Newest Review: ... the children can really get a good a view of the animals for as long as they like without jostling crowds ( the exception being Easter We... more
Not just where the Titanic was built!
Belfast in General
Member Name: The Duke
Belfast in General
Date: 03/09/01, updated on 08/11/03 (1012 review reads)
Advantages: Lots to do, Loads of pubs, Loads of pubs!
Disadvantages: Bad reputation, Increasing amounts of litter makes city look bad
Getting to Belfast / Arriving into the city.
You can fly into Belfast from the UK mainland from a number of airports. The main carriers into Northern Ireland fly into one of two airports. Belfast International Airport (or Aldergrove to the locals) is about 20 miles out of the city. If you are not hiring a car, a bus can take you to the centre of the city and this runs every thirty minutes from around 0630 to 2300 approximately, or you could take a taxi. The bus journey is about forty minutes or so, depending on traffic and time of day etc. If you fly into Aldergrove, the airlines you are likely to be using are: British Airways or EasyJet.
Belfast City Airport (also called The Harbour Airport or Belfast Harbour Airport) is practically in the city on the loughside. It?s about 5 minutes from the centre of the city by taxi, or you could use the train service. The airlines flying into the Harbour are: British Regional, British European and British Midland (who used operate out of Aldergrove).
If you are bringing your own car across from the mainland, you?ll be arriving by ferry (unless you're James Bond with your groovy submarine car, in which case, we've been expecting you) and the main ferry
terminals are based at the mouth of the river Lagan on the doorstep of the city centre. You'll probably be coming here by SeaCat from Scotland, or Norse Irish Merchant from Liverpool. If you are coming from Troon or Fleetwood, then you'll be using P&O Ferries who use Larne as their port and this is a few miles outside Belfast. Ferry foot passengers will need to get a train or bus into Belfast.
Somewhere to stay.
OK, before you go off to do any sight seeing, pub-crawling or whatever takes your fancy, it's best to get somewhere to stay, eh? Well, there are lots of city centre hotels and B&Bs, and since the outbreak of peace in the mid-1990s, more and more have opened to cater for the increase in tourism. No matter what your preference or price range, you?ll find somewhere to suit. A few names and phone numbers to remember:
65 University Street
(028) 9023 6666
Great Victoria Street
(028) 9032 7000
106 University Street
(028) 9031 1909
Wellington Park Hotel
21 Malone Road
(028) 9038 1111
75, University St
(028) 9033 3366
A wider range of places to stay can be found by using the online Yellow Pages at www.yell.co.uk in conjunction with the local tourist information office. The above hotels and B&Bs are simply listed off the top of my head and aren't recommendations. (I live here, I have no experience of Belfast Hotels, although a few friends of mine have recently stayed at Renshaw's Hotel which they claimed was clean and pleasant enough, although doesn't have a star rating.)
Speaking of the local tourist office, there's one in the city centre (47 Donegall Place 028 9024 6609, just opposite WH Smith's) plus one at each of our airports. If you are thinking of going on to other parts of Ireland from Belfast, you could also use the I
rish Tourist Board (aka Bord Failte) who can give you details of what to do in the Republic of Ireland (or Eire, or simply "Down South"). They are also in the centre of Belfast at 53 Castle Street and can be contacted on (028) 9032 7888. If you want to do some "homework" before you arrive, then take a look at www.discovernorthernireland.com, which is the official web site of the NI Tourist Board.
Getting around Belfast is not a problem ? we have a fairly decent local bus service (Citybus) that will take you practically any part of the city you wish although I do feel they're a tad expensive, and if not, a taxi will do the job. For those of you wishing to look around Northern Ireland and not just Belfast, then you'll find our train service sadly lacking in destinations. The province wide Ulsterbus service is better though. For details on Citybus, Ulsterbus and Northern Ireland Railways services and timetables, go to www.translink.co.uk which isn't a bad website, although their timetables could do with being available in a print friendly format.
