"Belfast" Belfast by bwk_michael
Belfast Travel Guide: 1,056 reviews and 2,273 photos
Belfast (from the Irish: Béal Feirste meaning "Sandy ford at river mouth") is the capital of Northern Ireland. It is the largest urban area in Northern Ireland and the province of Ulster and the second-largest city on the island of Ireland. In the 2001 census, the population within the city limits (the Belfast Urban Area) was 276,459, while 579,554 people lived in the wider Belfast Metropolitan Area. This made it the fifteenth-largest city in the United Kingdom, but the eleventh-largest conurbation.
Belfast is situated on Ireland's eastern coast. The city is flanked to the northwest by a series of hills, including Cavehill, which is thought to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift's novel, Gulliver's Travels. Belfast is located at the western end of Belfast Lough and at the mouth of the River Lagan making it an ideal location for the shipbuilding industry that once made it famous. When the Titanic was built in Belfast in 1912, Harland and Wolff had the largest shipyard in the world. Originally a town in County Antrim, the County borough of Belfast was created when it was granted city status by Queen Victoria in 1888.
Belfast saw the worst of The Troubles in Ireland, with nearly half of the total deaths in the conflict occurring in the city. However, since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, there has been significant urban regeneration in the city centre including Victoria Square, Queen's Island and Laganside as well as the Odyssey complex and the landmark Waterfront Hall. The city is served by two airports: The George Best Belfast City Airport adjacent to Belfast Lough and Belfast International Airport which is near Lough Neagh. Queen's University of Belfast is the main university in the city. The University of Ulster also maintains a campus in the city, which concentrates on fine art, design and architecture.
Belfast has been the capital of Northern Ireland since its creation in 1920 by the Government of Ireland Act. Since it began to emerge as a major city, it has been the scene of much sectarian conflict between its Roman Catholic and Protestant populations. These opposing groups in this conflict are now often termed republican and loyalist respectively, although are also referred to as 'nationalist' and 'unionist'. The most recent example of this is known as the Troubles - a civil conflict that raged from c.1969 to the late 1990s. Belfast saw the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, particularly in the 1970s, with rival paramilitary groups forming on both sides. Bombing, assassination and street violence formed a backdrop to life throughout The Troubles. The IRA detonated 22 bombs, all in a confined area in the city centre in 1972, on what is known as "Bloody Friday", killing nine people. Loyalists paramilitaries, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA) retaliated to the PIRA campaign by a series of killings. A particularly notorious group, based on the Shankill Road in the mid 1970s became known as the Shankill Butchers. In all, over 1,500 people were killed in political violence in the city from 1969 until 2001.
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 UK£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 700,000 visitors in 2005, 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 iron glasshouse. 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 and the Tennents ViTal festival takes place in the gardens each summer. 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 Princess Diana 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.
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