BELFAST

Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, tenth largest city in the United Kingdom and the second-largest on the island of Ireland, after Dublin. On the River Lagan, it had a population of 286,000 at the 2011 census and 333,871 after 2015 council reform Belfast was granted city status in 1888.

Info Belfast

introduction

Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, tenth largest city in the United Kingdom and the second-largest on the island of Ireland, after Dublin. On the River Lagan, it had a population of 286,000 at the 2011 census and 333,871 after 2015 council reform Belfast was granted city status in 1888.

Belfast was a centre of the Irish linen, tobacco processing, rope-making and shipbuilding industries: in the early 20th century, Harland and Wolff, which built the RMS Titanic, was the biggest and most productive shipyard in the world. Belfast played a key role in the Industrial Revolution, and was a global industrial centre until the latter half of the 20th century. Industrialisation and the inward migration it brought made Belfast the biggest city in Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century.

Today, Belfast remains a centre for industry, as well as the arts, higher education, business, and law, and is the economic engine of Northern Ireland. The city suffered greatly during the period of conflict called "the Troubles", but latterly has undergone a sustained period of calm, free from the intense political violence of former years, and substantial economic and commercial growth. Additionally, Belfast city centre has undergone considerable expansion and regeneration in recent years, notably around Victoria Square.

Belfast is served by two airports:George Best Belfast City Airport in the city, and Belfast International Airport 15 miles (24 km) west of the city. Belfast is a major port, with commercial and industrial docks dominating the Belfast Lough shoreline, including the Harland and Wolff shipyard, and is listed by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) as a global city.

info
POPULATION :City of Belfast: 333,871
Urban Area: 483,418
Metropolitan area: 585,996
FOUNDED :  
TIME ZONE : Time zone GMT (UTC)
 Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
LANGUAGE : 
RELIGION : 
AREA : 
ELEVATION : 
COORDINATES : 44.4 sq mi (115 km2)
SEX RATIO :
ETHNIC :White (96.7%)
Asian (2.2%)
Black (0.4%)
Mixed (0.5%)
Other (0.2%)
AREA CODE : 028
POSTAL CODE : BT1–BT17, BT29 (part), BT36 (part), BT58
DIALING CODE : +44 28
WEBSITE :  www.belfastcity.gov.uk

Tourism

Agreement in 1998, most of the politically-motivated violence has evaporated. Belfast was recently awarded the accolade of being the safest city in the UK, based on a comparison of nation-wide crime figures, and, as part of its commitment to maintain peace, now seeks tourism from all around the world, especially from countries other than the Irish Republic and the rest of the UK.

Those who live in Belfast tend to either absolutely love the city or loathe it, although the outsider's perspective tends to be more forgiving, as Belfast was voted the fourth best city in the UK for a city break in the Guardian/Observer travel awards. Needless to say, a visit to Belfast will be rewarded by a glimpse of a unique city that has finally begun to celebrate, rather than fight over, its place as a cultural meeting-point of Britain and Ireland. Belfast is certainly exhibiting an air of determined optimism, with new hotels, bars, restaurants, clubs and shops opening at an incredible rate. It is a city that is proud of its Victorian and Edwardian heritage and efforts to restore historic buildings are proving successful. Tourism is on the increase in Northern Ireland, especially among those seeking a weekend away or short break in Ireland as Belfast can offer a significantly cheaper and more rewarding alternative to the busier, more expensive and more tourist-driven Dublin.

Belfast remains a great place to explore, as it is still relatively undiscovered compared with its neighbour in Dublin and is ideal for the tourist who enjoys a city with character, yet still has a raw, unspoilt energy. A visit to the capital of Northern Ireland will provide a more stimulating trip as, once you scratch the surface, it is easy to see beyond the ethno-political conflict of past years. It is a city which has changed dramatically in a decade due to this peace and prosperity and you will be greeted with warmth from locals who feel a new-found sense of pride in their city. Indeed, the old cliche that you will be welcomed like an old friend by the patrons of Belfast's many pubs and bars is actually true, as the locals love to find out what draws you to their little part of the world and, of course, they like the chance to share a little bit of their history with you! Ask any local and they will tell you that a trip to Belfast will mean that you learn far more about the Irish and British psyche than a trip to a cheesy Irish pub in Dublin or on a tourist-orientated tour in London.

Some recent events, mostly the flag protests, may have put people off going to Belfast but violence is minimal and more or less peaceful.


Tourist Office

To make the most of your time in the city your first point of contact should be the centrally located Belfast Welcome Centre (Tourist Office) [www] at 47 Donegall Place, just north of City Hall. The first floor centre is accessible by elevator and escalator just to the left of the Boots Pharmacy. The staff can provide maps, book accommodation and tours, recommend itineraries and places of interest and sell you overpriced and tacky souvenirs. There is also a useful left luggage facility.

History

Although the county borough of Belfast was created when it was granted city status by Queen Victoria in 1888, the city continues to be viewed as straddling County Antrim and County Down.


Origins

The site of Belfast has been occupied since the Bronze Age. The Giant's Ring, a 5,000-year-old henge, is located near the city, and the remains of Iron Age hill forts can still be seen in the surrounding hills. Belfast remained a small settlement of little importance during the Middle Ages. John de Courcy built a castle on what is now Castle Street in the city centre in the 12th century, but this was on a lesser scale and not as strategically important as Carrickfergus Castle to the north, which was built by de Courcy in 1177. The O'Neill clan had a presence in the area.

In the 14th century, Cloinne Aodha Buidhe, descendants of Aodh Buidhe O'Neill built Grey Castle at Castlereagh, now in the east of the city. Conn O'Neill of the Clannaboy O'Neills owned vast lands in the area and was the last inhabitant of Grey Castle, one remaining link being the Conn's Water river flowing through east Belfast.


Growth

Belfast became a substantial settlement in the 17th century after being established as a town by Sir Arthur Chichester, which was initially settled by Protestant English and Scottish migrants at the time of the Plantation of Ulster. (Belfast and County Antrim, however, did not form part of this particular Plantation scheme as they were privately colonised.) In 1791, the Society of United Irishmen was founded in Belfast, after Henry Joy McCracken and other prominent Presbyterians from the city invited Theobald Wolfe Tone and Thomas Russellto a meeting, after having read Tone's "Argument on Behalf of the Catholics of Ireland". Evidence of this period of Belfast's growth can still be seen in the oldest areas of the city, known as the Entries. 

Belfast blossomed as a commercial and industrial centre in the 18th and 19th centuries and became Ireland's pre-eminent industrial city. Industries thrived, including linen, rope-making, tobacco, heavy engineering and shipbuilding, and at the end of the 19th century, Belfast briefly overtook Dublin as the largest city in Ireland. The Harland and Wolff shipyards became one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, employing up to 35,000 workers. In 1886 the city suffered intense riots over the issue of home rule, which had divided the city.

In 1920–22, Belfast became the capital of the new entity of Northern Ireland as the island of Ireland was partitioned. The accompanying conflict (the Irish War of Independence) cost up to 500 lives in Belfast, the bloodiest sectarian strife in the city until the Troubles of the late 1960s onwards.

Belfast was heavily bombed during World War II. In one raid, in 1941, German bombers killed around one thousand people and left tens of thousands homeless. Apart from London, this was the greatest loss of life in a night raid during the Blitz.


The Troubles

Belfast has been the capital of Northern Ireland since its establishment in 1921 following the Government of Ireland Act 1920. It had been the scene of various episodes of sectarian conflict between its Catholic and Protestant populations. These opposing groups in this conflict are now often termed republican and loyalist respectively, although they are also loosely referred to as 'nationalist' and 'unionist'. The most recent example of this conflict was known as the Troubles – a civil conflict that raged from around 1969 to 1998.

Belfast saw some of the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, particularly in the 1970s, with rival paramilitary groups formed on both sides. Bombing, assassination and street violence formed a backdrop to life throughout the Troubles. The Provisional IRA detonated 22 bombs within the confines of Belfast city centre in 1972, on what is known as "Bloody Friday", killing eleven people. Loyalist paramilitaries including the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) claimed that the killings they carried out were in retaliation for the IRA campaign. Most of their victims were Catholics with no links to the Provisional IRA. A particularly notorious group, based on the Shankill Road in the mid-1970s, became known as the Shankill Butchers.

In all, over 1,600 people were killed in political violence in the city between 1969 and 2001. Sporadic violent events continue as of 2015, although not supported by the previous antagonists who had reached political agreement in 1998.

Climate

As with the rest of Ireland, Belfast has a temperate or oceanic climate, with a narrow range of temperatures and rainfall throughout the year. The climate of Belfast is significantly milder than some other locations in the world at a similar latitude, due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. There are currently 5 weather observing stations in the Belfast area: Helens Bay, Stormont, Newforge, Castlereagh, and Ravenhill Road. Slightly further afield is Aldergrove Airport. The highest temperature recorded at any official weather station in the Belfast area was 30.8 °C (87 °F) at Shaws Bridge on 12 July 1983. Belfast holds the record for Northern Ireland's warmest night time minimum, 19.6 °C (67.3 °F) at Whitehouse on 14 August 2001.

The city gets significant precipitation (greater than 1mm) on 157 days in an average year with an average annual rainfall of 846 millimetres (33.3 in), less than areas of northern England or most of Scotland, but higher than Dublin or the south-east coast of Ireland. As an urban and coastal area, Belfast typically gets snow on fewer than 10 days per year. The absolute maximum temperature at the weather station at Stormont is 29.7 °C (85 °F), set during July 1983. In an average year the warmest day will rise to a temperature of 24.4 °C (75.9 °F) with a day of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or above occurring roughly once every two in three years. The absolute minimum temperature at Stormont is −9.9 °C (14 °F), during January 1982, although in an average year the coldest night will fall no lower than −4.5 °C (24 °F) with air frost being recorded on just 26 nights. The lowest temperature to occur in recent years was −8.8 °C (16.2 °F) on 22 December 2010.