Pubs and Eating Out.
Over the last few years, lots of small cafes and restaurants have opened up as the citizens of Belfast become "posher" and more cultured (i.e. they raise their little finger whilst swigging their Guinness). Whether you're a posh restaurant type of person, or someone who's happy sitting in a pub scoffing pub grub, you'll find plenty of places in the city centre, and along the Golden Mile towards the university offering quality food. Practically every bar will claim to serve the best Guinness in Belfast, so it's up to you to experiment.
As you may guess, the Golden Mile is a stretch of road that runs from the city centre towards the University and is filled with pubs, cafes and restaurants. The most social area of Belfast is Shaftesbury Square where within 30 seconds walk, you can find aroun
d half a dozen pubs and twice as many eating establishments.
I don't think there's any point in my listing the numerous selection of pubs etc. but I can point you towards www.wheretotonight.com, which is as good a guide to pubs and eating out in Northern Ireland, as you?ll ever get online. Although, saying that, you should pop into The Crown Liquor Salon, opposite the Europa Hotel. It's a National Trust property now, but still open for business, so go in have a drink and soak in some atmosphere.
Things to Do.
I always have a problem with this one when dealing with visitors because I'm not a big traveller myself. Most times I go travelling, it's usually to see people rather than places, and so I know very little about things to do. Off the top of my head, I suggest the following (and more details can be gained from the tourist office):
You can take tours around the City Hall. This is an impressive building, right in the centre of the city and set in the middle of some nice, if small, grounds.
Recently, the taxi drivers have started offering Black Taxi Tours around the city that deal primarily with the "Troubles", and if you're interested in that part of our history, then friends have reliably informed me that these are very interesting.
If you are interested in music, you could take a look at where Van Morrison was born (although some may argue whether that actually classifies as music or not), so pop along to 125 Hyndford Street to look at the nice plaque. It's only someone's house in the street though ? no tours or anything here.
You may also want to look at the Stormont Buildings on the outskirts of Belfast. They're set into some huge grounds, and people often spend their Sundays talking a walk (or *ugh!* running) around the grounds. You can't actually get into the buildings themselves normally, which is a shame because the interior is quite astonishin
g, but it's a pleasant walk.
Both the Botanic Gardens and Ulster Museum are worth a visit. The museum regularly has special exhibitions relating to Ireland, whether it's the recent Troubles or something relating to St. Patrick, there's always something to see. The museum is at the city end of the Stranmillis Road, practically right beside the impressive main building of Queens University.
The university also has a visitor's centre which you may want to pay a visit to.
If architecture is your thing there are a number of old buildings worth looking at apart from the above mentioned City Hall. St. Anne's Cathedral is North Street is well worth taking a look at as well as the old City Hall now in use as a shopping mall.
If you like sport, you might want to try an Irish League football match while you're across. Belfast has four teams, so you're bound to find one home match on a Saturday during the season. Be warned though, if you have been brought up watching Match of the Day, you're going to be sorely disappointed at the standard of football here in Northern Ireland. Actually, it's probably not even correct to call it football seeing as the two sets of players just kick each other.
Around the end of October and start of November, Belfast has its own festival at Queens covering all sorts of entertainment ? films, comedy, music and dance. This is incredibly popular, and if you're planning on being here for the festival, it's advisable to book any tickets early, especially for the more popular music and comedy acts. I believe the official website for this is at www.belfastfestival.com
Speaking of comedy, there?s a comedy night at The Empire Bar in Botanic Avenue. This is a seasonal thing ? it runs from September to June. It's on a Tuesday night, and there's always a good selection of comedians. It used to be around £4 per person (or it was the last time I was there!)
so may have increased in price. The acts aren't advertised, so you only know who's playing when they take the stage, but the quality is generally high, and more famous people have been known to feature from time to time. Be warned though, you'll have to queue as it's extremely popular.
