A visitor’s guide to Belfast, NorthernIreland
Since the somewhat success of peace talks in Northern Ireland the country has won a revival in industry and development and is surging forward with financial backing to blossom and flourish as a heart of tourism and economy.
Belfast in particular has undergone radical change in recent years keeping its heritage and history but exploring new and innovative avenues for renewal.
You can still book an open topped bus sightseeing tour or even taxi guide to visit the magnificent murals once steeped in politics and prejudice but now experiencing their own rebirth as the skilled artisans move to more global themes.
The country’s Millennium Project, unlike other ghastly and wasteful offerings was and is a roaring success – the Odyssey Pavilion and Arena located close to the centre city along the River Lagan boosts some of the finest restaurants with a variety of cuisines and homes a 3D IMAX cinema, a regular, plush movie house, a bowling alley, the educational, interactive and age inclusive fun factory of the W5 science centre as well as funky, social nightlife venues and of course the main arena, home of the Belfast Giants (Ice hockey Team) and many celebrity concerts and shows.
The Victoria centre, a huge investment project in the heart of Belfast City Centre at Corn market is now open and welcoming. The international feel of the roofed outdoor shopping complex is refreshing and modern with many top brand shops as well as restaurants, an Odeon cinema and the glass topped, illuminated dome that offers amazing views over the city for tourists and home birds alike.
Belfast City Hall, recently having celebrated its one hundred year anniversary has been completely refurbished and rewired and is again reopen to the public for marriage ceremonies, a quiet coffee in the ‘Bobbin’ café or tours of the majestic and historical steeped building.
Belfast Grand Opera House still encourages the leading West End shows to its auditorium especially after its recent make-over. The ornate, oriental detail of the mesmerising theatre garlands it in pomp and circumstance and provides an enjoyable and memorable theatrical experience.
Also we must not forget Belfast Zoo – set in the panoramic vistas of the Belfast hills, its authentic enclosures house some amazing and exotic specimens from all over the world. Close by Belfast Castle huddles in the green hilltops with its aristocratic grandiose architecture and presence.
Belfast is unfortunately perhaps most famous for the ill-fated maiden voyage of the White Star cruise-liner ‘Titanic’. The docks with their twin cranes ‘Samson’ and ‘Goliath’ loom in their bright yellow splendour over the busy shipping industrial area which still repairs vessels and ships vital cargo worldwide.
The Titanic Quarter immortalises history as visitors can still view the Titanic dry dock and remnants of a great nautical age. Staggering reinvigoration of the area is underway with expensive building projects springing up before our very eyes.
Belfast encapsulates the delicate architecture of its past while embracing the future. It may be small in comparison to many capital cities but this is part of its unique charm. The people of Northern Ireland are some of the most friendly and welcoming anywhere in the world.
It is a university city, the gothic walls of Queens educating the diverse populace and is enthusiastic and jovial in its celebration of sports and culture and capacity of alcohol!
There are hidden treasures everywhere from the beautiful Botanic Gardens to the National Trust, owned ‘Crown’ bar. From personal experience the city does sleep but holds many festival days to waken up and entertain the locals. Just last year it presented the Tall Ships Race and the annual Maritime Festival has just ended.
There is a new hope in the arts and film industries and throughout the country there are summer festivities to mark the Northern Irish talent in crafts and artistry and even the Belfast Circus School which plays a vital role in the annual Festival of Fools.
In conclusion the city is finally growing again. It is not backward nor do sheep roam its streets or leprechauns dance along barred wire fences, in general the personality of the city is one of hope, peace and an innate need to prove itself and its worth.