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Belfast

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Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom Northern Ireland Belfast

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Introduction

Belfast

Belfast

© All Rights Reserved janolaf

Belfast is the largest city in Northern Ireland and indeed the second largest in Ireland following Dublin. Belfast is surrounded by picturesque hills (including that of Cavehill, which supposedly inspired Jonathan Swift, the author of Gullivers Travels) and situated on Belfast Lough, at the mouth of the River Lagan. Because of its location, Belfast became one of the United Kingdom's major ship building regions. Once the largest ship yard in the world, Harland & Wolff (still operational) has a home in Belfast. It is best known for being the ship yard where the Titanic was constructed in 1912.

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Brief History

Undoubtedly over the years Belfast saw the worst of the Northern Irish "Troubles", but following break-through political agreements, including the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the atmosphere in the city and indeed the province changed. Following these political changes, economical ones followed: major investment and redevelopment has been rife in the city with landmark complexes springing up, including The Waterfront Hall, The Odyssey Complex and other ongoing developments, including The Titanic Quarter and Victoria Square (due for completion April 2008).

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Sights and Activities

Titanic Belfast

The Titanic Belfast is a new museum that opened early April 2012, exactly 100 years after the famous Titanic made here first voyage and ran into an iceberg and sank, killing hundreds of people. The Titanic Belfast museum is a monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage on the site of the former Harland and Wolff shipyard in the city's Titanic Quarter. It also tells the stories of the Titanic's sister ship RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic. The building contains more than 12,000 square metres of floor space, most of which is occupied by a series of galleries, plus private function rooms and community facilities. There are tours as well and safe at least 1 to 2 hours for a visit to this fabulous museum. Full prices for adults are GBP 13.50, but seniors, children and students can visit with discounts. The museum is open all year round, except 24-26 December, from 9:00am to 7:00pm April to September, and 10:00am to 5:00pm October to March.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Belfast City Hall is one of the most magnificent buildings in the city and was built in 1906. Tours of the building are free and are an excellent way to learn some of the City's history.
  • Parliament Buildings, Stormont, are located on the edge of the city boundaries. Tours may be arranged by contacting a member of the Assembly but it is free to go inside the building and to sit in on debates.
  • Other places to visit include the Oddesey centre and the Ulster Museum.

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Events and Festivals

Tennent's Vital

This music "festival" has become an annual event in the Belfast events calendar - held over 2 days in August in the Botanic Gardens area of the city (close to Queens University) over the past few years acts such as Scissor Sisters, Kaiser Chiefs, Maroon 5, and Snow Patrol - to name a few have head lined the stage. This year on Tuesday 21st August & Wednesday 22nd August you will see the stage being set up again in Botanic Gardens and it will be home to acts announced so far Razorlight and Manic Street Preachers. Obviously Vital doesn't even come close to Oxygen held outside Dublin during July but it does bring some bigger named bands to Northern Ireland to play in an out door arena. Be prepared for rain though having been at to vital to see both Scissor Sisters in 2005 and Snow Patrol in 2006 l can state from personal experience that l got soaked! Therefore waterproof jackets and suitable footwear are totally recommended. Tickets can be bought at Wonderland Promotions for £38 for a one day ticket and £70 for both nights of the festival.

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Weather

Belfast weather can be unpredictable. It can be sunny and blue one minute and then driving rain the next. Maybe even both simultaneously. The city of Belfast seems to have its own micro-climate. It's surrounded on the northwest by Black Mountain which looms over that edge of the city, Belfast Lough and the sea beyond it to the north and east, the Mountains of Mourne and the Cooley Mountains a bit more distant to the south and southeast. It very rarely gets too hot or too cold in Belfast, just come layered to situate yourself to the oft-changing weather.

It tends to be more wet than not (which, as the locals say, is why Belfast is so lush and green). Another local saying is that if you can see Black Mountain, it's going to rain. If you can't see it...it is raining! With that said, May, early June and late September can be brilliantly beautiful under blue skies and a bright sun. All the better to enjoy a hike up Cave Hill and around Belfast Castle, a bike ride along the Lagan towpath to Lisburn, a stroll through the Botanical Gardens or a beachwalk from Helen's Bay to Bangor along the Crawfordsburn Park trail.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max6.5 °C6.4 °C8.4 °C10.7 °C13.6 °C16.5 °C17.9 °C17.6 °C15.5 °C12.5 °C8.7 °C7.3 °C
Avg Min1.4 °C1.3 °C2.1 °C3.4 °C5.7 °C8.6 °C10.4 °C10.3 °C8.8 °C6.8 °C3.3 °C2.3 °C
Rainfall87 mm60 mm70 mm57 mm62 mm64 mm57 mm83 mm85 mm94 mm82 mm84 mm
Rain Days20.615.719.415.416.215.715.617.217.419.318.419.3

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Getting there

By Plane

Belfast is serviced by 2 airports: Belfast International Airport (BFS), which is situated in Antrim outside the city. And the George Best City Airport (BHD) in the city itself.
Destinations from this airport are mainly regional and European, while BFS also serves North America, including New York and Toronto. Major airlines in flying into Northern Ireland include Aer Lingus, Continental Airlines, easyJet, Flybe, Jet2.com, Ryanair, Flyglobespan and Air Transat.

