Harboring a dodgy local reputation both in the rest of the UK and in the Republic of Ireland, Belfast was in the news daily for years, finding itself at the heart of the Northern Irish ‘troubles’. The worst of the issues seems to be behind the city for now. What the news stories neglect to tell you is that Belfast, when it’s at peace, is a truly beautiful city. The city even won a recent award as the ‘safest in the UK’.
Sure, it has it’s rough patches, and if you’re a typical tourist you’ll find it difficult to resist making a quick search for the famous murals found in spots like Loyalist Sand Row. Belfast’s city centre, however, is in many ways reminiscent of London, with impressive shopping, ornate old buildings and a lively buzz to it all. Not to mention the affordable and somewhat messy nightlife.
For a great overview of it all, head to the heights of Belfast’s central big wheel, which looks over the heart of the city and gives a great view of the City Hall. Other local attractions – aside from those murals – are somewhat random, and include a Titanic Boat Tour (see where the ill fated boat was built), the stunning St Anne’s Cathedral (also home to some enticing art exhibitions) and the Ulster Museum, which offers a thorough explanation of the recent conflict (one that, inevitably, seems controversial and one sided to both sides of the fence).
While Belfast’s alluring in its own right, though, many come here to make the most of the nearby sights. Giant’s Causeway, for example, is an hours drive to the north, and one of the most memorable sights on the island of Ireland. Hexagonal rocks stretch out to sea in a seemingly unnatural formation, and make for a photographer’s paradise.
Drop in on a spot like St George’s Market to mingle with the locals and snap up some craft bargains, or simply wonder the streets – something that’s infinitely safer than a decade or two ago – and make the most of a town enjoying its newfound peace and savoring the future.