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Belfast gets a lot of bad press, because when there is violence, it's the kind that makes better news stories. Compared with anyother city though, the actual crime rate is quite low, and Belfast has been ranked as the 2nd safest city in the world to visit. It has plenty of beautiful scenery, lovely people, and plenty of family activities. You'll also find it much less expensive than a holiday in the south. Its hard to recommend hotels where you live and since I haven't stayed in them, I can only go by what I've heard, although my husband once worked in the Europa, and says it is absolutely top notch. At any rate, the Europa is meant to be among the most luxurious hotels anywhere, and if you can afford it, I don't think you'll be disappointed. Going down a bit, Jury's and Days Inn are meant to be quite good. The Backpackers Youth Hostel would be the cheapest accommodation, although its only within a couple pounds of many B&B's. It is also a good place to stop off for information on tours to attractions in other parts of the country, or general tourist information. You will find the staff both knowledgable and happy to help. If staying anywhere outside of town, self catering holiday cottages are apt to be your best value for a family holiday. My focus on activities is for families, or groups with children, I don't drink or care much for night clubs so I'm not the best to give advice there,and I know others have reviewed the night life and adult interests better than I possibly could. Belfast Zoo - a small zoo but very enjoyable. Of course you wont see as many different species as some of the larger zoos, but it has a nice a variety and a decent amount of space for each animal. It is generally not at all crowded, and the children can really get a good a view of the animals for as long as they like without jostling crowds ( the exception being Easter Week when its packed). The zoo is built on a very steep hill which may cause difficulties for the elderly or infirm. I believe it is meant to be wheelchair accessible but looks quite difficult.Admission is £8.50 for adults and £4.50 for children. You can pack your own picnic lunch if you wish. W-5 - Who What Why When and Where. They have a number of activities aimed at younger children, from a house to build withfoam bricks and slates, and then of course tear apart, to a waterway with balls, musical games, sand, large wooden railway, various toys etc... even a miniature Tesco to play shopping in. For the older ones they have an interactive video game of football, volleyball and recycling. We never did get the recycling one down, but football and volleyball are brilliant, even if you do look like complete idiots to anyone passing by as you leap and jump for invisible balls. The bottle rocket is also great fun, you just pump in enough air and watch it blast off. Then there is the tornado maker - make a vortex of steam, the pulley seats, pull yourself up using pulleys, or a child can sit in them while a parent pulls them up, a tug of war demonstrating leverage as one side pulls from the top of the lever and the other from the bottom and so much more. They also host temporary exhibits. the best ever was the dinosaur exhibit, but they have also had the Nutcracker,Wind and Waves, Nature, and currently an exhibit on animation featuring Wallace and Grommit. Prices: £7.50 for adults, £5.50 for children over 3. Pack lunches are fine and tables are provided. Cavehill Park - the adventure park costs just over £1.00 per child, but is well worth it, more play equipment then any otherpark and well maintained. Stormount Park: Another great adventure park, but this time free,also plenty of trails and hiking areas, and of course Stormount itself. Ulster Museum - A good child friendly museum, they give children a map with stickers for a scavenger hunt on entry. There is a toys room where children can try out toys from the past as well as try on costumes so bring your camera to snap old time photos. The Natural History room is also very good for youngsters with all kinds of hands on exhibits, a microscope, butterflies in cases, fossils they can touch, and even a window overlooking a huge bird feeding station.Admission is free. It is difficult to find parking but this can be walked to from Botanic train Station.This museum is closed Mondays. Dundonald Ice Bowl: Ice skating, bowling, softplay, crazy golf etc... plenty of fun. Outside Belfast: Lisburn Leisureplex, Lisburn, - should be classed as a waterpark, includes waterslides, pirate play area and lazy river. Wallace Park - The playground is newly built and absolutely brilliant. This is easily accessed from nearby Lisburn train station. Pickie Pool and Park, Bangor - great fun outdoor paddling pool and playpark free. Swan paddle boats and miniature train for small fee.Large funfair nearby in the summer. Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra (Bangor). The transport museum's main claim to fame is an extensive collection of steamtrains. A number of these are opened up so children can walk on board or onto the engine. They also have a number of antique vehicles and a small exhibition on the Titanic and flight. There is a children's play area but it is quite limited with only a few toys. The Folk Museum includes an entire of village of older homes, farms shops etc and covers a large tract of land. The Cultra train station is just outside the transport museum.You can bring packed lunches and picnic areas are provided. Admission: Adults £6.50 for one museum or £8.00 for both. Children ages 5 and over £4.00 for one museum £4.50 for both on the same day. Closed Mondays. Carrickfergus Castle, Carrickfergus - The children will have a great time exploring this castle and its very interesting foradults as well. There is a fee, but there often special exhibitions, like Knights and armour included in the summer. Exploris Aquarium, Portaferry - Basic aquarium and sealife centre. Highly recommend the small ferry from Strangford to Portaferry iftraveling from Belfast. Saves travel time and more fun. Northern Ireland Railway Preservation Society, Whitehead. Small museum, check website for excursion dates and details. Downpatrick and County Down Railway, Downpatrick - Steam train rides every weekend in summer, special trains for holidays,Christmas train with Santa ( absolutely brilliant) Halloween Spook train, Easter train etc... Highly recommended. A bit further away but well worth visiting: The Giants Causeway: This is a beautiful natural site of basalt columns rising from the sea. Scientists claim it was formed during an ancient volcanic eruption, but local legend says it was built by the giant Finn McCool. Day tours leave from the Backpacker's youth hostel, and I would highly recommend adding this to your itinerary. Also worth seeing are the Marble Arch Caves in Fermanagh, where you can travel by underground river to view the stalactite formations. Summary: Belfast is attracting more and more tourists for good reason. Its a lovely place to visit. (also reviewed on helium)
Hi, I have lived in Belfast all my life and only my very early years were ones of fear. If I described Belfast to you 30 years ago I think you would look at me and run, there were bombs and gun shootings. . .it was to dangerous to go out on to the bloody street! Now it's peaceful. . .no bombs or guns and it's safe to go out onto the street. Belfast is now a normal city, not big like London but certainly not small. The picture up above is of the city hall which is directly in the centre of the city, on a warm day every one (mainly students) love to go there and just chill out on the lovely grounds of the building. right now we have a Belfast eye as most call it. . . it's basically a much smaller version of the London eye but still big enough to get a great view of the whole city and that's just outside the city hall. ' The lagan' is an other feature of Belfast, that's the river we have. It flows the whole way through the city into the suburbs and back again, There's one part of the river in particular I love and that's the tow path part. The tow path is a beautiful walk which starts in the suburbs and goes the whole way out of the city and back. . . it's really peaceful . Then There's Victoria square which is a new shopping centre, a few shops like the house of Fraser can be extremely pricey, but it's a gorgeous building and and you can get this little lift right up to the top and there you can look all over the city at a glimpse. As you all know the Titanic was made in Belfast and the two Harald and wolf cranes helped to build it. There absolutely huge and there built into the ground for any other big projects. Shopping is a huge plus to this city you can just shop until you drop. . . With castle court, Victoria square and loads and loads of smaller shops like Clarks , River island , Next , TK maxx and hundreds more. . . your just spoilt for choice. Food and hospitality is an other thing that Belfast has a lots of with some of the top bars like café vaudeville , the merchant hotel and bar red. Also for a few weeks on the lead up to Christmas the continental market comes to the city hall. There people from all over the world like France , Spain , Italy , America ect And they all bring food , clothes loads of little things for you to buy. Most people are into there community and helping one and other which is really nice . . . But you do get odd few who are bad eggs. My opinion is that this city is great and you should give it a shot just for a few days Thanks for reading!!!!
