar. The warm and welcoming interior provides the ideal environment to relax and enjoy oneself in style. Combining both modern and traditional elements with a healthy dose of the eccentric. For example, the many unique items of vintage and antique clothing, the wooden moose and deer heads and the classic 1930’s – 1950’s sheet music that adorn the walls. Alternatively, go next door to the Merchant Hotel's own classic cocktail bar, simply named “The Bar”. The Victorian Grandeur of the building is abundantly evident, with its ornate ceilings, silk damask walls, antique Baccarat chandeliers and a cocktail list to which all the superlatives apply. Also home to possibly the world's most expensive coctail at £750 a go!
  • Robinsons Bar, Great Victoria St, right next to the Crown Bar, and opposite the Europa Hotel. Has tradional music every day in the back bar (Fibber Magees).
  • The Hatfield House, 130 Ormeau Rd. About as far from a tourist trap as one could possibly get. Located on the Ormeau Road, within walking distance from Botanic Avenue. Go to the Hatfield for an undiluted local experience - this is a real Irish pub, but be forewarned, it is very likely you will be the only tourist in the place. Very popular with a young crowd on weeknights and always busy on match days when Gaelic sports are shown on the big screen. Live music most nights.
  • Kellys Cellars [84], 30-32 Bank St, just off castle street. Has traditional music at weekends. Another place with a claim to Belfasts oldest bar title.
  • Maddens Bar situated beside Castlecourt Shopping Centre in the Old Smithfield Square. Has traditional music at the weekends, gets an intellectual political crowd. Don't freak if you have to press the buzzer for entry, its a leftover from the troubles days, the place is quite safe.
  • Note:Maddens and Kellys can be tricky to find so don't be scared to ask for directions.
  • Clements Coffee, 4 Donegall Square W, Castle St, 37-39 Rosemary St, 66 Botanic Ave, 139 Stranmillis Rd, 342 Lisburn Rd. Another reason why Starbucks Coffee have yet to make much progress in Belfast, largely due to the popularity of this Belfast coffee chain, which only sells fair-trade coffee. Bagels, sandwiches, cakes, soups and snacks are all reasonably priced.  edit
  • Common Grounds, 12 -24 University Ave, 9032 6589. Fresh soups, chunky sandwiches, divine cakes and frequent live music or poetry reading events. This bright yet cosy café (underneath a church hall, but don't let that put you off) has great food, tea and coffee, and a large room to the rear for events. A portion of each month's profits go to help a community project or charity in the third world.  edit
  • Grand Opera House, Great Victoria Street, Booking Tel: 9024 1919. A fine Victorian building, which showcases large productions, both local and touring.
  • The Lyric Theatre, 55 Ridgeway St, Tel: 9038 108. This smaller theatre has excellent local plays. Currently closed for refurbishment.
  • Lagans Backpackers, 121 Fitzroy Ave. This small hostel is good for meeting other travellers and you can have a lot of fun there. If you are there when owner William has a barbecue then you are sure to have fun.
  • Belfast International Youth Hostel [85], 22-32 Donegal Rd, off Sandy Row, Tel: 9031 5435. A good HI hostel near Shaftesbury Sq. Rates range from £9.50 for a bed in a shared dorm to £22 for a single room. This hostel has internet access and a great breakfast restaurant with vast range of meals between 7AM-11AM including an innovative school-kid type take away lunch pack for those who are on the road.
  • Arnies Backpackers, 63 Fitzwilliam St, Tel: 9024 2867. A small independent hostel, with a good atmosphere and good location. Rates from £8.
  • The Ark Hostel, 18 University St, Tel: 9032 9626 [86]. Another small independent hostel, between University Rd and Botanic Ave. Rooms in near-by apartments also available to rent by the week and month.
  • Travelodge [87], 15 Brunswick St, Tel: 0870 1911687. Part of the national chain of high value low frills motel-cum-hotels. Unusually brilliant central location for a Travelodge, and a popular base for the Easyjet weekenders who want to fall off the Airport bus at Europa and make the most of their time in the city's bars. Book ahead and online for 'Saver' rooms from £26. Just behind the Crown Liquor Saloon, and less than five minutes walk from the Europa Buscentre and Great Victoria St Station.
