Recently, Reporter Bert visited dazzling Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, for Liefde voor Reizen. For a long time Belfast wasn’t exactly a popular tourist destination due to the tensions between its Catholic and Protestant citizens, but this has been changing since the Good Friday Agreement and the city’s future is looking bright.
There are two airports on the outskirts of town: George Best Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport. Airlines KLM and Easyjet both fly directly to Belfast from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.You can easily check which of the two is cheapest by using a comparison website such as Google Flights.
After a non-eventful 1 hour and 40 minute flight with KLM I arrived at Belfast City Airport. A taxi took me to the hotel in the centre of town. The first thing that struck me was how friendly people were. You can really tell that the inhabitants want you to feel welcome; they are helpful, gracious and hospitable.
Belfast has a great many sights. One of the biggest and most eye-catching buildings in the city is the Belfast City Hall, which was built when Belfast was granted city status in 1888. Durban City Hall in South Africa is an almost exact replica of the Belfast City Hall.
In the square in front of the building there is a memorial for the victims of the sinking of the Titanic. Belfast is definitely the place for you if you’re interested in the Titanic’s history. Belfast is where the Titanic was built in 1909 and we all know what happened to it in 1912. That’s why there are many Titanic-themed attractions all over Belfast.
A nice and Dutch way of exploring the city is by bicycle. A city tour like this is about 11 km long and takes 2.5 to 3 hours. With the Belfast City Bike Tour you bike past Belfast’s most important sights on a California Cruiser. It takes you to places that buses and taxi’s can’t reach and it is lovely getting to know Belfast by way of a bike. You ride past Writers Square, St. Anne’s Cathedral, Albert Clock (mini Big Ben), the Lagan river, Titanic Quarter, St. George’s Market, Crown Bar, Europa Hotel, Cathedral Square and the Botanic Gardens among others.
The most famous pub and the most beautiful one I have ever seen, is the Crown Liquor Bar on Great Victoria Street. A unique jewel, a true architectural marvel. It looks stunning from the outside, and when you step inside your jaw simply drops from the beauty of it all. The painting is wonderfully detailed and the ceiling is made out of carved wood. You can even take a seat in a ‘snug’, these are sheltered seats where you can drink your pint in peace and not get disturbed.
Another lovely street that you can’t reach by car is Commercial Court, a small alley behind St. Anne’s Cathedral. Walking through the alley you’ll come along some beautiful murals of famous Belfast citizens and the Duke of York pub. A little bit of trivia: This is the pub where Snow Patrol performed for the first time.
The Europa Hotel is a four-star hotel on the Great Victoria Street and it is Northern Ireland’s most famous hotel. Many presidents and celebrities have stayed in this hotel. It’s also known as ‘Europe’s most bombed hotel’ and the ‘World’s most bombed hotel’ after 28 bombings during the Troubles.
The Botanic Gardens is a public park in the south of Belfast which is especially popular among office workers and students of the nearby Queens University. The most notable feature of the gardens is the Palm House conservatory, which is filled with flowers and plants. It’s one of the earliest examples of a curvilinear cast iron glasshouse in the world.
Belfast certainly surprised me as a reporter. The people welcome you with such warmth. The pubs are convivial and they are also the place to be for a good piece of beef. You can really tell that the people want you to feel at home. I especially enjoyed the bike ride past all the highlights. If you like a city to be full of surprises, Belfast is the place to be.
Currency: British Pond
Time Zone: GMT, -1 hour
Best month for visiting: May / June (for warm weather and most hours of sunshine), December (Christmas atmosphere)
Hotel tip: Holiday Inn Belfast City Centre
Pub tip: Crown Liquor Saloon
Tip: Belfast City Bike Tours
Notable: Friendly people, a great number of cosy pubs and a flourishing city.
This blog is translated by: Irene de Zwart