Belfast - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Belfast


The fortunes of Belfast have risen and fallen over time, from its beginnings as a Bronze Age settlement to extensive World War II bombings and civil conflict. Today the capital of Northern Ireland is a thriving city that has regained some of its old charm and industry, and has begun to lure the curious traveller.

Belfast is situated near the mouth of the River Lagan and blossomed in the 17th century with an influx of English and Scottish settlers. The port city grew in prominence during the Industrial Revolution, with booming linen, rope-making and shipbuilding industries. The ill-fated Titanic was built here in the Harland and Wolff shipyards and today Belfast still boasts the world's biggest dry dock, as well as a restored Waterfront Complex that houses chic restaurants, shops and ubiquitous Irish pubs.

Much of the city's architectural heritage was destroyed during repeated bombings in World War II, as well as during the Troubles; civil conflict between Roman Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists that raged from 1969 until the late 1990s. Several exquisite Victorian and Edwardian buildings remain, however, and have been filled with trendy bars, boutiques, galleries, museums and restaurants in an attempt to regenerate the city's image. Evidence of the Troubles can still be seen in the many murals that line Falls Road and Shankill Road, and the Europa Hotel has become famous as one of the most bombed buildings in Europe, having being targeted no less than 27 times.

Belfast is often overlooked as a tourist destination, but its fascinating history, ongoing struggles, many attractions and above all, the warmth and acerbic wit of its inhabitants make it an essential stop on any trip to Northern Ireland. It also serves as an excellent base from which to explore the many wonders of the region.

Information & Facts


Belfast's climate is temperate, with plenty of rainfall, particularly between August and January. Temperatures in summer average around 64°F (18°C) and in winter, 43°F (6°C); there are seldom extremes. There is some snow and sleet in winter, but due to Belfast's coastal location, it only averages two to three days a year.

Getting Around

Although a relatively car-dependent city, most of the city centre of Belfast is reserved for pedestrians and is fairly compact; visitors can tour it on foot in about one hour. Belfast Metro is the local bus service, and its Smartlink cards and Metro Day Tickets offer visitors good value, depending on the length of stay. The Metro includes a nightlink service, although connections between different suburbs can be poor. Taxis have colour-coded plates to enable visitors to recognize legitimate services, while London-style Black Taxis offer a less expensive alternative. Open-top bus tours, boat tours, and bicycle hire are also options.

English is the official language, though visitors will be astonished by the variety of regional accents.

The currency is the pound (GBP), which is divided into 100 pence. ATMs are available in all towns and Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted; visitors with other cards should check with their credit card companies in advance. Foreign currency can be exchanged at bureaux de change and large hotels, however better exchange rates are likely to be found at banks. Travellers cheques are accepted in all areas frequented by tourists; they are best taken in Pounds Sterling to avoid additional charges.


Belfast is a great place for travellers to enjoy sightseeing as they layout of the city and its public transport make it easy for visitors to get from the centre of Belfast to the surrounding suburbs within 20 minutes, even during rush-hour.

Take a trip to City Hall to admire the turn of the century British architecture or enjoy a tour, or simply view the memorial to the victims of the ill-fated Titanic (which was built in Belfast) and a statue of Queen Victoria. Head to Cathedral Quarter where the beautiful St Anne's Cathedral provides a wonderful backdrop for the small shops, boutiques, galleries and eateries lining the streets around it, and take in the magnificent architecture in the area which is marketed s Belfast's 'cultural' district.

For a more relaxing day of sightseeing, visit the Botanic Gardens with a book and a packed lunch, head to the Falls Road or Shankill to see some of the world's finest political murals, animal lovers should visit the Belfast Zoo to meet the famous prairie dogs that run free around the zoo's grounds and the Barbary lions, and opera lovers will be thrilled at the opportunity to visit the Grand Opera House for a tour or a performance.

Local time in the United Kingdom is GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

The Belfast Botanic Gardens date back to 1828, but were only opened to the public in 1895. The Gardens boast the Palm House, a cast iron glasshouse built in 1852, rose gardens, green walkways and the Tropical Ravine greenhouse built in 1889. The Gardens are popular with office workers, students, locals and tourists alike, and at the main entrance to the Gardens is the fascinating Ulster Museum. Founded in 1821, the Ulster Museum is a treasure trove of fascinating exhibits on a range of subjects (including Irish and local history), as well as an excellent art collection.

The Belfast Zoo is packed with animals from all over the world - from sea lions to giraffes - in a range of habitats, and offers a fun-filled day out for the family. The zoo also hosts a number of exciting events throughout the year such as reptile displays, birds of prey displays and more, and has active breeding and conservation projects. There is a cafe and gift shop.

Once the city's centre for trade and its warehouse district, the heart of Belfast's cultural and tourist hub is Cathedral Quarter, so named because of the presence of St Anne's Cathedral. There are some lovely examples of Victorian and Art Deco architecture, several galleries, dedicated performing arts venues, good restaurants and bars, and the area plays host to the Belfast Film Festival and the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival annually. Given some time, the Quarter could rival Dublin's Temple Bar district for a good time in Ireland.

The fascinating and mysterious Giant's Ring, near Shaw's Bridge, is made up of a circular enclosure nearly 656 feet (200m) in diameter with five entrances, and an older Neolithic passage tomb dating back to roughly 3,000 BC. Although the exact purpose of the henge is not known, some say that it served as a meeting point and ritual area, and several packages and urns full of bones have been excavated in the surroundings. There are beautiful views across the Lagan Valley and the Ring is a favourite spot for locals and tourists alike to relax, picnic, cycle or walk.

Built between 1890 and 1896, St George's Market is one of the city's oldest attractions and the last Victorian covered market in the region. After painstaking (and expensive) restoration, the market has reopened. On Fridays, the Variety Market, as the name suggests, offers a range of different items from antiques to clothes, while the City Food and Garden Market is on Saturdays and offers the freshest local, international and speciality foods.

The Ulster American Folk Park is an open-air museum that focuses on the large-scale emigration from Ulster to America in the 18th and 19th centuries, and is the biggest of its kind in Europe. Displays illustrate the everyday life of the emigrants through reconstructed original and replica buildings, a full-size replica of a sailing ship and daily demonstrations of printing, cooking, spinning and blacksmithing. There is also a fascinating indoor museum and a dockside gallery. The park also hosts a number of events, including popular music festivals such as the Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival.

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