  • Day's Hotel [88], 40 Hope St, Tel: 9024 2494. One advantage of staying in this place is that you don't have to look at it. The building seems to have taken the design of a suburban house and stretched it upwards by twelve storeys. However, there are usually great deals to be had online (rooms from £65) and the location is good: right next to the side entrance of Great Victoria Street Station and the Europa Buscentre, and just around the corner from the Europa. The colourful kerbstones of the loyalist Sandy Row are just a few feet away in the other direction, however tourists need not be intimidated. A good value hotel, one step up from a Travelodge.
  • Malone Lodge Belfast [89], 60 Eglantine Ave, Malone Rd, Tel: +44 (0) 28 9038 8060.
  • Hilton Belfast [90] 4 Lanyon Pl. Tel: 02890277000. A luxurious Belfast hotel located next to the Waterfront Hall, or take a five minute walk into Belfast's new Victoria Square Shopping Center, stay in a recently refurbished guest room , executive Room or stay in one of the suites. Have a drink in the recently refurbished bar, Cables or have something to eat in the restaurant, Sonoma . Rooms from £100 per room per night, 5 min from Oddyssey Arena and Pavilion. Popular with conferences and many famous singers stay.
  • Europa Hotel [91], Great Victoria St, Tel: 9027 1066. A Belfast landmark in itself, the Europa is famous for having been bombed more times than any other hotel in any other city. Raucous events in the popular ballroom are more likely to disturb you than car bombs now, but it's comforting to know that the hotel (Northern Ireland's largest) has been built to withstand both. It's location could not be better: beside Great Victoria St train station and the Europa Buscentre, across from the Crown Liquor Saloon and next door to the Belfast Grand Opera House. The rooms are comfortable, but increasingly outclassed by more modern arrivals in the city. Doubles from around £100, but why not treat yourself to one of the few Presidential Suites in Northern Ireland that can rightly claim the name: Bill Clinton has stayed in it twice. Popular with business folk, politicians and package tourists.
  • Radisson SAS Hotel [92], 3 Cromac Pl (The Gasworks), off the Ormeau Rd, Tel: 9043 4065. One of Belfast's most modern hotels, the Radisson doesn't quite feel comfortable in it's over landscaped and over designed site. Despite the rather non-committal exterior, the hotel is very plush and very modern inside, with a competent restaurant and attractive bar. Its location is very typical of Belfast: a ten minute walk from City Hall, but a ten minute walk through the windswept commercial streets that host Belfast's red light district. But if you're staying here, you're probably on business, so taking taxis won't be a big problem. Check online for the confusing types of rooms on offer; suite 7 is dubbed as the largest (60 square metres) anywhere in Belfast.
  • Malmaison Belfast [93], 34-38 Victoria St, Tel: 9022 0200. Condé Nast Traveller called it a 'Hot New Hotel' when it opened in 2005, and Belfast's upwardly mobile trend setters went crazy for the opulent bar and restaurant. Fashionably bold and different, and occupying a beautifully restored building that makes the Radisson look business-class dull and the Europa look like a monolith. No word on the rooms, but it's got a great location close to the increasingly popular night time hub of the Cathedral Quarter, and is a short walk from the Waterfront Hall. A serious contender for turning Belfast into a honeymoon location. Perfect for a romantic and/or dirty weekend away.
  • Merchant Hotel [94], 35-39 Waring St (Cathedral Quarter), Tel: 90234888. The Merchant is an intimate, sumptuous, five star standard hotel. It was opened in April 2006 following an extensive conversion of the old Ulster Bank Headquarters in Waring Street. The architectural grandeur of the exterior and the opulence of the interior with its custom made furniture and carefully chosen antiques, demand an excellence of service and warmth of welcome, that immediately sets guests at ease with an ambiance that embodies luxury and comfort around the clock. Definitely worth the expense.
  • Madison's Hotel [95], 59-63 Botanic Ave, Tel: 9050 9800. Set amidst the bustling Botanic Avenue this rather sexy boutique hotel is just a stones throw away from Belfast City Centre, Queens University & Botanic Gardens. The hotel has an excellent restaurant serving early morning breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. The main bar in Madison's is popular with locals & tourists alike with live music being played in the bar most nights. Offering all modern features a guest expects today, Madison's has an established reputation for great food, fine wines, amazing cocktails and fabulous entertainment all under the one roof.

