The peace process that began in 1994 brought political stability to Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland by 1998. Since then, the media's image of gunmen disguised in balaclavas has faded and tourism to the region's attractions has soared.
For couples interested in scenic wonders, exploring a compact and walkable city, learning about Northern Island's history and legends, and experiencing the charm and friendliness of the Irish people, a trip to this area offers the following attractions.
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Begin to discover Belfast attractions by taking a walking tour of the city center, dotted with preserved and restored Victorian buildings as well as shops and restaurants. See the covered St. George's Market; Albert Memorial Clock; and the Belfast Wheel, the city's own version of the London Eye. The gardens around century-old City Hall are popular places to pause or picnic. A good selection of bars and clubs — including Bittles Bar, a literary haunt that celebrates Ireland's greatest poets and writers — are attractions that make the City Centre a lively after-dark destination for couples.
Did you know the Titanic
was built in Belfast? For decades after the ship sank, the city mourned. Following the worldwide success of the film and the development of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard into Titanic Quarter, interest has grown in all things related to the doomed ocean liner. Visitors now can take a self-guided tour of the Titanic Trail. Attractions include the dry dock where she was built and the SS Nomadic
, a refurbished White Star liner of that era. Some of Kate Winslet's dresses from Titanic
are on display. Couples with a more intellectual bent ought to visit the circa-1788 Linen Hall Library
, which houses a large collection of Titanic memorabilia plus the definitive archive of the region's political troubles.
The thirty years of violence between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland that came to an end in 1998 with the Belfast Agreement were known as "The Troubles." Today's visitors to Belfast can taxi to view remnants of the ethnic strife that rent the city at the Peace Wall aka Peace Line, a series of partitions that divided Catholic Falls Road in West Belfast from Protestant Shankhill Road. Tourist attractions now, most of the Peace Lines are covered with colorful murals depicting the political, cultural, and literary history of Northern Ireland.
Twelve hundred feet above sea level, Cavehill overlooks Belfast. From the heights of this stone promontory, visitors can view the Isle of Man and as far as Scotland on a clear day. In profile, one of Cavehill's outcroppings resembles a giant's head. It is said that this visage gave author Jonathan Swift the inspiration to create the character Lemuel Gulliver and catalogue his fantastical journeys in Gulliver's Travels
Ranked as one of the 100 greatest artists of all time by Rolling Stone
magazine, singer-songwriter Van Morrison grew up on 125 Hyndford Street in Belfast. Today a bronze placque marks the portal, one of several attractions meaningful to him in his salad days. Fans of the incantatory musician can trace the locations in East Belfast where he spent his youth and found much of his early inspiration.
A five-star hotel housed inside an exquisite Italianate building erected in 1860 (it is the former headquarters of the Ulster Bank), the Merchant Hotel is the pinnacle of Belfast luxury. Opulent guest rooms are named after Irish poets and authors, and the house's Bentley Arnage can be booked to transport guests on Belfast city and Northern Ireland countryside tours to attractions in ultimate comfort. Other Northern Ireland luxuries can include helicopter tours; golf at Royal Belfast, Ireland's oldest course; and cruising Belfast harbor aboard a chartered yacht.
An hour outside of Belfast, Giant's Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The romantic towering cliffs stretch into the sea. In addition to spending time in the National Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre, visitors can board the Bushmills Railway, a steam locomotive which ferries passengers to the historic town of Bushmills, home to the world's oldest whiskey distillery and one of the major attractions in this part of Ireland.
Its stone walls built to ward off 17th-century invaders, Derry is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland. Although it doesn't boast nearly as many attractions as Belfast, Derry is a good city for walking. On travels through Derry visitors can track the long and often violent history of Northern Ireland.
It's possible to sail all the way to Shannon from Fermanagh, with wonderful scenery all along the way. Guided day cruises ply the waters of Upper Lough Erne, sailing past attractions that include Crom Castle, Gad Island, and Inisrath.
You can find out much more about the attractions of Belfast and its surroundings and visiting Ireland at Discover Ireland
, the official site of Tourism Ireland.
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