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Belfast
Wikibelfast1.jpg
Skyline and buildings throughout the City of Belfast
Belfast City Coat of Arms.svg
Coat of arms with motto "Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus" (Latin: "What shall we give in return for so much")
Belfast shown within Northern Ireland
Area 44.4 sq mi (115 km2)
Population City of Belfast:
333,000 (2014) 
Urban Area:
483,418 (2001)
Metropolitan area:
585,996 (2001)
Irish grid reference J338740
District
County
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BELFAST
Postcode district BT1–BT17, BT29 (part), BT36 (part), BT58
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
EU Parliament Northern Ireland
UK Parliament
  • Belfast North
    Belfast South
    Belfast East
    Belfast West
NI Assembly
  • Belfast North
    Belfast South
    Belfast East
    Belfast West
Website www.belfastcity.gov.uk
List of places
UK
Northern Ireland
Coordinates: 54°35′49″N 5°55′48″W / 54.597°N 5.930°W / 54.597; -5.930
= Flag of Belfast.

Belfast (/ˈbɛl.fɑːst/ or /ˈbɛl.fæst/; from Irish: Béal Feirste, meaning "rivermouth of the sandbanks") is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, the second largest on the island of Ireland, and the heart of the tenth largest Primary Urban Area in the United Kingdom. On the River Lagan, it had a population of 286,000 at the 2011 census and 333,871 after the 2015 council reform. Belfast was granted city status in 1888.

Belfast was a centre of the Irish linen, tobacco processing, rope-making and shipbuilding industries: in the early 20th century, Harland and Wolff, which built the RMS Titanic, was the world's biggest and most productive shipyard. Belfast played a key role in the Industrial Revolution, and was a global industrial centre until the latter half of the 20th century. It has sustained a major aerospace and missiles industry since the mid 1930s. Industrialisation and the inward migration it brought made Belfast Ireland's biggest city at the beginning of the 20th century.

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 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 a major port, with commercial and industrial docks dominating the Belfast Lough shoreline, including the Harland and Wolff shipyard, and is listed by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) as a global city.

Name

The name Belfast is derived from the Irish Béal Feirsde, which was later spelled Béal Feirste. The word béal means "mouth" or "rivermouth" while feirsde/feirste is the genitive singular of fearsaid and refers to a sandbar or tidal ford across a river's mouth. The name would thus translate literally as "(river) mouth of the sandbar" or "(river) mouth of the ford". This sandbar was formed at the confluence of two rivers at what is now Donegall Quay: the Lagan, which flows into Belfast Lough, and its tributary the Farset. This area was the hub around which the original settlement developed. The Irish name Béal Feirste is shared by a townland in County Mayo, whose name has been anglicised as Belfarsad.

An alternative interpretation of the name is "mouth of [the river] of the sandbar", an allusion to the River Farset, which flows into the Lagan where the sandbar was located. This interpretation was favoured by Edmund Hogan and John O'Donovan. It seems clear, however, that the river itself was named after the tidal crossing.

In Ulster Scots, the name of the city is Bilfawst or Bilfaust, although "Belfast" is also used.

History

Although the county borough of Belfast was created when it was granted city status by Queen Victoria in 1888, the city continues to be viewed as straddling County Antrim and County Down.

Origins

Belfast Castle, Northern Ireland
Belfast Castle

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, 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. 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.

Growth

DV405 no.227 Castle Place, Belfast
Castle Place, Belfast in c.1830

Belfast became a substantial settlement in the 17th century after being established as a town by Sir Arthur Chichester, which was initially settled by Protestant English and Scottish migrants at the time of the Plantation of Ulster. (Belfast and County Antrim, however, did not form part of this particular Plantation scheme as they were privately colonised.) In 1791, the Society of United Irishmen was founded in Belfast, after Henry Joy McCracken and other prominent Presbyterians from the city invited Theobald Wolfe Tone and Thomas Russell to a meeting, after having read Tone's "Argument on Behalf of the Catholics of Ireland". Evidence of this period of Belfast's growth can still be seen in the oldest areas of the city, known as the Entries.

City Hall, Donegall Square, Belfast (7560740480)
Donegall Square in the early 1900s

Belfast blossomed as a commercial and industrial centre in the 18th and 19th centuries and became Ireland's pre-eminent industrial city. Industries thrived, including linen, rope-making, tobacco, heavy engineering and shipbuilding, and at the end of the 19th century, Belfast briefly overtook Dublin as the largest city in Ireland. The Harland and Wolff shipyards became one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, employing up to 35,000 workers. In 1886 the city suffered intense riots over the issue of home rule, which had divided the city.