Stay safe

Belfast's reputation as a dangerous city is often exaggerated, a recent study by the United Nations International Crime Victimisation Survey (ICVS) shows that Northern Ireland has one of the lowest crime rates in the industrialised and developed world, only behind Japan. The majority of incidents are committed by local people against local people, unsurprisingly following religious, sectarian or political differences. Tourists are outside this culture, and should not be very concerned. As with any city, it pays to be careful, and to always be aware of your surroundings. Do not flash valuables or money, or walk around reading your guidebook or map. If you need directions, ask in any shop or bar.

There are areas in Belfast which have been scarred by trouble in the past. Though these areas are largely safe to visit, it is important to be aware of where you are. In nationalist areas of the city, it would be foolish to wear a Glasgow Rangers, England or Northern Ireland football jersey. In unionist areas, wearing Glasgow Celtic, Republic of Ireland and Gaelic Football (GAA) jerseys would almost certainly lead to trouble. Though this is unlikely to affect tourists, it is best to avoid wearing such things as souvenir shirts or hats (anything green with 'Ireland' written on it) in unionist areas.

  • The City Centre is generally a safe area and is also regarded as a neutral zone. Avoid leaving the main streets at night and try not to venture into dimly lit streets.
  • North Belfast is not usually on the tourist trail but is becoming increasingly popular with the more adventurous traveller. Tiger's Bay is a unionist enclave which is generally safe during the day but should be avoided at night. The New Lodge, a nationalist area, is similarly patchy and probably best avoided altogether. The Antrim Road (including Carlisle Circus) and Shore Road areas are best avoided at night. The Limestone Road is an interface (on one side is a nationalist area, the other a unionist enclave) and should be avoided at night due to occasional violence. It is best to avoid the nationalist Ardoyne area at night, especially the interface area which links it with the Crumlin Road and Shankill areas of the city.
  • West Belfast is perfectly safe and generally tourist-friendly during the day as long as you don't venture too far from the main roads. Do not venture off the Falls Road at night. The Shankill Road itself is best avoided at night. The nationalist Turf Lodge estate in Andersonstown is best avoided altogether. Falls Park and the area around it is dimly lit at night and is best avoided. The Crumlin Road is a unionist area and is generally safe during the day but not at night.
  • South Belfast is the most affluent part of the city and is generally trouble free. Student night life can lead to the odd altercation outside the bars and clubs on Bradbury Place at night, but this is quite rare. Sandy Row is a unionist neighbourhood that would probably be best avoided at night, but is perfectly safe during the day but is usually very quiet. The unionist Village area which lies between the Lisburn Road and Boucher Road is not generally regarded as safe, and is best to avoid day or night. The nationalist Holylands and Ormeau Road areas do not deserve their reputations as trouble spots as they are generally both very quiet, other than the occasional student party.
  • East Belfast is a predominantly unionist, working class district which suffers from the same social problems as similar areas in other cities in Britain and Ireland. The Newtownards Road is generally safe and well lit at night. One potential flashpoint is the interface with the nationalist Short Strand neighbourhood. Though fairly well kept and safe during the day, it is best to avoid this area at night.

Perhaps more importantly, it is not advisable to make any overtly political statements about Northern Ireland, even if you think that your comments will align with the views of the people to whom you're making them. Otherwise, ask locals for advice and enjoy the hospitality of the majority of Belfast people.

Racism

Northern Ireland is notorious as being one of the most racist areas in Europe, though visitors to the city will rarely see any evidence of this. The Monitoring Group [96] reports that racist attacks on people of Asian and black origin are a third higher here than they are in England and Wales. Racist attacks on children doubled between 1996 and 1999

Contact

There are free internet kiosks throughout Belfast which allow anyone to browse the internet. Here you can find up-to-date travel information and timetables. Kiosk locations

Media

Television

Northern Ireland receives the same basic package of national television and radio services as the rest of the United Kingdom, with regional variations on the BBC channels and UTV. UTV carries most of ITV-1's national programming, but is branded as UTV. It is the last remaining television channel in Britain to feature a live, on camera announcer introducing the evening's programming; usually the effervescent Julian Simmons. To get an understanding of what is happening, you'll find high quality regional news programming on BBC One at 1.30PM, 6.30PM and 10.30PM and on UTV at 6PM.