Climate data for Belfast

MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °C (°F)14.7
(58.5)
15.8
(60.4)
20.1
(68.2)
20.8
(69.4)
25.0
(77)
27.5
(81.5)
29.7
(85.5)
28.2
(82.8)
24.2
(75.6)
20.6
(69.1)
17.1
(62.8)
14.6
(58.3)
29.7
(85.5)
Average high °C (°F)8.0
(46.4)
8.4
(47.1)
10.2
(50.4)
12.3
(54.1)
15.0
(59)
17.5
(63.5)
19.3
(66.7)
18.9
(66)
16.7
(62.1)
13.4
(56.1)
10.3
(50.5)
8.4
(47.1)
13.2
(55.8)
Daily mean °C (°F)5.1
(41.2)
5.2
(41.4)
6.7
(44.1)
8.4
(47.1)
10.9
(51.6)
13.5
(56.3)
15.4
(59.7)
15.1
(59.2)
13.1
(55.6)
10.2
(50.4)
7.3
(45.1)
5.5
(41.9)
9.7
(49.5)
Average low °C (°F)2.1
(35.8)
2.0
(35.6)
3.2
(37.8)
4.4
(39.9)
6.7
(44.1)
9.5
(49.1)
11.4
(52.5)
11.3
(52.3)
9.4
(48.9)
6.9
(44.4)
4.3
(39.7)
2.6
(36.7)
6.2
(43.2)
Record low °C (°F)−9.9
(14.2)
−6.1
(21)
−7.2
(19)
−5.6
(21.9)
−1.7
(28.9)
1.7
(35.1)
5.6
(42.1)
4.9
(40.8)
1.1
(34)
−0.9
(30.4)
−3.4
(25.9)
−9.1
(15.6)
−9.9
(14.2)
              
Source: KNMI

Geography

Belfast is at the western end of Belfast Lough and at the mouth of the River Lagan giving it the ideal location for the shipbuilding industry that once made it famous. When the Titanic was built in Belfast in 1911–1912, Harland and Wolff had the largest shipyard in the world. Belfast is situated on Northern Ireland's eastern coast at 54°35′49″N 05°55′45″W. A consequence of this northern latitude is that it both endures short winter days and enjoys long summer evenings. During the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, local sunset is before 16:00 while sunrise is around 08:45. This is balanced by the summer solstice in June, when the sun sets after 22:00 and rises before 05:00.

Economy

The IRA Ceasefire in 1994 and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 have given investors increased confidence to invest in Belfast. This has led to a period of sustained economic growth and large-scale redevelopment of the city centre. Developments include Victoria Square, the Cathedral Quarter, and the Laganside with the Odyssey complex and the landmark Waterfront Hall.

Other major developments include the regeneration of the Titanic Quarter, and the erection of the Obel Tower, a skyscraper set to be the tallest tower on the island. Today, Belfast is Northern Ireland's educational and commercial hub. In February 2006, Belfast's unemployment rate stood at 4.2%, lower than both the Northern Ireland and the UK average of 5.5%. Over the past 10 years employment has grown by 16.4 per cent, compared with 9.2 per cent for the UK as a whole.

Northern Ireland's peace dividend has led to soaring property prices in the city. In 2007, Belfast saw house prices grow by 50%, the fastest rate of growth in the UK. In March 2007, the average house in Belfast cost £91,819, with the average in south Belfast being £141,000. In 2004, Belfast had the lowest owner occupation rate in Northern Ireland at 54%.

Peace has boosted the numbers of tourists coming to Belfast. There were 6.4 million visitors in 2005, which was a growth of 8.5% from 2004. The visitors spent £285.2 million, supporting more than 15,600 jobs. Visitor numbers rose by 6% to reach 6.8 million in 2006, with tourists spending £324 million, an increase of 15% on 2005. The city's two airports have helped make the city one of the most visited weekend destinations in Europe.

Belfast has been the fastest-growing economy of the thirty largest cities in the UK over the past decade, a new economy report by Howard Spencer has found. "That's because [of] the fundamentals of the UK economy and [because] people actually want to invest in the UK," he commented on that report.

BBC Radio 4's World reported furthermore that despite higher levels of corporation tax in the UK than in the Republic. There are "huge amounts" of foreign investment coming into the country.

The Times wrote about Belfast's growing economy: "According to the region's development agency, throughout the 1990s Northern Ireland had the fastest-growing regional economy in the UK, with GDP increasing 1 per cent per annum faster than the rest of the country. As with any modern economy, the service sector is vital to Northern Ireland's development and is enjoying excellent growth. In particular, the region has a booming tourist industry with record levels of visitors and tourist revenues and has established itself as a significant location for call centres." Since the ending of the regions conflict tourism has boomed in Northern Ireland, greatly aided by low cost.

Der Spiegel, a German weekly magazine for politics and economy, titled Belfast as The New Celtic Tiger which is "open for business".

Subdivisions

Central

Belfast city centre is focused on Donegall Square and Belfast City Hall in its centre. All major city bus routes converge here and, on sunny days, this is where shoppers and office workers can be found enjoying their breaks. The City Hall is the grand centerpiece of the city and the orientation point for your exploration of Belfast. Running north from the centre of Donegall Square is Donegall Place, a broad and bustling shopping street, which will lead you towards the Cathedral Quarter and the Arts School. The city centre is bordered to the east by the River Lagan, and to the south by the area around Donegall Pass. Where Belfast city centre meets the River Lagan, windswept pavements prove that meaningless sculptures and grandiose attempts at urban planning do not necessarily make for a popular urban space. The horrendous dual carriageway known as the Westlink separated the centre of Belfast from the western suburbs of the city in the 1970s; this borders the city centre to the west. On the plus side, the network of dual carriageways and motorways mean that one can get from the city centre to all the surrounding suburbs and satellite towns in less than fifteen minutes, even during the rush hour, something which is impossible in many other cities, for example Dublin.

In between these rough boundaries, you'll find Belfast's heart. Parts of it are blighted by dereliction, others are blighted by narrow-minded money-grabbing redevelopment. Note that while largely safe at all times, years of city centre curfews during the troubles means that the centre of Belfast can be startlingly empty of pedestrians after 8PM, with groups of teenagers the only people to found on Donegall Pl. City centre living has yet to become as popular here as in other parts of Britain and Ireland.


South

Belfast's leafiest and most accessible suburbs are found south of the city centre along Botanic Ave, and University Rd around the Queen's University. Apart from the small loyalist community around Donegall Pass, the areas between University Rd and Lisburn Rd are mostly mixed, and there is a dense student population living in rented accommodation. It's a 20 min walk from Donegall Place to Botanic Avenue. The commercial core of Belfast is apparent on Bedford St, and the lively bars, takeaways of Dublin Rd are busy most nights of the week. Botanic Ave is somewhat quieter with less traffic and is lined with cafés, restaurants and small shops. Farther south, beyond the University, is the Lisburn Rd, recently christened "Belfast's Bond Street", with its eclectic mix of boutiques, chic bars and restaurants, and lively coffee shops. This part of town is the most affluent of the city, and is regularly referred to by its postcode: BT9.


East

East Belfast is the largest of the cities' 4 electoral wards and is serviced by a number of large arterial roads (Cregagh Road, Castlereagh Road, Newtownards Road and Holywood Road), which all start in or close to the city centre.

East Belfast is a mainly residential and largely Protestant area encompassing a wide range of housing from the working class terraced streets along the Beersbridge road, to wide tree lined avenues of Belmont, and all areas in between. Despite its largely Protestant nature East Belfast is generally the area of the city where newcomers to Belfast of all religious and political persuasions from within Northern Ireland will look to purchase houses in when they arrive in the city. The rationale for this may be that although South Belfast is often thought of as a desirable locale it is in many cases prohibitively expensive. North and West Belfast are even cheaper than the East but whilst both contain many pleasant neighbourhoods they still have a lot of echoes from the troubles that can put newcomers off. North Belfast especially has a large number of "interface areas" (regions where working class loyalist and republican areas meet) that can occasionally flare up into trouble. East Belfast, possibly because it has only one interface area and is relatively homogeneously Protestant, was less on the "coalface" of the troubles than both the North and the West.

Internet, Comunication

There are free internet kiosks throughout Belfast which allow anyone to browse the internet. Here you can find up-to-date travel information and timetables. Kiosk locations [www]


Television

Northern Ireland receives the same basic package of national television and radio services as the rest of the United Kingdom, with regional variations on the BBC channels and UTV. UTV carries most of ITV-1's national programming, but is branded as UTV. It is the last remaining television channel in Britain to feature a live, on camera announcer introducing the evening's programming; usually the effervescent Julian Simmons. To get an understanding of what is happening, you'll find high quality regional news programming on BBC One at 1:30PM, 6:30PM and 10:30PM and on UTV at 6PM.

Depending on geographic location and the availability of a signal, you may also receive stations from broadcasters in the Republic of Ireland.

  • RTÉ One (the main RTÉ national station, broadcast primarily from Dublin)
  • RTÉ Two (the secondary RTÉ national station, formerly "Network 2")
  • TV3 (independent commercial broadcaster)
  • TG4 (National Irish-language station)
  • RTÉ offers good coverage on the North side of the Border too.

Radio

Local radio stations include:

  • Belfast Citybeat - City centre music station.
  • U105 - Music and talk station operated by UTV.
  • BBC Radio Ulster - Music and talk station operated by the BBC.
  • Cool FM - City centre music station, available throughout Northern Ireland.
  • Féile FM - West Belfast community radio based on the Falls Road.
  • QueensRadio - Small university station available in South Belfast.

Regional variations of shows on the national BBC Radio One and the excellent Across the Line on BBC Radio Ulster promote local music, and can be listened to online. These are a great way to find out about forthcoming concerts and gigs. Like television from south of the border, there are a number of Irish republic radio broadcasts which tend to spill over into Northern Ireland such as Today FM and RTÉ 2FM.


Press

Locally published newspapers include:

Prices in Belfast

PRICES LIST - EUR

MARKET / SUPERMARKET

Milk1 liter€1.05
Tomatoes1 kg€2.20
Cheese0.5 kg€4.70
Apples1 kg€2.75
Oranges1 kg€2.65
Beer (domestic)0.5 l€1.65
Bottle of Wine1 bottle€7.50
Coca-Cola2 liters€2.15
Bread1 piece€0.96
Water1.5 l€1.00

PRICES LIST - EUR

RESTAURANTS

Dinner (Low-range)for 2€26.00
Dinner (Mid-range)for 2€49.00
Dinner (High-range)for 2
Mac Meal or similar1 meal€5.90
Water0.33 l€1.05
Cappuccino1 cup€2.90
Beer (Imported)0.33 l€4.30
Beer (domestic)0.5 l€4.15
Coca-Cola0.33 l€1.30
Coctail drink1 drink€8.00

PRICES LIST - EUR

ENTERTAINMENT

Cinema2 tickets€14.00
Gym1 month€28.00
Men’s Haircut1 haircut€10.00
Theatar2 tickets€90.00
Mobile (prepaid)1 min.€0.10
Pack of Marlboro1 pack€10.50

PRICES LIST - EUR

PERSONAL CARE

Antibiotics1 pack€5.20
Tampons32 pieces€3.10
Deodorant50 ml.€1.25
Shampoo400 ml.€2.25
Toilet paper4 rolls€2.00
Toothpaste1 tube€1.50

PRICES LIST - EUR

CLOTHES / SHOES

Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)1€60.00
Dress summer (Zara, H&M)1€35.00
Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)1€63.00
Leather shoes1€61.00

PRICES LIST - EUR

TRANSPORTATION

Gasoline1 liter€1.28
TaxiStart€3.00
Taxi1 km€1.00
Local Transport1 ticket€2.35

Tourist (Backpacker)  

53 € per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • meals in cheap restaurant
  • public transport
  • cheap hotel

Tourist (business/regular)  

200 € per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • mid-range meals and drinks
  • transportation
  • hotel

Transportation - Get In

Transportation - Get In

By plane

Belfast has two airports.


