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Belfast

City of the United Kingdom, capital of Northern Ireland

Top 10 Belfast related articles

Belfast

Skyline and buildings throughout the City of Belfast

Coat of arms with motto "Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus" (Latin: "What shall we give in return for so much")
Location within the United Kingdom
Location within Northern Ireland
Area51.16[1] sq mi (132.5 km2)
PopulationCity of Belfast:
341,877 (2019)[2] 
Metropolitan area:
671,559 (2011)[3]
Irish grid referenceJ338740
District
County
CountryNorthern Ireland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBELFAST
Postcode districtBT1–BT17, BT29 (part), BT36 (part), BT58
Dialling code028
PoliceNorthern Ireland
FireNorthern Ireland
AmbulanceNorthern Ireland
UK Parliament
NI Assembly
Websitewww.belfastcity.gov.uk
List of places
UK
Northern Ireland
54°35′47″N 05°55′48″W / 54.59639°N 5.93000°W / 54.59639; -5.93000Coordinates: 54°35′47″N 05°55′48″W / 54.59639°N 5.93000°W / 54.59639; -5.93000

Belfast (/ˈbɛlfɑːst/ BEL-fahst; from Irish: Béal Feirste, meaning 'mouth of the sand-bank ford',[4] Irish pronunciation: [bʲeːlˠ ˈfʲɛɾˠ(ə)ʃtʲə]) is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast. It is the 12th-largest city in the United Kingdom[5] and the second-largest on the island of Ireland. It had a population of 343,542 as of 2019.[2] Belfast suffered greatly during the violence that accompanied the partition of Ireland, and especially during the more recent conflict known as the Troubles: in the 1970s and 1980s it was one of the world's most dangerous cities,[6] with a homicide rate around 31 per 100,000.[7]

By the early 19th century, Belfast became a major port. It played an important role in the Industrial Revolution in Ireland, becoming briefly the biggest linen-producer in the world, earning it the nickname "Linenopolis".[8] By the time it was granted city status in 1888, it was a major centre of Irish linen production, tobacco-processing and rope-making. Shipbuilding was also a key industry; the Harland and Wolff shipyard, which built the RMS Titanic, was the world's largest shipyard.[9] Belfast as of 2019 has a major aerospace and missiles industry. Industrialisation, and the inward migration[10] it brought, made Belfast Northern Ireland's biggest city. Following the partition of Ireland in 1922, Belfast became the seat of government for Northern Ireland. Belfast's status as a global industrial centre ended in the decades after the Second World War.

Belfast is still a port with commercial and industrial docks, including the Harland and Wolff shipyard, dominating the Belfast Lough shoreline. It is served by two airports: George Best Belfast City Airport, 3 miles (5 kilometres) from the city centre, and Belfast International Airport 15 miles (24 kilometres) west of the city. The Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) listed Belfast as a Gamma + global city in 2020.[11]

Belfast Intro articles: 12

Name

The name Belfast derives from the Irish Béal Feirsde, later spelt Béal Feirste.[12] The word béal means "mouth" or "river-mouth" while feirsde/feirste is the genitive singular of fearsaid and refers to a sandbar or tidal ford across a river's mouth.[12][13] The name therefore translates literally as "(river) mouth of the sandbar" or "(river) mouth of the ford".[12] The sandbar formed at the confluence (at present-day Donegall Quay) of two rivers: the Lagan, which flows into Belfast Lough, and the Lagan's tributary the Farset. This area became the hub around which the original settlement developed.[14] The Irish name Béal Feirste is shared by a County Mayo townland which has the anglicised name Belfarsad.[15]

An alternative interpretation of the name, "mouth of [the river] of the sandbar", would allude to the River Farset, which flows into the Lagan where the sandbar was located. Edmund Hogan[16] and John O'Donovan[17] favoured this interpretation. It seems clear, however, that the river itself took its name from the tidal crossing.[12]

In Ulster-Scots, the name of the city can appear variously written as Bilfawst,[18][19] Bilfaust[20] or Baelfawst,[21] although "Belfast" is also used.[22][23]

Belfast Name articles: 8

History

The county borough of Belfast was created when it was granted city status by Queen Victoria in 1888,[24] and the city continues to straddle County Antrim and County Down.[25]

Origins

The site of Belfast has been occupied since the Bronze Age. The Giant's Ring, a 5,000-year-old henge, is located near the city,[26] and the remains of Iron Age hill forts can still be seen in the surrounding hills. Belfast remained a small settlement of little importance during the Middle Ages. John de Courcy built a castle on what is now Castle Street in the city centre in the 12th century, but this was on a lesser scale and not as strategically important as Carrickfergus Castle to the north, which was built by de Courcy in 1177. The O'Neill clan had a presence in the area.