  • BBC One Northern Ireland [97]
  • BBC Two Northern Ireland [98]
  • UTV [99] (formerly "Ulster Television")
  • Channel 4 [100]
  • five [101]

Depending on geographic location and the availability of a signal, you may also receive stations from broadcasters in the Republic of Ireland.

  • RTÉ One [102] (the main RTÉ national station, broadcast primarily from Dublin)
  • RTÉ Two [103] (the secondary RTÉ national station, formerly "Network 2")
  • TV3 [104] (independent commercial broadcaster)
  • TG4 [105] (National Irish Language station)
  • RTÉ offers good coverage on the North side of the Border too.

Radio

Local radio stations include:

  • Belfast Citybeat [106] - City centre music station.
  • U105 [107] - Music and talk station operated by UTV.
  • BBC Radio Ulster [108] - Music and talk station operated by the BBC.
  • Cool FM [109] - City centre music station, available throughout Northern Ireland.
  • Féile FM [110] - West Belfast community radio based on the Falls Road.
  • QueensRadio [111] - Small university station available in South Belfast.

Regional variations of shows on the national BBC Radio One [112] and the excellent Across the Line [113] on BBC Radio Ulster promote local music, and can be listened to online. These are a great way to find out about forthcoming concerts and gigs. Like television from south of the border, there are a number of Irish republic radio broadcasts which tend to spill over into Northern Ireland such as Today FM and RTÉ 2FM.

Press

Locally published newspapers include:

  • The Belfast Telegraph [114]
  • The Irish News [115]
  • The News Letter
  • Translink [116] operate all public transport (Northern Ireland has been spared the process of privatisation that has made Britain's public transport system so confusing to visitors). Most bus and train services operate out of Belfast, so the city is a perfect base to explore the province.
  • On Sundays, Northern Ireland Railways [117] offer the Day Tracker, a £5 ticket (£12 for a family of two adults and two children) which offers unlimited travel all day across the NIR network.
  • The Giant's Causeway and the scenic north coast is easily accessible by public train and bus from Belfast. See Translink's website for fare and schedule information. If you have a car take the M2 to Newtownabbey, then the A8 to Larne. From Larne follow the astonishingly beautiful A2 road right along the coast. Leave yourself enough time for a day to meander up to the Giant's Causeway, stopping en route in Cushendall, Cushendun and Ballycastle. A speedier return to Belfast can be made inland from the coast along the A26.
  • For those who prefer the package option, Mini Coach [118] runs a Giant's Causeway day tour, departing from the Belfast International Youth Hostel (Tel: 028 9032 4733). The standard tour (£16) includes the Giant's Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and a very brief photo stop at Dunluce Castle. For an extra £3.50, a tour of Bushmills Distillery is included.
  • Bangor is an attractive seaside town with more than its fair share of good fish and chip shops, and makes for a good day out from the city on a sunny day. Trains from Belfast Great Victoria Street, Botanic and Belfast Central take about twenty minutes.
  • The picturesque village of Hillsborough in County Down is easily accessible by car or frequent Ulsterbus services from the Europa Buscentre.
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

There is more than one meaning of Belfast discussed in the 1911 Encyclopedia. We are planning to let all links go to the correct meaning directly, but for now you will have to search it out from the list below by yourself. If you want to change the link that led you here yourself, it would be appreciated.


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Proper noun

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Wikipedia

Belfast

  1. A seaport in and the capital of Northern Ireland.
  2. A town in the State of Maine, USA.

Translations


Estonian

Proper noun

Belfast

  1. Belfast (capital of Northern Ireland)

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|The city from Lower Braniel Road.]] Belfast (Irish: Béal Feirste) is the capital of Northern Ireland. It is the second largest city in Ireland, after Dublin. About 270,000 people live in the city. It became capital of Northern Ireland when Northern Ireland was created in 1921. A lot of famous ships were built by the Belfast shipyard Harland and Wolff. In 1911 they built the RMS Titanic.









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