In Northern Ireland

Belfast City Centre

Where Is Belfast?

Belfast is the Capital City of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The name Belfast is dirived from the Irish Béal Feirste meaning "rivermouth of the sandbanks" and its sits at the head of Belfast Lough with the River Lagan running through its heart. It is on the east side of Northern Ireland with the Lough flowing into the Irish Sea. Its port, Belfast Harbour & Port along with Larne on NI's east coast are essential trading routes for the city, with ships and ferries connecting the city to both Scotland and England.

The city is connected by two main airports one, just minutes from the heart of the city called George Best Belfast City Airport and the other called Belfast International Airport or Aldergrove, situated about 35 minutes to the North West of the City. Belfast is about two hours north of Dublin which also sits on the east coast. As such many choose to utilize Dublin International Airport for their travels.

What County Is Belfast In?

Whilst many people don't worry about countries when it comes to cities, the City of Belfast is mainly in County Antrim, which extends both sides of the River Lagan and Belfast Lough. Many assume that County Antrim ends on the northside of the lough and river, but areas such as Belmont, Ballyhackamore and Cherryvalley are all in County Antrim and these are on the southside of the river.

As with many things in Northern Ireland nothing is ever straight forward, to explain: there are parts of Greater Belfast which appear to extend even futher to include parts of County Down. Dundonald for example sits about 5 miles from Belfast City Centre, on the face of it it would appear to be a surburb of Belfast and locals accept it as such but Dundonald is in County Down and in the local council district of Lisburn & Castlereagh and this situation was made even more complicated when Lisburn was granted city status 2002. Of course locals find humour in everything and for example are amused when traveling from Newtownards towards Belfast and whilst they can clearly see the skyline of Belfast ahead of them the actual sign on the road welcomes them to Lisburn and Castlereagh!

Flying into Belfast

How Do I Get To Belfast?

The city is served by two airports, Belfast International Airport which is approximately 30 minutes from the heart of the city by coach or car and Belfast City Airport which is just minutes from Belfast City Centre. George Best Belfast City Airport code is BHD and Belfast International Airport's code is BFS. Unlike the International Airport, the City Airport has a rail link which will take passengers into Central Station but it may serve you better to arrange a ride or take a taxi. Whichever airport you use there are loads of Belfast Flights from various carriers including budget airlines. If you are flying into Dublin then you can catch a coach direct to Belfast, you can also catch the Enterprise Train from Dublin's Connelly Station.

If you are travelling by ferry both P&O and Stena Line offer services to either Belfast or Larne (which is about 30 minutes by car). You can also get coach deals to Belfast from Ulster Bus, National Express and Scottish Citylink which can include ferry crossing.

Hotels to stay in Belfast

Where Can I Stay In Belfast?

Belfast is an ever growing city with new boutique hotels popping up all the time. One of the most renowned hotels in the city is the Europa Hotel, which was once known as Europe's most bombed hotel but all has changed and Belfast is now one of Europe's most vibrants cities. When it comes to city hotels most of the main chain's operate here including the Hilton, Premier Inn and Ramada. It really depends on where you wish to stay for there are hotels in the University Quarter of the city, hotels in the Titanic Quarter of the City, as well as in the Linen and Cathedral Quarters. One of Northern's Ireland largest hotel chains operates the Stormont Hotel which sits directly facing the Stormont Estate home of the Northern Ireland Assembly, operates the Europa Hotel and plans to open a new hotel in Bedford street which which will be one of the city's tallest hotels and sit just seconds from Belfast City Hall. If you're looking for hotel details visit our Belfast Guide or Directory for more information.

Getting around Belfast on the Belfast Bikes

How Do I Get Around Belfast?

Unlike many other cities Belfast has no underground system and no tram system. It's transport is provided by a company called Translink which offers bus services throughout Belfast under the brand Metro Buses or Citybus, it also offers bus services and rail services throughout Northern Ireland under the brands Ulster Bus and Northern Ireland Railways. You should ask the operator for details of their current prices and discounts. Visitors to the city should be aware that you can purchase an all day bus ticket, which provides unlimited travel on Metro Buses after 9:30am for as little as £3.70.

If you feeling a bit more energetic you can always get around the city using Belfast Bikes which have pick up and drop off docking stations all around the city. Likewise if you're feeling a little bit more lazy you can always avail yourself of both our public and private hire taxi companies. If you are more interested in touring Belfast or in taking a tour of Belfast's main river, the River Lagan which leads into Belfast Lough, why not take a look at our tourist guide or directory to see available services.

Cruise Ship stop in Belfast

Do Cruise Ships Stop In Belfast?

The simple answer is Yes! Each year thousands arrive by sea to enjoy the City of Belfast and near by tourist attractions. In 2023, Belfast saw 158 ships dock with hundreds of thousands of passengers and crew arriving in the city. The cruise business continues to thrive with more than two million visitors arriving by cruise ship since the city became a must stop city destination.

