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Belfast

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© Lonely Planet Publications
576

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HISTORY

Belfast
The countdown to 2012 has begun. No, not the London Olympics; 2012 is also the 100th
anniversary of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, the iconic ocean liner that was built by
Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyards. And it is that year that Belfast has chosen to showcase
the city’s heritage to the world.
It may seem strange for a city to identify with a ship that is famous for sinking on its maiden
voyage, but Belfast built what was the most advanced piece of technology in the world at that
time and takes pride in the innovation, skill and engineering genius that went into making
the Titanic. And as the locals constantly remind you, ‘She was fine when she left here’.
Once lumped with Beirut, Baghdad and Bosnia as one the four ‘B’s for travellers to
avoid, Belfast has pulled off a remarkable transformation from bombs-and-bullets pariah
to hip-hotels-and-hedonism party town. The city’s skyline is in a constant state of flux as
redevelopment continues apace. The old shipyards are giving way to the luxury waterfront
apartments of the Titanic Quarter, and Victoria Sq, Europe’s biggest urban regeneration
project, has added a massive city-centre shopping mall to a list of tourist attractions that
includes Victorian architecture, a glittering waterfront lined with modern art, foot-stomping
music in packed-out pubs and the UK’s second-biggest arts festival.
So as 2012 approaches it seems somehow fitting that Belfast should celebrate the Titanic’s
creation, building new pride and optimism out of the wreckage of past disaster. Get here
early and enjoy it before the rest of the world arrives.
HIGHLIGHTS
„ Ah Go On, Take A Drink Supping a Guin-

Cave Hill

„ The Writing on the Walls The powerful

political murals in West Belfast (p589)
„ Titanic Town Learning about the shipyards

that gave birth to the Titanic on a boat trip
around Belfast’s docklands (p593)

Titanic
Boat Tour

„ Head for the Hills A panoramic view over

the city from the top of Cave Hill (p588)