George Best Belfast City Airport (IATA:BHD) is just two miles from Belfast's city centre, with magnificent views of the city of Belfast or Belfast Lough on approach and departure. The airport principally serves routes to domestic UK and Ireland, however British Airways has extensive worldwide connections through the OneWorld Alliance. Airlines using the airport include:

  • Aer Lingus to London Heathrow, Gatwick, Faro, Malaga, Palma de Mallorca
  • British Airways to London Heathrow
  • Citywing to Blackpool, Gloucestershire, Isle of Man.
  • flybe to Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Guernsey, Inverness, Jersey, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool, London Gatwick, Newcastle, Nottingham EMA, Paris, Southampton, Manchester and Rennes.

The terminal is served every 20-30min 06:00-22:00 by the Metro 600 bus (£2.50 single, £3.80 return). Depending on traffic, the journey to Belfast's Laganside and Europa Buscentres should take no more than 15 minutes.

Alternatively, NIR trains serve the airport at Sydenham station twice an hour on the Portadown/Belfast/Bangor line. Upon arrival, ask at the airport information desk for a free shuttle ride to the station. If arriving by train, the courtesy bus may be requested just inside the airport perimeter across the bridge from Sydenham station. A single fare to Belfast Central, Botanic, City Hospital or Great Victoria Street costs £1.60. A single to Bangor costs £3.80

Taxis cost approximately £10 to most parts of the city and are an economical choice for small groups. Please note that there is a surcharge of £2 that taxis add on if you are taking one from the airport as some drivers don't make this clear until you've reached your destination


Belfast International Airport (IATA: BFS) is further from Belfast than City Airport, lying closer to the towns of Templepatrick and Antrim, but offers significantly more international destinations. United Airlines has connections available to destinations throughout the Americas and beyond.

  • Easyjet to Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin Schoenefeld, Bristol, Edinburgh,Faro, Geneva, Glasgow, Ibiza, Kraków, Liverpool John Lennon, London Gatwick,London Luton, London Stansted, Malaga, Newcastle, Nice, Palma, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Prague, Rome Ciampino, Venice
  • Jet2 to Blackpool, Chambéry, Dubrovnik, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Jersey, Leeds Bradford, Malaga, Murcia, Palma, Pisa, Tenerife South and Toulouse
  • United Airlines to New York (Newark Liberty International Airport)

The terminal is served up to every 30min from 05:35 to 23:20 by the 300 Airport bus (£7 single, £10 return). Depending on traffic, the journey to Belfast's Laganside and Europa Buscentres takes about 45 minutes. Taxis should cost no more than £25-30 to Belfast City Centre.

There is a cheaper, but slower route available by taking the 109A (hourly service M-Sa) Ulsterbus 109A service to Antrim from the stand outside the airport, leave the bus at Antrim Bus station (£2.60 one way). Take a train from Antrim to Belfast Great Victoria Street. Train times to be found on timetables at station, you can also get by train to Londonderry/Derry, Ballymena/Ballymoney and Coleraine /Portrush/Castlerock by train also just ask what platform they are departing from trains run every hour to Londonderry/Derry and to Belfast Great Victoria Street


From Dublin

The fastest way to get to Belfast from Dublin Airport 160 km (100 mi) is by bus, it only takes about 1 hour 30 mins. Ryanair, Aer Arann and Aer Lingus (the national airline of the Republic of Ireland) serve many international destinations in Europe and North America (including Boston, Los Angeles and New York City). Hourly buses that leaves at 20 minutes past the hour e.g. 14:20, 15:20, etc. (24 hours, daytime services operated by Ulsterbus, night services by Bus Éireann) [www] link Dublin Airport and the Belfast Europa Buscentre.

Aircoach also run a bus service every hour from Dublin Airport to Belfast, you get dropped off in Glengall Street (just outside the Belfast Europa Buscentre). They leave on the hour. The Aircoach is normally faster than the Ulsterbus/Bus Éireann service as there is less stops.

Transportation - Get In

By Train

You can now get cheap online tickets from Dublin to Belfast on translink's website. If you are arriving into Dublin Airport do not get the train to Belfast, get the bus direct from the Airport. The train station is in Dublin City Centre, nowhere near the airport.

Despite decades of underinvestment and service cutbacks, Northern Ireland Railways(a division of Translink, Northern Ireland's public transport operator) manages to maintain a small but increasingly reliable passenger rail network around the province, with four 'domestic' lines radiating out from Belfast. Great Victoria Street Station is in the centre of Belfast on, as the name suggests, Great Victoria Street. Just yards from the Grand Opera House and beside the Europa Hotel, the Great Victoria Station is part of a combined bus/rail station, the bus centre being called Europa Bus Centre. Look for the sign above the door to access the station from Great Victoria Street, Great Northern Mall. The "Central Station" is not very central at all - it's about half a mile from the city centre but is close to Belfast Courts, the Waterfront Hall and bus routes to east Belfast.

There are four rail corridors in/out of Belfast:

  • Belfast - Bangor
  • Belfast - Portadown
  • Belfast - Larne
  • Belfast - Coleraine - Londonderry/Derry or Portrush

Service is most frequent and reliable on the Portadown - Belfast - Bangor corridor, on which new trains offer frequent and fast suburban service. The line to Londonderry/Derry is exceptionally beautiful as it passes along the north coast after Coleraine, however travellers should note that the railway line is slower (two hours or more) than the equivalent Ulsterbus Goldline express coach (one hour and forty minutes). Contact NIR for information on tourist passes for exploring Northern Ireland by bus and train: with integrated bus and train stations in most major towns, the province is easily explored without a car.

Services to Dublin (with connections to other destinations in the Republic of Ireland) is offered by the Enterprise, a modern, comfortable, but relatively slow train jointly operated by Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnrod Eireann (which operates trains in the Republic of Ireland). Journeys between Dublin and Belfast take two hours and twenty minutes, and there are up to eight trains a day, offering two classes of service. The train takes a less direct route than the road, but offers some superb views and is still generally quicker than equivalent buses. Cheap day returns are available to those willing to book online [www] . Standard fare is £25 one-way when purchased on the day of travel.

Transportation - Get In

By Bus

Ulsterbus (a division of Translink, Northern Ireland's public transport operator) operate the intercity bus network in Northern Ireland, linking most major towns and cities. Services are well-used and, in most cases, reasonably priced. The most frequent service is to Londonderry/Derry. Bus Éireann jointly operate cross-border services with Ulsterbus and operate almost all intercity routes in the Republic of Ireland. Bus Éireann offer a €15 single fare and €22 return fare from Dublin Busaras (bus station) and Dublin Airport to the Europa Buscentre in Belfast (currently unavailable to purchase online); Ulsterbus offers similar specials in the opposite direction. There is also a daily bus to Cork, via Athlone and one to Galway via Cavan.

Under the Eurolines banner, Ulsterbus offer 2 daily services to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and 2 daily services to London via Manchester and Birmingham. All of these are via the fast ferry Stranraer. Connections are available via National Express to virtually every destination in mainland Great Britain.

For less independent travellers, you can also book day trips from Dublin to Belfast on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. This includes a bus trip to Belfast followed by a black taxi cab ride through the two neighbourhoods and a visit to the peace wall. See Belfast Taxi Tours for info.

Local bus travel in Northern Ireland can be expensive outside of Belfast, but services are frequent and reliable. Belfast itself is small enough to walk anywhere comfortably.

There is also a bus based Park and Ride facility available, see National Park and Ride Directory

Transportation - Get In

By Car

Belfast is the focus of the road network in Northern Ireland, and as such is very well connected to the road network in Northern Ireland. While there are only three motorways in Northern Ireland (M1, M2 and M22), the rest of the country is very well provided for with high quality trunk roads.

Access to Belfast from the Republic of Ireland has never been better. Due to the great improvements the peace process in Northern Ireland has gained, crossing the border into Northern Ireland is now nothing more noticeable than a change in signposts and road markings. The M1 connects Dublin to Dundalk and almost to the border with Northern Ireland. The M1 is 83 km long and has one toll over the bridge of peace in Drogheda (€1.80 for a car).

Car rental

Belfast is not as well served by car rental companies as Ireland in general. Some Irish car rental companies offer a drop off option in Belfast while others have locations in Belfast City. If you plan to rent a car in the Republic of Ireland and drive it into Northern Ireland be aware of a potential additional insurance charge.

  • Avis Rent a Car Ltd - 69-71 Great Victoria St.
  • Dan Dooley - Belfast International Airport. Offers meet and greet service at Belfast City Airport and in the Belfast Docks.
  • Budget - Great Victoria St.
  • Europcar - 105 Great Victoria St.
  • Car Hire Ireland - Drop-off option at Belfast International by request only.
  • Enterprise Rent-a-car, Unit 1 Boucher Crescent, Tel: +44 28 9066-6767. If you need a car for the duration of your stay, the branch at Unit 3, Bldg 10 Central Park Mallusk, Tel: +44 28 9084-3749, will be able to meet you and drop you off at either airport or the ferry terminals.

Transportation - Get In

By boat

Frequent sailings across the Irish Sea connect Belfast to mainland Great Britain. All the operators listed below offer special promotions throughout the year, and some also offer through ticketing with rail and bus services at each end. For foot passengers without through tickets the only public transport link to the Belfast Stena terminals is bus 96 from Belfast city centre (North Queen Street and High Street) but this does not run at weekend. The coaches used by passengers with through tickets are not available to walk-up passengers (i.e. they do not sell tickets on board).