Belfast City... Did you ever here the saying "don't judge a book by it's cover"? This is certainly on of these times you use that saying. Belfast has never been short of media space and newspaper headlines from Belfast to Sydney everyone had an opinion and a lot still do, but I have to wonder how many of these people have visited this City. Im not going to tell you all about the "troubles" it is now part of our past and a very important piece of our history but it is not going to give you a view on today's Belfast, so here's the lowdown on how to get here, things to do, places to see and so on! Getting here; Belfast is very accessible, where ever you are. Flying; With The Belfast City and International Airports you can get here now from most locations across Europe and Im guessing most of you reading this are from the UK mainland so from Glasgow, Newcastle, London and Southampton you can fly here and there are always cheap deals, if you can possibly fly from a London Airport (except Heathrow) you can usually get it at its cheapest. Aer Lingus and British Airways, although the best known of Irish and British airlines they are the most expensive with the best deals usually coming from Ryan Air, Easy Jet and Fly BE.com, but if you are coming don't just check my word have a look at all four as there can be some great specials on the first 2 now and again. From the airports there are free scheduled buses, every 20 minutes or so or if you prefer there will be a few taxis waiting. Boat; There are a few options to get here by boat, firstly there is The Norfolkline Ferry from Birkenhead just outside Liverpool. This is the "slow boat" and a sailing takes around 8 hours or so but the plus point is that its for next to nothing, around £25 pp as a foot passenger and that includes dinner on the day sailing and dinner and breakfast on the night sailings. Car fares range from £100 to £250 but there are a few different options so you would be best to check out www.norfolkline.com for further details. Stenaline is a very popular choice with sailings from Fleetwood to Larne and Stranraer to Belfast, Stena also operate 2 services from Holyhead to Dublin, a train or bus could then be caught from Dublin to Belfast. The other is P&O Irish ferries with sailings from Troon to Larne and Cairnryan to Larne. Train; If your coming by train there are regular services from Derry, which will call at Coleraine and Ballymena or The Dublin train that calls at Dundalk, Newry, Portadown, Lisburn and then Belfast. Check out http://www.translink.co.uk/ for more details of all the train times and offers to and from Belfast City. Road; With the new motorway connecting Dublin and Belfast it couldn't be better to get around, around 2 hours gets you from Belfast to Dublin and around an hour from Derry to Belfast. When you get here you will need somewhere to stay and Belfast has an abundance of hotels. Jury's Inn, Premier Inn, Days, Hilton, The Europa and many more. I would personally recommend the Jury's Inn as its bang smack in the centre 5 minutes from everything and its reasonable at around 90 quid per room. Belfast also has a few hostels, but not many and not really recommendable. There are a lot of B&B's also but these tend to be on the outskirts as opposed to inner city. Things to do; Where do I start and what are you after... City Hall is a magnificent building, dated and like some castle you would expect to see in vast countryside is planted band smack in the centre of Belfast, on hot days hundreds of people throng the gardens of City hall basking in sunshine. Situated just beside City Hall is "Norn Iorns" very own Belfast Eye, currently this is temporary but there are plans for it to become a permanent feature. Stormont Castle and the gardens, here at Stormont is the Northern Irish assembly and what a magnificent property, with acres upon acres of beautiful landscape all around and the Stormont Cricket Ground picturesquely sitting in the background for those who want pictures to remember this is the place. Titanic Quarter, with the amazing Harland and Wolf cranes watching over the Titanic Quarter will not be found wanting here, The Thompson Dock & Pumphouse where the famous Titanic was fitted out before heading to Southampton for the voyage can be visited at any time but if you want a guided tour its Wednesdays and weekends only. SS Nomadic sits here also, this ship was built along side the Titanic and also served in both World Wars and came back home to Belfast in 2006. There are also various boat and walking trips available around the Titanic Quarter to take you through the history of the Titanic. The Odyssey Arena, here you can catch the impressive Belfast Giants hockey side or if your lucky catch up with some great music acts from Oasis to Boyzone. The Odyssey is Belfast premier live venue with Darts, concerts, wrestling and horse shows played here all year round. Within the complex there are bars, restaurants, a cinema and many many activities for kids and to make it even better its within walking distance from the City Centre, around 15 minutes. If animals are your game Belfast Zoo is a must see, sitting in a mountain range it is unique, the only downside is that its all up hill, the panoramic views of the City underneath and across the Lough are well worth the admission price alone. There are a great selection of animals in the Zoo, from Bears to lions to penguins. I've been to Belfast Zoo four or five times and loved it every time. Your best bet is to get a bus to the zoo. Windsor Park, home of Northern Ireland's biggest club, Linfield and the national stadium were Northern Ireland famously defeated England with Healy scoring "that" goal. If you wish to find out more about local football Glentoran, Cliftonville, Crusaders and Donegal Celtic also ply their trade in Belfast, if GAA is more your thing, Casement Park the home of Antrim GAA is also here in Belfast and finally Ulster rugby is played at Ravenhill in Belfast, they are captained by Rory Best, a star performer in Ireland's recent six nations Grand Slam. You want to shop 'til you drop? With the famous Castlecourt right in the centre of the City hosting over 70 shops inside and also surrounded by hundreds of highstreet and local stores this is a shoppers heaven or is it...a short walk across the City will take you to Victoria Square, an amazing shopping centre stacked full of shops but it has an impressive feature that tops everything in the City Centre, "The Dome" rises high into the Belfast skyline and you can take a lift to the top and get views that astound you and if like me heights aren't your thing, you'll shoot down the steps in a jiffy! Vic Square also hosts eateries and of course a cinema. Going out; There are many places to go out in Belfast, Renshaws, The Botanic, Milk, MClub and Lavery's to name but a few, check out local listings and websites for the latest news on were to go. Getting Around; Belfast City is actually quite easy to walk around but outside City Hall is where all the buses sit and you will get a bus to wherever it is you need to go. There are 100's of taxis whizzing around Belfast also, but I do recommend licensed companies instead of black cabs, much cheaper. The Sightseeing Tour bus, with a drop on drop off service this takes you everywhere from the Murals in East and West Belfast to fantastic sights on the docks, there are various points around the City to get on this, but Jury's Inn is the usual start point. Thats my view on Belfast as I have seen it and from what I have done, I live 40 minutes from Belfast and come every chance I can, its a wonderful City, full of culture, nice people, good banter and steeped in a great history. Don't listen to the doubters.."ooo Belfast, no way" its not like that its a great place no sorry a wonderful place!!! As the California advert on TV says....Come join us..You don't know what your missing!