In 2023 Belfast Harbour was named 'Best UK & British Isles Port of Call' by the world's leading cruise reviews site, 'Cruise Critic', which is a subsidiary of TripAdvisor.

If you enjoy photographing these beautiful vessels arriving in the city there are various vantage points, from the docks near HMS Caroline in Titanic Quarter to Holywood seafront or Farmhill Bay Beach in Cultra. Of course, if you plan to snap these great ships, you'll need to know when to expect them, details of the cruise ships scheduled to arrive in Belfast are available on either Belfast Harbour's website or a dedicated website called 'Cruise Belfast'.

The 2024 schedule is up and running with Viking Cruises scheduled Belfast stops including their ships Viking Venus and Viking Saturn. Ambassador Cruise Lines is sending their cruise liner Ambition with a capacity of over 2000 onboard, Norwegian Cruise Line are docking their ship Norwegian Pearl with an expected 3500 onboard and TUI are to dock their Mein Schiff 3 liner with a capacity of over 3500.

BUT, the biggest ship expected in port this season is the MSC Poesia a liner owned by MSC Cruises and the capacity of this ship is a staggering 7500.

Whether you're arriving into Belfast on a cruise or just a happy snapper intending to photograph these huge luxury liners, you will always receive a warm welcome in Belfast.

Giant's Causeway Northern Ireland

What Are The Top Attractions Close To Belfast?

There are many must see places right across Northern Ireland and if you have the time then the most obvious is the geological wonder that is the Giant's Causeway, on the north coast. To enjoy this spectacle you really should make a day trip out of it, so you can see the sights and hear the legend.

Again, if you have a day to spare then why not visit the seaside town of Newcatle on the South East Coast of Northern Ireland. If you're into photography or mountaineering then Northern Ireland's largest peak, Slieve Donard or Tollymore Forest Park are there for your delight. If you are travelling from Belfast then you may wish to stop off at Seaforde Gardens & Tropical Butterfly House or if you're in need of refreshments then how about a pitstop at Montalto Estate in Ballynahinch.

Another major attraction sits on the north shore of Belfast Lough, Carrickfergus Castle. This Norman Castle is only about half an hour from Belfast and is a great family day out .

If you are a Game of Thrones fan then the 'Dark Hedges' is a must see for you. The Dark Hedges is a walkway of beech trees, planted by the Stuart family in the 18th century but to fans of the show it is now more widely recognised as the King's Road in Game of Thrones series. If you decide to visit the dark hedges then a visit to the Old Bushmills Distillery is not far away.

There are various stately homes close to Belfast including Mount Stewart which sits on the shore of Strangford Lough a few mile outside Newtownards. This period house and its grounds are open to the public and it currently the home of Lady Rose. Another estate of interest if Castle Ward in Downpatrick. Again both the house and grounds are open to the public. These properities are owned by the National Trust so in the absence of membership an entrance fee is payable.

Game of Thrones location in Northern Ireland

What Is Belfast Famous For?

Just as Belfast was famous in the past for its linen industry, rope making and ship building, the city is now famous worldwide as the home of Titanic, the set for Game of Thrones and its thriving film industry.

The city is also the birthplace of international talent such as music legend Van Morrison, author CS Lewis, actor Ciarán Hinds, footballer George Best, snooker star Alex Higgins and boxing champion Carl Frampton. Golfer Rory McIllroy and actor Jamie Dornan both come from Holywood on the outside edge of Belfast. The city also became a film sensation with Sir Kenneth Branagh film titled 'Belfast' named after his hometown.

Other famous faces from Northern Ireland include the well loved TV presenter Gloria Hunniford who was born down in Portadown, TV and film star James Nesbitt who was born in Ballymena and Line of Duty star Adrian Dunbar who was born in Enniskillen

Those of a certain age will remember the one and only Belfast lad Frank Carson who passed away in 2012 and his comic friends Roy Walker (born in Belfast) and Jimmy Cricket who was born in Cookstown. Comedians who brightened up some dark days in the city's history. Today both Roy Walker and Jimmy Cricket live in Lancashire close to Blackpool where they did many a gig.

Photo of US President Obama and President Biden who visited Belfast

A Few Famous Belfast Visitors

Belfast is now a vibrant city with a booming film industry. It's on the bucket list of many a star or even US President. President Bill Clinton visited Northern Ireland back in 1995 and his visit to the city was made more poignant as he chose to stay in Europe's most bombed hotel, the Europa Hotel in the heart of Belfast.