In the 14th century, Cloinne Aodha Buidhe, descendants of Aodh Buidhe O'Neill, built Grey Castle at Castlereagh, now in the east of the city.[27] Conn O'Neill of the Clannaboy O'Neills owned vast lands in the area and was the last inhabitant of Grey Castle, one remaining link being the Conn's Water river flowing through east Belfast.[28]

The Early Town

A 1685 plan of Belfast by the military engineer Thomas Phillips, showing the town's ramparts and Lord Chichester's castle, which was destroyed in a fire in 1708
Volunteer Corps parade down High Street, Bastille Day, 1792

Belfast became a substantial settlement in the 17th century after being established as an English town by Sir Arthur Chichester.[29] As it grew with the port, and with textile manufacture, the English element was overwhelmed by the influx of Scottish Presbyterians. As "Dissenters" from the established Church of Ireland communion, the Presbyterians were conscious of sharing, if only in part, the disabilities of Ireland's largely dispossessed Roman Catholic majority.

When, in the American War of Independence, Belfast Lough was raided by the privateer, John Paul Jones, the townspeople assembled their own Volunteer militia. This emboldened a spirit a radical disaffection. Further enthused by the French Revolution, the Volunteers and townspeople rallied in support of Catholic emancipation and "a more equal representation of the people" in the Irish Parliament.[30] The two MPs Belfast returned to Dublin had remained nominees of the Chichesters (Marquesses of Donegall).[31][32] In the face of the Ascendancy's intransigence, these were demands taken up by the Society of United Irishmen formed at a meeting in the town addressed by Theobald Wolfe Tone.[33] In the expectation of French assistance the Society organised a republican insurrection, defeated to the north and south of Belfast, at Antrim and Ballynahinch, in 1798.

Evidence of this period of Belfast's growth can still be seen in the oldest areas of the city, known as the Entries.

The Industrial City

High Street, c. 1906

Rapid industrial growth in the nineteenth century drew in landless Catholics from outlying rural and western districts, most settling to the west of the town. The plentiful supply of cheap labour helped attract the English and Scottish capital to Belfast, but it was also a cause of insecurity. Protestant workers organised to protect "their" jobs giving a new lease of life in the town to the once largely rural Orange Order. Sectarian tensions were heightened by movements to repeal the Acts of Union and to restore a Parliament in Dublin. Given the progressive enlargement of the British electoral franchise, this would have had an overwhelming Catholic majority and, it was widely believed, interests inimical to the Protestant and industrial north. In 1864 and 1886 the issue had helped trigger deadly sectarian riots.

Sectarian tension was not in itself unique to Belfast: it was shared with Liverpool and Glasgow, cities that following the Great Famine had also experienced large scale Irish Catholic immigration.[34] But also common to this "industrial triangle" were traditions of labour militancy. In 1919, workers in all three cities struck for a ten-hour reduction in the working week. In Belfast—notwithstanding the political friction caused by Sinn Féin's electoral triumph in the south—this involved some 60,000 workers, Protestant and Catholic, in a four-week walk-out.[35]

In a demonstration of their resolve not to submit to a Dublin parliament, in 1912 Belfast City Hall unionists presented the Ulster Covenant, which, with an associated Declaration for women, was to accumulate over 470,000 signatures. This was followed by the drilling and eventual arming of a 100,000 strong Ulster Volunteer Force. The crisis was abated by the onset of the Great War, the sacrifices of the UVF in which continue to be commemorated in the city (Somme Day) by unionist and loyalist organisations.