I have lived in Belfast for almost 37yrs....no I'm not old, that's my age! Belfast is mainly remembered for the violence and bombs that constantly took place on a regular basis. Oh how things have changed for the better. There are still a few places that have bits of trouble but even then, nothing like how it used to be not sooooo long ago. Belfast tourist numbers have greatly increased, although you see plenty of them taking photographs of the murals that are painted on walls!!! We have a lot to offer people, we are kind, caring people, with lots of places for sight-seeing or just to relax and chill-out. We have a wide variety of hotels within walking distance or a short bus journey to the centre of Belfast Town, were you can visit the Belfast City Hall. This is a listed building with lots of antiques, which gets a lot of respect from the good Belfast people and equally from visitors. To the east of Belfast City, we have Parliament buildings.....a beautiful building in its on rights, with a lot of forestry surrounding the grounds. You can enter the grounds for leisure walks or you can book a tour of the building itself which contains a lot of history, you may even bump into some MP'S!!!!! We also have Belfast Zoo, another beautiful place to visit although be prepared for a long up-hill walk....puff-puff. Its well worth it though when you see the variety of animals from birds to lions and when you reach the top, you will have a breath taking view. Belfast has so much more to offer than I could ever fit in a review, even if I continuously updated it daily.
I think not. I am a proud Belfast born & bred young woman & I love the craic of living in Northern Ireland. The world has percieved us to have nightly riots, killings everyday & bombs aplenty but I'm on to set the record straight. Stop living in the bygone era of the troubled 70's....time has moved on & so have the folk - (on the whole anyway). Our land is soaked with heritage, history ( good & bad) Passion in abundance. You just need to walk down the road with your eyes open to see how lucky we actually are. Yes I admit our weather is not the best at times but we do not have natural atrocities like earthquakes, tornados, wild fires, and most importantly we do not have huge biting bugs & snakes as long as we are.....contary to belief we do indeed have snakes, they weren't driven out at all haha..... I think, compared to the rest of the world, and American in particular, that we have a real sense of belonging, everything is sooo huge over in the states. I mean, I'd feel lost, at least here you know exactly where you are, theres not much chance of getting lost.....just head for the sea and you'll always find your way home. It takes just a few hours drive to go from the tip of the north to the bottom of the south....the whole island is at our beck & call so to speak. The land itself is breath takingly beautiful, paradise on earth I call it. There is so much to go see & do, hiking, camping, fishing, boating, horse riding, gorgeous beaches, lots of forest walks - theres no excuse to be bored..... Nightlife is awesome now, in the past 5 years or so it has been on the up & up, we have loads of trendy bars, fine eateries, traditional bars etc. The good ol' folk of Northern Ireland are famed for being the friendlest bunch in the world and I would back that up 100% - every family here touched by troubles and still the smile on our faces beam. We have evolved not so much to be hard at heart but to except things, to hold our hea ds high no matter the pain. We have a great way of speaking - I love it & so does the rest of the world, our accents are like none other. We also have the best wit - dry, sarcastic humour - as sharp as a surgeons scapel - fantastic!! Norn iron folk also know how to laugh at themselves. We celebrate everything....(shhh just between you and me...its more 'any excuse to have a wee drinky & a bit of craic' haha) Oh yes we love a good ol' knees up, a sing song & a barrel full of craic!! Anyway.....The BBC done a survey recently to ask where in the UK is the best place to live and who came up tops? Oh yes indeedy - Belfast!!....what more can I say??.....the homeland is on an uprising & Belfast is biting back....c'mon throw your caution to the wind - I guarantee if you visit you'll be very very pleasantly surprised!
I have lived in belfast all my life, i have seen a lot - the security situation, the bombs, the bullets, the funerals. Now that the ceasefires and peace process has breathed new life into the city some things never change - the state of the place. the rubbish is a disgrace, the graffiti is disgusting and the fact that some city centre streets have been neglected. the massive castle court shopping centre is a major spot for shoppers and tourists. in its shadow lie many neglected streets. Gresham street is full of sex shops which lead onto north street. this is the gateway for the shankill and is a really a slum. castle street on the other side of castle court leads to the falls and west belfast. this street has a sex shop, plenty of arcades and is also a slum. the falls and shankill are working class areas which have suffered a lot during the conflict and now in peace time the streets that lead to them are a disgrace. This puts many tourists off. sectarianism still exists in this city and the fact the union jack flies all year round from city hall is hard to understand. it is simply two fingers in the faces of nationalists. there is plus sides to this city and one of those plus sides is that this is a city in ireland and the irish warmth can be felt as soon as you set foot here. the place has moved on from the past but has a bit to go. Places to go: The city does have something to offer tourists. Beside the main post office operates several bus tours. They bring you around Belfast, the shipyard where titanic was built and around through the entire city. Some the tour guides are quite witty and very friendly. Pubs – yes we irish are the second largest consumers of drink in the world. We celebrate everything with a drink. The pubs are full of friendly people. Try Kelly’s cellars, the crown or white’s tavern, these are very old pubs. The Belfast visi tors centre in the city centre will give you lots of info and locals will always help you. One bit of good news is the fact that ‘black mountain’, which dominates the Belfast skyline, is being open to the public. You can see the entire city, a few counties and even the isle of man from this big mountain. The national trust is to build a network of paths over the next year on the mountain range. The land was previously owned by the british army. So this city may be grubby in parts but the people will make up that. The people who run the city are slightly useless. They spend their time giving the go ahead for new arcades, bookies and sex shops. Overall it’s not a bad place after all I am still here 3 decades later.