In 1920–22, Belfast became the capital of the new entity of Northern Ireland as the island of Ireland was partitioned. The accompanying conflict (the Irish War of Independence) cost up to 500 lives in Belfast, the bloodiest sectarian strife in the city until the Troubles of the late 1960s onwards.

AIR RAID DAMAGE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 1939-1945 - H 9476
Aftermath of the Blitz in May 1941

Belfast was heavily bombed during World War II. 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.

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.

Donegall st bomb
1972 Donegall Street bombing by the Provisional IRA

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. The Provisional IRA detonated 22 bombs within the confines of Belfast city centre in 1972, on what is known as "Bloody Friday", killing eleven people. Loyalist paramilitaries including the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) claimed 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. A particularly notorious group, based on the Shankill Road in the mid-1970s, became known as the Shankill Butchers.

In all, over 1,600 people were killed in political violence in the city between 1969 and 2001. Sporadic violent events continue as of 2016, although not supported by the previous antagonists who had reached political agreement in 1998.

Geography

Belfast Aerial
Aerial view of Belfast.

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. 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.

Belfast, OpenStreetmap, April 2012
OpenStreetMap of Belfast

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 (from Template:Etymology/lang Béal Feirste, meaning 'The sandy ford at the river mouth'). The area of Belfast Local Government District is 42.31 square miles (109.6 km2).

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. 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 eleven 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 Milewater, the Purdysburn and the Ravernet.

Cavehill, Belfast
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. 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. The Castlereagh Hills overlook the city on the southeast.

Climate

As with the rest of Ireland, Belfast has a temperate or oceanic climate, with a narrow range of temperatures and rainfall throughout the year. The climate of Belfast is significantly milder than some other locations in the world at a similar latitude, due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. There are currently 5 weather observing stations in the Belfast area: Helens Bay, Stormont, Newforge, Castlereagh, and Ravenhill Road. Slightly further afield is Aldergrove Airport. The highest temperature recorded at any official weather station in the Belfast area was 30.8 °C (87 °F) at Shaws Bridge on 12 July 1983. Belfast holds the record for Northern Ireland's warmest night time minimum, 19.6 °C (67.3 °F) at Whitehouse on 14 August 2001.

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), less than areas of northern England or most of Scotland, but higher than Dublin or the south-east coast of Ireland. As an urban and coastal area, Belfast typically gets snow on fewer than 10 days per year. The absolute maximum temperature at the weather station at Stormont is 29.7 °C (85 °F), set during July 1983. In an average year the warmest day will rise to a temperature of 24.4 °C (75.9 °F) with a day of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or above occurring roughly once every two in three years. The absolute minimum temperature at Stormont is −9.9 °C (14 °F), during January 1982, although in an average year the coldest night will fall no lower than −4.5 °C (24 °F) with air frost being recorded on just 26 nights. The lowest temperature to occur in recent years was −8.8 °C (16.2 °F) on 22 December 2010.

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), (1.0 °C [1.8 °F] higher than Stormont) and 2.1 days should attain a temperature of 25.1 °C (77.2 °F) or above in total. Conversely the coldest night of the year averages −6.6 °C (20.1 °F) (or 1.9 °C [3.4 °F] lower than Stormont) and 39 nights should register an air frost. Some 13 more frosty nights than Stormont. The minimum temperature at Aldergrove was −14.2 °C (6 °F), during December 2010.

