Northern Ireland's capital city Belfast is a vibrant destination, replete with stylish bars, restaurants, hotels and historical attractions.
The city has resurged in recent years to become a popular destination on the city break map, helped by the launch of low cost flights from the UK. The arrival of luxury hotels like the Victorian and art deco masterpiece, the Merchant Hotel – reputedly selling the world’s most expensive cocktail – and the boutique splendour of Malmaison symbolize the city's fast-growing confidence and the investment that it has attracted over the last decade.
In addition, the creation of Europe's largest waterfront development has transformed Belfast; the new Titanic Quarter, named after the ill-fated ship that was built and launched from Belfast, will feature new hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars, galleries and parks. Its innovatively designed series of urban villages neatly links green space with public areas, with the development due to organically take shape over 30 years.
Its crown jewel is Titanic Belfast, an interactive attraction which opened in 2012 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the vessel, which was the largest man-made object ever to take to the seas.
The Titanic represents an illustrious era in the city’s history; in the 19th century, Belfast was one of the world’s leading ship building centres and an industrial giant. Bolstered by linen production, heavy engineering and tobacco manufacturing, Belfast enjoyed a Golden Age, from which sprang many of today’s historical gems.
These include Belfast City Hall, the majestic Grand Opera House, Customs House and Queen’s University, parts of which are listed today for their architectural importance. Another key landmark built in this period was Belfast Castle, located close to Cave Hill Country Park. Many of the castle’s inhabitants have made their stamp all over Belfast, inspiring major street names: Chichester Street, Donegall Place, Shaftesbury Square and more.
Other Belfast characters who have left their mark stem from the world of literature: Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, Whitbread Prize winner Michael Longley, Derek Mahon and Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Muldoon have became known across the world as some of the finest poets writing in the English language.
Belfast’s musical legacy is just as impressive: this is the city that gave birth to the likes of Van Morrison, Snow Patrol, Ash and Gary Moore, all now celebrated in a new two hour musical tour that can be booked via the tourist office. Every November, the city celebrates its musical heritage with Belfast Music Week.
The once battle-scarred city, which was blighted for over 30 years by The Troubles - religious, political and sectarian feuding, which began in the late 1960s – continues to enjoy a renaissance. Proof of that are ambitious plans to rejuvenate a 17km (10 miles) stretch of the Lagan Canal from Belfast to Lisburn, with further hopes of one day connecting the city to Dublin and Limerick by waterway.
Although the ongoing peace process has faltered with disturbances in 2012-13, this should not overshadow Belfast's greatest asset - the warmth, resilience, enduring spirit and optimism of its people.