Having spent a wonderful week last Christmas exploring Southern Ireland, I was quite excited about my first trip to Northern Ireland, this time on business. My travel guide for my trip to Southern Ireland was a great book, Pete McCarthy's Bar, which is all you really need. And this weekend, EasyJet announced REALLY cheap airfares to Belfast, as well! BOOMTOWN Business in Northern Ireland is booming and growing throughout the whole of Ireland. Property and houses are cheap by North American standards. S. Ireland benefits from the influx of funds, as being part of the Euro zone, and there is a lot of new building going on - and new houses, mean all that goes with them! My trip was to see some customers who are builders merchants - bathrooms, plumbing and heating showrooms and wholesale distribution, both DYI and Trade. CURRENT CLIMATE I arrived the night before my colleague, but having watched too much old news, I was a bit apprehensive about driving around on my own, so I decided to use taxis instead of renting a car, since the taxi drivers know where to go/not to go! However, my work Colleagues feel it is a safe place to go, and has always been! Because they take security seriously. And the atmosphere was great, I felt totally at home, once I got there. GETTING THERE I flew into Belfast City Airport, which is only 8 pounds taxi ride and 5 or so miles -- it takes a bit longer because of the 'one way system' that many UK cities have, for 'traffic calming', so that you are SOOOO confused you cannot speed! The runway on this airport is a wee bit short, so there is much applying of brakes, don't be alarmed, it is still better than the old Hong Kong airport, which was my scariest landing experience. Northern Ireland currency is pounds sterling and Irish pound notes, which you can use in the rest of the UK. However, if you go to Southern Ireland, they are already part of the euro zone, so you will need euros not pounds. BELFAST I stayed at Jury's Belfast Inn, which is in the center of town, but although the staff was professional and helpful, the rooms and breakfast were not. I went out for supper to the Red Panda for chinese food, across the road and a block to the right of the hotel. The portions were good and the food tasty - I had beef and broccolli which I don't get to have much in my part of the UK, as I would like to (West midlands chinese restaurants don't seem to like their greens as much as I do!). On the way back from the restaurant, we stopped at The Crown, a wonderful pub full of character and characters! The seating is surrounded by low 'walls' as if you are in a corral, and the walls are intricately carved. This pub is featured in a lot of pictures of Belfast. Next door is Robinson's, which was a bit noisy for my liking as there was a football game on (or perhaps people were just loud!). Guinness was on tap, but I also noticed people drank wine and cider, for those of you that find Guinness a bit heavy! I was hoping for a repeat of my Irish singing debut (from my Dec trip to Clonakilty) at a Craic where, if you are lucky (and brave), you are invited to sing a song of your choosing, to the accompaniment of accordian, whistle, and fiddle, and they DONT MIND IF YOU ARE OFF KEY! But this was not that kind of a pub, at least not that night. Just beyond is the Shaftsbury area, where there are lots of restaurants. However I decided to go across the road instead, to the Grand Opera House, a Victorian Theatre, complete with balconies and painted ceiling which was restored and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1995. I saw a play there - excellent seat on an aisle, 21.50 pounds sterling, or slightly cheaper on a Tuesday night. They have plays, musicians, etc and it is more leg room and the same actors as in London's West End, so I was pleased to be able to fi t this in! Plus the history of the place is super - and you can buy a book which features Artists who have performed there: from Sarah Bernhardt to Van Morrison (plus a picture of a young Pavarotti!) The next day, for lunch we went to a fish and chips shop - John's just around the corner from the hotel. It was packed and for 3 pounds you got a large portion of cod in batter and chips (french fries to you-all)! PORTADOWN A colleague rented a car at the airport and we drove to Portadown, an easy ride along the motorway/main highway. He pointed out the different flags flying in the neighborhoods to indicate the politics favored by the residents. It is very complex to know what is what, so I avoided discussing anything political or religious! He tried to explain the connection between Ireland and Scottish football teams, and I gave up! But I did notice in the pub, there was a sign saying, no Football kit (uniforms, logos) allowed! MISSED OPPORTUNITIES I will have to save my tourist visit to the Giant's Causeway (a massive natural stone bridge) for next time, because it was about an hour north and the weather was a bit too gloomy to do much exploring. I looked at a map and was surprised to find that Belfast is almost the same latitude as Scotland is. That helps to explain why it was about 5 degrees colder than England. PEOPLE As for the atmosphere, I found people to be very helpful and friendly. There are only about 2 million people in all of N.I., and about 1/2 million in Belfast. It seems that everyone knows each other, and they are all interested in visitors, from the usher at the theatre, to the taxi driver who had been all over the USA, to the staff at the Bathroom Design showrooms we visited (Spendlove C. Jebb in Belfast and Bassetts in Portadown). On my way to the showroom, I walked past a police station, and as I passed, two heavily armoured vehicles emerged, a reflection of, hopefully , an earlier time in Belfast. They looked more like Tonka Trucks with all the reinforcement and the radio mast on the top. You would definitely see them coming! WOULD I GO BACK AGAIN? I DO want to go back, but I feel as if I would need a guide to the sights outside of the city. Or perhaps I just needed a better travelling companion, next time! And on the way home, I heard a news item about a car bomb in the centre of Belfast having been diffused, so life is always timing, isn't it? I would go there on business again and this time stay at the Europa Hotel, take in another event at the Grand Opera House, then rent a car and go see the Giants Causeway, Irish Castles, and of course find a small pub where the music is playing and the Guinness is flowing, and they ask me to sing something. I have been practising.
There are plenty of myths that have grown up around Belfast in recent years, some coming from visitors who misunderstood the place, more coming from those who have seen pictures on TV. But I know the real Belfast, both its ugly side and its alluring side. Like every city everywhere, Belfast has some ugly areas. The Falls Road (Catholic area) and the Shankill Road (Protestant) are working class areas of political hostility and violence. Nowadays the violence is largely concentrated on specific targets in 'punishment beatings' and revenge attacks. Bombs do not go off as readily as fireworks on New Years Eve. The last major bomb was the tragedy of Omagh, a city in the North West of Ireland (Belfast is in the North East). And while this tragedy remains all too fresh in the memory, the threat of something similar is extremely small. North Belfast has been in the news of late for all those mad antics at the Holy Cross school, but we need to put all of this into context. No tourist ever visits working class residentail areas anyway and the rest of the city is pretty calm. I wouldn't suggest going to the area to gawk at the pea brainers who live there, just stay away, 'cause tension doesn't really filer through to the city centre. Another myth about Belfast is that since the cease-fires declared in the Mid 1990s the place has been bound with prosperity. While tourism is on the up since then, prosperity was beginning sooner than that. The people of N. Ireland don't stand around watching their backs all day, they get on with their jobs. Perhaps I am being a little harsh, but a city that's most prominent landmarks are two massive yellow cranes and an orange hospital tower block, does not seem particularly cultured. Harland & Wolfe may once have been the greatest ship-builders in the world at a time (I'll ignore the sectarianism within the company), building the most famous of all ships RMS Titanic, but it i s now a business shambles set in an ugly harbour. Their are scenic areas though. Belfast castle is a fine building, albeit not a real castle and the view from Divis Mountain is panoramic. There is the seat of contentious politics at Stormont too. Up the river Lagan we find signs of new prosperity in the new flats and the renovated St. George's Market which is back in use. You can catch a performance at the beautiful modern construction of the Waterfront Hall, that sits beside the nicer part of the river. Botanic Gardens looks beautiful on a sunny day and the City Hall is a fine example of turn-of-the-century architecture. (That's the building pictured on this site, by the way). As far as warm Irish welcomes go, Belfast is a breed apart, in that it doesn't deliver any sort of welcome to anyone. In fact there is no city in the world where people will bash into you in the street without taking any notice of your existence as much as in Belfast. The university area is an exception, because a lot of students are not from Belfast and that dilutes the ignorance factor, but be warned! I might add that Queens University main building is a lovely site too. If you want culture their is plenty of it. In October the Belfast Festival at Queens is a cultural event second only to Edinburgh in Europe. The Empire lends itself to both music and comedy, their are a plenty of Theatres for plays like the Arts. Live music and concerts can be seen at the Ulster Hall, Kings Hall or get more intimate at the excellent Limelight. Their are the pretentious trendy bars for those who like that sort of thing. Orpheos being one. Their are the restaurants like Roscoffs and Morrisons. And any tourist must have a drink in The Crown Bar where the Guinness is the best in the North. Shopping is something that many (although not I) enjoy and Belfast is the best at this in the North, at least. It has all the usual big name stores and trendy stores but i t's the small secluded ones I like. Hector's Houss is the best record store in the city and has hundreds of rarities. Matchetts music supplies me with all I need for instruments. I doubt if a tourist will come home with a £300 fiddle, but it's the window shopping that is most satisfactory (and inexpensive). Prices in Belfast are a lot cheaper in general than its more snobby but cosmopolitan neighbour Dublin. So that's Belfast in a nutshell. Not the finest city in the world but not the ugliest (ever been to Birmingham, England?). I prefer Derry myself, but Belfast is not without its charms. I hope I've dispelled a few myths.
