The vibrant city of Belfast is bursting with history, alive with culture, buzzing with nightlife - and awaiting your arrival. Find out why you should visit this fantastic city...
With evidence of settlements in this area from the Bronze and Iron Ages, Belfast is a city that can trace its heritage back a long way. Adaptability has always been key to its success and the city played a big part in the Industrial Revolution. Belfast developed an impressive shipbuilding industry with the mighty Harland and Wolff shipyards being the largest in the world towards the end of the 19th century. It was here that the Titanic was built and to honour the history of that vessel the city is proud to be opening its latest visitor experience in 2012 - Titanic Belfast. This impressive six-storey state-of-the-art building will take you through the Titanic's conception, construction, launch and subsequent demise. An interactive experience with special effects and actual size reconstructions promises to immerse visitors with the Titanic story in a way never before imagined. The Titanic Dock and Pump House is home to the original dry dock where Titanic was built and makes a fitting memorial to the mighty ship in the centenary celebration of her initial launch.
W5 is another exciting new project that provides exciting interactive projects for children of all ages. Help to customise a real Mini, make a newspaper, record your own sounds and discover all manner of hands-on experiments at this purpose-built centre which also offers a range of shows and exhibitions.
Cave Hill is one of the highest points in Belfast and named after the caves found in the cliffside. The hill offers outstanding views of the city below and is also home to Belfast Castle. Boasting a restaurant within the cellar, the castle is home to a free museum offering information and history about the region. Also on the slopes of Cave Hill is the famous Belfast Zoological Gardens with over 1,000 animals including elephants, kangaroo, sea lions and the ever popular penguins.
Stormont Castle is the baronial-style home of Northern Ireland's First Minister, although now open to the public. Nearby the Stormont Building is the site of the Northern Ireland Assembly and its park is a popular green space for walkers and families, offering some outstanding views and good amenities.
The city of Belfast has a rich architectural heritage with many fine examples of buildings from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. With the demise of some of the industries from the early 20th century such as linen, tobacco and rope-making, parts of the city have undergone a sympathetic regeneration project. In particular the area around the docks has been improved and modernised.
The Botanic Gardens are an important feature in Belfast offering a place for people to meet and relax amongst some of the fine examples of flora on display. There are two superb examples of Victorian glasshouses, the Palm House and the Tropical Ravine which is mainly dedicated to ferns. Nearby, the Ulster Museum has exhibits ranging from dinosaurs to Egyptian mummies with activities to please everyone.
Belfast has a thriving arts culture and this is reflected in its Grand Opera House which, in spite of its name also offers a wide programme of plays, musicals, family shows and pantomimes in a building that has been operating since 1895.
Maybe sightseeing isn't your thing and you just want to take the opportunity to shop. In that case, head for Victoria Square, Belfast's most luxurious shopping experience, with over 50 shops, restaurants and cafes all in one place. Belfast is such a friendly city that it should come as no surprise to find it has a thriving cafe culture and a variety of restaurants from budget to blowout. Pubs and bars are as plentiful as you would expect with opportunities on almost every street to sample the 'black stuff' for which the country is famous.
Besides being an ideal place for a city break, Belfast makes the perfect starting point for a holiday in the province of Northern Ireland. Surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains, the area is waiting to be explored . Why not begin your explorations with a trip to see the famous Giant's Causeway? This series of over 40,000 basalt columns interlock to form a genuine natural wonder and one of the most popular tourist sites in Northern Ireland. Or make a trip to nearby Dublin.