To/from Belfast International Airport:

  • Car: the airport is reached via the M2 motorway. Rental cars are available at the airport and taxis are not a problem to find either.
  • Bus: Translink operates a 24 hour bus service to the airport from their Europa Buscentre, in the centre of Belfast. The airport can be reached from Derry and the northwest by the Airporter.
  • Rail: The Antrim railway station is 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the airport in Antrim, and is serviced by a bus link called the Antrim Airlink (109 A). There are connections to Belfast, Lisburn and Derry. Trains to and from Dublin are via Belfast Central railway station, which has its own Airbus stop.

By Train

The cross-border intercity train service between Belfast and Dublin is called the Enterprise. The journey takes just over two hours and is jointly operated by the Irish Rail and NI Railways.

By Car

The drive from Ireland to Northern Ireland usually starts from Dublin city centre at Ireland's M1 motorway toward Belfast. Good roads go from Belfast to other destinations in Northern Ireland. Remember to drive on the left side of the road.

By Bus

Translink operates an hourly service direct from Dublin Airport (IATA: DUB, ICAO: EIDW) and Dublin city centre as well as bus links from both NI airports to Belfast city centre.

By Boat

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Getting Around

By Car

Northern Ireland has a good road network and is served by two main motorways, the M1 and the M2. Belfast can be congested during rush hour but there are never any major problems. The main companies to rent a car include Hertz, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Thrifty and Enterprise.

By Public Transport

Belfast's public transport system has improved dramatically in recent years. Metro Bus, which operates throughout greater Belfast is an excellent way to get around. Prices, ask the bus driver for an all-day ticket, this allows you an unlimited number of journeys,on all routes. Cost £3.50 before 10AM and £2.50 after that. This gives you the freedom to roam throughout the city at a very low cost. A free booklet can be obtained at the bus kiosk, beside the City hall, showing places of interest, the bus route to take and the stop to disembark. All Metro Bus routes depart from the City hall. There are two main train stations, Great Victoria St. and Central as well as a number of smaller stations which connect to the main rail network across the country.The Enterprise service to Dublin leaves from Central Station.

By Foot

Belfast is very easy to see by foot due to its size and the fact that it is very flat.

By Bike

Bikes are also good to use due to the size and lie of the land but there may be trouble finding somewhere to chain them up.

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Eat

  • Greens Pizza - Greens Pizza is situated on the Lisburn Road in Belfast and facing the Chelsea Wine Bar. This a great quality "Bring your own Booze" pizza parlour. Don't expect a big restaurant because it's not and don't bother trying to book because you can't. What Greens lacks in size though it sure makes up for in the fine quality of its food. Staff are enthusiastic and ever helpful. Greens operate a system whereby if they are busy with no free tables, you are invited to head across to the Chelsea with a pager and you will be paged once your table is ready. Address: 549 Lisburn Road, Phone: 028 9066 6033
  • Villa Italia - Villa Italia is sited opposite Queens University Villa Italia is one of the best restaurants in Belfast with good food and competitive prices. The restaurant has been open for over 20 years and is well established. Booking is only available for large groups but the restaurant has recently expanded and there is never trouble getting a table.

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Drink

  • The Merchant Hotel - The Cloth Ear is attached to one of the newest & hippest hotels in Belfast City Centre - The Merchant Hotel (definitely not backpackery!) and is what you would definitely call one of the places to be seen in the city at present. Expect to pay hotel prices - a bottle of beer is around £3.25. They do a mean mojito too l must add - costing around £5-6. The bar also does food daily until 9:00pm. The bar is decorated with differing artefacts - including a wooden moose, vintage clothing and deer heads. Also music doesn't feature much (light background only) so you can actually hear your conversation. At weekends if you are not in before 9pm expect to have to queue to gain entrance to the bar, and although the bar is busy the staff are quick and you shouldn't have to queue too long to get your thirst quenched! Address: 35-39 Merchant Street, Phone: +4428 9023 4888
  • The Crown Bar - The Crown Bar is the most famous bar in Belfast and one of the most popular in the whole Island. Although busy on weekends there is always great craic and good beer!