How do I describe Belfast? It's my hometown, and I've never strayed too far from it apart from a brief stint in New Zealand, even though on occasions I've wanted nothing more than to leave the whole country behind for at least a few years. I think I will eventually go elsewhere and probably sooner rather than later. The reasons for that may be obvious, but there's also a lot going for this city, and hopefully by the time I've finished you'll want to come and visit us. Perhaps one word of warning - it's best not to visit in July. We have our "street theatre" during July which has been known to be disruptive, although the last few years have been a lot quieter than usual which can only be a good sign... Getting to Belfast / Arriving into the city. You can fly into Belfast from the UK mainland from a number of airports. The main carriers into Northern Ireland fly into one of two airports. Belfast International Airport (or Aldergrove to the locals) is about 20 miles out of the city. If you are not hiring a car, a bus can take you to the centre of the city and this runs every thirty minutes from around 0630 to 2300 approximately, or you could take a taxi. The bus journey is about forty minutes or so, depending on traffic and time of day etc. If you fly into Aldergrove, the airlines you are likely to be using are: British Airways or EasyJet. Belfast City Airport (also called The Harbour Airport or Belfast Harbour Airport) is practically in the city on the loughside. It?s about 5 minutes from the centre of the city by taxi, or you could use the train service. The airlines flying into the Harbour are: British Regional, British European and British Midland (who used operate out of Aldergrove). If you are bringing your own car across from the mainland, you?ll be arriving by ferry (unless you're James Bond with your groovy submarine car, in which case, we've been expecting you) and the main ferry terminals are based at the mouth of the river Lagan on the doorstep of the city centre. You'll probably be coming here by SeaCat from Scotland, or Norse Irish Merchant from Liverpool. If you are coming from Troon or Fleetwood, then you'll be using P&O Ferries who use Larne as their port and this is a few miles outside Belfast. Ferry foot passengers will need to get a train or bus into Belfast. Somewhere to stay. OK, before you go off to do any sight seeing, pub-crawling or whatever takes your fancy, it's best to get somewhere to stay, eh? Well, there are lots of city centre hotels and B&Bs, and since the outbreak of peace in the mid-1990s, more and more have opened to cater for the increase in tourism. No matter what your preference or price range, you?ll find somewhere to suit. A few names and phone numbers to remember: Duke's Hotel 65 University Street (028) 9023 6666 Europa Hotel Great Victoria Street (028) 9032 7000 Holiday Inn 106 University Street (028) 9031 1909 Wellington Park Hotel 21 Malone Road (028) 9038 1111 Renshaw's Hotel 75, University St (028) 9033 3366 A wider range of places to stay can be found by using the online Yellow Pages at www.yell.co.uk in conjunction with the local tourist information office. The above hotels and B&Bs are simply listed off the top of my head and aren't recommendations. (I live here, I have no experience of Belfast Hotels, although a few friends of mine have recently stayed at Renshaw's Hotel which they claimed was clean and pleasant enough, although doesn't have a star rating.) Local Information. Speaking of the local tourist office, there's one in the city centre (47 Donegall Place 028 9024 6609, just opposite WH Smith's) plus one at each of our airports. If you are thinking of going on to other parts of Ireland from Belfast, you could also use the I rish Tourist Board (aka Bord Failte) who can give you details of what to do in the Republic of Ireland (or Eire, or simply "Down South"). They are also in the centre of Belfast at 53 Castle Street and can be contacted on (028) 9032 7888. If you want to do some "homework" before you arrive, then take a look at www.discovernorthernireland.com, which is the official web site of the NI Tourist Board. Getting Around. Getting around Belfast is not a problem ? we have a fairly decent local bus service (Citybus) that will take you practically any part of the city you wish although I do feel they're a tad expensive, and if not, a taxi will do the job. For those of you wishing to look around Northern Ireland and not just Belfast, then you'll find our train service sadly lacking in destinations. The province wide Ulsterbus service is better though. For details on Citybus, Ulsterbus and Northern Ireland Railways services and timetables, go to www.translink.co.uk which isn't a bad website, although their timetables could do with being available in a print friendly format. Pubs and Eating Out. Over the last few years, lots of small cafes and restaurants have opened up as the citizens of Belfast become "posher" and more cultured (i.e. they raise their little finger whilst swigging their Guinness). Whether you're a posh restaurant type of person, or someone who's happy sitting in a pub scoffing pub grub, you'll find plenty of places in the city centre, and along the Golden Mile towards the university offering quality food. Practically every bar will claim to serve the best Guinness in Belfast, so it's up to you to experiment. As you may guess, the Golden Mile is a stretch of road that runs from the city centre towards the University and is filled with pubs, cafes and restaurants. The most social area of Belfast is Shaftesbury Square where within 30 seconds walk, you can find aroun d half a dozen pubs and twice as many eating establishments. I don't think there's any point in my listing the numerous selection of pubs etc. but I can point you towards www.wheretotonight.com, which is as good a guide to pubs and eating out in Northern Ireland, as you?ll ever get online. Although, saying that, you should pop into The Crown Liquor Salon, opposite the Europa Hotel. It's a National Trust property now, but still open for business, so go in have a drink and soak in some atmosphere. Things to Do. I always have a problem with this one when dealing with visitors because I'm not a big traveller myself. Most times I go travelling, it's usually to see people rather than places, and so I know very little about things to do. Off the top of my head, I suggest the following (and more details can be gained from the tourist office): You can take tours around the City Hall. This is an impressive building, right in the centre of the city and set in the middle of some nice, if small, grounds. Recently, the taxi drivers have started offering Black Taxi Tours around the city that deal primarily with the "Troubles", and if you're interested in that part of our history, then friends have reliably informed me that these are very interesting. If you are interested in music, you could take a look at where Van Morrison was born (although some may argue whether that actually classifies as music or not), so pop along to 125 Hyndford Street to look at the nice plaque. It's only someone's house in the street though ? no tours or anything here. You may also want to look at the Stormont Buildings on the outskirts of Belfast. They're set into some huge grounds, and people often spend their Sundays talking a walk (or *ugh!