Small but with a big heart, super-cool Belfast is one of Europe’s true renaissance cities. And from playing host to the MTV Europe Awards to being a centre of all things Titanic, the capital of Northern Ireland has got its groove on in a big way
Walking or taking a famous black taxi tour around this compact metropolis are the best ways to appreciate all that the city has on offer. One of the first things that might strike you are the colourful murals, splashed onto any available walls.
From political themes to local heroes, the vibrant murals are an integral part of Belfast’s modern history and an inherent piece of public art. The tales behind the murals are equally as intriguing as the artwork itself.
But these are only one side of the city’s personality… wander the streets and you’ll see historic buildings that have been spruced up, European-style café bars, independent boutiques and a rich cultural life that expresses itself in galleries, theatres and a host of year-round festivals, including the renowned Belfast Festival at Queen’s.
Radiating from the bright St Anne’s Square, the Cathedral Quarter – once the oldest part of Belfast – is full of character and one of the most enjoyable to hang out. Old pubs rub shoulders with cool hotels; wine bars and bistros are hidden down atmospheric alleyways; galleries and artists’ collectives line the cobbled streets.
At its heart is St Anne’s Cathedral, which dates from 1899 and boasts the largest Celtic Cross on the island.
Arts at the heart of the city
For something completely different, nip into the eye-catching Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC) right next door. Mixing up music, theatre, dance and art, this new arts venue has electrified the cultural community and put Belfast on the artistic map.
It would be easy to spend your whole time moving from quirky gallery to hip hotel in the Cathedral Quarter, but you’d miss out on so much more that Belfast has to offer, not least of which is the critically acclaimed Titanic Belfast.
Built on the slipways where the ship was originally constructed, it is the largest Titanic exhibition anywhere in the world, and has been described by director of the film Titanic, James Cameron, as “really quite phenomenal”. The building is rooted in the Titanic Quarter, one of Europe’s largest and most exciting waterfront developments.
Here you can take a five-star TripAdvisor-rated Titanic Walking Tour or visit the former Harland and Wolff Headquarters (the shipbuilding company responsible for the construction of the ship).
If you can linger longer?
While it’s an attraction in itself, Belfast is also a great base for visiting the stunning surrounding area, from the Unesco World Heritage Site of the Giant’s Causeway to the adrenaline-boosting Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It’s all there for the taking.