Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. Its name originates from the Irish Béal Feirste, or "the mouth of the Farset" — the river on which the city was built and has now been superseded by the River Lagan. Belfast saw the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and since their start in 1969, news of violence and disruption marred the city’s image as a tourist destination.
Since the 1997 cease-fire and the Good Friday agreement, however, Belfast is making up for lost time. With the help of massive investment, the city has undergone a remarkable transformation, and now has a booming economy and high employment rates. The River Lagan has been cleaned up and inner city areas, such as the Cathedral Quarter, have been revived, attracting new restaurants, hotels, shopping areas and cafes.
Belfast was once home to C.S.Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia. Maybe this is where he found his inspiration to create his enchanting fantasy world? The famous musician Van Morrison also grew up in Belfast and music is indeed an important part of this city’s social scene, with bands often performing at the Odyssey Arena or the Belfast Waterfront.
The numerous Victorian buildings of the city have been juxtaposed with impressive 20th-century architecture, creating a sense of progress and change. With its sights set on the future, Belfast is a vibrant, friendly and exciting city, waiting to be discovered in a myriad of new ways.
Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock.com
There’s is no shortage of activities and things to do in Belfast: everything from fascinating tours, cultural escapes, scientific exhibitions and historical buildings, can be explored here. Some of the better known attractions include St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast Castle, the Titanic museum and Belfast Zoo. There are also some hidden treasures that should not be missed like Belfast's own version of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory called the Aunt Sandra's Candy Factory, and boat tours along the Lagan. There is a great mix of things to do, and people keep coming back time and again once they understand just how much the city has to offer.
Kzenon / Shutterstock.com
Belfast boasts a wide variety of eateries to suit all budgets and tastes, including a couple of the best restaurants in Ireland. The huge investment in restaurants and hotels attracts talented young chefs who are lending new energy to the Belfast dining scene, and high quality venues pop up continuously.
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com
Belfast residents know exactly how to appreciate a great coffee, and there are coffee shops on nearly every corner of this lively city. Take a break from all your responsibilities, sit down in one of the many cafés and enjoy watching people pass by with an espresso and a slice of freshly made cake.
Paul Kavanagh / Shutterstock.com
Belfast is awash with slick new bars, as well as plenty of old-style pubs, many with traditional music sessions several nights of the week, as well as DJ-nights at weekends. Remember that pubs usually close around 11.30 pm, so make sure to start your night out pretty early.
The club scene is vibrant and top-quality live music can be found at several venues throughout the city. The late-night action really kicks off south of the centre around the Golden Mile, Queen’s Quarter and Lisburn Road.
All the usual department stores and high-end chains are located on High Street and Royal Avenue, as well as on the smaller streets connecting them. This area is mostly for pedestrians, so even if you don't need to plan on purchasing loads of items, it still makes for a pleasant stroll, all the while having a look at the shop windows and enjoying the vibrant city life of Belfast. For more shops, explore the Cathedral Quarter, as well as Bedford Street, Dublin Road and Donegall Pass, where you will find interesting design stores, gift shops and many other small Belfast outlets.
Belfast International Airport (BFS)
Belfast International Airport (BFS) is located approximately 20 minutes from the city centre and you have different options to choose from when deciding on the best way to get here.
Airport Express 300 buses run between the airport and the city centre roughly every 15 minutes at peak times and the journey takes about 30-40 minutes.
Taxis are also available outside the terminal building. The International Airport Taxi Company, for example, is available every day, all day.
Address: Airport Road, Belfast
Phone: +44 28 9448 4848
George Best Belfast City Airport (BHD)
Belfast City Airport (BHD) is located to the east of the city centre, about a 5 minute drive from the centre.
Trains run every half an hour during the day between Sydenham Station, near the airport, and the central train station in Belfast.
The Airport Express 600 bus takes you to the city centre and leaves every 20 minutes, but you can also take Metrobus number 3 or The Airporter.
Finally, you can also reach the city centre by taxis, which leave from outside the terminal building.
Address: Belfast Road, Belfast
Phone: +44 28 9093 9093
Best Time to Visit
April to September, as well as October, is the best time to visit Belfast. Be prepared for some wind and rain, but there are also sunny days, especially in the summer. Try to avoid the two weeks around the 12th of July (Orangemen's Day). Many people have their holidays during the period when the traditional Protestant marches take place — the city gets very crowded.
Translink runs the public transport system in Belfast that consists of busses and a railway system. At the front of all Metro vehicles you can see the number and destination and services usually start and end around the City Hall with fares that can be paid in coins directly to the bus driver/operator on-board.
Smartlink Multi-journey tickets and travel cards are available in shops displaying the Metro sign or from the Metro Kiosk in Donegall Square West.
You can easily call for a taxi or hail one down in the street.
Value Cabs, for example, is always available right in front of the two airports and will also collect and drop passengers at their preferred locations, operating 24 hours.
+44 28 9080 9080
+44 28 9033 3333
Phone: +44 28 9080 9080
Post Offices and red post boxes are scattered all over the city, so you will definitely run into one while wandering around Belfast. Furthermore, small books of UK stamps are available in most convenience stores and at petrol stations.
Address: Botanic Gardens Post Office, 95 University Road, Belfast
Phone: +44 28 9038 1309
You can easily find a pharmacy in Belfast. The most important independent pharmacy chain in town, Gordons Chemist, has stores scattered all over Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Address: Gordons Chemist, 55 Castle Street, Belfast
Phone: +44 28 9032 0040
Country code: +44
Area code: 028
Electrical appliances are connected to the UK mains supply using a three-pin plug known as plug type G. The sockets come with on-and-off switches, unlike in many other countries.
The average voltage of a UK power socket is 230v or slightly higher, so check the voltage of your device before plugging it in.