* running) around the grounds. You can't actually get into the buildings themselves normally, which is a shame because the interior is quite astonishin g, but it's a pleasant walk. Both the Botanic Gardens and Ulster Museum are worth a visit. The museum regularly has special exhibitions relating to Ireland, whether it's the recent Troubles or something relating to St. Patrick, there's always something to see. The museum is at the city end of the Stranmillis Road, practically right beside the impressive main building of Queens University. The university also has a visitor's centre which you may want to pay a visit to. If architecture is your thing there are a number of old buildings worth looking at apart from the above mentioned City Hall. St. Anne's Cathedral is North Street is well worth taking a look at as well as the old City Hall now in use as a shopping mall. If you like sport, you might want to try an Irish League football match while you're across. Belfast has four teams, so you're bound to find one home match on a Saturday during the season. Be warned though, if you have been brought up watching Match of the Day, you're going to be sorely disappointed at the standard of football here in Northern Ireland. Actually, it's probably not even correct to call it football seeing as the two sets of players just kick each other. Around the end of October and start of November, Belfast has its own festival at Queens covering all sorts of entertainment ? films, comedy, music and dance. This is incredibly popular, and if you're planning on being here for the festival, it's advisable to book any tickets early, especially for the more popular music and comedy acts. I believe the official website for this is at www.belfastfestival.com Speaking of comedy, there?s a comedy night at The Empire Bar in Botanic Avenue. This is a seasonal thing ? it runs from September to June. It's on a Tuesday night, and there's always a good selection of comedians. It used to be around £4 per person (or it was the last time I was there!) so may have increased in price. The acts aren't advertised, so you only know who's playing when they take the stage, but the quality is generally high, and more famous people have been known to feature from time to time. Be warned though, you'll have to queue as it's extremely popular. Belfast is being invested in quite heavily by a number of people and corporations. This can be seen by the amount of large chains that have decided that Belfast is now a city to be seen in. names like Hilton Hotels, Hard Rock Café, Warner Cinemas and IMAX cinemas have all recently opened here. We have our own ice hockey team (Belfast Giants) to take part in the National Hockey League which is an excellent way to kill a couple of hours, and the tickets are generally around a tenner. The Odyssey Centre is an interesting entertainment complex where you can have a complete night out, shopping mall style under one roof as it contains plenty of things to do like 10 pin bowling or Warner Cinema, there are many different types of restaurants as well as a few bars and clubs as well. Shopping. Unless, you're coming from outside of the UK, you're not going to find too much different in the shops we have here. No doubt you're already aware of Top Shop, Next, HMV, Virgin, Boots, WH Smith etc. Well, they're all present and correct in our compact shopping area in the city centre. However, there are some smaller shops which might provide you with some out of the ordinary gifts or mementos of your trip if you can hunt them down. My advice is to approach a local (speak slowly and ask them to do likewise!) and say "I'm looking for <insert item> with an Irish twist, can you point me to a shop, please?" and with any luck they?ll point you in the right direction. Further Afield. If you're spending more than a few days in Belfast, you're probably going to want a change of scenery. Outside Belfast and across the province there are other interesting sights to investigate, and I?m only going to mention some of them in passing. Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (between Belfast and Bangor) More about life in Ireland with traditional cottages etc. all set out in an open air environment for you to walk through, and experience. Also, members of staff are dressed in appropriate costume and can be asked questions regarding their actions, environment etc. Ulster American Folk Park (near Strabane on the west side) A museum dedicated to Irish life, the relationship with America and the journey made by millions of Irish people across the Atlantic to America and shows the type of ships that were used, clothing from the period etc. Bushmills Distillery (towards the North) The oldest legal distillery in the world ? if you like a tipple, then you should definitely visit Bushmills. Tours operate all year round, although times vary due to season. Giants Causeway (on the North coast) Nothing more really than a huge granite structure caused by an erupting volcano pouring lava into the sea, which cooled and formed many thousands of hexagonal columns. Very impressive in scale, though. Derry City (or Londonderry ? approx. 80 miles northwest of Belfast) Derry is another city in Northern Ireland which provides a lot of history to investigate, although perhaps somewhere to base yourself for a day or two rather than a day trip from Belfast. Armagh Planetarium (approx. 40 miles southeast of Belfast) If you're of a scientific bent, there's lots to see and do here. Both a planetarium and observatory which offer lots of attractions such as the Star Theatre and the Eartharium which lets you zoom into Belfast or Armagh using spy satellite pictures. *** The People *** Generally, we're a friendly bunch. Honestly. Everything you've heard about the Irish is true (ex cept that we're not thick ? we only act that way to let you foreigners feel better!). We like our drinks ? pubs in Belfast are open late every night of the week, and there?s always someone to chat to if you?re out and about. So please come and visit! *** Some final pieces of information *** Ferries: www.stenaline.com www.p-and-o.com www.seacat.co.uk Airlines: www.easyjet.com www.british-european.com www.british-airways.com www.british-regional.com www.britishmidland.com I know that I've mentioned street names etc. in making some points above, and while you're sat at home, in front of your computer, it's all a bit, well, pointless. But print out this opinion, and settle down with a Belfast street map (or find a map online), and hopefully the opinion with become twice as useful. The phone numbers are national ones ? the ?028? is the code for Northern Ireland and the 8-digit code is the actual phone number. All are correct at time of posting, but can be confirmed at www.bt.com and follow the directory enquiries link.
Belfast.....My Home Town..... --------------------------------- I was just in Belfast today getting my daughters school uniform and although it was really busy I realised how much it had changed in the last five years. It has become more European and the shops in the City have got so much better. The bloddy people still bump into you though but I still find a swift elbow works every time.. Cast my mind back 25 years or so and Belast was suffering the worst bombing of any town in the UK and I have to say I admire the average Belfast person like myself as we have put up with a lot. But we still have a smile on our face!! So does Belfast differ any say from Nottingham or Manchester. I have been to Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow and I would say it is more like Glasgow. Belfast has all the main stores like HMV, Virgin Megastore,Game,Woolworths and all the other big names... Years ago I went to Majorca on holiday and befriended an English couple who took pity on us because we were from that place where the bombs went off and the gunman was in your garden. Belfast is nothing like that, it's a quite little place and the people from it are the most friendly in the world, well maybe not "Duke"..lol.but I think maybe he is from Lisburn.. So are there places of interest. You have all the usual attractions. Ice Bowls, Cinemas, the Museum, Belfast Zoo and off course Stormont Castle.. Belfast City Centre was buzzing today and I reckon any of you from the mainland uk would have loved it. The shops are great and the people are as well, ok maybe they push and shove, and this person actually tried to push in front of me in a queue, but they are a good crowd... So if you haven't paid a visit to Belfast then get up off your bum and go and check the cost to travel to Belfast. It's not a warzone, it is a great little place...and don't forget I would make you more than welcome..But pl ease don't expect me to buy you a drink..Belfast might have changed but I haven't!!!! And my daughter, she got the uniform, and the price of the shoes..I nearly fainted!! Anyway thank you for the read, have a great weekend and don't drink too much, your friend online.......... Art....1st Sept 2001....Dedicated to all of you on the mainland!!!!
