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As the largest city in Northern Ireland and the second largest on the island, Belfast has embraced its growing reputation as a tourist hotspot over the last two decades. After almost 30 years of violence and political strife, the city has emerged as a vibrant and enticing tourist destination for curious travellers the world over.
While its period of instability has imbued the city with a sense of dignity and history, it has never lost its sense of humour, amicability or cultural awareness. Now positioned as a unique meeting point of British and Irish heritage, it’s no wonder that Belfast was recently voted as one of the best UK destinations for a weekend getaway by the Guardian. Holidaymakers to the city can leave their troubles behind as they explore this fascinating destination.
A conflicted history the violence, car bombings and gunfire that plagued the streets of the Northern Irish capital from the late 60s to the close of the millennium tarnished the city’s reputation as a tourist destination and left scars on both Belfast and its people. Now, however, those scars are healed and serve as a reminder and an explanation of its difficult past.
After the Troubles came to an end with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Belfast has gone from strength to strength and now attracts visitors from every corner of the globe. Inquisitive tourists are even invited to tour former sites of conflict, such as Crumlin Road Gaol, where they can gain a unique perspective on the past.
A renewed sense of security
From the dark days of almost daily violence to being named as the second safest city in the world by the United Nations in 2006, Belfast has come a long way. Indeed, the whole country has established its security, as Northern Ireland became the safest region of the UK back in 2011. Such a turnaround in less than a decade is nothing short of miraculous, and the renewed vim and vigour with which Belfast residents are instilled is evidenced in the rapid proliferation of bars, restaurants and retail outlets around the city centre over the last few years.
Effortless accessibility, great affordability
One of the chief reasons that Belfast has seen such an upturn in its tourist fortunes of late is down to the infrastructure. With cheap and regular flights from the UK available from sources like Flybe, and a great network of road and rail connecting it to other major tourist hotspots such as Giant’s Causeway and the seaside town of Bangor, it’s never been easier to get around the nation.
Furthermore, Belfast becomes an even more attractive proposition when compared to its Irish counterpart Dublin in terms of economy. While Dublin has endured a reputation of being an expensive city for many years now, Belfast continues to offer a budget alternative brimming with opportunities.
Authenticity and character
Whiling away the night in any traditional pub to the harmonies of violins and fiddles will give you a far more “Irish” experience than you’ll find in a cheesy themed bar in some quarters of Dublin. Similarly, the down-to-earth friendliness of its residents affords a greater appreciation of British hospitality than a cold and impersonal London tour.
So whether it’s getting lost in the annals of history along its pock-marked streets, soaking up the cultural vibrancy in a theatre or park, or having an old-fashioned sing-song with the locals in an overcrowded tavern, Belfast has something to offer every traveller.