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Buzzing Belfast

CityZapper tracked down the best insider tips in Belfast and easily managed to fill this wonderful city guide for an awesome city break. Northern Ireland’s capital has plenty to offer its visitors. The city where the legendary Titanic was once built still breathes an air of maritime history. Its port, which includes an impressive monument to the ill-fated liner, is a beautiful place of historic importance and it serves as a prelude to all that Belfast has to offer. So, what exactly is there to do in Belfast? A great deal, that’s for sure!
 
Foodies certainly will have come to the right place when visiting this city. Northern Ireland’s proud capital invites its visitors to enjoy culinary masterpieces in restaurants run by renowned chefs and by talented locals. EIPIC, run by famous chef Michael Deane, and the highly regarded OX have both been awarded Michelin Stars. Top quality food can also be found at the rather classy Treehouse restaurant whilst the convivial Molly’s Yard will introduce you to traditional Irish food. Don’t forget to pop into Long’s Fish & Chips to find out why a host of celebrities can be counted among their many, many loyal fans.
 
Belfast packs quite a punch where culture is concerned as well. Every year, the city hosts numerous cultural events such as the International Arts Festival and the Eastside Arts Festival, both of which will allow you to experience world class art on a local scale. Museums, such as the Golden Threat Centre and the Metropolitan Arts Centre, complete the city’s creative picture.
 
The Irish accent is often described as having a very musical intonation, which isn’t surprising since the Irish have music running through their veins! Dance at the Belsonic Festival, enjoy the Proms in the Park and discover live Irish music at traditional pubs such as John Hewitt. Go for drinks and a bit of a boogie at mega venue The National Grande Café and Sixty6 or sample the best new beers at the Brewpot. The Perch caters to a hip crowd that recognises a great view when it sees it since this venue is a cool rooftop bar. In short: There’s plenty to see and do at night as well since Belfast nightlife is both vibrant and wonderful!
 
Last but not least, Belfast is great for shopping. Both Avoca and vintage paradise Fresh Garbage offer great finds for serious shoppers. Browse the goods at the famous St. George’s Market and indulge in your wildest chocolate fantasies at Co Couture. Your friends and family at home will thank you for these sweet souvenirs!
 
You won’t easily get bored in Greater Belfast. The numerous events, tours and sights in the city and its surroundings meet everyone’s demands, and districts, such as the Cathedral Quarter and the Queen’s Quarter, provide visitors with plenty of interesting sights and sites. Get off the beaten track and head for the countryside, which was made famous by the hit television series Game of Thrones, or get lost in the many quaint little cafés, pubs and bars located in the very heart of the city. Belfast will offer you everything your heart desires and more!

History

Belfast wasn’t always the vibrant city that it is today. The site of Belfast has been continually inhabited since the Bronze Age though. The origins of the original settlement can be traced back to 665 BC, but it wasn’t until 1888 that Queen Victoria granted Belfast the status of city. The conflict between the nation’s Protestants and Catholics has played a major role in the history of Northern Ireland’s capital, just like it has in the history of the rest of the country.
 
Like almost every other historic city in the United Kingdom of Scotland and Northern Ireland, Belfast originated around a castle. John de Courcy, an Anglo-Norman knight who came to Ireland as part of the Norman invasion and occupation forces, built the first castle at the mouth of the River Lagan where it enters Belfast Lough. The settlement was strategically positioned at the point where the River Lagan and the River Farset meet, with the first river still being an important and much loved part of Belfast today. Many battles took place in the vicinity of the castle due to its strategic position. A period of continuous destruction and reconstruction eventually lead to the castle’s final demise in 1708. Archaeological findings continue to be discovered in this area up to the present day.
 
For a long period of time, until the end of the 16th century, the O’Neill Clan ruled Belfast and its surrounding area. In 1612, King James I granted the city of Belfast and its castle, together with some large estates, to Sir Arthur Chichester. By 1613 he was given the title ‘Baron of Chichester’. The baron worked hard and succeeded in putting the city on the map. The city’s political importance was confirmed and Belfast was allowed to send two representatives to parliament. Despite its small size, Belfast had become a city to be reckoned with.
 
The 17th century saw the city become the home of soldiers who settled in Belfast after the Confederate Wars. In addition, the city started to blossom as a trading hub. Goods were imported from Great Britain and the city’s linen production gained momentum. Belfast underwent a veritable transformation with the construction of the White Linen Hall in 1784 which stood where city hall now stands. Furthermore, the River Farset was filled in to create the High Street. Both these large projects gave Belfast’s city centre a true city-like character. During the 19th century, the city was the epitome of industry with its impressive linen manufacturing businesses, the presence of many great engineers as well as that of large shipyards. Migrants moved to Belfast to find employment and to profit from the city’s prosperity.
 
Belfast’s many workers, from a variety of backgrounds, met at the violent demonstrations and riots which took place during the first half of the 19th century. The 1886 Belfast Riots, which cost 31 people their lives and during which hundreds more were wounded, serve as a stark reminder of the ongoing conflict between the city’s Protestant and Catholic communities. The Good Friday Agreement, signed more than one hundred years later on 10 April 1998 in Belfast, was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process of the late 1990s. Issues relating to sovereignty, civil and cultural rights, decommissioning of weapons, justice and policing were central to the agreement.
 
 
By 1901, Belfast had officially become Ireland’s largest city. By 1932, it had become the capital of Northern Ireland. Belfast’s problems were far from over though, since the Great Depression and the bombing of the city during World War II hit the city and its interests hard. But time and again, Belfast managed to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Northern Ireland’s capital continues to evolve and develop which, for a large part, can be attributed to its flexible and innovative people. This city’s turbulent and at times violent history has contributed to the bustling and lively character of the city that we see before us today.