Back in 2013 President Barack Obama arrived in Northern Ireland with his family to attend the annual summit of the G8, landing at Belfast International Airport on Air Force One. He later visited the City of Belfast. At the same time Russian President Vladimir Putin made history by being the first Russian President to ever visit Northern Ireland. In April 2023 US President Joe Biden visited the city staying at Belfast's Grand Central Hotel just yards from City Hall and later traveling south to explore his Irish roots.

Even for Hollywood Royalty Belfast is a must see city with A-Listers such as Morgan Freeman, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, David Hasselhoff, Bill Murray and Tom Hanks hitting Belfast to work, film or relax. Back in 2020 Hollywood movie star Sharon Stone made a point of visiting Belfast City Hall whilst in the city to sign a book of condolence in honour the late Seamus Mallon.

Whether you are a king or a pauper, a movie star or just an extra, a politician or someone with more sense, Belfast is now the place to be seen, to relax, to enjoy and for many film and tv stars a place to work, if you visit no matter who you are you will receive a very friendly welcome!

Crowds representing Belfast's Population

What Is The Population Of Belfast?

Belfast is booming as you would expect as it is the capital city of Northern Ireland. In the year 2021 the population of the Belfast Local Government District was 345,418 whilst he population within the city limits of Belfast was 293,298. However, the population of what is considered to be the Greater Belfast Metropolitan Area is estimated at 647,438 in 2024. This represents more than a quarter of Northern Ireland's overall population which is fast approaching the 2 million mark, it currently sits at 1,938,715 people in 2024.

Like most major cities, Belfast is becoming increasingly diverse in the make up of its population, with two major universities attracting overseas students the city centre space is now more cosmopolitan than ever. The city is more diverse than ever, with all major faiths worshipping in the city. Whilst Belfast has always had those identifying as British and Irish there are increasing numbers of those identifying as Polish, Chinese, Indian, Black African and mixed ethnicity. These growing communities now celebrate their traditions openly in the city and invite the wider community to join them in their celebrations.

A Few Belfast Facts

Whilst there has been a settlement in Belfast for many centuries, its modern history began in 1611 when in 1613 it received a charter of incorporation. Later under the reign of Queen Victoria Belfast was granted city status by royal charter in 1888. To mark this landmark a new seat of local government was commissioned and built with the door to Belfast City Hall opening in 1906.

The City has a vast maritime heritage which includes the building of RMS Titanic at the world famous Harland & Wolff Shipyard. In addition, Belfast is also well known for its linen industry heritage, tobacco processing, rope-making and even today is still well known for its aerospace and missile industry.

The City, in the absence of an underground, tram system or citywide rail system is has introduced what is known as the Belfast Rapid Transit. So, What is Belfast Rapid Transit? It's a bus and not just a bus but A Bendy Bus, costing millions this policy is to use existing roads and bendy buses, removing loads of bus stops, parking and introducing bus lanes and revenue generating cameras! It could only happen in Belfast!

Belfast is one of six cities in Northern Ireland the others being Armagh, Newry, Lisburn, Derry/Londonderry and Bangor. Northern Ireland along with England, Scotland, and Wales make up the United Kingdom but Northern Ireland also has very close links with oue neighbours in Ireland.

Whilst Northern Ireland left the European Union along with the other component parts of the UK at 11pm on the 31st January 2020, the region remains tied to the European system due to its land border with Ireland who continue to be an EU member state. Whilst both the UK, Irish and European Union have attempted to work for a solution and have signed agreements such as the 'Windsor Framework' these divisive and contentious issues rumble on, with an Irish Sea border between Britain and Northern Ireland seen by some as a step too far. Changes in how Brexit is implemented are expected to come into force later in 2024 so it's a case of watch this space.

The Belfast Accent & Lingo

The distinctive Northern Ireland accent is like marmite loved by some and not by others. However, the accent reflects many expressions local to Northern Ireland, for examples of this why not take a look at our Norn Ireland Dictionary.

Northern Ireland is blest with three different languages. Whilst English is the common and everyday language in Northern Ireland, the region boasts Irish (Gaelic) speakers and Ulster Scots speakers. Common to all communities in NI is the local slang or lingo which visitors rarely understand but which became a global topic when on a visit to Northern Ireland US President Obama used one of our most famous phrases, 'Whats the craic?' Whilst on site today why not visit our Northern Ireland Slang page?

Church Stained Glass Windows

Is Belfast A Christian City?

Whilst there are many people across Northern Ireland practising different faiths Christianity is by far the faith people would identify with. Across Belfast Christian denominations include those in the Catholic Church, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church, Free Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church, Baptist Church, Brethren and Evangelical Pentecostal Church.

One of Belfast's largest churches is the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle which also broadcasts its services on TV and Internet. Whilst many people growing up in the 80's and 90's in Belfast may best remember Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church in South Belfast and its fleet of Red Routemaster London Style buses ferrying children to their popular Sunday Schools.

