A historic city
With two airports to choose from – Belfast City and Belfast International – there’s no shortage of ways of getting to this fabulously historic city whose rebirth and regeneration has given it a whole new lease of life. Shaped by its industrial past (it’s where Titanic was built, after all) it’s now stepping out from the shadows as a confident and dynamic 21st century city.
The centre of Belfast is well stocked with different shopping options, whether you’re after high-street chains or something a bit more individual. The large Victoria Square Shopping Centre (1 Victoria Square) is the main focal point, with a Hugo Boss store recently joining the likes of Apple, House of Fraser and Ted Baker. For a quirkier purchase, try the kitsch-heavy Corium (37 Church Lane), which stocks everything from handmade jewellery to painted plaques, or Space Craft (9b The Fountain Centre), which showcases homeware from local designers. Elsewhere, Oakland Antiques (135-137 Donegall Pass) has two floors of quality antiques.
Food & Drink
Northern Ireland has plenty in the way of farmland and coastline, which means it’s fairly straightforward to source local ingredients – the seafood is often particularly good. Belfast itself has a number of gems for food shoppers, among them the Arcadia Delicatessen (378 Lisburn Road) and the fresh produce at St George’s Market (12-20 East Bridge Street), which is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. For an excellent meal out, meanwhile, the best options include Deane’s (36-40 Howard Street), The Barking Dog (33-35 Malone Road) and Mourne Seafood Bar (34-36 Bank Street). It’s always a sensible idea to book ahead of time.
Belfast Children’s Festival
An arts festival geared at children and young people from the ages of three to 25, the event aims to instil and encourage creativity through a comprehensive programme of performances, readings and workshops across the city.
Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival
Belfast is famed for its Titanic connections (the vessel was built in the docks here), and its yearly maritime festival gives the chance to explore the city’s seafaring heritage further. Various Titanic-themed events take place, and some magnificent ships are on view.
Festival of Fools
A fortnight of high-quality street performances, the Festival of Fools sees artists, acrobats, clowns and stuntmen descend on Belfast. Performers are paid a fixed amount, with any money collected going to the following year’s festival.
Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival
An eclectic line-up of musicians, comedians, authors and visual artists makes this annual shindig in the Cathedral Quarter one of Belfast’s top events. There are performances from established acts as well as up-and-coming names.
Féile an Phobail
An annual festival focused on community arts and traditional music, Féile an Phobail has been running for a quarter of a century. It was established to highlight the positive side of local community in the face of social troubles.
Belfast has a diverse cultural offering, encompassing everything from its shipbuilding heritage to its high-tempo nightlife, and its hotel portfolio is no less varied. The fabulous Merchant Hotel (16 Skipper Street) is a five-star property occupying a former bank with a spa and champagne bar, while there’s a more modest price tag attached to the bright but functional Park Inn by Radisson Belfast (4 Clarence Street West), which benefits from a city centre location. The 23-room Ten Square Hotel (10 Donegall Square South) is a smart boutique option, and the Premier Inn Belfast Titanic Quarter (2A Queens Road) is well placed for the Odyssey Arena.