Climate data for Belfast Stormont Castle, elevation: 56 m or 184 ft (1981-2010) extremes (1960-present)
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)
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)
17.5
(63.5)
19.3
(66.7)
18.9
(66)
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)
-7.2
(19)
-5.6
(21.9)
-1.7
(28.9)
1.7
(35.1)
5.6
(42.1)
4.9
(40.8)
1.1
(34)
-0.9
(30.4)
-3.4
(25.9)
-9.1
(15.6)
-9.9
(14.2)
Precipitation mm (inches) 88.1
(3.469)
63.6
(2.504)
75.9
(2.988)
67.3
(2.65)
64.8
(2.551)
68.3
(2.689)
66.2
(2.606)
85.2
(3.354)
77.3
(3.043)
95.6
(3.764)
96.0
(3.78)
90.5
(3.563)
938.8
(36.961)
Avg. 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
Climate data for Belfast International Airport (Aldergrove), elevation: 63 m or 207 ft (1981–2010) Extremes (1958–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.0
(57.2)
14.9
(58.8)
20.2
(68.4)
21.8
(71.2)
25.0
(77)
29.0
(84.2)
28.8
(83.8)
28.0
(82.4)
25.6
(78.1)
21.8
(71.2)
16.4
(61.5)
15.0
(59)
29.0
(84.2)
Average high °C (°F) 7.1
(44.8)
7.5
(45.5)
9.5
(49.1)
11.9
(53.4)
15.0
(59)
17.4
(63.3)
19.0
(66.2)
18.6
(65.5)
16.4
(61.5)
12.9
(55.2)
9.5
(49.1)
7.4
(45.3)
12.7
(54.9)
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.4
(39.9)
4.6
(40.3)
6.2
(43.2)
8.1
(46.6)
10.9
(51.6)
13.6
(56.5)
15.4
(59.7)
15.0
(59)
13.0
(55.4)
9.9
(49.8)
6.8
(44.2)
4.8
(40.6)
9.4
(48.9)
Average low °C (°F) 1.7
(35.1)
1.6
(34.9)
2.9
(37.2)
4.3
(39.7)
6.8
(44.2)
9.7
(49.5)
11.7
(53.1)
11.4
(52.5)
9.5
(49.1)
6.9
(44.4)
4.0
(39.2)
2.1
(35.8)
6.1
(43)
Record low °C (°F) −12.8
(9)
−11.1
(12)
−9.9
(14.2)
−5.1
(22.8)
−2.8
(27)
−1.2
(29.8)
2.2
(36)
2.3
(36.1)
−0.5
(31.1)
-3.0
(26.6)
−8.6
(16.5)
−14.9
(5.2)
−14.9
(5.2)
Precipitation mm (inches) 80.3
(3.161)
57.7
(2.272)
67.0
(2.638)
58.0
(2.283)
57.3
(2.256)
61.5
(2.421)
71.4
(2.811)
83.8
(3.299)
75.6
(2.976)
89.6
(3.528)
79.7
(3.138)
79.3
(3.122)
861.2
(33.906)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 14.8 12.1 14.0 11.4 11.7 11.3 12.9 13.9 12.6 14.4 14.4 14.0 157.5
Sunshine hours 49.7 71.2 102.5 153.3 197.7 167.9 151.3 142.1 119.9 91.2 59.4 46.2 1,352.5
Source #1: Met Office
Source #2: KNMI

Areas and districts

RoyalAvenueBelfast
Royal Avenue in Belfast

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. Belfast remains 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. In 2008 a process was proposed for the removal of the 'peace walls'. In June 2007, a £16 million programme was announced which will transform and redevelop streets and public spaces in the city centre. 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.

Cathedral St. Anne Belfast
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.

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. 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. 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 Festival at Queen's each autumn. It is home to Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum, which was reopened in 2009 after major redevelopment. 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. Since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the nearby Lisburn Road has developed into the city's most exclusive shopping strip. Finally, the Titanic Quarter covers 0.75 km2 (0 sq mi) of reclaimed land adjacent to Belfast Harbour, formerly known as Queen's Island. Named after RMS Titanic, which was built here in 1912, work has begun which promises to transform some former shipyard land into "one of the largest waterfront developments in Europe". Plans include apartments, a riverside entertainment district, and a major Titanic-themed museum.

Cityscape

Panorama of Belfast skyline
City quays panorama

Architecture

Obel Tower completed
Obel Tower is the tallest building in Belfast and Ireland.

The architectural style of Belfast's buildings range from Edwardian, like the City Hall, to modern, like Waterfront Hall. Many of the city's Victorian landmarks, including the main Lanyon Building at Queen's University Belfast and the Linenhall Library, were designed by Sir Charles Lanyon.

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. 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".

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. Windsor House, 262 ft (80 m) high, has 23 floors and is the second tallest building (as distinct from structure) in Ireland. Work has started on the taller Obel Tower, which already surpasses the height of Windsor House in its unfinished state.

Scottish Provident Institution, Belfast
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. The restaurant panels in the Crown Bar were originally made for Britannic, the sister ship of the Titanic, built in Belfast.

The Harland and Wolff shipyard has two of the largest dry docks in Europe, 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. 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. 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.

Parks and gardens

Flower bed, Botanic Gardens, Belfast - geograph.org.uk - 1454550
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 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 and 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 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. 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.