  • Stena Line offer two types of service from the Port of Belfast to Cairnryan in Scotland, with up to six sailings a day. The HSS Stena Voyager is a high speed catamaran (the fastest ferry from Northern Ireland to mainland Great Britain) and the Stena Caledonia is a more traditional and slower ferry.
  • P&O Irish Sea Ferries runs two sailings a day each way between Larne and Troon in Scotland
  • Stena offer daytime and night-time crossings to Birkenhead, near Liverpool, taking about 8 hours. Cabins and meals are available.
  • Isle of Man Steam Packet Company sail between Belfast and the Isle of Man, from late March to late September.

Transportation - Get In

By sail and rail from Great Britain

It is possible to buy a through train ticket between any railway station in Great Britain and any railway station in Ireland, north or south. It is generally cheaper to do this than buy separate train tickets to ferry ports and then foot passenger tickets on the boat, and this remains one of the cheapest ways of reaching Northern Ireland, especially at short notice.

For journeys from Great Britain tickets can be bought from any staffed station and from some automated ticket machines. Few online ticket agents sell cross-channel rail tickets, and those that do add additional booking fees. Since tickets are no cheaper booked in advance, they can usually be bought at the station on departure.

For journeys from Northern Ireland cross-channel tickets (and, in fact, all rail tickets for travel within Great Britain) can be bought from NI Railways Travel, the travel agency located at Great Victoria Street railway station (with a small handling fee) or at the Stena Line terminal in Belfast.

Most rail and sail passengers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland are routed via Stena Line's Belfast/Stranraer Stena HSS fast ferry. Stranraer railway station is immediately adjacent to the ferry terminal, although Stena Line will leave Stranraer for the non-rail connected Cairnryan in 2011. Fares are priced by zones within Great Britain, starting at £25 single / £50 return (£16.50 / £33 with a National Rail railcard) between Belfast and destinations in south-west Scotland. London to Belfast via Stranraer costs £46 single / £92 return. Tickets include rail travel to Stranraer and passage on the Stena HSS, although not the transfer from Stena's terminal in the Port of Belfast. Metro 96 runs hourly throughout the day between the terminal and the city centre, or for slightly more rail and sail passengers can travel on the faster coach transfer to the Europa Buscentre offered free for cross-channel coach passengers.

An alternative 'rail and sail' routing from London and southern Britain is via Holyhead and Dublin.

Seat61.com offers informed and independent advice on how to book combined train and ferry tickets from any railway station in Great Britain to Northern Ireland.


Transportation - Get Around

The centre of Belfast is small enough to be explored by foot. However, to explore the suburbs of the city, as in any city, requires some sort of transport. From the centre of belfast to the city limits at any point is perhaps a distance of eight miles, Within the city there are two very distinct 'Bus' systems. Translink which is a private company operated the 'Metro' (previously Citybus). Buses run along colour coded high frequency routes that radiate from the city centre from around 6AM until 11PM. All major bus routes start or pass through Donegall Square, and a Metro information kiosk is on the West side of the square (Donegall Square West). Tourist passes are available from here, or for the more frequent traveller, you can purchase and pre-load a Smartlink card with credit for bus trips. While the routes are extensive, the travel is expensive, as it is for the whole of the country. Buses frequently do not turn up and staff can at times be unhelpful.

Belfast's second 'Bus' service is the 'Taxi Bus' or more commonly known as the 'Black Taxis'. These London style Black Taxis were brought to Belfast in the early 1970s and occurred at a time when the 'Troubles' was in its infancy. Riots and armed conflict were a daily occurrence and the established Bus company, would suspend its services to sections, or all of Belfast in response to this conflict. This suspension of services left much of Belfast without a regular transport service. It had negative effect on many working class areas of Belfast which found that they were unable to get to or from work, or in the case of children, school. The communities response to this was for individuals to travel to England and to purchase old London Taxis. These Taxis initially appeared in Republican areas of Belfast and later in Loyalist areas of the city. The Taxis operated as buses and were shared by members of the public who would hail the taxi and pay a nominal fare. For more than 40 years this system has existed and developed. The primary provider is the West Belfast Taxi Association which operates this service in Nationalist/Republican areas. They have a fleet of around 220 taxis and service, from their base at King Street, Belfast areas such as the Falls, Whiterock, Glen, Andersonstown, Stewartstown and Shaws Roads as well as outlying areas such as Twinbrook and Poleglass. The Association also provides a similar service in the North of the city covering the New Lodge and Ardoyne areas as well as to the small town of Crumlin. To avail of the 'Taxi Bus' service, one merely has to put ones hand out to stop a taxi. Most taxis have a display which states their destination. However, should a visitor to the city be unsure of the exact ettiquete surrounding this form of transport or destination, they should just hail any 'Taxi Bus' and ask advice from the driver. The fare for these journey are (for the short journey) 80 pence for a pensioner; 90 pence for any child still at school and £1.30 for an adult. The longest journey is slightly more expensive, but still cheaper than the regular buses (90 pence for a pensioner; £1,00 for any child still at school and £1.70 for an adult). This Association instigated and developed the now famous 'Black Taxi Tour'.

Unionist/Loyalist areas of the City are served by the Shankill Taxis who provide services on the Shankill and Shore Roads, This operation is considerably smaller given that there are perhaps only a dozen taxis working these routes.

If your time is limited, the open-top 'Belfast Sightseeing' bus tours are recommended, costing about £10 per person for a 2 hour journey. You will be shown the sights in the city centre and suburbs including famous murals painted on the ends of terraced houses during 'The Troubles' in the Falls Road area, the Harland and Wolff shipyards where the RMS Titanic was built and Queens University. The guides are friendly, well informed and interesting, although many locals still remark that is unusual to see bright red open top tour buses passing through once troubled neighbourhoods. You may prefer a less obvious exploration of the city.

Belfast is now famous for its Black Taxi tours of the city, which are highly recommended, and can be arranged by most hostels, hotels and at the tourist office (47 Donegall Place, above the Boots pharmacy, just north of the City Hall). These tours are given by regular taxi drivers who have worked through the troubled years, and have a wealth of knowledge and very personal experiences, which they are glad to share during a tour that can last up to two hours.

Uber is also available in Belfast and has quickly grown in popularity. Many people still don't use it though so it can be handy to get back after a night out instead of trying to wave down a taxi in the street ( a very common sight on a Saturday night)

Hotels

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Hotels

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Shopping

Belfast has the full complement of high street chain stores that can be found in any other UK and Irish city. It does however have a variety of more interesting places to browse and shop, and a visit to Belfast would not be complete without experiencing them.

  • St. George's Market. On May Street, is situated near Belfast Central Station. It is Northern Ireland's largest indoor market and one of Belfast's major attractions for visitors and locals alike. Farmers markets are held on Saturdays 9AM-3PM, and variety markets are held on Fridays 6AM-1PM. It sells a fascinating range of foods, clothing and crafts. You can pick up some real bargains here, and the market itself provides a charming glimpse into Belfast life both past and present.
  • Smithfield Market. Winetavern Street, behind the Castle Court shopping centre. A treasure trove of independent retail outlets, and provides a much more authentic experience than the afore mentioned Castle Court centre in Royal Avenue.
  • No Alibis83 Botanic Ave,  +44 28 9020-1261. One of the finest independent bookstores anywhere in Northern Ireland or the Republic, this is a must for fans of British, Irish and American crime fiction, with a wide selection of books imported from the USA. No Alibis reassures book-lovers that there is more to life than Borders or Waterstones.

You will also find a number of interesting shops on and around College Street, and on Dublin Road.

Restaurants

Belfast has everything to quench any appetite, and best of all, eating meat on a Friday during Lent is no longer regarded as an expression of anti-Nationalism.


Budget

  • Archana53 Dublin Rd (Just opposite Pizza Hut), +44 28 9032-3713.A great Indian restaurant with even better deals at lunchtime.
  • BoojumBotanic Ave. Opened in 2008, this Mexican grill offers superb burritos, fajitas and tacos. Similar in style, and layout to the U.S. chain Chipotle. All ingredients are sourced direct from Mexico. A delicious, reasonable and very satisfying alternative. £4.50-5.50.
  • Bright's Restaurant41-43 Castle St and 23-25 High St+44 28 9024-5688. Two locations in the city centre known for serving the best traditional breakfast in town for only £3.95 before 12 noon. Large portions and good service. Can be very busy at times.
  • Crown Dining Rooms46 Great Victoria St,  +44 28 9027-9901.Above the Crown Liquor Saloon, this is a great place to eat local food in cosy surroundings. Ticks all the boxes for a warming meal on a cold day, but can be a little crowded with tourists: don't be surprised if you hear more American accents than Northern Irish.
  • Delaney's19 Lombard St+44 28 9023-1572. A diner with a cosy, old fashioned interior Cooked breakfast from £1.50 and lunches from £2.95. A local favourite.
  • Doorsteps Sandwiches455 Lisburn Rd+44 28 9068-1645. A good place for sandwiches, which are large enough to justify the name of the café, and which are exceptionally good value.
  • The John Hewitt51 Donegall St,  +44 28 9023-3768. Decently priced meals are available during the day and until 9PM in this popular Cathedral Quarter pub. Big plates with well sourced local ingredients and traditional meals. One of the best pubs for lunch in the city.
  • Little Italy Pizza13 Amelia St,  +44 28 9031-4914. If you're out on the town, this is the perfect place for something to soak up the booze. Just around the corner from the Crown Bar, this place does the very best (and the cheapest) pizza in Belfast.
  • Loaf CafeMaureen Sheehan Centre, 106 Albert St (Just around the corner from the International mural wall on the Falls Rd and across from St. Peter's Cathedral), +44 28 9090-0071. M-F 8:30AM-3PM. This lovely little cafe which serves a great range of breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea options. Check out their lovely lunch specials and pizza meal deal for 2 on a Wednesday! Profits from Loaf are used to support local people with learning disabilities. Lunch £3.50.
  • Maggie Mays50 Botanic Ave,  +44 28 9032-2662. Anyone who has had a hangover in Belfast has had Maggie Mays' Ulster fry. Serves a hefty, but far from the best, traditional Ulster breakfast (bacon, sausage, egg, fried bread, soda bread etc). The cosy interior is decorated with paintings and street signs from around Belfast. Service can be patchy, but the main reason to come here is the food. Often difficult to get a table, but well worth it if you can! Avoid more than weekly visits, your heart will thank you.
  • Moghul Restaurant62a, Botanic Ave,  +44 28 9032-6677. This fine Indian restaurant has good value lunch deals, and is a handy starting point for a night out on the Golden Mile. Try for the special Friday lunch buffet.
  • Nex D'Or34 Castle St and 13 Rosemary St. Oh, Belfast, where did you go? Proof that some parts of this city are resisting the onslaught of urban renewal, café lattés and trendification. When you really need classless comfort food in a smokey low level diner, nowhere is better than the two branches of Nex D'Or. Don't expect the world's finest food, but do expect fond memories of what this town used to be like. Cheap as hell, and that's not just the menu.
  • SPUDS37 Bradbury Pl. Long established (since 1971) and very popular traditional diner and take-away serving an array of local specialities. Known for its baked potatoes, served with pretty much anything you can imagine. Serves the best 'champ' in the city (a local dish consisting of creamed potatoes, butter and spring onion).
  • The Bridge House (J.D. Wetherspoon)35-43 Bedford St. Ubiquitous chain pub found in almost every UK town. Serves undeniably good value food, though quality is sometimes sacrificed for price. Many meals served with free pint.