In 1921, as the greater part of Ireland seceded as the Irish Free State, Belfast became the capital of the six counties remaining as Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom. In 1932 the devolved parliament for the region was housed in new buildings at Stormont on the eastern edge of the city. In 1920–21, as the two parts of Ireland drew apart, up to 500 people were killed in disturbances in Belfast, the bloodiest period of strife in the city until the Troubles of the late 1960s onwards.[36]

Aftermath of the Blitz in May 1941

Belfast was heavily bombed during World War II. Initial raids were a surprise as the city was believed to be outside of the range of German bomber planes. In one raid, in 1941, German bombers killed around one thousand people and left tens of thousands homeless. Apart from London, this was the greatest loss of life in a night raid during the Blitz.[37]

The Troubles

Belfast has been the capital of Northern Ireland since its establishment in 1921 following the Government of Ireland Act 1920. It had been the scene of various episodes of sectarian conflict between its Catholic and Protestant populations. These opposing groups in this conflict are now often termed republican and loyalist respectively, although they are also loosely referred to as 'nationalist' and 'unionist'. The most recent example of this conflict was known as the Troubles – a civil conflict that raged from around 1969 to 1998.[38]

Shankill Road during the Troubles, 1970s

Belfast saw some of the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, particularly in the 1970s, with rival paramilitary groups formed on both sides. Bombing, assassination and street violence formed a backdrop to life throughout the Troubles. In December 1971, 15 people, including two children, were killed when the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) bombed McGurk's Bar, the greatest loss of life in a single incident in Belfast.[39][40] Loyalist paramilitaries including the UVF and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) said that the killings they carried out were in retaliation for the IRA campaign. Most of their victims were Catholics with no links to the Provisional IRA.[41] A particularly notorious group, based on the Shankill Road in the mid-1970s, became known as the Shankill Butchers.[42] The Provisional IRA detonated 22 bombs within the confines of Belfast city centre on 21 July 1972, on what is known as Bloody Friday, killing nine people.[43]

During the Troubles the Europa Hotel suffered 36 bomb attacks becoming known as "the most bombed hotel in the world".[44] In all, over 1,600 people were killed in political violence in the city between 1969 and 2001.[45]

21st century

Belfast city centre has undergone expansion and regeneration since the late 1990s, notably around Victoria Square.[46] In late 2018, it was announced that Belfast would undergo a £500 million urban regeneration project known as "Tribeca" on a large city centre site.[47] However, tensions and civil disturbances still occur despite the 1998 peace agreement, including sectarian riots and paramilitary attacks.[48]

Belfast and the Causeway Coast were together named the best place to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet.[49] Tourist numbers have increased since the end of The Troubles, boosted in part by newer attractions such as Titanic Belfast and tours of locations used in the HBO television series Game of Thrones.[50]

Belfast History articles: 69

Governance

Flag of Belfast

Belfast was granted borough status by James VI and I in 1613 and official city status by Queen Victoria in 1888.[51] Since 1973 it has been a local government district under local administration by Belfast City Council.[52] Belfast is represented in both the British House of Commons and in the Northern Ireland Assembly. For elections to the European Parliament, Belfast was within the Northern Ireland constituency.

Local government

Belfast City Council is the local council with responsibility for the city. The city's elected officials are the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Deputy Lord Mayor and High Sheriff who are elected from among 60 councillors. The first Lord Mayor of Belfast was Daniel Dixon, who was elected in 1892.[53] The Lord Mayor for 2019–20 is John Finucane Sinn Féin, while the Deputy Lord Mayor is an Alliance Party of Northern Ireland councillor. The Lord Mayor's duties include presiding over meetings of the council, receiving distinguished visitors to the city, representing and promoting the city on the national and international stage.[53]

Belfast City Hall

In 1997, unionists lost overall control of Belfast City Council for the first time in its history, with the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland gaining the balance of power between nationalists and unionists. This position was confirmed in four subsequent council elections, with mayors from Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), both of whom are nationalist parties, and the cross-community Alliance Party regularly elected since. The first nationalist Lord Mayor of Belfast was Alban Maginness of the SDLP, in 1997.

Northern Ireland Assembly and Westminster

Stormont is home to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

As Northern Ireland's capital city, Belfast is host to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, the site of the devolved legislature for Northern Ireland. Belfast is divided into four Northern Ireland Assembly and UK parliamentary constituencies: Belfast North, Belfast West, Belfast South and Belfast East. All four extend beyond the city boundaries to include parts of Castlereagh, Lisburn and Newtownabbey districts. In the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections in 2017, Belfast elected 20 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), 5 from each constituency. Belfast elected 7 Sinn Féin, 5 DUP, 2 SDLP, 3 Alliance Party, 1 UUP, 1 Green and 1 PBPA MLAs.[54] In the 2017 UK general election, Belfast elected one MP from each constituency to the House of Commons at Westminster, London. This comprised 3 DUP and 1 Sinn Féin. In the 2019 UK general election, the DUP lost two of their seats in Belfast; to Sinn Féin in North Belfast and to the SDLP in South Belfast.

Belfast Governance articles: 38

Geography

Aerial view of Belfast.
Satellite image of Belfast with Lough

Belfast is at the western end of Belfast Lough and at the mouth of the River Lagan giving it the ideal location for the shipbuilding industry that once made it famous. When the Titanic was built in Belfast in 1911–1912, Harland and Wolff had the largest shipyard in the world.[55] Belfast is situated on Northern Ireland's eastern coast at 54°35′49″N 05°55′45″W / 54.59694°N 5.92917°W / 54.59694; -5.92917. A consequence of this northern latitude is that it both endures short winter days and enjoys long summer evenings. During the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, local sunset is before 16:00 while sunrise is around 08:45. This is balanced by the summer solstice in June, when the sun sets after 22:00 and rises before 05:00.[56]

In 1994, a weir was built across the river by the Laganside Corporation to raise the average water level so that it would cover the unseemly mud flats which gave Belfast its name[57] (from Irish Béal Feirste 'The sandy ford at the river mouth').[13] The area of Belfast Local Government District is 42.31 square miles (109.6 km2).[58]

The River Farset is also named after this silt deposit (from the Irish feirste meaning "sand spit"). Originally a more significant river than it is today, the Farset formed a dock on High Street until the mid 19th century. Bank Street in the city centre referred to the river bank and Bridge Street was named for the site of an early Farset bridge.[59] Superseded by the River Lagan as the more important river in the city, the Farset now languishes in obscurity, under High Street. There are no less than twelve other minor rivers in and around Belfast, namely the Blackstaff, the Colin, the Connswater, the Cregagh, the Derriaghy, the Forth, the Knock, the Legoniel, the Loop, the Milewater, the Purdysburn and the Ravernet.[60]

Cavehill, a basaltic hill overlooking the city

The city is flanked on the north and northwest by a series of hills, including Divis Mountain, Black Mountain and Cavehill, thought to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. When Swift was living at Lilliput Cottage near the bottom of Belfast's Limestone Road, he imagined that the Cavehill resembled the shape of a sleeping giant safeguarding the city.[61] The shape of the giant's nose, known locally as Napoleon's Nose, is officially called McArt's Fort probably named after Art O'Neill, a 17th-century chieftain who controlled the area at that time.[62] The Castlereagh Hills overlook the city on the southeast.

Climate

As with the vast majority of the rest of Ireland, Belfast has a temperate oceanic climate (Cfb in the Köppen climate classification), with a narrow range of temperatures and rainfall throughout the year. The climate of Belfast is significantly milder than most other locations in the world at a similar latitude, due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. There are currently five weather observing stations in the Belfast area: Helen's Bay, Stormont, Newforge, Castlereagh, and Ravenhill Road. Slightly further afield is Aldergrove Airport.[63] The highest temperature recorded at any official weather station in the Belfast area was 30.8 °C (87.4 °F) at Shaw's Bridge on 12 July 1983.[64]

The city gets significant precipitation (greater than 1mm) on 157 days in an average year with an average annual rainfall of 846 millimetres (33.3 in),[65] less than areas of northern England or most of Scotland,[64] but higher than Dublin or the south-east coast of Ireland.[66] As an urban and coastal area, Belfast typically gets snow on fewer than 10 days per year.[64] The absolute maximum temperature at the weather station at Stormont is 29.7 °C (85.5 °F), set during July 1983.[67] In an average year the warmest day will rise to a temperature of 25.0 °C (77.0 °F)[68] with a day of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or above occurring roughly once every two in three years.[69] The absolute minimum temperature at Stormont is −9.9 °C (14 °F), during January 1982,[70] although in an average year the coldest night will fall no lower than −4.5 °C (23.9 °F) with air frost being recorded on just 26 nights.[71] The lowest temperature to occur in recent years was −8.8 °C (16.2 °F) on 22 December 2010.[72]

The nearest weather station for which sunshine data and longer term observations are available is Belfast International Airport (Aldergrove). Temperature extremes here have slightly more variability due to the more inland location. The average warmest day at Aldergrove for example will reach a temperature of 25.4 °C (77.7 °F),[73] (1.0 °C [1.8 °F] higher than Stormont) and 2.1 days[74] should attain a temperature of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or above in total. Conversely the coldest night of the year averages −6.9 °C (19.6 °F)[75] (or 1.9 °C [3.4 °F] lower than Stormont) and 39 nights should register an air frost.[76] Some 13 more frosty nights than Stormont. The minimum temperature at Aldergrove was −14.9 °C (5.2 °F), during December 2010.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.7
(58.5)
15.8
(60.4)
20.1
(68.2)
20.8
(69.4)
25.0
(77.0)
27.5
(81.5)
29.7
(85.5)
28.2
(82.8)
24.2
(75.6)
20.6
(69.1)
17.1
(62.8)
14.6
(58.3)
29.7
(85.5)
Average high °C (°F) 8.0
(46.4)
8.4
(47.1)
10.2
(50.4)
12.3
(54.1)
15.0
(59.0)
17.5
(63.5)
19.3
(66.7)
18.9
(66.0)
16.7
(62.1)
13.4
(56.1)
10.3
(50.5)
8.4
(47.1)
13.2
(55.8)
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.1
(41.2)
5.2
(41.4)
6.7
(44.1)
8.4
(47.1)
10.9
(51.6)
13.5
(56.3)
15.4
(59.7)
15.1
(59.2)
13.1
(55.6)
10.2
(50.4)
7.3
(45.1)
5.5
(41.9)
9.7
(49.5)
Average low °C (°F) 2.1
(35.8)
2.0
(35.6)
3.2
(37.8)
4.4
(39.9)
6.7
(44.1)
9.5
(49.1)
11.4
(52.5)
11.3
(52.3)
9.4
(48.9)
6.9
(44.4)
4.3
(39.7)
2.6
(36.7)
6.2
(43.2)
Record low °C (°F) −9.9
(14.2)
−6.1
(21.0)
−7.2
(19.0)
−5.6
(21.9)
−1.7
(28.9)
1.7
(35.1)
5.6
(42.1)
4.9
(40.8)
1.1
(34.0)
−0.9
(30.4)
−3.4
(25.9)
−9.1
(15.6)
−9.9
(14.2)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 88.1
(3.47)
63.6
(2.50)
75.9
(2.99)
67.3
(2.65)
64.8
(2.55)
68.3
(2.69)
66.2
(2.61)
85.2
(3.35)
77.3
(3.04)
95.6
(3.76)
96.0
(3.78)
90.5
(3.56)
938.8
(36.96)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 15.0 11.9 14.1 11.4 11.8 11.0 11.4 12.9 11.9 14.0 14.6 13.8 153.7
Source: KNMI[77][78][79]


Areas and districts

Royal Avenue

The townlands of Belfast are its oldest surviving land divisions and most pre-date the city. Belfast expanded very rapidly from being a market town to becoming an industrial city during the course of the 19th century. Because of this, it is less an agglomeration of villages and towns which have expanded into each other, than other comparable cities, such as Manchester or Birmingham. The city expanded to the natural barrier of the hills that surround it, overwhelming other settlements. Consequently, the arterial roads along which this expansion took place (such as the Falls Road or the Newtownards Road) are more significant in defining the districts of the city than nucleated settlements. Parts of Belfast are segregated by walls, commonly known as "peace lines", erected by the British Army after August 1969, and which still divide 14 districts in the inner city.[85] In 2008 a process was proposed for the removal of the 'peace walls'.[86] In June 2007, a £16 million programme was announced which will transform and redevelop streets and public spaces in the city centre.[87] Major arterial roads (quality bus corridor) into the city include the Antrim Road, Shore Road, Holywood Road, Newtownards Road, Castlereagh Road, Cregagh Road, Ormeau Road, Malone Road, Lisburn Road, Falls Road, Springfield Road, Shankill Road, and Crumlin Road, Four Winds.[88]