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.

Demography



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Ethnic groups in the 2011 census      White (96.7%)     Asian (2.2%)     Black (0.4%)     Mixed (0.5%)     Other (0.2%)     Irish Traveller (0.08%)

At the 2001 census, the population 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 experienced a huge growth in population in the first half of the twentieth century. This rise slowed and peaked around the start of the Troubles with the 1971 census showing almost 600,000 people in the Belfast Urban Area. Since then, the inner city numbers have dropped dramatically as people have moved to swell the Greater Belfast suburb population. The 2001 census population in the same Urban Area had fallen to 277,391 people, with 579,554 people living in the wider Belfast Metropolitan Area. The 2001 census recorded 81,650 people from Catholic backgrounds and 79,650 people from Protestant backgrounds of working age living in Belfast. The population density in 2011 was 24.88 people/hectare (compared to 1.34 for the rest of Northern Ireland). As with many cities, Belfast's inner city is currently characterised by the elderly, students and single young people, while families tend to live on the periphery. Socio-economic areas radiate out from the Central Business District, with a pronounced wedge of affluence extending out the Malone Road and Upper Malone Road to the south. An area of greater deprivation extends to the west of the city. The areas around the Falls and Shankill Roads are the most deprived wards in Northern Ireland.

Despite a period of relative peace, most areas and districts of Belfast still reflect the divided nature of Northern Ireland as a whole. Many areas are still highly segregated along ethnic, political and religious lines, especially in working-class neighbourhoods. These zones – Catholic/Republican on one side and Protestant/Loyalist on the other – are invariably marked by flags, graffiti and murals. Segregation has been present throughout the history of Belfast, but has been maintained and increased by each outbreak of violence in the city. This escalation in segregation, described as a "ratchet effect", has shown little sign of decreasing. The highest levels of segregation in the city are in west Belfast with many areas greater than 90% Catholic. Opposite but comparatively high levels are seen in the predominantly Protestant east Belfast. Areas where segregated working-class areas meet are known as interface areas and sometimes marked by peace lines. When violence flares, it tends to be in interface areas.

Ethnic minority communities have been in Belfast since the 1930s. The largest groups are Poles, Chinese and Indians. Since the expansion of the European Union, numbers have been boosted by an influx of Eastern European immigrants. Census figures (2011) showed that Belfast has a total non-white population of 10,219 or 3.3%, while 18,420 or 6.6% of the population were born outside the UK and Ireland. Almost half of those born outside the UK and Ireland live in south Belfast, where they comprise 9.5% of the population. The majority of the estimated 5,000 Muslims and 200 Hindu families living in Northern Ireland live in the Greater Belfast area.

Judging by the fact that 6.6% of the population was born outside the UK, it is probable that Belfast is around 92.5% White Irish/British and 3.3% non-White. This makes the city about as ethnically diverse as Sunderland or York.

Culture

ACDC-Hughes-long ago
AC/DC with Bon Scott (centre) pictured with guitarist Angus Young (left) and bassist Cliff Williams (back), performing at the Ulster Hall in August 1979

Belfast's population is evenly split between its Protestant and Catholic residents. These two distinct cultural communities have both contributed significantly to the city's culture. Throughout the Troubles, Belfast artists continued to express themselves through poetry, art and music. In the period since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Belfast has begun a social, economic and cultural transformation giving it a growing international cultural reputation. In 2003, Belfast had an unsuccessful bid for the 2008 European Capital of Culture. The bid was run by an independent company, Imagine Belfast, who boasted that it would "make Belfast the meeting place of Europe's legends, where the meaning of history and belief find a home and a sanctuary from caricature, parody and oblivion." According to The Guardian the bid may have been undermined by the city's history and volatile politics.

In 2004–05, art and cultural events in Belfast were attended by 1.8 million people (400,000 more than the previous year). The same year, 80,000 people participated in culture and other arts activities, twice as many as in 2003–04. A combination of relative peace, international investment and an active promotion of arts and culture is attracting more tourists to Belfast than ever before. In 2004–05, 5.9 million people visited Belfast, a 10% increase from the previous year, and spent £262.5 million.

The Beatles emerging from the Ritz Cinema, Fisherwick Place, Belfast November 8, 1963
The Beatles emerging from the Ritz Cinema, Belfast following their concert, 8 November 1963.