Mid-range

  • Apartment2 Donegall Square W,  +44 28 9050-9777. Belfast's most stylish venue with amazing views over City Hall. Raised above Belfast's bustling streets this cosmopolitan bar & restaurant has it all to offer - whether its coffee & croissants, lunch & cocktails or wine & dinner. At night Apartment transforms from a modern eatery to a busy lounge bar with cool urban beats from some of Belfast's top DJ's. Apartment's ever evolving Cocktail List is the most extensive in Belfast with some of the city's finest & most original blends.
  • Lee Garden14-18 Botanic Ave+44 28 9027-8882. Popular during the day, mainly due to its £6.95 lunch specials. Evening meals are of average quality and are quite expensive.
  • Little Wing Pizzeria10 Ann St+44 28 9024-7000. Belfast's trendiest pizzeria serves some fantastic quality food in comfortable surroundings. Ideally located near Victoria Square, bookings sometimes necessary at peak times.
  • Scalini85 Botanic Ave,  +44 28 9032-0303. A very good Italian restaurant located in the trendy Botanic area of the city and close to Queen's University. Food and drink is very well priced and the portions are generous. Reservations not always required apart from on peak nights.

Splurge

  • Aldens Restaurant229 Upper Newtownards Rd,  +44 28 9065-0079.This restaurant is further out of town but serves excellent food with great service.
  • Cayenne Restaurant7 Ascot House, Shaftsbury Sq,  +44 28 9033-1532. Famous chefs Paul & Jeanne Rankin's Cayenne is a well established place for quality and funky food. Pre-theater menus cost £12.
  • The King's Head829 Lisburn Rd,  +44 28 9050-9950. A recent, major refurbishment has seen The King's Head re-open and quickly become one of the Lisburn Road's finest venues, combining both fresh food and local character. A 120 seater restaurant, dedicated Live Lounge, Gastro Pub & beer garden allow you to have the complete entertainment experience under one roof. All the luxury touches with excellent customer service without the formality.
  • The Merchant Hotel. Belfast's most opulent hotel. A sumptuous, intimate and welcoming hotel in the heart of The Cathedral Quarter, in Belfast’s city centre. The Merchant Hotel offers unrivaled service in a luxurious, historically significant building.
  • Restaurant Michael Deane1F 36-40 Howard St (Brasserie on ground floor),  +44 28 9033-1134. Belfast's only Michelin Star restaurant, ideal for all the frills dining but despite the accolades it is not overly stuffy.
  • Shu. On the lower Lisburn Road, this perennially popular restaurant is a must-visit for a special occasion. You can expect not only great food and excellent service, but also great craic and a real buzz in the modern and stylish dining room.
  • RBG Belfast4 Clarence Street West, Off Bedford Street, BT2 7GP+44 28 9067-7707. All day dining. All day dining in a relaxing atmosphere located at the heart of the city. Live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

Coffe & Drink


Coffee

  • Clements Coffee4 Donegall Square W, Castle St, 37-39 Rosemary St, 66 Botanic Ave, 139 Stranmillis Rd, 342 Lisburn Rd. Another reason why Starbucks Coffee have yet to make much progress in Belfast, largely due to the popularity of this Belfast coffee chain, which only sells fair-trade coffee. Bagels, sandwiches, cakes, soups and snacks are all reasonably priced.
  • Common Grounds12-24 University Ave,  +44 28 9032-6589. Fresh soups, chunky sandwiches, divine cakes and frequent live music or poetry reading events. This bright yet cosy café underneath a church hall has great food, tea and coffee, and a large room to the rear for events. A portion of each month's profits go to help a community project or charity in the third world.
  • Established Coffee54 Hill St, BT1 2LB,  +44 28 9031-9416.7AM - 6PM. The best cup of coffee in Northern Ireland. Choose from 1 of 3 coffee beans and choose how you like it done (Espresso, Latte, Americano, Filter). The staff are great and will walk you through the process if you're new. They are well practiced in knowing what grind each bean should be, how long any brewing should take and even with steamed-milk art! If you consider yourself a lover of coffee then you have to give it a go!

Sights & Landmarks

To make the most of your time in the city your first point of contact should be the centrally located Belfast Welcome Centre (Tourist Office) [www] at 47 Donegall Place, just north of City Hall. The first floor centre is accessible by elevator and escalator just to the left of the Boots Pharmacy. The staff can provide maps, book accommodation and tours, recommend itineraries and places of interest and sell you overpriced and tacky souvenirs. There is also a useful left luggage facility.

  • Taxi tours35A King St,  +44 7892 716660. 2 hours. Taxi Trax of West Belfast have seen the history of the troubles over the past 40 years. They even have a mural that can be seen on the International Wall.£30.
  • Black Taxi ToursKing St,  +44 28 9031-5777. 2 Hours. Free Pick up from any Belfast City location. Large Group discounts available on request. £30.
  • belfast mural tourscity center,  +44 7846 687085. 2 hours. Take a personal tour of the famous Belfast Murals,Hear the stories behind them,Tour the streets that show the scars of decades of conflict. £30.00 min.

Central

Belfast city centre is focused on Donegall Square and Belfast City Hall in its centre. All major city bus routes converge here and, on sunny days, this is where shoppers and office workers can be found enjoying their breaks. The City Hall is the grand centerpiece of the city and the orientation point for your exploration of Belfast. Running north from the centre of Donegall Square is Donegall Place, a broad and bustling shopping street, which will lead you towards the Cathedral Quarter and the Arts School. The city centre is bordered to the east by the River Lagan, and to the south by the area around Donegall Pass. Where Belfast city centre meets the River Lagan, windswept pavements prove that meaningless sculptures and grandiose attempts at urban planning do not necessarily make for a popular urban space. The horrendous dual carriageway known as the Westlink separated the centre of Belfast from the western suburbs of the city in the 1970s; this borders the city centre to the west. On the plus side, the network of dual carriageways and motorways mean that one can get from the city centre to all the surrounding suburbs and satellite towns in less than fifteen minutes, even during the rush hour, something which is impossible in many other cities, for example Dublin.

In between these rough boundaries, you'll find Belfast's heart. Parts of it are blighted by dereliction, others are blighted by narrow-minded money-grabbing redevelopment. Note that while largely safe at all times, years of city centre curfews during the troubles means that the centre of Belfast can be startlingly empty of pedestrians after 8PM. City centre living has yet to become as popular here as in other parts of Britain and Ireland.

  • City HallDonegall Sq,  +44 28 9032-0202. Tours daily 2pm, 3pm (+ 4pm in summer) & M-F 11am, S-S noon. Opened in 1906, the City Hall will possibly seem familiar to South African visitors, who may notice a resemblance to the city hall in Durban. This is a fine example of turn of the century architecture from the heart of the British Empire's drafting office. The City Hall houses Belfast's Council chambers and administrative offices. Excellently presented free guided tours are available every day; ring ahead for details of times. Also of note are the grounds, containing a memorial to victims of the Titanic and a statue of Queen Victoria. The spacious grassy square and broad pavements that surround the City Hall are also where local youths gather to perform complex mating rituals. free.
  • PLACE Built Environment Centre40 Fountain St,  +44 28 9023-2524. PLACE is the Northern Ireland Built Environment Centre based in Fountain Street, Belfast. PLACE was established in 2004 and is now an independent charity running a public programme of exhibitions, debates and discussions, architecture tours, site visits and design workshops on various local and international built environment topics relevant to Northern Ireland. For information on upcoming walking tours, exhibitions or events visit the website or give the Centre a call.
  • Saint Anne's CathedralDonegall St.,  +44 28 9043-4006. The stunning cathedral building is situated at the opposite end of Royal Avenue, the main shopping street, from the City Hall. It is a fascinating building, and is at the centre of the "Cathedral Quarter", which is reluctantly being redesigned and cleaned up by various investment agencies to become Belfast's 'cultural' district. Thankfully, a lot of work remains to be done, and the area contains many fine cafés, bars and interesting buildings that recall the city's commercial and industrial heritage. Rent prices have yet to jump significantly, so keep an eye out for the small galleries and studio workspaces that remain in this area.
  • Belfast Exposed23 Donegall St,  +44 28 9023-0965. Tu-Sa 11AM-5PM. Belfast Exposed is Northern Ireland's only dedicated photography gallery, and as well as operating a fine exhibition space in a refurbished warehouse building, also provides local photographers with dark room and processing facilities and a well maintained library. Exhibitions are usually free and always worth seeing.
  • Belfast Print Workshop and Gallery30-42 Waring St,  +44 28 9023-1323. This gallery is combined with an active workshop, where local artists are able to use the facilities to print their work. Usually a good selection of local work.
  • Belfast Central LibraryRoyal Ave. (Opposite the road from the Cathedral),  +44 28 9050-9150. The Victorian library building houses an excellent Irish section and a newspaper library, containing archives of all Northern Irish newspapers.
  • Titanic Boat Tour (Donegall Quay). Belfast takes a bizarre pride in that the ill-fated Titanic was built here (not caring to promote the many hundreds of other ships that were built here which did not sink) and you can now take a boat tour around the area that the ship was built. The former boat yards of Belfast are being ambitiously redeveloped into a residential and commercial neighbourhood that will be called (you guessed it) the Titanic Quarter. Check sailing times on their website. 70 min tour £10.
  • The Waterfront Hall2 Lanyon Pl,  +44 28 9033-4455. Standing on the northern side of Donegall Square, Belfast's imposing concert and conference venue is visible to the east where Chichester St meets the riverside. Built in 1997, it has been credited with generating £10 for the Belfast economy for every £1 spent on its construction. The main auditorium offers some of the best performance hall acoustics anywhere in Europe, and it is worth checking with the box office for upcoming shows.
  • The Bar Council & Bar Library of Northern Ireland414 Chichester St. Not open to the public, but notable for its striking architectural design. The northern half of the building is the opulent home of Belfast's (privately employed) barristers; meanwhile the southern end of the building (visible from May St) is occupied by the more modest Royal Courts of Justice Stamp Office (a tax-payer-funded government agency). Presented with two clients with two wildly different budgets, local architects Robinson McIlwaine successfully designed one building which seamlessly merge a more modest design and cheaper materials for the southern half of the building and a more elaborate and expensive design at the northern end.
  • Cornmarket. At the centre of Belfast's retail area. Visitors from Britain and Ireland will feel immediately at home with the bland selection of high street chains.

