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Transformed from its days as one of Europe's most troubled cities, Belfast is flourishing again. Peace has brought prosperity and with it a palpable energy. The city's elegant Victorian buildings have been restored, designer shops line the streets and lively galleries serve as the public face of a thriving arts scene.

As if eager to make up for lost time, the city is developing at a heady pace with a rejuvenated waterfront and glittering new attractions such as Titanic Belfast. Music spills out the doors of wonderfully traditional pubs, a host of sleek restaurants vie for awards, and the beautiful Antrim coast is an easy drive away.

It’s worth taking time to absorb Belfast’s history: see the impactful murals and the Peace Wall. And then see the city as it is now: industrial but with a flourishing culinary scene and great pubs, especially in the Hill Street district.

UK & Ireland specialist Max

Things to see and do in Belfast

Birthplace of the Titanic

Belfast has a long history of shipbuilding, but the establishment of Harland and Wolff in 1861 took the industry to a new level. A contract with White Star Line to build its entire fleet of ocean liners, including RMS Titanic, saw thousands employed on the design and engineering of these ships as well as their ornate fixtures and fittings.

The story of the ill-fated liner is retold at Titanic Belfast, where full-scale reconstructions and innovative interactive displays allow you to explore the shipyard, walk along the ship's decks and see the shipwreck on the sea bed.

Although the two massive Harland and Wolff gantry cranes, Samson and Goliath, still dominate the Belfast docklands, shipbuilding has all but ceased here.

Black cab tour into Belfast's political past

The eruption of sectarian violence in Ireland stems right back to the 17th century, when the British Crown confiscated the lands of Irish Catholics and granted them to English and Scottish Protestant settlers. Ireland was eventually partitioned in 1921, when six predominantly Protestant Ulster counties became Northern Ireland. It was an uneasy peace and in the late 1960s sectarian violence hit the streets of Belfast once again in an era known as 'the Troubles', which continued until the Good Friday Agreement eventually brought a fragile peace in 1998.

Today, the city is quite safe to visit, but remnants of community divisions remain such as the angry political murals in West Belfast and the intimidating ‘peace walls’ that still divide particularly militant areas. A fascinating way to get a sense of the city's history is to take a tour of the murals in a black cab with a local driver-guide, who’ll give you the inside story on life in the city during these difficult times.

Belfast's Industrial Revolution legacy

Belfast was historically an important hub in the linen and cotton industry, but it was the success of its shipyards that brought immense change to the city. In the 18th century there was huge expansion in the shipbuilding industry, and the city's population swelled enormously. By the early 19th century a larger outlet to the sea was constructed, allowing bigger vessels to access the city and, crucially, to be launched here.

Commercial and industrial expansion continued and Belfast established itself as an industrial hub of international importance. The whole city flourished and grand civic buildings, warehouses and homes went up along with a host of magnificent Victorian pubs, some of which still survive. Seek out the Crown Liquor Saloon on Great Victoria Street to step back in time among ornate Italian tiling, carved woodwork, stained glass and gas lighting.

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    • Black cab political tour
      Black cab political tour, Belfast

      Black cab political tour

      Black cab political tour

      Explore Belfast's troubled past, political murals and divided communities in the company of a local expert on this black cab tour around the city's most interesting and contentious spots, learning about the political and human cost of the Troubles as you go.

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