Photo by Metro Centric licensed under CC
Belfast has undergone a dramatic re-birth in recent years and is fast growing a positive reputation for its vibrant culture, popular events and beautiful Victorian architecture.
Belfast these days is a dynamic city, with a growing city centre and a great revival taking place in the dockside area, similar to what’s been seen in Bristol - another city based around the sea and trade.
With an interesting history to explore - from the textile industry to tobacco imports, and of course the famous Harland and Wolff shipbuilders - a tour around Belfast will really lift the lid on its previous life and is well worth doing.
There are great hotels available to suit all budgets, and some of the most upmarket establishments have played host to presidents, rock stars and sports people over the years.
Belfast's main shopping and nightlife scene is in the Cathedral Quarter, and most of the city's main attractions are within walking distance. You can take walking tours around the city, or the Red Bus Tour for 90 minutes which allows you to hop on and off to take in places of interest. There is of course the option of a private taxi tour too.
The other areas of the city are Gaeltacht, Queens and Titanic, the latter being home to the fantastic Titanic Belfast monument and tourist attraction.
It is impossible to ignore the signs of the troubles in the Gaeltacht Quarter, the Falls Road and the Shanklin area, which are best visited as part of an organised tour. Many visitors will go to see the political murals and wall.
Things to do
There really is a huge variety of activities for young and old alike. Belfast Zoo and the Titanic Belfast for starters, upmarket restaurants, smart shops, along with great theatre of all kinds. There are also fabulous golf courses and fishing hotspots around the area, which have always been popular with enthusiasts ‘in the know’.
The food scene in Belfast is comparable to that of any major European city; as is the music, with Irish music on offer at pubs and clubs around the city. Robinson’s in the city centre is one of the best known, and the famous Crown pub in the Cathedral Quarter is a wonderful slice of Victorian history, with cosy booths and traditional stained glass windows.
The Stormont Parliament Building is another interesting place to visit and it is located within a public park. If you wish to actually enter the building and see the Great Hall, you must organise this well before you go to Belfast because you need to be sponsored by a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. You can however enjoy the park at leisure and see the monument of Carson, take the glen walk and stroll along Prince of Wales Avenue.
The Titanic building, built of hull-shaped sections, is in the centre of Belfast and houses the Titanic exhibition. It is located where the RMS Titanic was built and tracks the creation of the ship through to the tragic maiden voyage and the final recovery from the ocean floor.
It’s a well-organised exhibition, with informed staff and good access for all, including wheelchair users. The whole experience takes about 2 hours, possibly slightly longer, with a cup of tea a good reward at the end. The trip round does evoke all kinds of emotions and it's likely to be the highlight for many people on their visit to the city.
You can reach Belfast quite easily by air or sea. Flights arrive at the city's 2 airports from most major airports in the UK. George Best Belfast City Airport is approximately 3 miles from the city centre and Belfast International is only 19 miles from the city centre. You can also take a ferry across the Irish Sea from Liverpool or Cairnryan, which is a relaxing way to start your holiday.
For more details of attractions and visiting Northern Ireland, visit the Discover Ireland website.
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