South

Belfast's leafiest and most accessible suburbs are found south of the city centre along Botanic Ave, and University Rd around the Queen's University. Apart from the small loyalist community around Donegall Pass, the areas between University Rd and Lisburn Rd are mostly mixed, and there is a dense student population living in rented accommodation. It's a 20 min walk from Donegall Place to Botanic Avenue. The commercial core of Belfast is apparent on Bedford St, and the lively bars, takeaways of Dublin Rd are busy most nights of the week. Botanic Ave is somewhat quieter with less traffic and is lined with cafés, restaurants and small shops. Farther south, beyond the University, is the Lisburn Rd, recently christened "Belfast's Bond Street", with its eclectic mix of boutiques, chic bars and restaurants, and lively coffee shops. This part of town is the most affluent of the city, and is regularly referred to by its postcode: BT9.

  • Queen's UniversityUniversity Rd.,  +44 28 9024-5133. Take any number 8 bus (8A - 8C) from the city center. At the southernmost end of the Golden Mile, the university is a fine Victorian building with extensive grounds. It contains a visitors' centre in the main central building.
  • Queens Film Theatre20 University Sq.,  +44 28 9097-1097.Belfast's art house and repertory cinema, and is the central location for the annual Belfast Film Festival.
  • Botanical Gardens. Accessed from University Rd beside the university and at the southern end of Botanic Ave. Very popular with locals and visitors alike. The Palm House contains local and interesting plants, such as carnivorous plants. Beside it is the Tropical Ravine, unique to the British Isles, where visitors walk around a raised balcony observing tropical flora and fauna. With large lawns and well maintained planting, the park is a popular destination in the summer. Fans of the BBC TV hidden camera comedy show 'Just for Laughs' will recognise the park from many hidden stunts. During the summer months be on the lookout for cameras pointing at you from parked vans and badly disguised tents.
  • Ulster Museum,  +44 28 9038-3000. Accessed off Stranmillis Rd in the Botanic Gardens. This excellent museum has much to see, including a large section on the history of Irish conflict, Northern Ireland's marine life and a significant collection of art. While many locals dislike the 1970s extension, it is one of the finest examples of a Brutalist modern extension being added and successfully integrated to an older classically designed museum. Free.
  • Lyric Theatre55 Ridgeway St,  +44 28 9038-1081. The diminutive Lyric remains the only full-time producing theatre in Northern Ireland. A busy schedule of productions can be found online. A major redevelopment is planned to take place in the next few years.

North

  • Belfast ZooAntrim Rd,  +44 28 9077-6277. Open daily 10AM-5:30PM. Take any number 1 bus (1A - 1G) from the city centre. A substantial modernisation programme has recently been finished, and the zoo has a very good variety of animals. The prairie dogs are of particular interest, as their tunnels extend throughout the park, rendering any open space looking like a giant game of 'whack-a-rat'. Much merriment was caused when the zoo was praised for letting the prairie dogs run wild and free, an accident that was caused after much effort was spent preventing them from digging out of their enclosure but no one checked on their ability to climb and they simply scampered over their small enclosing wall. The Zoo has recently welcomed Lily, the first Barbary lion cub to be born in Ireland. admission £6.70.
  • Belfast CastleAntrim Rd,  +44 28 9077-6925. Daily 9AM-6PM. Take any number 1 bus (1A - 1G) from the city centre. The castle (more accurately a large stately home) dates from 1870 and was restored in 1988. It is situated on Cave Hill and has good views of the city and coast. Cave Hill Country Park has marked walking routes and is an excellent viewpoint from which to get a view of Belfast. free.

West

  • An Chultúrlann (Irish Language Cultural Centre), 216 Falls Road, BT12 6AH,  +44 28 9096-4180. The hub of Irish language activities in Belfast. Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, at the heart of the Gaeltacht Quarter on the Falls Road is the Belfast Irish Experience, a friendly drop-in space where you can engage with the locals and experience Irish culture, but depending on your interests, it is also a dynamic arts centre, a centre for traditional music, a tourist information point, a café, a place to buy crafts or books, a place to learn the Irish language or take up new hobbies, to meet friends or book a tour, a place to feel proud of your heritage or to explore Irish culture.
  • West Belfast Taxi Association35a King St,  +44 28 9031-5777.Operate a remarkably efficient service from Belfast city centre to areas of West Belfast. Taxis run every few minutes up the Falls Road to destinations including Whiterock, Andersonstown and Twinbrook. The services operate as taxi buses, with passengers sharing a black cab with others who are going to roughly the same place. The routes are similar to bus routes, but the driver will stop and let you out at any point. Taxis can be hailed along the Falls and Andersonstown Rds. Fare from the city centre to Andersonstown are £1.30 one-way, cheaper and more convenient than the equivalent bus service.
  • Fáilte Feirste Thiar (Welcome West Belfast), 243 Falls Rd,  +44 28 9024-1100. Tourist Information office and welcome centre located in the heart of the Falls. The office distributes free maps, offers tours and general information about this part of the city.
  • Political Murals. Throughout Falls Rd and Shankill Rd. Visit the world renowned murals in the nationalist Falls and unionist Shankill portions of West Belfast. The main murals are situated on gable walls of buildings on both the Falls and Shankill roads, but others are located in the lower Shankill estate (off the lower Shankill Rd onto North Boundary St) and Bombay St (off the Falls Rd onto Clonard Gardens).
  • Milltown Cemetery546 Falls Rd. One of the two massive cemeteries of West Belfast. Milltown is dripping with history, being the final resting place for many Republican paramilitary members (mostly buried at the Republican plot, beneath the tricolour flag). There is also a memorial garden for IRA members killed during the Troubles, including those who took part in the 1981 Hunger Strike. Milltown cemetery is also the site of the notorious killings in 1988 of three mourners at an IRA funeral by Loyalist Michael Stone. The attack took place near the Republican plot.
  • Falls ParkFalls Rd,  +44 79 1754 3626. A large open space populated by a huge cemetery, gardens, Gaelic Football and Hurling pitches. Falls Park is a pleasant place to visit on a sunny day and provides a welcome respite from the city.
  • Casement Park (Páirc Mhic Asmaint). The principal stadium of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) in the province of Ulster. The sports of Gaelic Football and Hurling are played here, both of which provide a unique experience for visitors to the city. Tickets are extremely well priced (admittance to a major game would not be more than £20) and are, in most cases, available on the gate. For match dates and times check the Irish News newspaper or online.
  • O'Neills Sportswear14 Andersonstown Rd,  +44 28 9062-7032.O'Neills is the largest manufacturer and retailer of Gaelic Sports equipment and memorabilia, ideal for a more individual souvenir. Merchandise such as team or county jerseys are well priced, with a clearance department in-store where factory seconds and older stock are on sale at very low prices.
  • Eileen Hickey Republican History Museum,  +44 28 9024-0504.Conway Mill. Museum exploring the history of Republicanism in Belfast. The museum is not affiliated with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and could be seen as fairly biased. Tourists should make up their own minds whether or not to visit. Free admission.

East

East Belfast is the largest of the cities' 4 electoral wards and is serviced by a number of large arterial roads (Cregagh Road, Castlereagh Road, Newtownards Road and Holywood Road), which all start in or close to the city centre.

East Belfast is a mainly residential and largely Protestant area encompassing a wide range of housing from the working class terraced streets along the Beersbridge road, to wide tree lined avenues of Belmont, and all areas in between. Despite its largely Protestant nature East Belfast is generally the area of the city where newcomers to Belfast of all religious and political persuasions from within Northern Ireland will look to purchase houses in when they arrive in the city. The rationale for this may be that although South Belfast is often thought of as a desirable locale it is in many cases prohibitively expensive. North and West Belfast are even cheaper than the East but whilst both contain many pleasant neighbourhoods they still have a lot of echoes from the troubles that can put newcomers off. North Belfast especially has a large number of "interface areas" (regions where working class loyalist and republican areas meet) that can occasionally flare up into trouble. East Belfast, possibly because it has only one interface area and is relatively homogeneously Protestant, was less on the "coalface" of the troubles than both the North and the West.

  • Stormont Parliament Buildings,  +44 28 9025-0000. The parliament buildings are the home of the recently reinstated Northern Ireland Assembly. The buildings are massive and have marble interiors. The grounds are interesting in themselves, and a walk down the mile long road to the main parliament buildings is well recommended. Guided tours may be possible, telephone in advance.
  • Ulster Folk and Transport Museum,  +44 28 9042-8428. Cultra. Approximately 8 miles north-east from Belfast City Centre and most easily reached by train from Cultra station. Open daily 10AM-6PM, admission £6.50. It is one of Ireland's premier tourist attractions. It has a vast collection, and you could spend days exploring all of it. Highlights of the transport museum include a DeLorean (great scott!, etc.) and two train sheds full full of old steam locomotives and buses from Northern Ireland's past. The Folk Museum, on the other side of the railway line features a re-creation of an old Irish town. On Saturdays, there is a miniature railway operating, which is great fun. The folk museum is outdoors, so come prepared for the changeable Irish climate.
  • Lorne Guide Headquarters (about a mile away from the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum). It is the guide headquarters for Northern Ireland but to access you must be part of the guiding community e.g. Brownie, Guide etc.

Belfast Metropolitan Area

Whilst the urban area of Belfast itself has a population of just over 480,000 people, the larger Belfast Metropolitan Area encompasses neighbouring councils of Lisburn, Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus, North Down and Castlereagh with a total population of just over 640,000.

It is worth noting that a large make-up of the City's daily commuters come from these areas and the areas themselves have certain sights worth visiting.

