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8 | NORTHERN IRELAND – Say Hello to More Titanic Belfast

Belfast Festival at Queens - Leon’s Enchanted Garden Botanic Gardens

St George’s Market

Belfast – a city reborn T

he city of Belfast has a rich history of commerce and prosperity, as well as heartache. However, in recent decades, it has become a vibrant, modern city where a burgeoning restaurant and pub scene is flourishing. But that doesn’t mean the earlier days are all a distant memory. Looking to the past to build its future, everything old in Belfast has become new again. One look around the city and it’s clear that instead of hiding from its past, Belfast is learning to embrace it. Belfast was once a hub of the Industrial Revolution, thriving on heavy engineering and shipbuilding, and the port of Belfast was one of the world’s greatest docklands, where work on the RMS Titanic began in 1909. Now the historic waterfront, home to the world-renowned Harland & Wolff shipyards, has seen a resurgence in recent years with the development of the Titanic Quarter. Having been declared Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction at the 2016 World Travel Awards (aka the ‘Tourism Oscars’), the Titanic Belfast Exhibition has brought new life to the city, and to Northern Ireland in general. A rich vein of maritime history runs through the story of Titanic. However, much of our knowledge of the ship may not go further than watching Jack and Rose’s relationship unfold in

What makes Northern Ireland’s capital so unique? the moving 1997 film adaptation. And although some of the film’s characters are based on actual passengers, Jack and Rose’s love story is fictional. Including nine interactive galleries, Titanic Belfast will give you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of the ship, setting the scene as you unravel the myths and discover fascinating facts, and all from the very spot where she was launched. Berthed next to the historic Hamilton Dry Dock is SS Nomadic – tender to RMS Titanic and the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world. Imagine seeing in the flesh the actual steamship, which ferried passengers and their baggage to RMS Titanic, restored to her 1911 glory. It’s one thing to watch and read about the Titanic, it’s another to be right in the middle of where it all began – visualising the difference between today’s atmosphere and the atmosphere decades ago. It really is a unique experience for all the family. A visit to Queen’s Quarter will make another lasting impression – an area

seeping in authentic culture and history, a treasure trove of eclectic vintage clothes shops, second-hand bookstores, restaurants, galleries and live entertainment. Much of the area is near the beautiful Botanic Gardens, home to the Palm House and Tropical Ravine. The Palm House contains a range of tropical plants and birds of paradise, while you can find some of the oldest seed plants around today at the Tropical Ravine. Look out for murals, sculptures and statues around Queen’s Quarter and pop by the Ulster Museum which will take you on a modern journey through the past. Discover dinosaur fossils, a real dinosaur egg, art and ancient relics, and learn more about the social and political history of Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the Cathedral Quarter is a grand example of contrasting the old with the new, with St Anne’s Square home to the Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC) and upmarket eateries alongside some of the oldest streets in Belfast. The Quarter is filled with many cosy pubs and trendy restaurants, as well as many visual and performing artists – you will feel you have stepped into an entirely different culture. The award-winning St George’s Market is one of Belfast’s oldest attractions and one of the most atmospheric destinations Northern Ireland has to offer. If experiencing the tastes and smells of local and continental produce and browsing

through stalls filled with handmade jewellery, antiques and souvenirs, all against a backdrop of live music, is your idea of a perfect day trip, then a visit here shouldn’t go unmissed. If you want to soak up the Irish language and heritage in the west of the city, then the Gaeltacht Quarter may be for you. An energetic area, characterised by live music, traditional pubs and tasty eateries, there are also organised tours here which lead to popular landmarks such as Divis Mountain and Belfast’s only protected bogland, ‘the Bog Meadows Nature Reserve’. But if you’re not the outdoorsy-type, there’s plenty of craic agus ceoil to be had in Cumann Chluain Ard – where traditional Irish music is very much kept alive! Surprising, energetic and colourful – prepare to fall in love with Belfast.

 Did you know?

The term ‘quarter’ does not refer to one fourth of the city – nor is every area in Belfast part of one of the quarters. Instead, each quarter reflects something about a neighbourhood’s history and locale, with the ‘Quarter’ label being a term used generally in recent years!

Northern Ireland Breaks