Introduction to Belfast
Belfast is a coastal city and Northern Ireland’s capital and has become a sought-after destination in recent years, having successfully come out of the troubled period which began in the late 60s and lasted for thirty years. These days, it’s a trendy place to enjoy a city break. Hotels in Belfast are excellent and although the city has a reputation for being a party town, there’s also much of cultural interest on offer, notably its maritime heritage. Famous for being the city which built the Titanic, there are frequent reminders of the ill-fated ocean liner in Belfast, and in 2012 (the centenary of Titanic’s demise) a huge festival is planned to commemorate the building of the doomed ship.
Learn about Belfast’s maritime history, including the Titanic
Belfast boasts many interesting cultural sites, including Belfast Castle, which is in fact a Victorian stately home in the Scottish Baronial style, with fabulous views from its commanding position on Cave Hill. Ulster Museum, Northern Ireland’s national museum and art gallery in one, is not to be missed; a star exhibit is the treasure that washed ashore during the Spanish Armada.
St Anne’s Cathedral is worth a visit, while the impressive City Hall offers guided tours and also has a memorial to the victims of Titanic in its grounds. The Belfast Zoo is a fun family day out; it’s a ‘cageless’ zoo housing 140 species of animals, the majority endangered. Don’t miss the prairie dogs, who tunnel under much of the park and essentially run free.
If you’re in the mood for a little shopping, head for St George’s Market, a Victorian covered market opened in 1896 and the last in the region. Round off a day of sightseeing with a visit to the Crown Liquor Saloon, Belfast’s most famous and popular public house. Owned by the National Trust, it is as noted for its historical and continental interior as it is for its drinking and dining.
Eating and drinking in Belfast
Whatever your taste or budget, Belfast has something for you, from continental-style cafes to Michelin star restaurants. The Cathedral Quarter is the main focus for the Belfast social scene, though the Docks area is also a good place to find authentic Irish pubs. Traditional Irish cuisine is similar to that of Britain as a whole; stews are especially common. Make sure you try the so-called ‘Ulster Fry’, a popular local dish consisting of sausages, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, soda bread and potato bread, which are fried together in a pan.
Belfast is cool and rainy all year round, with the greatest rainfall between August and January. Average temperatures are around 18 degrees Celsius in summer and 6 degrees in winter. The city’s coastal position means that extreme weather is rare, though a little snow or sleet can be expected during winter.
Belfast can be visited at any time of year. St Patrick’s Day in March is a fun time to go, with a carnival and open air concert. Visit during May to September for Music in the Parks, a series of concerts with a range of musical genres.
There are numerous budget flights to Belfast
from the UK. Belfast International Airport receives both international and domestic flights and is located around 30km from the city centre. The journey to the centre is just 25 minutes by bus or taxi. Belfast City Airport receives mainly domestic flights and is just 3km north of the centre.