Whilst church attendance across all churches has diminished in recent years with the Covid Pandemic causing a great falling away of their congregations, Christianity is still the city's main faith and should you decide to visit them this Sunday, you will certainly receive a warm Belfast Welcome!

Belfast Street Umbrellas

Is Belfast A Safe City To Visit?

The short answer is Yes! Belfast is one of the friendliest cities on the planet BUT like every city there are areas where caution should be taken, especially after dark. Whilst many places in the city are perfectly fine during the day like most cities Belfast has it share of bad pennies who operate best in the dark.

So, when you're out in the city use your common sense, be aware of you're surroundings and take care to read the body language of others around you. If possible stick to well lit streets and in company, if waiting for a taxi don't flaunt your belongings, like your expensive phones, if you're using an app stay in the building you're leaving if possible. It's always better to safe than sorry!

Try not to stick out unnecessarily it great to be an individual but wearing items such as football shirts or other sports shirts may leave you vulnerable to approach for all the wrong reasons. If you're out at night remember drunks don't make great company and they love to either tell you how much they love you or to fight with you - no matter what city you're in and Belfast is no different. Dress to blend in and avoid wearing sports gear unless you're on your way to a match!

Belfast has many great pubs, clubs and restaurants but there is certainly some subjects it is not recommended to discuss when out, even with friends as you can be overheard. Avoid discussing Northern Ireland politics and subject areas such as the troubles, religion, Brexit or Northern Ireland's history. Most people are out for a good time and these subjects rarely make a good night but where there is drink around, they can provoke others.

At night stay to the areas you know, try not to walk too far in isolated areas, stay to the well beaten track, if you feel volunerable then your gut is telling you something's wrong. Plan your night out, if you change your plans alert your friends and if you're going home with someone else, know where you're going, know how you can get back to your hotel or home if you need to and tell your friends where you are going before hand.

There is no advice for staying safe in Belfast that wouldn't apply to any other city. Belfast is a great city, its people are fun and friendly but it's your responsibility to stay safe, so use your common sense, enjoy your time in Belfast and take away only good memories!

Belfast Codes

All postcodes in Northern Ireland start BT and Belfast's postcodes include BT1 BT2 BT3 BT4 BT5 BT6 BT7 BT8 BT9 BT10 BT11 BT12 BT13 BT14 BT15 BT16 BT17 and part of BT29.

The City's main telephone dialing prefix code is 02890 but in recent years now includes 02895.

The airport codes are BHD for George Best Belfast City Airport and BFS for Belfast International Airport.

Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast

What Ships Where Built in Belfast?

Whilst being famous for building RMS Titanic, it is often forgotten that Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff built close to 1,750 ships starting as far back as 1859.

Obviously the city's most famous creations were those for the once great White Star Line and included ships such as Titanic, Olympic, Oceanic, Britannic, Laurentic, Celtic, Nomadic and Traffic. It is these ships that the City of Belfast chose to commemorate when erecting 16 metre copper masts / sails in its main thoroughfare (Donegall Place) facing City Hall back in 2010/2011.

Many people assume that that the two yellow gantry cranes synonymous around the world with Belfast were used in the building of our most famous ships, not so! Goliath was the first of the two cranes to be completed and erected in 1969, whilst the larger of the two cranes Samson was only completed in 1974. If you want to boast that you know which crane is which, Goliath, the smaller of the two cranes sits slightly further inland closer to Belfast City, whilst Samson a little further back towards the Lough. One other interesting point to note about these famous landmarks is that they are both named after biblical characters, which was a reflection of the Christian beliefs of Northern Ireland.

The Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast became not only one of the biggest ship builders in the world in its day but between 1900 and 1930 at the time of the building of Titanic, Harland and Wolff was Belfast's biggest employer with thousands working at the yard to meet the demand for luxury ocean liners.

Not only was the shipyard instrumental in the luxury cruise liner business it was also essential in building ships of the Royal Navy. Up until 1969 H&W had built 174 vessels for the Royal Navy, including gun boats, destroyers, aircraft carriers, tugs, trawlers and even mine sweepers. If your interested in finding more information on ships built for the Royal Navy you can visit History Hub Ulster or if you want to find out more information on all the ships built at Harland & Wolff why not visit the yard. NOTE: These are external links and you proceed to these sites at your own risk, see our terms, conditions and disclaimers.

Whilst Belfast, may never again witness the glory days of ship building and luxury liners the H&W shipyard is a vibrant business which still specialises in ship repair, shipbuilding and offshore construction and the yard and its history remain essential to the Belfast Story!

A Great Welcome To Belfast

A Great Welcome

Belfast is one of the friendliest City's in the World & you should receive a Great Welcome wherever you go!

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Around the globe it's accepted that 4 quarters make a whole - Want to know how many Quarters the city of Belfast has?

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