St Anne's Cathedral

Belfast city centre is divided into two postcode districts, BT1 for the area lying north of the City Hall, and BT2 for the area to its south. The industrial estate and docklands BT3. The rest of the Belfast post town is divided in a broadly clockwise system from BT3 in the north-east round to BT15, with BT16 and BT17 further out to the east and west respectively. Although BT derives from Belfast, the BT postcode area extends across the whole of Northern Ireland.[89]

Since 2001, boosted by increasing numbers of tourists, the city council has developed a number of cultural quarters. The Cathedral Quarter takes its name from St Anne's Cathedral (Church of Ireland) and has taken on the mantle of the city's key cultural locality.[90] It hosts a yearly visual and performing arts festival.

Custom House Square is one of the city's main outdoor venues for free concerts and street entertainment. The Gaeltacht Quarter is an area around the Falls Road in west Belfast which promotes and encourages the use of the Irish language.[91] The Queen's Quarter in south Belfast is named after Queen's University. The area has a large student population and hosts the annual Belfast International Arts Festival each autumn. It is home to Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum, which was reopened in 2009 after major redevelopment.[92] The Golden Mile is the name given to the mile between Belfast City Hall and Queen's University. Taking in Dublin Road, Great Victoria Street, Shaftesbury Square and Bradbury Place, it contains some of the best bars and restaurants in the city.[93] Since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the nearby Lisburn Road has developed into the city's most exclusive shopping strip.[94][95] Finally, the Titanic Quarter covers 0.75 km2 (185 acres) of reclaimed land adjacent to Belfast Harbour, formerly known as Queen's Island. Named after RMS Titanic, which was built here in 1912,[55] work has begun which promises to transform some former shipyard land into "one of the largest waterfront developments in Europe".[96] Plans include apartments, a riverside entertainment district, and a major Titanic-themed museum.[96]

In its 2018 report on Best Places to Live in Britain, The Sunday Times named Ballyhackamore, "the brunch capital of Belfast", as the best place in Northern Ireland.[97][98] The district of Ballyhackamore has even acquired the name "Ballysnackamore" due to the preponderance of dining establishments in the area.[99]

Belfast Geography articles: 64

Cityscape

City quays panorama

Architecture

Obel Tower is the tallest building in Belfast and Ireland.

The architectural style of Belfast's public buildings range from a small set of Georgian buildings, many examples of Victorian, including the main Lanyon Building at Queen's University Belfast and the Linenhall Library, (both designed by Sir Charles Lanyon). There are also many examples of Edwardian, such as the City Hall, to modern, such as the Waterfront Hall.

The City Hall was finished in 1906 and was built to reflect Belfast's city status, granted by Queen Victoria in 1888. The Edwardian architectural style of Belfast City Hall influenced the Victoria Memorial in Calcutta, India, and Durban City Hall in South Africa.[100][101] The dome is 173 ft (53 m) high and figures above the door state "Hibernia encouraging and promoting the Commerce and Arts of the City".[102]

Among the city's grandest buildings are two former banks: Ulster Bank in Waring Street (built in 1860) and Northern Bank, in nearby Donegall Street (built in 1769). The Royal Courts of Justice in Chichester Street are home to Northern Ireland's Supreme Court. Many of Belfast's oldest buildings are found in the Cathedral Quarter area, which is currently undergoing redevelopment as the city's main cultural and tourist area.[90] Windsor House, 262 ft (80 m) high, has 23 floors and is the second tallest building (as distinct from structure) in Ireland.[103] Work has started on the taller Obel Tower, which already surpasses the height of Windsor House in its unfinished state.

Scottish Provident Institution, an example of Victorian architecture in Belfast

The ornately decorated Crown Liquor Saloon, designed by Joseph Anderson in 1876, in Great Victoria Street is one of only two pubs in the UK that are owned by the National Trust (the other is the George Inn, Southwark in London). It was made internationally famous as the setting for the classic film, Odd Man Out, starring James Mason.[104] The restaurant panels in the Crown Bar were originally made for Britannic, the sister ship of the Titanic,[102] built in Belfast.

