Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland. Belfast natives have a rich history of commerce and prosperity, as well as violence and heartache. In recent decades, Belfast has become a modern city, establishing itself as a popular weekend-break destination. While there is still tension between its two communities, that tension rarely erupts into violence -- and is certainly a world away from the long, slow war that was waged here during the second half of the 20th century. (For a very basic explanation on what's changed, see: What is the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland?) Emerging from this shadow, Northern Ireland's capital has become a vibrant city, where a burgeoning restaurant scene is flourishing alongside lively pubs, bars and clubs. Attractions such as the Titanic Quarter and Belfast Cathedral are drawing large numbers of visitors to the city. Others are coming for the shopping in centres such as the Victoria Square and CastleCourt. Various tours take tourists to see the Belfast murals, or to see the famous H&W ship cranes that dominate the city's skyline. This mixture of shopping, theatres, galleries and live music are making Belfast an emerging and attractive city destination.
Places to Visit in Belfast
- Belfast City Hall
- Titanic Quarter
- The Belfast Wall Murals
- Albert Clock Tower
- Botanic Gardens
- Crown Bar
- Ulster Hall
- Linen Hall Library
- Victoria Square Shopping Centre
- Castlecourt Shopping Centre
A Potted History of Belfast
Although the site of Belfast has been occupied since the Bronze Age, the modern cities origins date to the 1600's, when both English and Scottish settlers arrived in the small settlement of Beal Fierste, meaning 'sandbank on the river mouth'.
- The land at that time owned and controlled by the ancient O'Neill clan from Ulster
- This, however, was the Plantation period, when native Irish inhabitants were uprooted and replaced with Protestant settlers by decree of the English crown
- The Official Charter for the city was granted in 1888
Of all the cities and towns in Ireland, Belfast was the the most fully engaged in the Industrial Revolution. Its population doubled every decade, and Belfast became the largest linen producing city in the world. Other thriving industries included
- Rope making
- Trade and shipping
The influence of Queen Victoria upon the city is apparent. She founded Queen's College, which opened in 1849. She is memorialized all around the city by various monuments and in the names of many buildings and streets.
More recent history focuses on Belfast's central role in the Troubles - from 1974 until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Evidence of these embattled years can be seen in the Belfast wall murals and the peace line that runs between East and West Belfast.
Today's population stands at roughly 300,000. Since the signing of the Good Friday Peace Agreement, Belfast has become the focus of revitalization projects aimed at rejuvenating this historical city aimed at increasing prosperity and growing tourist industry.
Belfast city harbour. Image by Etrusia UK.