Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland. Most of Belfast, including the city centre, is inCounty Antrim, but parts of East and South Belfast are in County Down. It is on the flood plain of the River Lagan.
By population, Belfast is the 17th largest city in the United Kingdom and the second largest on theisland of Ireland. It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly. At the time of the 2011 census, the city of Belfast had a population of 286,000 and lies at the heart of the Belfast Urban area, which has a population of 483,418 and the Belfast Metropolitan Area, which had a population of 579,276 at the 2001 census. The Larger Urban Zone, as defined by the European Union, has a total population 641,638.]Belfast was granted city status in 1888.
Historically, Belfast has been a centre for the Irish linen industry (earning the nickname "Linenopolis"), tobacco production, rope-making and shipbuilding: the city's main shipbuilders,Harland and Wolff, which built the well-known RMS Titanic, propelled Belfast on to the global stage in the early 20th century as the biggest and most productive shipyard in the world.Belfast played a key role in the Industrial Revolution, establishing its place as a global industrial centre until the latter half of the 20th century. Industrialisation and the inward migration it brought made Belfast, if briefly, the biggest city in Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century, and the city's industrial and economic success was cited by unionist opponents of Home Rule as a reason why Ireland should shun devolution and later why Ulster unionists in particular would fight to resist it.
Today, Belfast remains a centre for industry, as well as the arts, higher education, business, and law, and is the economic engine of Northern Ireland. The city suffered greatly during the period of conflict called "the Troubles", but latterly has undergone a sustained period of calm, free from the intense political violence of former years, and substantial economic and commercial growth. Additionally, Belfast city centre has undergone considerable expansion and regeneration in recent years, notably around Victoria Square.
Belfast is served by two airports: George Best Belfast City Airport in the city, and Belfast International Airport 15 miles (24 km) west of the city. Belfast is also a major port, with commercial and industrial docks dominating the Belfast Lough shoreline, including the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard. Belfast is a constituent city of the Dublin-Belfast corridor, which has a population of three million, or half the total population of the island of Ireland. Belfast is listed by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) as a global city, with a ranking of 'Gamma'.
|City of Belfast|
|Scots: Bilfawst/ Bilfaust|
|Irish: Béal Feirste
Top: Skyline of Belfast
Middle top left to right, Queen's University Belfast, Albert Memorial Clock, Belfast, The Boat, Titanic Belfast
Bottom left to right: Belfast City Hall, view of Belfast with Samson and Goliath.
Belfast Coat of Arms.
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 to Colin Glen, Belfast contains an abundance of parkland and forest parks.
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.
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. In 2006, the City Council set aside £8 million to continue this work. The Belfast Naturalists' Field Club was founded in 1863 and is administered by National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland.
With an average of 670,000 visitors per year between 2007 to 2011, one of the most popular parks is Botanic Gardens 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 ironglasshouse. 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. 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. Rose Week in July each year features over 20,000 blooms. 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.
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 attraction 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, a White tigers (one of the few in the United Kingdom), three 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 several species of langur. 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.
Belfast is one of the most visited cities in the UK, and the second most visited on the island of Ireland. ] In 2008, 7.1 million tourists visited the city. Numerous popular tour bus companies and boat tours run there throughout the year.
Frommer's, the American travel guidebook series, listed Belfast as the only United Kingdom destination in its Top 12 Destinations to Visit in 2009. The other listed destinations were Berlin (Germany), Cambodia,Cape Town (South Africa), Cartagena (Colombia), Istanbul (Turkey), the Lassen Volcanic National Park(USA), Saqqara (Egypt), the Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail (USA), Waiheke Island (New Zealand), Washington, D.C. (USA), and Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada).
The Belfast City Council is currently investing into the complete redevelopment of the Titanic Quarter, which is planned to consist of apartments, hotels, and a riverside entertainment district. A major visitor attraction,Titanic Belfast is a monument to Belfast's maritime heritage on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard, opened on 31 March 2012. It features a criss-cross of escalators and suspended walkways and nine high-tech galleries. They also hope to invest in a new modern transport system (including high-speed rail and others) for Belfast, with a cost of £250 million.
There is also a large tourist information centre located at Donegall Place.