Typical image of the wall mural district (Belfast; Northern Ireland)
It appears that any first-time visitor to Northern Ireland is going to have certain images in their mind of the prolonged troubled period in which random life-threatening incidents blighted the average citizen's ability to go about their business in a calm and non-vigilant fashion. The peace process in itself has not been without its occasional foray into the unstable zone, but on the whole, there's never been a better time to visit Belfast and surrounding area. Economic strides have been made in recent years, all of which have added to the path of Ireland's progress, and the city's two premiermost shopping plazas, Victoria Square and Castle Court, are centrally-located hubs of commercial activity. On a more firmly-established note, the sprightly shopping enclave that is St.
Belfast Town Hall (Belfast; Northern Ireland)
George's Market is a largely food stall-filled city institution which never fails to entertain, thanks to live musicians and the overall buzzy vibes generated therein. A wholly worthwhile excursion which should not eat up too much of a visitor's time is a tour of the wall murals district roughly around Falls and Shankhill Roads, which is a colourful and symbolic reminder of the troubled times, which becomes a living history lesson with the aid of the cab driver's informative commentary. The city's newest attraction is also Northern Ireland's larger indoor visitor attraction, and the Titanic Centre documents the disaster story in such a comprehensive way that you cannot help but be acutely aware of the sheer scale of the catastrophe. As you would expect, the pub culture in Belfast shows not a hint of a sign of dying down, and the legendary 'craic' which is to be expected in the pub context is kept alive by the Irish lust for life and willingness to celebrate and uphold the country's musical and performing arts spirit.
St Anne's church (Belfast; Northern Ireland)
Similarly, the fine dining scene in Belfast has grown pretty much in proportion with the local economy, and the range of options nowadays when it comes to eateries makes for an impressive roster. If you're looking for an escape route from big city life, then a day trip to nearby Bangor, further east along the coast, might just be your bag. Bangor is not really your typical seaside town, having no beach area in close proximity to the promenade, but with one or two appealing tweaks, it keeps the day-trippers happy enough. Bangor castle and nearby Bangor abbey are located just south of the town's main train station, which also means that getting there from Belfast is no hardship in itself. Most tourists head for Giant's Causeway to see a piece of natural beauty, but this tourists did not, due to the restricted timeframe in which the entire trip took place.
Cleverly-painted facade in Bangor (Belfast; Northern Ireland)
Various city landmarks such as St Annes Church, the big fish, Belfast City Hall and the urban fabric which sews it all together are part of what makes Belfast what it is, but in reality, it is the combination of the spirited society and the atmosphere it generates which appears to be what constitutes, for the most part, the city's beating heart. I'd call it a far cry from the days when, along with Beirut, Bosnia and Baghdad, Belfast was considered one of the four B-places to avoid on account of its unstable identity and volatile nature!