„ TELEPHONE AREA CODE: 028 FROM BRITAIN AND

REST OF WORLD, 048 FROM REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

BELFAST

West Belfast
Murals

„ POPULATION: 277,000

Ulster
Transport
Museum

One Day
Start your day with breakfast in one of the many cafés on Botanic Ave – Maggie May’s (p599) will
do nicely – then stroll north into the city centre and take a free guided tour of City Hall (p582).
Take a black-taxi tour of the West Belfast murals (p589), then ask the ...
BELFAST
BELFAST
lonelyplanet.com BELFAST •• History
The countdown to 2012 has begun. No, not the London Olympics; 2012 is also the 100th
anniversary of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, the iconic ocean liner that was built by
Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyards. And it is that year that Belfast has chosen to showcase
the city’s heritage to the world.
It may seem strange for a city to identify with a ship that is famous for sinking on its maiden
voyage, but Belfast built what was the most advanced piece of technology in the world at that
time and takes pride in the innovation, skill and engineering genius that went into making
the Titanic. And as the locals constantly remind you, ‘She was fine when she left here’.
Once lumped with Beirut, Baghdad and Bosnia as one the four ‘B’s for travellers to
avoid, Belfast has pulled off a remarkable transformation from bombs-and-bullets pariah
to hip-hotels-and-hedonism party town. The city’s skyline is in a constant state of flux as
redevelopment continues apace. The old shipyards are giving way to the luxury waterfront
apartments of the Titanic Quarter, and Victoria Sq, Europe’s biggest urban regeneration
project, has added a massive city-centre shopping mall to a list of tourist attractions that
includes Victorian architecture, a glittering waterfront lined with modern art, foot-stomping
music in packed-out pubs and the UK’s second-biggest arts festival.
So as 2012 approaches it seems somehow fitting that Belfast should celebrate the Titanic’s
creation, building new pride and optimism out of the wreckage of past disaster. Get here
early and enjoy it before the rest of the world arrives.
Belfast
HISTORY
Belfast is a relatively young city, with few
reminders of its pre-19th-century history.
The city takes its name from the River Farset
(from the Gaelic feirste, meaning sandbank,
or sandy ford) which flows into the River
Lagan at Donegall Quay (it is now channelled
through a culvert). The old Gaelic name, Beál
Feirste, means ‘Mouth of the Farset’.
In 1177 the Norman lord John de Courcy
built a castle here, and a small settlement grew
up around it. Both were destroyed 20 years
later, and the town did not begin to develop in
earnest until 1611 when Baron Arthur Chich-
ester built a castle and promoted the growth
of the settlement.
The early-17th-century Plantation of Ul-
ster brought in the first waves of Scottish
and English settlers, followed in the late 17th
century by an influx of Huguenots (French
Protestants) fleeing persecution in France,
who laid the foundations of a thriving
linen industry. More Scottish and English
settlers arrived, and other industries such
as rope-making, tobacco, engineering and
shipbuilding developed.
With its textile mills and shipyards, Bel-
fast was the one city in Ireland that felt the
full force of the Industrial Revolution. Sturdy
rows of brick terrace houses were built for
the factory and shipyard workers, and a
town of around 20,000 people in 1800 grew
steadily into a city of 400,000 by the start
of WWI, by which time Belfast had nearly
overtaken Dublin in size.
The partition of Ireland in 1920 gave Belfast
a new role as the capital of Northern Ireland.
It also marked the end of the city’s indus-
trial growth, although decline didn’t really
set in until after WWII. With the outbreak of
the Troubles in 1969, the city saw more than
its fair share of violence and bloodshed, and
shocking news images of terrorist bombings,
sectarian murders and security forces’ brutal-
ity made Belfast a household name around
the world.
The 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which
laid the groundwork for power-sharing among
the various political factions in a devolved
Northern Ireland Assembly, raised hopes for
the future and since then Belfast has seen a
huge influx of investment, especially from the
EU. Massive swathes of the city centre have
been (or are being) redeveloped, unemploy-
ment is low, house prices continue to rise
faster than in any other UK city, and tourism
has taken off.
A historic milestone was passed on 8 May
2007 when the Reverend Ian Paisley (fire-
brand Protestant preacher, and leader of
the Democratic Unionist Party) and Martin
McGuinness (Sinn Fein MP and former IRA
commander) were sworn in at Stormont as
first minister and deputy first minister of a
new power-sharing government.
There are still plenty of reminders of the
Troubles – notably the ‘peace lines’ that still
divide communities – and the passions that
have torn Northern Ireland apart over the
decades still run deep. But despite occasional
TELEPHONE AREA CODE: 028 FROM BRITAIN AND
REST OF WORLD, 048 FROM REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
POPULATION: 277,000
HIGHLIGHTS
Ah Go On, Take A Drink Supping a Guin-
ness or three in Belfast’s beautiful Victorian
pubs ( p600 )
The Writing on the Walls The powerful
political murals in West Belfast ( p589 )
Titanic Town Learning about the shipyards
that gave birth to the Titanic on a boat trip
around Belfast’s docklands ( p593 )
Head for the Hills A panoramic view over
the city from the top of Cave Hill ( p588 )
Back to the Future The iconic DeLorean
DMC at the Ulster Transport Museum ( p609 )
Murals
Boat Tour
Titanic
Cave Hill
Museum
Transport
Ulster
West Belfast
BELFAST IN…
One Day
Start your day with breakfast in one of the many cafés on Botanic Ave – Maggie May’s ( p599 ) will
do nicely – then stroll north into the city centre and take a free guided tour of City Hall ( p582 ).
Take a black-taxi tour of the West Belfast murals ( p589 ), then ask the taxi driver to drop you off
at the John Hewitt Bar & Restaurant ( p599 ) for lunch. Catch a 2pm Titanic Tour ( p593 ) boat
trip around the harbour, then walk across the Lagan Weir ( p585 ) to visit the Odyssey Complex
( p586 ). Round off the day with dinner at Deane’s Restaurant ( p598 ) or Roscoff ( p598 ).
Two Days
On your second day take a look at Queen’s University ( p586 ), wander around the Early Ireland
exhibit in the Ulster Museum ( p587 ) and stroll through the Botanic Gardens ( p587 ), then walk
south along the river for lunch at Cutters River Grill ( p600 ). In the afternoon either continue
walking south along the Lagan Towpath ( p587 ) to Shaw’s Bridge and catch a bus back to town,
or go for a hike up Cave Hill ( p588 ). Spend the evening crawling traditional pubs such as the
Crown Liquor Saloon ( p601 ), Kelly’s Cellars ( p601 ) and the Duke of York ( p601 ).
© Lonely Planet Publications
576 577
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