Belfast is being invested in quite heavily by a number of people and corporations. This can be seen by the amount of large chains that have decided that Belfast is now a city to be seen in. names like Hilton Hotels, Hard Rock Café, Warner Cinemas and IMAX cinemas have all recently opened here. We have our own ice hockey team (Belfast Giants) to take part in the National Hockey League which is an excellent way to kill a couple of hours, and the tickets are generally around a tenner. The Odyssey Centre is an interesting entertainment complex where you can have a complete night out, shopping mall style under one roof as it contains plenty of things to do like 10 pin bowling or Warner Cinema, there are many different types of restaurants as well as a few bars and clubs as well.
Unless, you're coming from outside of the UK, you're not going to find too much different in the shops we have here. No doubt you're already aware of Top Shop, Next, HMV, Virgin, Boots, WH Smith etc. Well, they're all present and correct in our compact shopping area in the city centre. However, there are some smaller shops which might provide you with some out of the ordinary gifts or mementos of your trip if you can hunt them down. My advice is to approach a local (speak slowly and ask them to do likewise!) and say "I'm looking for <insert item> with an Irish twist, can you point me to a shop, please?" and with any luck they?ll point you in the right direction.
If you're spending more than a few days in Belfast, you're probably going to want a change of scenery. Outside Belfast and across
the province there are other interesting sights to investigate, and I?m only going to mention some of them in passing.
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (between Belfast and Bangor)
More about life in Ireland with traditional cottages etc. all set out in an open air environment for you to walk through, and experience. Also, members of staff are dressed in appropriate costume and can be asked questions regarding their actions, environment etc.
Ulster American Folk Park (near Strabane on the west side)
A museum dedicated to Irish life, the relationship with America and the journey made by millions of Irish people across the Atlantic to America and shows the type of ships that were used, clothing from the period etc.
Bushmills Distillery (towards the North)
The oldest legal distillery in the world ? if you like a tipple, then you should definitely visit Bushmills. Tours operate all year round, although times vary due to season.
Giants Causeway (on the North coast)
Nothing more really than a huge granite structure caused by an erupting volcano pouring lava into the sea, which cooled and formed many thousands of hexagonal columns. Very impressive in scale, though.
Derry City (or Londonderry ? approx. 80 miles northwest of Belfast)
Derry is another city in Northern Ireland which provides a lot of history to investigate, although perhaps somewhere to base yourself for a day or two rather than a day trip from Belfast.
Armagh Planetarium (approx. 40 miles southeast of Belfast)
If you're of a scientific bent, there's lots to see and do here. Both a planetarium and observatory which offer lots of attractions such as the Star Theatre and the Eartharium which lets you zoom into Belfast or Armagh using spy satellite pictures.
*** The People ***
Generally, we're a friendly bunch. Honestly. Everything you've heard about the Irish is true (ex
cept that we're not thick ? we only act that way to let you foreigners feel better!). We like our drinks ? pubs in Belfast are open late every night of the week, and there?s always someone to chat to if you?re out and about. So please come and visit!
*** Some final pieces of information ***
I know that I've mentioned street names etc. in making some points above, and while you're sat at home, in front of your computer, it's all a bit, well, pointless. But print out this opinion, and settle down with a Belfast street map (or find a map online), and hopefully the opinion with become twice as useful. The phone numbers are national ones ? the ?028? is the code for Northern Ireland and the 8-digit code is the actual phone number. All are correct at time of posting, but can be confirmed at www.bt.com and follow the directory enquiries link.
More reviews in the field of Destination National
- PJE's A-Z
- The Granite City
- LAUGHARNE...it's not all beer and cockles.
- What Big Skies You Have!
- Dont take things for granted
- My kind of heaven
- Fish Town is Golden
- Cirencester - A beautiful town rich with things to see and do
- Outstanding, Authentic Thai Cuisine in new surroundings
- What a wonderful weekend!