Guide to Belfast
Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, is a city that can lay claim to some amazing inventions and a rich history that has been turbulent at times. It has played its part in the industrial revolution and was once the epicentre of ship-building where the ill-fated Titanic was built.
Over recent years the city has re-invented itself. The once forgotten waterfront is now home to museums and art galleries and the historic Cathedral Quarter is home to trendy wine bars and restaurants.
10 facts about Belfast
1) Northern Ireland was created in 1921 when the British parliament partitioned Northern and Southern Ireland. Southern Ireland became the Republic of Ireland, a separate country
2) One third of the population of Northern Ireland resides in Belfast
3) Cavehill, one of the hills that overlooks Belfast, is believed to have inspired author Jonathan Swift’s sleeping giant in his Gulliver’s Travels novel
4) The hit TV series ‘Game of Thrones’ is filmed in and around Belfast
5) Actor Liam Neeson was born in Belfast
6) The doomed RMS Titanic, the ship that struck an iceberg and sunk on its maiden voyage, was designed and built in Belfast
7) The tyre was invented in Belfast by John Wood Dunlop in 1887
8) Women could hold any office at Belfast’s Queen’s University 12 years before they were permitted to study at Oxford
9) Rock band Led Zeppelin’s famous track ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was first performed in public at the Ulster Hall
10) The iconic Albert Clock is Belfast’s answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa – the structure leans 1.25 metres to the left.
Places to visit
Belfast’s rich history is well documented at the many museums in the City. The place to start is the Titanic Belfast, crowned the world’s leading tourism attraction, the museum is dedicated to the infamous RMS Titanic where you will learn about Belfast, when it was the epicentre of ship building, and how the Titanic was construction and the story of its doomed maiden voyage.
The Ulster Museum will give you an insight into how the city has evolved. In fact, if you want to learn about the city's history and sometimes turbulent past take a Black Cab Tour to visit the political murals, memorials and the four mile-long Peace Line barriers that separated the Protestants and the Catholics.
These days, visitors from all over the world write messages of peace on the barriers as a reminder of a more positive future.
Cavehill, which is nicknamed Napoleon’s nose, is the place to head for a birds eye view of the city day and night. On a good day you can see as far as the Isle of Man and Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh. The hill is also thought to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Swift imagined that Cavehill resembled the shape of a sleeping giant safeguarding the city.
Image courtesy of 54 Degree North
What and where to eat
Traditional Northern Irish specialities you should try include the Ulster Fry. This is a hefty breakfast consisting of griddled soda bread and potato bread along with traditional components of an English breakfast, including bacon, eggs, sausages and a tomato. The Coffee House Bistro is renowned for serving one of the biggest Ulster Frys in town.
Irish stew is an aromatic casserole which includes chunks of steak, potatoes, carrots and onions, that is served with warm, buttered bread. Visit the popular Darcy’s Belfast to treat yourself to an excellent version of this classic dish.
Potatoes make up a big part of the Irish diet and Boxty a potato pancake, fried with spring onions is another famous dish to try. Head to Holohan’s Pantry to sample a seafood or steak-in-Guinness boxty and a host of other Irish favourites.
Once you’ve filled your belly, be sure to leave room for an Irish craft beer, whiskey or pint of Guinness at one of Belfast’s excellent pubs. The ornate Crown Liquor Saloon dates back to 1826 and makes for a wonderfully atmospheric setting with its stained glass, polished marble and original gaslight lamps.
More unique bars and pubs can be found throughout the bohemian Cathedral Quarter of the city, and discovering them is all part of the fun.
Things to do in Belfast
Take in the top sights with a ride on the Belfast City Sightseeing tour bus. You can hop on and off this tour at any time during the journey, which winds its way around some of the iconic landmarks of the city. Expect to see the impressive Titanic Belfast museum, the Parliament Buildings, the bustling St. George’s indoor market, the leaning Albert Clock tower, and the Gothic splendour of Queen’s University.
Fans of HBO’s award-winning TV series, Game of Thrones will be interested to know that much of the filming takes place in the Belfast area. Step into the story with Game of Thrones Tours where you can head north of the city to explore the spectacular coastal rock formations of the Giant’s Causeway where the Iron Islands’ scenes were filmed. Alternatively, choose to journey south to the atmospheric Tollymore Forest and Castle Ward Estate, which appear in the TV series as Winterfell.
When it comes to evening entertainment, Belfast offers a diverse arts and culture scene to satisfy a variety of tastes. Music lovers should check the listings at Ulster Hall where a wide range of acts from rock and pop to classical and comedy take to the stage on a nightly basis. Those that prefer an evening at the theatre should visit the Lyric Theatre, where ‘Taken’ star Liam Neeson first performed.