Conveniently, rail links go to all Belfast Metropolitan areas via Belfast Central Station and Great Victoria Street Station. Bus links are also an option from Great Victoria Street Station. Prices vary, where buses are typically cheaper but take slightly longer, usually not more than around 30–40 minutes in total.

Things to do

  • Belfast Mural Tour. The two political groupings in the Northern Ireland (Republican and Loyalist, the former predominantly being Catholic and the latter predominantly Protestant) have a strong tradition of large wall mural painting in their communities, particularly the poorer ones. If you head to The Falls Road or Shankill you will get a good look at what are some of the world's finest house sized political murals. They change frequently depending on the political climate but they are definitely something to see. The areas they are in are very safe, however do be aware that politics and religion can be tense topics. Ask around and somebody will be able to point you to the murals.
  • Black Taxi Tours. Provide a fascinating insight into west Belfast. These can be booked through all hostels, hotels and the Belfast Welcome Centre, and cost around £7.50-10 per person.
  • The Golden Mile. The name given to the mile or so between Belfast City Hall and Queen's University. It sometimes disappoints tourists because it's less immediately evident and less densely packed together than the name suggests. It's also not the safest part of Belfast at night, especially at weekends and a large police presence is usually in evidence. Be careful using cash machines, and if you're having trouble getting a taxi it's probably better to start walking than to stick around for too long on street corners. Exploring the area in the day time will help you if you come back later for a night out. You'll find the lion's share of the City Centre's best bars and some good places to eat here. The Golden Mile starts around the Europa Hotel on Great Victoria Street, takes a skip to the left to continue down Dublin Road, reaches a buzzing climax around Bradbury Place (just south of the big screen overlooking the junction) and graduates to student friendly but welcoming bars along Botanic Avenue and University Road. See the Drink section for specific recommendations.
  • Crown Liquor Saloon46 Great Victoria St,  +44 28 9027-9901. AkaCrown Bar. Situated on the Golden Mile opposite the Europa Hotel, it is by some visitors rated to be the most beautiful pub existing in Northern Ireland today, and even if you don't drink, it's worth a visit. Apart from the stained glass windows (lovingly restored and replaced after several car bombs) it is largely unchanged since Victorian times, and the dark interior is still gas-lit. Inside, you'll find the famous booths which can seat about a dozen people, and be closed off from the bar with the attracted wood panneled doors. These are hot property after work on a Friday afternoon, so move quickly if you have the chance to occupy one. Note the button inside which was once used to summon a barman to take your order (sorry, these no longer work).
  • Odyssey Pavillion (The Odyssey), 2 Queen's Quay (Bus metro route 26 goes by the arena.),  +44 28 9045 1055. Across the bridge from the Lagan Weir is the Odyssey centre. This complex contains a 12 screen cinema, the SSE (formerly Odyssey) Arena (home of ice hockey team Belfast Giants), a bowling alley, W5 (an interactive science discovery centre) and a range of restaurants and bars.It can be very quiet on weeknights, but on weekend when ice hockey games are on, blockbusters are released in the cinema and the nightclubs and bars open, you can easily expect to see 12,000 people in the building.
  • Parks and open spaces. Belfast is home to a wide range of parks and open spaces, making it one of the greenest cities in Ireland. The main parks include Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, Ormeau Park and Botanic Gardens (located in the south of the city), Waterworks, Belfast Castle estate, Cave Hill Country Park and Alexandra Park (north Belfast), Dunville and Falls Park (west Belfast) and Orangefield and Victoria Park (in the east of the city). There are a host of walking routes through these parks and many include play facilities for children. Slightly further out from the City Centre, the Lagan Towpath is a delightful, peaceful and safe walk particularly during the summer months.
  • Grand Opera House. Possibly the finest remaining example of Georgian theatre architecture in the UK, this century-old building is a must-see for theatre and art lovers alike. Plays tend to show every evening except Sundays, with matinee performances on Thursdays and Saturdays. Discount is often available for students and senior citizens. The theatre also features an art gallery, displaying local artwork: viewing the pictures is free. If you ask nicely staff are usually pleased to give you a short tour of the theatre so you can take photos and learn a little bit about the theatre's history. The theatre also has a contemporary bar and cafe for people to relax during the day or have lunch. The staff are very friendly and helpful, with a good knowledge of the area. The theatre is right next to Great Victoria Street Station, making it a perfect place to visit when you arrive.

Nightlife

Belfast has a vibrant and bustling nightlife even though it is a relatively small city. Pubs around the city centre are generally open until 1AM several days a week, though some may close around 11:30PM. Clubs generally run from around 9PM through until 2AM, though a small number do stay open much later.

  • Belfast Pub Crawl (Belfast Crawl), Filthy McNasty's (Starting on the Dublin Road, a few hundred metres from the Europa Station.), +44 7445521950. 7.30-close. Belfasts only dedicated pub crawl service brings you to some of the best and most famous bars in the city, including Filthy McNasty's, Laverys, The Taphouse, The Elms, The Parlour and The Bot. The Belfast pub crawl also includes 4 free drinks and free entry to a night club, worth £5 alone! £8.

Style bars

  • The Northern Whig2-10 Bridge St,  +44 28 9050-9880. The Northern Whig is Belfast's most unique bar oozing sultry European style! What is most striking about The Northern Whig is the set of huge granite statues depicting Communist workers, which were acquired by the owners after the fall of Communism in Prague. Whether it's brunch, lunch, dinner, or simply drinks, The Northern Whig has it all. At night this smart & cosmopolitan venue comes to life with a varied mix of people & live music by some of Belfast's finest DJs. The Northern Whig has an extensive choice of original & house cocktails which are a must to try!!

Nightclub bars

  • The Botanic Inn23-27 Malone Rd,  +44 28 9050-9740.Affectionately known as 'The Bot', this bar is very popular, especially with students during the university term. It has a reputation for great atmosphere and craic, though can get very crowded at weekends. Downstairs is a large, attractive bar that regularly shows live sport, while upstairs has a highly regarded club. Good food is offered and drinks are reasonably priced.
  • Scratch Nightclub,  +44 28 9050-9750. 5-6 Lower Cresent. Centrally located just off Botanic Avenue, Scratch has been recently refurbished and regularly hosts popular club nights. The bar/club stretches over three floors and has a great reputation as the place to dance the night away! Open six nights a week, Scratch caters for all tastes. Friday and Saturday nights are the most popular; with famous local DJ Paul Kennedy spinning dance classics every Saturday.
  • The Globe36 University Rd,  +44 28 9050-9840. Another popular university area bar, the Globe is open 7 days a week, serving fantastic food at a reasonable price. Like most of the university area bars, The Globe hosts regular club nights, but is also popular for big screen sports.
  • The Stiff Kitten1 Bankmore Sq.. The Stiff kitten is another of Belfast's best clubs which regularly attracts big name DJs at weekends, and has excellent house DJs during the week. The bar is sleek and modern, while the crowd tends to be young, friendly and has plenty of students. For those on a budget, Tuesday and Thursday nights are excellent student nights with cheap drinks and good music. The bar is open 7 days a week, while the club runs on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
  • Brickies Bar (The Speakeasy). Brickies is in Queen's University Student Union and is usually a good starting point for a night out. Don't hesitate to ask the students about the best place to go on any particular night!
  • Thompsons. Seems to be the place to be. This club plays music too loud and too late, with good DJs and a foggy somewhat underground atmosphere. Next to the City Hall, look for the narrow entry across the street from the Titanic Memorial Garden.

Traditional bars

  • The Kitchen Bar36-40 Victoria Sq.,  +44 28 9032-4901. One of the most historic bars in Belfast, the original Kitchen Bar dates back to 1859 and was one of the favourite watering holes of the star performers of Belfast's famous Empire Music Hall. Relocated just round the corner from its original site to an old converted warehouse, it retains all the charm and charisma that visitors experienced at the original venue. Real Ale.Real Food.Real Craic.is the keywords for The Kitchen Bar and it certainly delivers on all three points, a must for any visitor to Belfast. Traditional fresh food is served daily including the renowned soda bread based 'Paddy Pizza'!
  • McHugh's Bar & Restaurant29-31 Queens Sq.,  +44 28 9050-9999. Situated in Belfast's oldest building, dating back to 1711. McHugh's has a 100 seater restaurant, a basement bar offering live entertainment and the main gallery, providing enough space and atmosphere for a great night out. The Basement & main bar hosts live traditional music sessions at various times of the week and weekend so make sure you go along and catch one of these free sessions! The restaurant provides impeccable service and great food with sacrificing value. With entertainment, art & culture, McHugh's is a traditional bar with a difference.
  • Madison's Hotel59-63 Botanic Ave,  +44 28 9050-9800. Set amidst the bustling Botanic Avenue this rather sexy boutique hotel is just a stones throw away from Belfast City Centre, Queens University & Botanic Gardens. The hotel has an excellent restaurant serving early morning breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. The main bar in Madison's is popular with locals & tourists alike with live music being played in the bar most nights. Offering all modern features a guest expects today, Madison's has an established reputation for great food, fine wines, amazing cocktails and fabulous entertainment all under the one roof.
  • Ryan's Bar & Restaurant116-118 Lisburn Rd,  +44 28 9050-9850.The emphasis in Ryan's is on providing good food, good value and great service. The ground floor provides an informal & comfortable venue for craic & conversation where you can partake of great all day bar food. One thing you have to be sure to try are Ryan's World Famous Chicken Wings - the recipe is a secret but it's no secret just how good they are! Best washed down with a pint of Guinness. Ryan's 75 seater restaurant offers a comfortable setting to enjoy traditional meals cooked to perfection. A rather intriguing & tasty choice are the 'Boxty' selections - a kind of Irish potato pancake!
  • The Parador116-118 Ormeau Rd,  +44 28 9050-9850. The Ormeau Road's Parador Hotel has been given a new lease of life with a complete facelift and a packed schedule of nightly entertainment. There is a mix of live traditional music on a Tuesday, Pub Quiz on a Wednesday and live Jazz every Thursday. The Jazz Session has been described as one of the best in the city which draws jazz lovers from far and wide. The Parador Hotel offers the best budget accommodation in the city starting at only £25 per night for a single room and £38 for a twin or double. There's no need to venture out looking for somewhere to eat either as the hotel provides a great selection of homemade food.

