Shaped by the turbulent events of the 20th century, the capital city of Northern Ireland is both historically and politically important. Yet over the years, Belfast has been shaking off its troubled reputation and today is a vibrant and exciting city with lots to offer.
At the heart of Ireland’s strife was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Famed as the battleground of the nationalist Catholics and the loyalist Protestants from the late 1960s to 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, Belfast became almost synonymous with the conflict known as The Troubles. Today you can explore the remnants of this 30-year struggle by visiting the peace lines, a set of walls first built in 1969 to divide the predominantly loyalist suburbs from the nationalist suburbs. The colourful and politically motivated murals on Shankill and Falls Road tell both sides of the story and are a fascinating visual representation of the city’s tumultuous past.
Whilst its history is divisive, Belfast today is a city with plenty of warmth and unity. Head to Cathedral Quarter to soak up lively scenes where street performers harmonise with locals and visitors alike to the sound of traditional folk song. This is a place very much celebrating the present.
To the west of the River Lagan is where you’ll find most of the city’s attractions, including the bustling St George’s Market, which has been a site of trade for over 600 years. Further south you’ll stumble across the grand buildings of Queen’s University as well as the Botanic Gardens, home to the Ulster Museum.
Head north to the docklands and explore the Titanic Quarter, discovering original artifacts and marveling at the replica of the tragic ship, which was built and launched from this very site in 1912. On the northern outskirts of the city sits Belfast Castle, where on a clear day Scotland can be spotted on the horizon.
While known for its political past, Belfast should not be painted with one brush. Much like the murals found here, it is multicoloured in its offerings, with a lot more than initially meets the eye.
What to do
- Learn about The Troubles with a visit to the the murals on Shankill and Falls Road
- Treat yourself at the restaurants and bars in Cathedral Quarter
- Walk along the River Lagan towards St George's Market
- Explore Belfast Castle on the slopes of Cave Hill County Park
- Smell the flowers at the Botanical Gardens
- Visit the past at Ulster Museum and Titanic Quarter