A Weekend Holiday In Modern Belfast
Belfast has changed a lot over the past couple of decades, now it's turned into the next hot city to visit.
A holiday in the Northern Irish city of Belfast is fast becoming one of the more fashionable new destinations for holiday makers.
Growing numbers of tourists are now attracted each year by Belfast's charms, cheap flights to Belfast itslef and the Lonely Planet has just named the city as one of its "hot destinations" in a list of the top ten cities to visit in 2007, alongside Lithuanian capital Vilnius and Perth is Australia.
Contrary to some reports, Belfast is a very welcoming, friendly place to spend time and the relative peace it has enjoyed over the past decade has enabled it to flourish.
With a large graduate population, a long history, some impressive architecture and vibrant nightlife, the city offers a great deal for those seeking a new city break holiday destination. Belfast has ferry links with the UK, good road and rail links with the rest of Ireland and Belfast International Airport.
There are more and more places to stay opening in the city each year, ranging from hostels and B&Bs to luxury hotels, such as the Italianate Malmaison and the famous Europa Hotel.
Belfast enjoyed rapid growth during the Industrial Revolution and many of the ornate 19th century buildings survive today, including the City Hall, Queen's University, St George's Market, the Ulster Bank and Northern Bank buildings, the Royal Courts of Justice and the Linehall Library.
Visit the historic Cathedral Quarter area and wander around the narrow streets, browsing in the attractive shops and taking in the charming buildings. Belfast is a small city with a tiny centre and very easy to walk around, with plenty of cafes and bars to stop in along the way.
A holiday in Belfast offers a lively arts scene, with theatre, live music and dance on at large and small venues across the city. The annual arts festival is very popular, while the Grand Opera House provides popular dance, music and drama production, the Lyric Theatre more contemporary works and the impressive Waterfront Hall has an impressive schedule of classical and modern music.
The city's turbulent past is part of what has created it and, in order to better understand Belfast, holiday makers should tour the sectarian murals painted on walls and houses across the city is extremely interesting.
Key places of interest within the city include the magnificent Belfast Castle, situated on Cave Hill, the flamboyant Crown Liquor Saloon, owned by the National Trust, the Belfast Botanic Gardens and palm house, the Albert Clock, the Ormeau Baths Gallery, the McNaughton Gallery and Belfast Zoo.
In the evenings, head for the many bars, restaurants and clubs across the city centre. The recent economic boom in Belfast has led to the opening of numerous stylish places to eat, drink and dance, while many of the older, characterful pubs remain.
The countryside around Belfast is beautiful and the stunning Giant's Causeway, the huge Giant's Ring neolithic henge, the Mourne Mountains, Carrickfergus Castle and the Sperrins are just a short drive away. If there is time, hire a car and do some exploring in the unspoilt landscapes outside Belfast.
The Lonely Planet Bluelist describes Northern Ireland as "abuzz with life: the cities are pulsating, the economy is thriving and the people, the lifeblood that courses through the country, are in good spirits".
Northern Ireland has witnessed four per cent growth in overseas visitors during the first half of 2006, compared with the first six months of 2005.
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