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Sleep

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Arnies Backpackers63 Fitzwilliam Street (opposite Queens University)Hostel84
Belfast International Youth Hostel22-32 Donegal RoadHostel80
Chimney Corner Hotel630 Antrim Road NewtownabbeyHotel83
Farset International466, Springfield Road BelfastHostel-
Greenmount B&B45 Andersonstown Road BelfastGUESTHOUSE-
Paddy's Palace Belfast68 Lisburn RoadHostel76
The Linen House Hostel18-20 Kent Street Belfast BT1 2JAHostel-
The Old Post Office4 Castlewellan RdGuesthouse-
Titanic Apartments66 Lisburn RdApartment86
Travelodge Belfast15 Brunswick StreetHotel84
Lagan Backpackers121 Fitzroy ave BelfastHostel84
Queen's University Belfast78 Malone Road BelfastGUESTHOUSE85
Vagabonds9 University Road BelfastHostel90
Sleepy Cedars69 Cedar AvenueGuesthouse87
Namaste Lodge7 Rushfield Avenue BelfastGuesthouse85
Windermere Guesthouse60 Weilington ParkGuesthouse83
The Old Georgian House12 College Square NorthHostel-
Stormont HotelUpper Newtownards RoadHostel-
Malone Square Apartments17 Malone SquareApartment-
Queen's University Summer AccommodationElms Village 78 Malone RoadHostel-
Global Village87 University Street BelfastHostel89
Springfield Bed & Breakfast16 Springfield Road Belfast City CentreGuesthouse-
Belfast City Backpacker53 - 55 Malone Avenue BelfastHOSTEL83
Keef Halla Country House - Belfast Airport20 Tully Road Nutts Corner, CrumlinGUESTHOUSE-
Ibis Queens Quarter Hotel75 University StreetHotel-
Days Hotel40 Hope Street AntrimHotel-
Holiday Inn Express106 University Street County AntrimHotel-
Ibis City Centre Hotel100 Castle StreetHotel-
Ramada Hotel Shawsbridge117 Miltown Road County AntrimHotel-
Malone Lodge Hotel60 Eglantine AvenueHotel-
65 Victoria place Apartment65 Victoria Place 20 Wellwood Street BelfastApartment-
89 Victoria Place89 Victoria PlaceApartment-
19 Victoria Place19 Victoria PlaceApartment-
The Parador471-473 Ormeau RoadGUESTHOUSE-
Beechgrove412 Upper Road, Trooperslane,Carrickfergus,GUESTHOUSE-
Maranatha House254 Ravenhill Road, Belfast, BT6 8GJGUESTHOUSE-

Mid-Range

  • http://www.daysinn.com/DaysInn/control/Booking/check_avail?variant=&id=14753&propBrandId=DI&force_nostay=false&bmInSession=true&tab=tab1|Days Inn.
  • Europa.
  • Best Western.

Upscale

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés can be found in many cities and towns. All UK public libraries provide access, often branded as "People's Network", usually at no or little charge, though there is usually a time limit. Some hotels/hostels also offer internet access, including wifi, but most times at a cost. Using the internet on your personal phone can become expensive very quickly, with carriers charging 100's of times the local rate for data. To avoid these expensive roaming charges, you can hunt for wifi at a local cafe or hotel, or rent a mobile hotspot via several providers including DATAPiXY, and XCOM Global.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to the United Kingdom is: 44. To make an international call from the United Kingdom, the code is: 00

In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. Such calls are free and will be answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue). You can call this number from any mobile telephone as well, even if you do not have roaming.

Although the number is declining, you can still find payphones in many public areas, especially stations, airports etc. You can usually pay with cash and sometimes by creditcard or, for international calls, special phonecards are still available.

Mobile phones are heavily used. The main networks are T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and O2. 3G data services are available, usually priced per megabyte and coverage is usually very good in the UK, however it may lack in rural areas. Roaming on your personal phone plan can be expensive. To manage costs, consider purchasing a local UK SIM card for your phone. Several companies offer local SIM cards including Telestial, and CellularAbroad.

Post

The Royal Mail provides postal services in the United Kingdom. The Royal Mail's store fronts are called Post Office and offer services ranging from sending letters and packages to foreign currency exchange. Use the branch locator to find the nearest Post Office branch. There will be at least one post office in any town/city and there are quite often post offices in larger villages. It's common for a post office to be incorporated into a grocery store, where there will be a small counter located at the back of the store for dealing with post related matters. All post offices are marked with signs that say 'post office' in red lettering. Post boxes can be found at any post office and standalone large red post boxes on the streets or red boxes in the sides of public buildings.
For sending packages overseas, it might be a good idea to check prices and services with international companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.

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References

  1. 1 2011 Census - Belfast Local Government District. Source: 2011 Census

Quick Facts

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Population
280,962 [1]
Area
115 km²
Calling Code
028, +44 28
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 54.597269
  • Longitude: -5.930109

Contributors

as well as Peter (12%), dscott15 (10%), Luke_NI (7%), dr.pepper (6%), ramblinrab (4%), Purdy (1%)

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This is version 39. Last edited at 13:47 on Aug 26, 13 by Utrecht. 58 articles link to this page.

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