I moved to Belfast in 1993 as a student. I was a wee country girl from outside Londonderry/Derry excited to get to the bright lights of the big city. In the 8 years (Oh my God is it really 8 years!!) l have lived in the Northern Irish capital l have never regretted the move. In fact, after graduation in 1996 l spent two months back at home – but l could not handle it and moved back to the big smoke! So what’s so great about Belfast? Why should you visit? What’s there to do and see? Well let me give you a guided tour. Getting here: ROADS Belfast is linked to the Northern Irish cities of Londonderry and Armagh (we only have two!!) and towns such as Coleraine, Ballymena, Portadown and Enniskillen, by the two main motorways here – M1 and M2. The M1 is also the main linking motorway route between Belfast and Dublin. Traffic dependent the journey between the two cities should not take any longer than 2.5 hours. Within the North, nowhere is further that 1 to 2 hours away at the maximum. RAIL NI Railways are not the greatest and ld be lying if l told you otherwise! It takes 2.5 hours to travel from Belfast to L’Derry (its normally 1.5 hours by road!) There are stations dotted throughout the North and they are improving travelling conditions. Trains also run regularly to Dublin. BUS Translink run a comprehensive bus service throughout Northern Ireland. Translink run both the road and rail services in Northern Ireland and for further details check out the web site http://www.translink.co.uk SEA Boats sail directly into Belfast harbour, which is quite close to the city centre. Stenaline run regular ferry services between Belfast and Stranraer, which takes around 2 –2.5 hours. They also have the super dooper HSS that cuts the travel time down to 90 minutes between the two destinations. I would recommend the HSS over the fer ry any day!! We also have the Seacat sailing Belfast to Troon (2.5 hours), Belfast to Heysham (4 hours) and Belfast to The Isle of Mann (3.5 hours approximately). Also in Larne which is around 30 minutes distance time from Belfast P&O ferries sail to Carnryan in Scotland. AIR As l have previously said, Dublin is around 2.5 hours away from Belfast and carries a lot of national and international flights. In the North, Belfast International is approximately 20 minutes from Belfast City Centre and Belfast City Airport is 10 minutes. Both airports although not big, service between them all the domestic airports in the UK and many European destinations also. WHERE TO STAY The hotel situation in the city has greatly improved over the last few years. With the relative peace and economic boom, Belfast has really benefited from the regeneration, which is obvious throughout the city. So should you wish to stay in 5 star luxury or in a simple B&B, it’s all catered for in Belfast 5 STAR HOTELS Hilton, Belfast – 028 90 277000 Europa, Belfast – 028 90 327000 McCausland Hotel – 028 90 220200 GUEST HOUSES Oakdene Lodge – 028 90 492626 An Old Rectory – 028 90 667882 Camera Guest House – 028 90 660026 BED & BREAKFAST All Seasons – 028 90 682814 Botanic Lodge – 028 90 327682 The George – 028 90 683212 The details l have listed are all for central locations and are only a small, small selection of what is available. For more information you should contact the BELFAST WELCOME CENTRE on 028 90 246609. WHAT TO DO Belfast is steeped in history and culture and really the visitor is spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding how to fill their days spent in the city. As for us natives, we don ’t know what we have right under our noses! TOURS A wide variety of tours exist. Belfast City Hall Tour – A large Portland stone building, dating back to the Edwardian era. Guided tours are available throughout the year. Pub Tours – Where having a bit of craic, a bit of banter and a wee drink or two are compulsory! Features 6 bars and lasts 2 hours. Walking Tours – there are 4 main walking tours in Belfast including Old Belfast 1660 – 85 Blackstaff Way City Centre Historic Belfast City Bus Tours – they offer 3 main tours around the city in either an open top or closed bus. Black Taxi Tours – want to see Belfast as it is portrayed in the news? See the landmarks made famous by the troubles. GRAND OPERA HOUSE This offers various entertaining performances including for this autumn (2001) Joseph & the Technicoloured Dream Coat, Grease, Sing-A-Long Sound of Music, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The building has recently been renovated and is a beautiful old building to be found on Great Victoria Street. QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY OF BELFAST Northern Ireland’s most prestigious university (l also attend there too!), built in 1845 and took until 1849 to complete. Charles Lanyon designed it. There is a visitor’s centre on site, which provides information and memorabilia. BOTANTIC GARDENS The gardens date back to 1827 and can be found near QUB. They house the Palm House constructed between 1839 and 1852 and also the Ulster Museum. Entrance is free to all the amenities and the gardens are perfect on a good summer’s day. ST ANNES CATHEDRAL To be found on Donegall Street, built between 1898 and 1904 by Thomas Drew. It homes impressive stained glass windows and has some superb artichectural features. STORMONT Parliament buildings for the devolved Northern Irish parliament (if it is not suspended that is!) Situated on an impressive hillside locus. A statute of Lord Carson stands at the bottom of a mile long driveway, welcoming in visitors and MP’s alike. The buildings are not open to the public, but its impressive grounds are. I have only mentioned a few places of interest here, therefore l would suggest you visit the Belfast Welcome Centre to be found at 59 North Street, Belfast, or you can telephone them on 028 90 246609. AT NIGHT You have a wide variety of choices when it comes to pubs clubs and restaurants. I shall only suggest a few; again the tourist advice centre should be able to answer your questions. RESTAURANTS Deans Brassiere – Howard Street – 028 90 560 000. Michelin starred chef Michael Dean is the owner and the menu is cosmopolitan. Personally, l think its fine but rather over-rated – go to Cayenne (see a previous opinion!) Mongolian BBQ – Great Victoria Street – 028 90 246404. Create your own meal and use your imagination – pick your own meals, flavour them with a variety of herbs and spices and create a sauce – it will then be cooked for you as you watch. It’s a good fun place to have a meal – make sure you can use chopsticks! I have only been once (and was drunk by the end of the evening!) but l had a great time Opus One – University Street – 028 90 590101. Set in the university area, this is one of my favourite restaurants ever. The menu is just that wee bit different – get your ostrich escalopes here! So where do you go if you want a drinkie? PUBS Crown Liquor Salon – Great Victoria Street. Owned by the National Trust. This is a Victorian public house, ornate with fine woodwork. A must for any visit or – but do not expect to meet the locals here – its full of tourists. The Fly – Lower Crescent. For the young and lively, this is a bar come disco, which usually has a late license at the weekends. The Northern Whig – Bridge Street. Quite a new bar for an older more sophistic crowd. They serve excellent tapas, have a fun atmosphere and mix a mean cocktail. SHOPPING Belfast is like any other modern UK city - there's the usual deluge of high street shops - M&S, BHS, Top Shop, Disney Shop, Oasis, Warehouse, Gap, Debenhams etc etc etc. Within the city centre there's Donegall Square leading to Royal Avenue - you will be kept busy here shopping to you drop!! Further on down you will find Donegall Arcade - flanked by HMV but within you will find more specialise craft shops and botiques. A bit further down the street - you will come accross Castle Court shopping centre - again a mecca for you shopaholics. What about out of the city centre - really it is Shopping Centres - Forrestside with flag ship stores M&S, Dunnes and Sainsburys, - parking is free which is a plus. You can find it just off the Outer ring. Conswater shopping centre is another - found in East Belfast just off Newtownards Road - again you will find Woolies, Littlewoods, Dunnes, Boots and so on. There is also a retail park beside here too. Again car parking is free and there is a McDondalds close by! So, have l convinced you all? Shall l expect an onslaught of Dooyooers invading Belfast? I hope so – it really is worth seeing. For further information check out: http://www.gotobelfast.com OR http://www.discovernorthernireland.com Enjoy your stay! Heather
