After something of a rocky start, Belfast and I have reconciled our differences and become firm friends. With a unique blend of Irish and British nature Belfast will continue to inspire you with things to see and do; And with 2012 being the 100th anniversary of the Titanic setting sail the city has been revived to offer visitors and locals a like plenty of things to see and do.
Taste and Smell St George’s Market
After taking one of the early morning Belfast flights on Friday through Sunday there is nothing better than heading down to St George’s Market to get some fresh ingredients to create the perfect brunch.
Much of the produce, sourced from local farmers, is organic and if you aren’t into cooking yourself on Saturday’s there are plenty of stalls set up selling takeaway food – think Spanish tapas and Mediterranean delights cooked before your eyes.
The Victorian exterior, built in the 1890’s, is one of the most popular places to visit in the city and well worth a walk past – even if you visit mid-week when the market stalls are closed.
For opening hours and more information about St George’s Website visit Tourism Northern Ireland’s website.
Explore the Titanic Quarter
After years of having a negative stigma attached to the city, Belfast is finally embracing their part of the Titanic legacy. Marking the 1ooth anniversary in 2012 of the ship leaving Belfast for Southampton, where it’s maiden voyage left from, the city has turned the shipyards, also known as the Titanic Quarter, from eyesore to one of their biggest tourist draw cards.
As the last place the Titanic would sit on dry ground, spend your time exploring the docks and pump house of the area – see the Thompson Graving Dock, once the worlds largest dry dock where the Titanic came for final inspections, to really understand the size of the ship. Whilst you are in the Titanic Quarter be sure to visit the newly opened Titanic Belfast – a huge building designed to look like a white star from the air, White Star Lines being the company which owned the Titanic.
The interactive display takes you through each step, from the conception, through to the building in Belfast, and finally it’s fateful maiden voyage; Complete with a temporary exhibit housing some original artefacts from the ship, as well as video tours taking you down under the sea to digitally explore the ships final resting place.
Take a Black Taxi Tour and see the Political Murals
Northern Ireland, of which Belfast is the capital, is part of the United Kingdom not Ireland like many people believe; For this reason the country has had a long history of being fought over between the Irish and the Brits, and not long ago was considered one of the three B’s you wouldn’t want to travel to, the others being Baghdad and Beirut.
Whilst the city has come out of these darker times many of the scars still remain, particularly in areas like Shankill Road – where many of the Catholic political murals are found.
You are also able to see the peace wall which still divides much of the cities Catholic and Protestant areas, including the gates which close each night as a preventative measure to ensure trouble doesn’t spring up again.
To find out more about Belfast’s murals or taking a Black Taxi tour read my other post.
Get in touch with your inner Scientist or Historian at the Ulster Museum
Located next to Queen’s University and the Botanic Gardens, the Ulster Museum is a must visit if you are interested in learning about Northern Ireland‘s history or see artifcats from the Spanish Armada.
Taking you through the years, the local history section teaches you about how Belfast was discovered, through the Titanic era to the Troubles, to the present day through pictures, videos and writing.
Having been able to acquire artefacts from three ships which sunk off of Ireland’s coasts when the Spanish Armada tried to take Britain, the museum now houses a diverse range of objects from brooches to money and even some weapons all of which are on public display.
There is also a large section on neolithic artefacts and Irish animals.
For more information about the museum and its collections have a look at their website.
Visit the Giant’s Causeway
Alright, so this is cheating a little bit as the Giant’s Causeway is about 90minutes North of Belfast but it is a beautiful part of the coast to experience.
It’s an odd site to see the rocks formed in such a way but the cause of an ancient volcanic eruption millions has become a popular site recognisable with Northern Ireland. There are many natural formations in the area due to erosion and weathering including The Giant’s Boot, the Chimney Stacks, the Shepherd’s Steps and the Organ.
The area is heavily associated with Irish folklore – it is said that Finn McCool built the Giant’s Causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart.