Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and 2nd largest on the island of Ireland. It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly. Belfast was granted city status in 1888.
The site of Belfast has been occupied since the Bronze Age. The Giant's Ring, a 5,000-year-old henge, is located near the city, and the remains of Iron Age hill forts can still be seen in the surrounding hills. Belfast remained a small settlement of little importance during the Middle Ages. John de Courcy built a castle on what is now Castle Street in the city centre in the 12th century, but this was on a lesser scale and not as strategically important as Carrickfergus Castle to the north, which was built by de Courcy in 1177. The O'Neill clan had a presence in the area. In the 14th century, Cloinne Aodha Buidhe, descendants of Aodh Buidhe O'Neill built Grey Castle at Castlereagh, now in the east of the city.
Historically, Belfast has been a centre for the Irish linen industry (earning the nickname "Linenopolis"), tobacco production, rope-making and shipbuilding: the city's main shipbuilders, Harland and Wolff, which built the well-known RMS Titanic, propelled Belfast on to the global stage in the early 20th century as the biggest and most productive shipyard in the world.
Today, Belfast remains a centre for industry, as well as the arts, higher education and business, a legal centre, and is the economic engine of Northern Ireland. The city suffered greatly during the period of conflict called The Troubles, but latterly has undergone a sustained period of calm, free from the intense political violence of former years, and substantial economic and commercial growth. Belfast city centre has undergone considerable expansion and regeneration in recent years, notably around Victoria Square. Belfast is also a major seaport, with commercial and industrial docks dominating the Belfast Lough shoreline, including the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard.
|Evidence of the political troubles can still be seen|
Local museums and places of interest including The Titanic’s Dock and Pumphouse and the Ulster Folk Transport Museum offer an insight into the history, industrial heritage and times gone by; while award winning attractions including Belfast Zoo and W5 Interactive Science Centre provide great family days out.
All the great shopping centres of Belfast are within easy walking distance of each other. From the prestigious Victoria Square Shopping Centre development, numerous high street stores, family businesses, luxurious designer boutiques and speciality shops, Belfast has an astonishing array of tempting treasures. Whether its high street or budget shopping, designer or couture, the city offers a wealth of choice for every taste and pocket.
Opening in late March 2012, Titanic Belfast® will be a "must see" visit in any tour of Belfast and Northern Ireland. It is located in the heart of Belfast, on the slipways where RMS Titanic was built. Inside this iconic building, visitors will re-live the entire Titanic story from her birth in Belfast to the fateful maiden voyage and her eventual discovery on the seabed. Immerse yourself in the amazing story of Belfast in the 1900s, take a spin in the Shipyard Ride, experience life on board and learn about Titanic’s maiden voyage, her tragic sinking, the many stories of human endeavour, and the technology and science that finally found her, and helped to solve some of the many mysteries surrounding that fateful night in 1912. For full details follow the link http://www.titanicbelfast.com/Home.aspx
- Belfast Castle. set on the slopes of Cavehill Country Park, in a prominent position 400 feet (120 m) above sea level. Its location provides unobstructed views of the city of Belfast and Belfast Lough. The original Belfast Castle, built in the late 12th century by the Normans, was located in the town itself, flanked by the modern day High Street, Castle Place and Donegall Place in what is now Belfast city centre. This was the home of Sir Arthur Chichester, baron of Belfast, but was burned down in 1708, leaving only street names to mark the site. Rather than rebuild on the original site, the Chichesters decided to build a new residence in the city's suburbs, today's Belfast Castle emerging as a result. The building that stands today was built from 1811–70 by the 3rd Marquess of Donegall. After Donegall's death and the family's financial demise, the 8th Earl of Shaftesbury completed the house. It was his son, the 9th Earl of Shaftesbury, who presented the castle to the City of Belfast in 1934. In 1978, Belfast City Council began a major refurbishment over a period of ten years at a cost of over two million pounds. The building officially re-opened to the public on 11 November 1988.The castle boasts an antiques shop, a restaurant and visitors centre and it is a popular venue for conferences, private dining and wedding receptions.
- The Albert Memorial Clock is a tall clock tower situated at Queen's Square. It was completed in 1869 and is one of the best known landmarks of Belfast.
History. In 1865 a competition for the design of a memorial to Queen Victoria's late Prince Consort, Prince Albert, was won by W. J. Barre, who had earlier designed Belfast's Ulster Hall. The sandstone memorial was constructed between 1865 and 1869 and stands 113 feet tall in a mix of French and Italian Gothic styles. A two tonne bell is housed in the tower. As a result of being built on wooden piles on marshy, reclaimed land around the River Farset, the top of the tower leans four feet off the perpendicular. Due to this movement, some ornamental work on the belfry was removed in 1924 along with a stone canopy over the statue of the Prince. Being situated close to the docks, the tower was once infamous for being frequented by prostitutes plying their trade with visiting sailors. However, in recent years regeneration has turned the surrounding Queen's Square and Custom's House Square into attractive, modern public spaces with trees, fountains and sculptures.
- St Anne's Cathedral. also known as Belfast Cathedral, is a cathedral of the Church of Ireland in Donegall Street. It is unusual in serving two separate dioceses (Connor and Down and Dromore), yet being the seat of neither, (it is geographically in the Diocese of Connor,) it is therefore not a cathedral in the truest sense of the word, a cathedral being a church housing the seat of a bishop, it is however titled as such. It is the focal point of the Cathedral Quarter. The first architect was Sir Thomas Drew, the foundation stone being laid on September 6, 1899 by the Countess of Shaftesbury. The old parish church of St Anne had continued in use, up until 31 December 1903, while the new cathedral was constructed around it; the old church was then demolished. The Good Samaritan window, to be seen in the Cathedral Sanctuary, is the only feature of the old church to be retained in the Cathedral. Initially, only the nave of the Cathedral was built, and this was consecrated on 2 June 1904.
- Belfast City Hall. is the civic building of the Belfast City Council. Located in Donegall Square, it faces north and effectively divides the commercial and business areas of the city centre. The site now occupied by Belfast City Hall was once the home of the White Linen Hall, an important international Linen Exchange. The Street that runs from the back door of Belfast City Hall through the middle of Linen Quarter is Linen Hall Street.
Plans for the City Hall began in 1888 when Belfast was awarded city status by Queen Victoria. During this period Belfast briefly overtook Dublin as the most populous city on the island of Ireland. Construction began in 1898 under the supervision of architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas and was completed in 1906 at a cost of £369,000. Belfast Corporation (now the council) used their profits from the gas industry to pay for the construction.
- Stormont. The Parliament Buildings, known as Stormont because of its location in the Stormont area of Belfast is the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive. It previously housed the old Parliament of Northern Ireland. The need for a separate parliament building for Northern Ireland emerged with the creation of the Northern Ireland home rule region in the Government of Ireland Act 1920. In 1922, preparatory work on the chosen site, east of Belfast, began. The original plans for a large domed building with two subsidiary side buildings, housing all three branches of government - legislative, executive and judicial - gave rise to the plural in the official title still used today. Alongside the parliament and "Ministerial Building" the site would have been host to the Northern Ireland High Court. The plans were scrapped following the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and its knock-on effect on the economy of the United Kingdom. Instead, a smaller domeless building designed by Sir Arnold Thornley in the Greek classical style and fronted in Portland stone, was erected on the site. It was built by Stewart & Partners and opened by Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) on 16 November 1932. William Stewart who ran the building firm which built Stormont, Stewart and Partners, was the brother of a son-in-law of Frederick James Crozier founder of the Hermitage Golf Club in Dublin.