SOME cities offer visitors bus tours of the sights – Belfast goes one better with its taxi tours of the notorious Catholic Falls Road area. If you think it’s risky to tour Belfast’s frontline, you'd be right. But the IRA has vowed to decomission its arsenal and the city is as safe as it ever will be. With your back to city hall wander up Donegall Place and turn left into Castle Street - a five minute stroll. Cross at the traffic lights and you'll come to the rank where the city's notorious black cabs ply their trade. Black cab drivers are known for backing Sinn Fein and the IRA's (hopefully permanently suspended) campaign against the British army and the RUC. They're big on tourists because they like a captive audience. They don't care if you're British - in the back of their cab you're grist to the propaganda mill. At the rank the drivers' boss hurries over and asks our destination – cabs are like buses in Belfast and he wants to fill one with its engine idling. We say we want a ride around the Falls Road and some friendly haggling ensues. We beat him down from £20 for 40 minutes to £17 - but it takes some hard bargaining. A driver is summoned - mid 20s, articulate - and we are off in the back of his black cab. We pass the Divis Flats with its army observation post on the roof and head for the maze of terraced housing by the peace line – a brick and steel wall which divides Catholic and Protestant houses. It's like the inner city suburbs of a northern British city but with thick tension in the air. There are huge, skillful, wall murals showing republican heroes/moments in Irish history everywhere. The driver stops whenever we ask him to and is willing to take pictures of us posing self-consciously by a mural. The street urchins have seen it all before and indulge in a bit of friendly touris t-baiting. We continue with our driver's running commentary on the woes of Northern Ireland. In many ways it's more absorbing than the street scene - there was (still is?) a lot of discrimination against the Catholic minority in jobs, housing, etc. We pass an armed guardpost at a road junction which I've seen on TV many times before. A camera tracks us along the road. We head to a grim housing estate on the edge of the Falls. There are Irish flags fluttering and even the kerbs are painted in Irish colours. More murals, this time of children killed in the Troubles and of Bobby Sands, the IRA leader who starved to death in jail. We pass Milltown cemetery where Loyalist Michael Stone launched his one-man attack on hundreds of Catholics mourners at a funeral. It's eerie to see all the places you know from the news. Finally we drive down the Falls Road, packed with shoppers and its gleaming new superstores. Our driver moans about all the 'real' jobs going to the Protestants. I feel like telling him to stop moaning - supermarkets might offer Macjobs but at least they're there. We stop outside a pub peppered with bullet holes from a past gun battle. The Sinn Fein office is meshed like Fort Apache the Bronx. It stops the bombs, says moany driver. An hour and a half after we started we arrive back at the taxi rank. The driver talked so much we have overun our alloted time. I give him £20 and scurry in to the nearest pub for a stiff drink. In some cities it's nice just to be a tourist. PS: you can taxi tour the Loyalist Shankill Road. Tourists are not deliberate targets in Belfast and it is relatively peaceful in the north at the moment. But you pays your money...
Mrs Button and I have just returned from a great weekend in Belfast,a city we'd have no hesitation in recommending.I'd been before on a lads' weekend as one of my mates played for local side Linfield and knew what to expect,but the good lady was not too sure.The city still suffers from image problems and several people recoiled in horror when I said where we were off too.This is a shame as it's a lovely city and greatly regenerated since the troubles. We flew from Glasgow on GO to Belfast International airport.The fares are ridiculously cheap at £25 return.This offer changes all the time but I think it's currently £35 - check go-fly.com for up to date information.The flight is extremely short with us being in the air for only 20 minutes.There was no time for cabin service as the saftey demo had barely finished when the decent started.The International Airport is about 18 miles from town so expect a cab fare of £20+.The other option is the shuttle bus.These run twice an hour and cost £5 single or £8 return. We stayed at the Posthouse Premier Hotel.I won't say much on this as I couldn't match gollygumdrops' crowned opinion on this excellent establishment.The posted price of £85 was reasonable for a four star hotel but we got a bargain rate of £62.50 from their website although this didn't include the hearty breakfast as I soon found to my wallet's horror - £30 down and I was barely up!.The rooms are lovely with modern furniture and a skin removing power shower.A nice grab bag of toiletries made up for the cost - that's Mothers' day covered!. The city itself is compact with most of the action happening around the Golden mile area.The weather we had was great although it's usually rotten with the mayor himself saying "we're now entering the less cold time of year!" in the guidebook introduction.There are however loads of bars to keep warm in and something for ever taste.We had a great night flitting from an ancient working mans' pub across from the Europa hotel to a cheezy piano bar complete with hen night Karaoke. Foodwise I'd point you towards the Mongolian Barbeque restaurant on Victoria Road.This is a great concept where you fill a bowl with raw meat,vegetables,sauces and spices and then hand it to a man who flash frys it on a big hot plate.The food is great and you can only blame yourself if it's not.Recipies are displayed for the unadventourous but for the most part my experiments came good!.At £12,95 all you can eat it's a real bargain although the relaxing atmosphere and moreish food saw our bill creep to £60 with two bottles of red wine needed to combat the overuse of crushed chillies!. Of course the city uses British money and Scottish notes are welcome.They do have their own banknotes but I spent these at home with no problems.With only two days we had no chance to see everything although I'd recommend a river trip to cover more ground.We paid £4 each on 'The Joyce' for an hour long sail complete with craik laden commentary.The city is on it's uppers with £1/2 million flats jostling for position on the waterfront.The trip did touch on the city's outer scheme and signs of old rivalries littered every gable end.We saw no trouble at all though but did see a seal - a positive sign!. Other attractions include a very nice botanical garden and lots of bars.I know I've mentioned bars before but it need emphasising!.The people are very friendly and happy to chat - hello woman from the hot tub!. Our only downer was due to someone not knowing the difference between am and pm which meant our booked return flight was useless.Still this gave us the chance to sail home on the Seacat.This leaves from Belfast harbour and takes two and a half hours to get to Troon - approx 30 miles from Glasgow.The Seacat costs £21 for a passenger with the train to Glasgow costing £4.If t imes ot a worry the Seacat trip is good especially for relieving hanovers!.It goes so fast you get a refreshing sea spary on the back open deck. On the whole a great city for an enjoyable weekend.If you can see past the history you'll be rewared with a memorable time.
I have lived just out side Belfast for the 15 years that I have graced this planet (!) and would not consider living anywhere else. It is such a relaxed and compact city. Many people would view Belfast as being violence- ridden and dangerous but i would disagree and say that it is really friendly and relaxed. There are a number of great shops and restaurants in town and the Odyssey is a new Multimedia centre which is a must-see. The Belfast Giants play here and their matches are really worth a go as the atmosphere is unbelievable. All in all, I would say that Belfast is one of the best cities in the UK and is perfect for an exciting weekend trip.
Belfast.. always a place well known for its controversial politics/religion war. Those of us who live here know it to be a vibrant growing place, with trouble spots few and far between, hard to find.. even when you do go and look for them. Having lived in other countries I feel fortunate to live in one of the most mixed relaxed places on earth... and even more pleased to see that it's talked about on here so highly!!