A May 2007 trip
to Belfast by cr008k
Quote: Trip to Ireland.
Ah, Ireland. It's one of my all time favorite places to visit. I had been to Dublin and Glendolough before and this time I decided to head North to Northern Ireland. Of course, Belfast was one of the first places on our list. It is a very historically significant city (for those who do not know, Belfast was pretty much the heart of the industrial revolution that occurred in this area) and thus it naturally appealed to a history buff like me. I was very excited to visit and we took the train from the other cities we were visiting, so it was relatively easy to access (there is an airport, but we didn't fly so I can't comment).
Those who are first time visitors (or perhaps even those who are familiar, I don't know) are immediately struck by the beauty of the city, even as you first begin to approach from the train. The city is ringed on all sides by the sea and the river valley and the beautiful hills. I have always thought of Ireland as a beautiful place and I thought nothing could be more beautiful than the tour we took in Glendolough where we went up to the top of the mountains and were able to look down on the water and the views. I was wrong. Approaching Belfast, seeing the sea and the hills and the lush greens, it was one of the most beautiful sites that I have ever seen in my life. It was almost magical to see the beauty of the nature here. It was absolutely stunning and breathtaking.Walking through the city, there is a very Victorian almost influence. There are elaborate and intricate sculptures and designs and architectural details on pretty much all of the buildings in the downtown part. It reminds me of some of the prettiest parts of San Francisco with all of the Victorian influence, except it is even more special because it is even older and many of the buildings are even more historically significant. Even the old linen warehouses and "industrial" factories are intricately carved with the faces of kings and poets and other historical figures from Irish and British history.The city has been revitalized and is beautiful, easy to walk around and still historically significant. I highly recommend a visit here, especially if you've only seen a few of the Irish cities already.
Belfast has undergone a big revitalization and it is really easy to enjoy the downtown area. There are street musicians, tons of beautiful and historical buildings, and all kinds of fantastic things to see. The food is traditional Irish fare--delicious, warm, comforting, and fantastic. Stop in at a delicious Irish pub--almost every one offers the traditional classics and almost every one is delicious and does the food very well. Have a draft beer, talk with the locals, and take in the experience. Enjoy the musical (albeit sometimes hard to understand) Northern Ireland accent. If you are a history buff, take one of the tours of the city that is offered. You can see all the old linen factories (which are architecturally beautiful as well) and hear about the transformation that has occurred in the city over the past few decades. It's great to hear about the way things were, and see the way they are now.
Belfast is a huge city, and it has everything you would expect to find in a city of its size--restaurants, shops, tourist attractions, friendly people, good neighborhoods and bad, and plenty of nightlife and things to see. 1/3 of Northern Ireland's population lives there, and so everyone is sure to find an activity they enjoy there.
Also, take a tour of the River Valley- it is beautiful, and you will really get to see the lush countryside and the greens that Ireland is famous for. The Titanic was also built in Belfast (not sure if they should be bragging about that, clearly it wasn't too successful) and they have some historical stuff related to that, if that is the kind of thing that suits your interest.
Take a bike tour if you are at all outdoorsy. It gives you a much more personalized interaction with nature and allows you to stop and see everything you want to see and take pictures at some of the most beautiful views. It is hilly, so make sure that you are in shape.
There are plenty of beaches, and even some castles not too far away from the city if that is what floats your boat, so be sure to do your research and plan your time so you get to see everything you are particularly interested in seeing- Belfast really does offer it all.
The downtown area has been made very pedestrian friendly as a part of the revitalization and it is really nice to be able to walk around and see the downtown buildings, so you can get up close to stuff, stop in at a pub that sees your fancy, and listen to the street musicians. People are also friendly and if you are walking you have a much greater chance of meeting them and getting advice from those who live there and know Belfast the best.
Biking and bike tours are a great way to get around some of the nature stuff- at the beaches, in the river valley, etc.There is some public transportation but it is not great. I do not recommend driving, so if you really want to stray far, take a cab or check with your hotel and see what tours are offered. Those are nice because you get transportation and information all in one.
San Francisco, California