Alternative and Indie bars

  • The Bar With No Name (Auntie Annies), 44 Dublin Rd. Formerly Auntie Annies Porterhouse, A nice bar downstairs where punters get together and chat over a pint. Upstairs has regular gig nights, where some brilliant local bands can be heard.
  • Limelight/Katy Dalys/Spring and Airbrake17 Ormeau Ave. A great trio of adjacent venues that open up into each other for live music and alternative club nights. Tuesday nights are the most popular and can be very crowded; be sure to come before 10PM to make sure you get in. Famous bands can regularly be found gigging here, and there are always a at least a couple of live gigs a week.
  • The Menagerie Bar130 University St,  +44 28 9023-5678. This hidden away place near the Holiday Inn Express is a fun, atmospheric place. Dilapidated, but nice. Note: its popularity has declined a lot recently, not as funky as it used to be.

The following bars are beside each other in the Cathedral quarter. These all get a friendly alternative crowd:

  • The Spaniard3 Skipper St,  +44 28 9023-2448. A fantastic small friendly bar.
  • Duke of York, 7-11 Commercial Ct,  +44 28 9024-1062. A very popular bar, check it out on Thursday where they have traditional music.
  • Whites Tavern2-4 Wincellar Entry. Founded in 1630, one of the many bars to claim to be Belfasts oldest. Cosy downstairs bar with live music on Friday nights, upstairs has a jumping alternative disco on Friday and Saturday nights that is usually crammed to the roof.

Mainstream bars

  • Cafe Vaudeville25-39 Arthur St. A huge over-the-top, 1920's Paris themed restaurant and bar. The upstairs section features Northern Ireland's first "Bollinger bar".
  • Europa Piano BarGreat Victoria St (Europa Hotel),  +44 28 9027-1066. For the more mature drinker, this place is relaxed and offers great views of the Golden Mile below.
  • Empire Bar40 Botanic Ave+44 28 9024-9276. This place, a former church, is a cosy bar downstairs, featuring traditional Irish music some nights. The upstairs section features live music and comedy.
  • Errigle Inn320 Ormeau Rd,  +44 28 9064-1410. Unchanged since the 1930's, this bar is a popular authentic Belfast boozer. A great local bar, but a bit out of the way if you are only in Belfast for a short space of time.
  • Odyssey Complex. Depending on your point of view its either a souless hole of a place populated with underage kiddies, or Belfast's entertainment mecca. It features about 3 bars, 6 restaurants, cinema, IMAX and a bowling alley. Not the safest place to go clubbing although there is always a heavy police presence.
  • The Cloth Ear and The Bar35-39 Waring St,  +44 28 9023-4888.The Cloth Ear is The Merchant Hotel’s comfortable public bar. The warm and welcoming interior provides the ideal environment to relax and enjoy oneself in style. Combining both modern and traditional elements with a healthy dose of the eccentric. For example, the many unique items of vintage and antique clothing, the wooden moose and deer heads and the classic 1930’s – 1950’s sheet music that adorn the walls. Alternatively, go next door to the Merchant Hotel's own classic cocktail bar, simply named “The Bar”. The Victorian Grandeur of the building is abundantly evident, with its ornate ceilings, silk damask walls, antique Baccarat chandeliers and a cocktail list to which all the superlatives apply. Also home to possibly the world's most expensive cocktail at £750 a go!

Traditional music

  • Robinsons BarGreat Victoria St (right next to the Crown Bar, and opposite the Europa Hotel). Has traditional music every day in the back bar (Fibber Magees).
  • The Hatfield House130 Ormeau Rd. About as far from a tourist trap as one could possibly get. Located on the Ormeau Road, within walking distance from Botanic Avenue. Go to the Hatfield for an undiluted local experience - this is a real Irish pub, but be forewarned, it is very likely you will be the only tourist in the place. Very popular with a young crowd on weeknights and always busy on match days when Gaelic sports are shown on the big screen. Live music most nights.
  • Kellys Cellars30-32 Bank St. Just off castle street. Has traditional music at weekends. Another place with a claim to the title of "Belfast's Oldest Bar".
  • Maddens Bar (situated beside Castlecourt Shopping Centre in the Old Smithfield Square). Has traditional music at the weekends, gets an intellectual political crowd. You may have to press the buzzer for entry although it is quite safe.

Gay venues

Kremlin Belfast's best gay owned dance club for men and women. Voted best Gay Venue in Ireland on numerous occasions. The Kremlin is located at Donegall Street. Tel: +44 28 9031-9061.

Union Street Bar Belfast's trendy award winning gay bar. Union Street, has an excellent late club night on Saturday - Event Horizon. Check it out today. Web Link: [www]

Dubarrys Belfast's newest gay bar. Set over three floors, Dubarrys offers a great alternative to the banging house tunes and teenybopping antics of some other gay establishments.Frequented mainly by older gay men. A welcome addition to Belfast's booming gay scene. Gresham St T: +44 28 9032-3590

Forbidden Fruit is the only place to be on a Monday nite. Taking place at the Rain Nightclub in Tomb Street, it's the best gay venue on a Monday nite, followed by Bang which is almost as good, taking place in the Shoe Factory beside the Union Street Bar.

The Nest Gay owned pub that attracts an older mixed crowd. The bar is located at Skipper Street. Serves food. Used to be called 'The Custom House'. Tel: +44 28 9024-5558.

MYNT (formerly The Parliament, Belfast's first gay bar) Belfast's best gay dance club and bar for men and women. MYNT is located in Dunbar Street, Cathedral Quarter. Food is served at lunchtime all week. t: +44 28 9023-4520.

Mono is Belfast's latest city centre bar has rebranded Monday nights and brought in respected Irish DJ Micky Modelle - who recently went UK Top Ten with club hit Dancing in the Dark. His 'funky ass shakin' music' will get the gay crowd & chums grooving into early Tuesday... and a Happy Hour will run from 10PM to midnight. Admission free before 10PM, £3 after. Club closes at 03:00.

Kitty Killers A place for women to come, relax and have a boogie in any of our three nights of every month in both Belfast and Derry. Men are welcome as guests. Always check the website for updates on acts etc. 1st FRIDAY of month - BELFAST - The venue changes check the website- Alternative, pop, chart and dance - 9:30PM, £5. 3rd FRIDAY of month

Sirens @Ten Square A friendly and welcoming women-only crowd gets together on an ad hoc basis at the super-chic Ten Square Hotel. Email Sirens ([email protected]) or contact the hotel for nights and times (T: +44 28 9024-1001) . The perfect laid-back intro to the local lesbian scene. Open third Friday in every month. 21:30-01:00.

Queens Bar Gay friendly city centre pub located at Queens Arcade. Tel: +44 28 9032-1347.

The John Hewitt Gay friendly Cathedral Quarter pub located at Donegall Street Tel: +44 28 9023-3768. [www]

The Apartment Gay friendly bar located at Donegall Sq West. Tel: +44 28 9050-9777.

The Spaniard Lesbian friendly Cathedral Quarter bar and "Tapas Bar" at Skipper Street. The "Belfast/Basque" style bar is worth a visit for its tapas and cocktails. Great fun.

Also try Muriels and the Roost two lovely gay friendly bars just off the top of High St in Church Lane, very popular with lesbians.

If you're gay and looking for fun in Belfast you'll not leave disappointed that's for sure.

Safety in Belfast

Stay Safe


Belfast's reputation as a dangerous city is often exaggerated. A recent study by the United Nations International Crime Victimisation Survey (ICVS) shows that Northern Ireland has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe. The majority of incidents are committed by local people against local people, unsurprisingly following religious, sectarian or political differences. Tourists are outside this culture and should not be very concerned. As with any other city, it pays to be careful and always be aware of your surroundings. Do not flash valuables or money or walk around reading your guidebook or map. If you need directions, ask in any shop or bar.

There are areas in Belfast which have been scarred by trouble in the past. Though these areas are largely safe to visit, it is important to be aware of where you are. In nationalist areas of the city, it would be foolish to wear a Glasgow Rangers, England, or Northern Ireland football jersey. In unionist areas, wearing Glasgow Celtic, Republic of Ireland and Gaelic Football (GAA) jerseys would almost certainly lead to trouble. Though this is unlikely to affect tourists,

  • The City Centre is generally a safe area and is also regarded as a neutral zone. Avoid leaving the main streets at night and try not to venture into dimly lit streets.
  • North Belfast is not usually on the tourist trail but is becoming increasingly popular with the more adventurous traveller. Tiger's Bay is a unionist enclave which is generally safe during the day but should be avoided at night. The New Lodge, a nationalist area, is similarly patchy. The Antrim Road (including Carlisle Circus) andShore Road areas are best avoided at night. The Limestone Road is an interface (on one side is a nationalist area, the other a unionist enclave) and should be avoided at night due to occasional violence. It is best to avoid the nationalistArdoyne area at night, especially the interface area which links it with the Crumlin Road and Shankill areas of the city.
  • West Belfast is perfectly safe and generally tourist-friendly during the day as long as you don't venture too far from the main roads. Do not venture off the Falls Roadat night. The Shankill Road itself is best avoided at night. The nationalist Turf Lodge estate in Andersonstown is best avoided altogether. Falls Park and the area around it is dimly lit at night and is best avoided. The Crumlin Road is a unionist area and is generally safe during the day but not at night. It is also emphasized that tourists do not write on the peace wall as it is culturally insensitive to do so.
  • South Belfast is the most affluent part of the city and is generally trouble-free. Student night life can lead to altercations outside the bars and clubs on Bradbury Place at night. Sandy Row is a unionist neighbourhood that would probably be best avoided at night but is perfectly safe during the day and usually very quiet. The unionist Village area which lies further on from Sandy Row between the Lisburn Road and Boucher Road is quiet and residential but best avoided at night. The mixed Holylands and Ormeau Road areas do not deserve their reputations as trouble spots as they are generally both very quiet other than the occasional student party.
  • East Belfast is a predominantly unionist, working-class district that suffers from the same social problems as similar areas in other cities in Britain and Ireland. TheNewtownards Road is generally safe and well lit at night. One potential flashpoint is the interface with the nationalist Short Strand neighbourhood. Though fairly well kept and safe during the day, it is best to avoid this area at night.

Perhaps more importantly, it is not advisable to make any overtly political statements about Northern Ireland, even if you think that your comments will align with the views of the people to whom you're making them. It is unlikely that anyone will ask your thoughts about the political situation; however, if this does happen, it's best just to say you don't have an opinion. Otherwise, ask locals for advice and enjoy the hospitality of the majority of Belfast people.

Very High / 8.8

Safety (Walking alone - day)

Mid. / 5.0

Safety (Walking alone - night)

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