Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and is the second largest city on the whole island of Ireland. Sadly, its name has too often been associated with negative press coverage due to the political “Troubles” but it is a remarkably vibrant city and offers a lot of activities and sights for tourists. Its allure as a tourist attraction has undoubtedly also increased as a result of the peace process in Northern Ireland and there has been a lot of investment undertaken to rejuvenate the city.
Belfast offers a range of attractions and is certainly worth including on your itinerary if you are considering a holiday in Ireland. Let’s look, then, at some activities and sights that visitors may wish to consider.
Visit the Titanic Quarter:
As part of a huge waterfront regeneration project, Belfast Harbour has been modernised and this includes the presence of a Titanic-themed attraction. The Titanic was built in Belfast at the Harland and Wolff shipyard and the tall yellow shipyard cranes remain an iconic sight in Belfast. You can view her sister ship, the SS Nomadic, and there are also various tours (including a boat tour) that can be taken, helping you to increase your knowledge of the fateful ship and her background..
Belfast’s Ravenhill Stadium hosts the home matches of the Ulster rugby team. Ulster competes in the Celtic League against sides from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Italy. They also participate annually in the prestigious European-wide Heineken Cup, which they famously won in 1999. Ulster matches are well supported and offer a very friendly atmosphere for home fans, away fans, and any neutrals.
Ice hockey is also represented, through the Belfast Giants. The Giants play in the UK’s Elite Ice Hockey League and stage their home games at the fabulous Odyssey Arena, which opened in 2000 and is situated in the Titanic quarter of Belfast. Ice hockey may not be a particularly big sport in the UK but the sport has won considerable support in Belfast and the Giants are considered one of the UK’s premier teams.
Excursion to the Giant’s Causeway:
Just a short drive (or coach trip) from Belfast takes you to the Giant’s Causeway on the North Antrim coast. Undoubtedly one of the natural wonders of Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is a coastal area comprised of numerous basalt columns that were formed by an ancient volcanic eruption. Owned by the National Trust, the Giant’s Causeway is the most visited tourist attraction in Northern Ireland and its delights include a visitor centre, Dunluce Castle, and the famous Carric-A-Rede Rope Bridge. The rope bridge is open from the 17th March to the 17th October, weather permitting, for those who are brave enough to cross it!
Ulster American Folk Park:
A lot of Irish people emigrated to America and the Ulster American Folk Park brings this part of Irish history to life superbly. In the words of the Go to Belfast website you can “Follow the emigrant trail as you journey from the thatched cottages of Ulster, on board a full scale emigrant sailing ship leading to the log cabins of the American Frontier. Meet an array of costumed characters on your way with traditional crafts to show, tales to tell and food to share.” Will appeal particularly to American visitors.
Enjoy Belfast’s night life:
After a day’s shopping or sightseeing, what better way to unwind than to ensconce yourself in an Irish pub to enjoy a pint of Guinness or whatever other tipple catches your fancy. The Crown Bar, situated on Great Victoria Street, is one of the oldest bars in Ireland and is well worth a visit but the city centre is very well served with quality pubs that are usually bustling with chat and laughter. If you’re lucky, you might even find a pub with live Irish music. The Lyric Theatre, located on Ridgeway Street, offers the chance to enjoy some more refined culture.
Belfast is an example of a city where the tourist’s experience often exceeds expectations. Belfast remains somewhat in the shadow of Dublin in terms of premier Irish city tourism and there’s no doubt that the legacy of years of sectarian conflict still inhibit its tourist potential. However, a lot of work has been done to modernise the city and it offers a warm welcome to all guests. It can also serve as a launching pad to explore surrounding areas. For example, having flown into Belfast and enjoyed a day or two of exploration, it would be well worth checking out the scenic delights of the County Fermanagh waterways.
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