The Harland and Wolff shipyard has two of the largest dry docks in Europe,[105] where the giant cranes, Samson and Goliath stand out against Belfast's skyline. Including the Waterfront Hall and the Odyssey Arena, Belfast has several other venues for performing arts. The architecture of the Grand Opera House has an oriental theme and was completed in 1895. It was bombed several times during the Troubles but has now been restored to its former glory.[106] The Lyric Theatre, (re-opened 1 May 2011 after undergoing a rebuilding programme) the only full-time producing theatre in the country, is where film star Liam Neeson began his career.[107] The Ulster Hall (1859–1862) was originally designed for grand dances but is now used primarily as a concert and sporting venue. Lloyd George, Parnell and Patrick Pearse all attended political rallies there.[102]

A legacy of the Troubles are the many 'peace lines' or 'peace walls' that still act as barriers to reinforce ethno-sectarian residential segregation in the city. In 2017, the Belfast Interface Project published a study entitled 'Interface Barriers, Peacelines & Defensive Architecture' that identified 97 separate walls, barriers and interfaces in Belfast. A history of the development of these structures can be found at the Peacewall Archive.[108]

Parks and gardens

The Palm House at the Botanic Gardens

Sitting at the mouth of the River Lagan where it becomes a deep and sheltered lough, Belfast is surrounded by mountains that create a micro-climate conducive to horticulture. From the Victorian Botanic Gardens in the heart of the city to the heights of Cave Hill Country Park, the great expanse of Lagan Valley Regional Park[109] to Colin Glen, Belfast contains an abundance of parkland and forest parks.[110]

Parks and gardens are an integral part of Belfast's heritage, and home to an abundance of local wildlife and popular places for a picnic, a stroll or a jog. Numerous events take place throughout including festivals such as Rose Week and special activities such as bird watching evenings and great beast hunts.[110]

Belfast has over forty public parks. The Forest of Belfast is a partnership between government and local groups, set up in 1992 to manage and conserve the city's parks and open spaces. They have commissioned more than 30 public sculptures since 1993.[111] In 2006, the City Council set aside £8 million to continue this work.[112] The Belfast Naturalists' Field Club was founded in 1863 and is administered by National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland.[113]

A recreation ground next to the Obel Tower. The Salmon of Knowledge is visible on the left.

With an average of 670,000 visitors per year between 2007 and 2011, one of the most popular parks is Botanic Gardens[114] in the Queen's Quarter. Built in the 1830s and designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, Botanic Gardens Palm House is one of the earliest examples of a curvilinear and cast iron glasshouse.[115] Other attractions in the park include the Tropical Ravine, a humid jungle glen built in 1889, rose gardens and public events ranging from live opera broadcasts to pop concerts.[116] U2 played here in 1997. Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, to the south of the city centre, attracts thousands of visitors each year to its International Rose Garden.[117] Rose Week in July each year features over 20,000 blooms.[118] It has an area of 128 acres (0.52 km2) of meadows, woodland and gardens and features a Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Garden, a Japanese garden, a walled garden, and the Golden Crown Fountain commissioned in 2002 as part of the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations.[117]

In 2008, Belfast was named a finalist in the Large City (200,001 and over) category of the RHS Britain in Bloom competition along with London Borough of Croydon and Sheffield.

Belfast Zoo is owned by Belfast City Council. The council spends £1.5 million every year on running and promoting the zoo, which is one of the few local government-funded zoos in the UK and Ireland. The zoo is one of the top visitor attractions in Northern Ireland, receiving more than 295,000 visitors a year. The majority of the animals are in danger in their natural habitat. The zoo houses more than 1,200 animals of 140 species including Asian elephants, Barbary lions, Malayan sun bears (one of the few in the United Kingdom), two species of penguin, a family of western lowland gorillas, a troop of common chimpanzees, a pair of red pandas, a pair of Goodfellow's tree-kangaroos and Francois' langurs. The zoo also carries out important conservation work and takes part in European and international breeding programmes which help to ensure the survival of many species under threat.[119]

Belfast Cityscape articles: 56