Nestled in a valley and bordered to the east by the Irish Sea, the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast, is a vibrant and lively Celtic city that lives up to its nickname of “The Hibernian Rio.” Situated on the River Lagan, the pedestrian-friendly city enjoys a focal point in Donegal Square where the architecturally stunning City Hall dominates the skyline, and elsewhere Victorian and Edwardian architecture can be enjoyed by visitors on foot.
Belfast’s glorious seafaring history and place at the forefront of the industrial revolution is evident in the greatest shipyard in Great Britain, where the Titanic was built. The city’s name is derived from the Irish “beal feirste” which means “at the mouth of the sandpit” and nightlife, arts, festivals, dining and shopping are all in abundance in the city. The sea front in particular is now pedestrianised and visitors can enjoy the best of Irish culture in street musicians and theatre against the backdrop of the Irish Sea.
Standing 120 metres above sea level, Belfast Castle offers breathtaking and panoramic views of the city, bay and surrounding areas. Belfast Castle was the ancestral home of the Chichester, later Donegall, family who were descendants of Arthur Chichester who planted the land that was to become the city in the 1600s. The history of the castle, and city, are celebrated in the Cave Hill Visitor Centre in the castle grounds.
Ulster Museum, set over 8000 square metres of grounds, is likely to take up a full day, so extensive and fascinating are its archaeology, ethnography, art, history and natural sciences exhibits. The collections portray and celebrate the history, culture, artistic, scientific and industrial achievements: in short, the story of the Irish people from their ancient roots up until modern day. The museum houses both permanent and temporary collections, and regular, creatively planned tours are offered to distil some of the wonders of the museum into palatable chunks.
For stunning hiberno-romanesque architecture, the Belfast Cathedral is worth a visit, and the exciting, interactive and interpretive St. Patrick Centre tells the story of Ireland’s patron saint, in his own words.
The Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park and City of Belfast International Rose Garden, in the southern outskirts of Belfast features an International Rose Exhibition, as well as gardens, walks, a children’s playground and live music concerts.
The Linen Hall Library was established in 1788 and boasts a collection of over 20,000 volumes of Irish literature and an enviable Robert Burns collection.
Things to do:
Belfast will never leave tourists wondering how to entertain themselves! Plenty of things to do and see exist in Belfast.
The world class Belfast Zoo features plenty of don’t-miss attractions, including the monkey park, reptile house and children’s playground.
Walking Tours of Belfast include The Old Town, Titanic Trail and the City Centre Walk.
The oldest covered market in Ireland, St George’s Market offers a range of fish and speciality foods that are unrivalled in Europe.
The world’s largest dry dock, Haarland and Wolfe, is where the Titanic was built and its famous cranes, Samson and Goliath, can be seen from all over the city.
At the The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum a fascinating insight into the history and the daily lives of Ulster people can be found.
The Home Front Heritage Centre features collections that portray the Belfast experience of the Second World War, and is also home to the museum of the Royal Ulster Rifles.
W5 is a world renowned innovative and interactive centre of science and technology exploration, with activities, exhibits and demonstrations to expand and intrigue minds of all ages.
Food & Drink:
If it is excellent food the tourist seeks, they won’t have to look far in Belfast.
Traditional pub fare in a historical atmosphere is to be found at Belfast’s most famous pub, the Crown Liquor Saloon in the heart of the historical district.
Altos was rated number one by Yahoo travel for stylish and contemporary cuisine, serving cutting-edge Mediterranean food and featuring an extensive wine list and speciality coffee choices.
The Gypsy Queen Vegetarian Restaurant is on of Europe’s premier vegetarian dining destinations. All dishes are GMO approved, and organic wherever possible.
For the cuisine enthusiast, Deane’s Restaurant is a high end, luxurious dining experience, featuring dishes created by one of Ireland’s top chefs.
Live music pubs are a staple of Belfast nightlife, including the Duke of York, Morrisons and at the docks, Pat’s Bar Princes.
Belfast Hotels & Accommodation:
As befitting a major European destination, a full range of accommodation options are available in Belfast. Visitors can chose from cosy, family run bed and breakfast establishments, a variety of self catering options and luxury five star hotels to suit every taste, set of requirements and budget.
Ravenhill Guest House
The Crescent Townhouse
The Malone Lodge Hotel
The Park Avenue Hotel
The Stormont Hotel
The Chimney Corner Hotel
Jurys Inn Belfast
Nightlife is one of Belfast’s main attractions, with revellers enjoying everything from world class dance clubs to traditional pubs. The Potthouse, opened in November 2004 was built on the site of Belfast’s first pottery factory and comprises The Potthouse Bar & Grill, Sugar Nighclub, which plays Top 40, House and classic Disco, and the Soap Bar guestroom. The Fly and The Grill Room and Bar are also notable Belfast nightspots. The Movie House Cinema on the Golden Mile offers the latest cinema releases, as well as arthouse and independent films, and Ireland’s only 3D and 2D large format cinema, the SheridanIMAX is located on Queen’s Quay. Fantastic shopping is available in the city centre Donegall Place and the Waterfront Concert Hall hosts concerts and music tours from all over the world.
Belfast enjoys an enviable position at the forefront of Hibernian culture, scenery and history. With an ideal and unique combination of Celtic culture and British industrial influence, Belfast is an ideal seaside destination for family friendly events, educational and historical attractions and a nightlife that is second to none throughout Europe. In common with much of the British Isles, Belfast experiences a temperate and often wet climate, but is protected by the surrounding mountains of Divis Mountain, Black Mountain and Cave Hill.