Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and is part of the United Kingdom (UK). The city is in the process of recovering from a thirty-year conflict between the Northern Irish Catholics and the Protestants (the former seeking to unite with Ireland and the latter seeking to remain apart of the UK). Since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, tourism fortunately has been growing and the city seems to be turning the corner. If you visit Belfast today, you should expect to find not only decent shopping, lively bars and coffee shops, and quality Guinness, but also numerous Victorian era buildings, a few notable museums, parks, and gardens, and some of the finest political murals in the world.
Belfast is probably most famous for its political murals and mural houses. A tour through the communities and you’ll find numerous large mural paintings on walls that communicate political messages – usually advocating for the support of either the Republican (Roman Catholics) or the Loyalist group (Protestant). In areas like Falls Road and Shankill, you’ll even find many political murals decorated on the walls of houses. While generally safe to visit during the day, you should be careful when you visit at night and always avoid getting into any political discussions with any of the locals.
Belfast is also known for its elegant Victorian era buildings and grandiose architecture – legacies of Belfast’s glory days in the 19th century. You’ll find many of these aforementioned buildings in Belfast’s city center around Donegall Square and City Hall. Some landmark historical buildings near Donegall include the Ulster Hall, the Grand Opera House, the Obel Tower, the Belfast Castle, the Albert Clock, the Victoria Memorial, the Lanyon Building at Queen’s University, the Waterfront Hall, the Stormont Parliament Buildings, and the Royal Courts of Justice. Some of Belfast’s oldest buildings can also be found in the Cathedral Quarter.
Belfast is also known as the city where the ill-fated Titanic was built. It is thus worthwhile to take the Titanic Boat Tour, which allows you to tour the boat yards and area where the ship was built. If you like parks and gardens, you can also visit the Botanical Gardens, where you’ll find the Tropical Ravine and the Palm House, the latter houses unique plants, including carnivorous ones.