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Having the Best Time in Belfast - Tips for Enjoying the City

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Belfast has seen its share of hard times, but a visitor would never know that from the fun-loving attitude of its citizens and the positive atmosphere of its up-and-coming cultural quarters. Old warehouses and linen mills have been converted to shopping arcades, art spaces, and entertainment zones. But Belfast's past achievements are honored, too, from well-preserved Victorian saloons to the shipyards that built the Titanic.

Best time to travel

 

Caught between the cool, wet, windy weather systems of the North Atlantic and the Irish Sea, Belfast gets a lot of rain throughout the year. The temperature rarely rises much above 15 degrees C (60 F) in summer, when many families come for holidays from the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Most of the city's major arts and music festivals are concentrated in the school holidays, during late July and August. Winters are mild and relatively quiet, though it's often pleasantly rowdy in the pubs, which can help make for a memorable weekend break whatever the weather.

Not to miss

 

The Titanic Quarter is a living, breathing monument to Belfast's shipbuilding history. Even newfangled venues like Titanic Belfast and Belfast Waterfront exude an old-fashioned sense of pride. A few pints in a long-standing city saloon is essential to the Belfast experience, but on a clear night or day don't miss the chance to get out in a beer garden, or up onto one of the trendy new roof terraces in the Linen District. Just north and south of the city, the vivid green scenery of County Down and County Antrim can make for an unforgettable road trip.

 

Getting around

 

Belfast's city centre is compact and walkable. It's quick and easy to get around on foot in areas like the Cathedral Quarter. Every corner of the city is well-connected by the Metro Translink bus network, which operates brisk, low-cost services along 12 high-frequency routes. Dedicated express coaches run to and from Belfast International Airport (BFS) in 30 minutes, and taxis can be easily booked by phone or hailed in the street. Cab drivers are often great sources of information on city history, and are usually ready to offer insider tips, hints, and recommendations.

 

Cuisine

 

Historically speaking, the Northern Irish diet has always been simple and hearty, with traditional dishes comprising meat, fish, and potatoes. However, ingredients tend to come fresh from farm or ocean, so even rustic local favorites like champ (mashed potato with scallions) or seafood chowder can taste like high-end restaurant fare. While Irish Stew is generally made with lamb down south, the Ulster version often uses tender sliced beef. The Ulster Fry is surely one of the world's great breakfasts - a greasy mess of bacon, black pudding, and other high-calorie treats that couldn't be more satisfying.

 

Customs and etiquette

 

Oddly, there is no agreed-upon collective term for the people of Belfast, and recent attempts to come up with one have not advanced far beyond "Belfastians." They are generally warm and welcoming, expecting only basic good manners and a sense of humor from visitors to their city. It's worth bearing in mind that certain communities in East and West Belfast have very different political and religious views. Even if you know something about local history and have your own opinions on the subject, it's a good idea to stick to more neutral subjects for the sake of friendly conversation.

 

Fast facts

 

  • Population: 580000
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  • Spoken languages: English, Irish Gaelic
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  • Electrical: 220-240 volts, 50 Hz, plug type G
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  • Phone calling code: +44 28
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  • Emergency number: 999