The Ulster Orchestra, based in Belfast, is Northern Ireland's only full-time symphony orchestra and is well renowned in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1966, it has existed in its present form since 1981, when the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra was disbanded. The music school of Queen's University is responsible for arranging a notable series of lunchtime and evening concerts, often given by renowned musicians which are usually given in The Harty Room at the university (University Square).

There are many Traditional Irish bands playing throughout the city and quite a few music schools concentrate on teaching Traditional music. Well known city centre venues would include Kelly's Cellars, Maddens and the Hercules bar. Famous artists would include The McPeakes, Brian Kennedy and the band 9Lies.

Musicians and bands who have written songs about or dedicated to Belfast: U2, Van Morrison, Snow Patrol, Simple Minds, Elton John, Rogue Male, Katie Melua, Boney M, Paul Muldoon, Stiff Little Fingers, Nanci Griffith, Glenn Patterson, Orbital, James Taylor, Fun Boy Three, Spandau Ballet, The Police, Barnbrack, Gary Moore, Neon Neon, Toxic Waste, Energy Orchard, and Billy Bragg.

Further in Belfast the Oh Yeah Music Centre is located (Cathedral Quarter), a project founded to give young musicians and artists a place where they can share ideas and kick-start their music careers as a chance to be supported and promoted by professional musicians of Northern Ireland's music-scene.

Belfast has a longstanding underground club scene which was established in the early 1980s.

Like all areas of the island of Ireland outside of the Gaeltacht, the Irish language in Belfast is not that of an unbroken intergenerational transmission. Due to community activity in the 1960s, including the establishment of the Shaws Road Gaeltacht community, the expanse in the Irish language arts, and the advancements made in the availability of Irish medium education throughout the city, it can now be said that there is a 'mother-tongue' community of speakers. The language is heavily promoted in the city and is particularly visible in the Falls Road area, where the signs on both the iconic black taxis and on the public buses are bilingual. Belfast has the highest concentration of Irish speakers in Northern Ireland. Projects to promote the language in the city are funded by various sources, notably Foras na Gaeilge, an all-Ireland body funded by both the Irish and British governments. There are a number Irish language Primary schools and one secondary school in Belfast. The provision of certain resources for these schools (for example, such as the provision of textbooks) is supported by the charitable organisation TACA.

Media

Belfast Telegraph, July 2010 (01)
The Belfast Telegraph Headquarters

Belfast is the home of the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News, and The News Letter, the oldest English-language newspaper in the world still in publication. The city has a number of free publications including Fate magazine, Go Belfast, and the Vacuum, that are distributed through bar, cafes and public venues.

The city is the headquarters of BBC Northern Ireland, ITV station UTV and commercial radio stations Belfast CityBeat and U105. Two community radio stations, Blast 106 and Irish-language station Raidió Fáilte, broadcast to the city from west Belfast, as does Queen's Radio, a student-run radio station which broadcasts from Queen's University Students' Union. One of Northern Ireland's two community TV stations, NvTv, is based in the Cathedral Quarter of the city. There are two independent cinemas in Belfast: the Queen's Film Theatre and the Strand Cinema, which host screenings during the Belfast Film Festival and the Belfast Festival at Queen's. Broadcasting only over the Internet is Homely Planet, the Cultural Radio Station for Northern Ireland, supporting community relations.

The city has become a popular film location; The Paint Hall at Harland and Wolff has become one of the UK Film Council's main studios. The facility comprises four stages of 16,000 square feet (1,000 m2). Shows filmed at The Paint Hall include the film City of Ember (2008) and HBO's Game of Thrones series (beginning in late 2009).

In November 2011, Belfast became the smallest city to host the MTV Europe Music Awards. The event was hosted by Selena Gomez and celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Jessie J, Hayden Panettiere, and Lady Gaga travelled to Northern Ireland to attend the event, held in the Odyssey Arena.

Sports

Kingspan Stadium, Belfast
The Kingspan Stadium is the home of Ulster Rugby

Belfast has several notable sports teams playing a diverse variety of sports such as football, Gaelic games, rugby, cricket, and ice hockey. The Belfast Marathon is run annually on May Day, and attracted 20,000 participants in 2011.

The Northern Ireland national football team, ranked 43rd in October 2014 in the FIFA World Rankings, plays its home matches at Windsor Park. The current Irish League champions Crusaders are based at Seaview, in the north of the city. Other senior clubs are Glentoran, Linfield, Cliftonville, Harland & Wolff Welders and PSNI. Intermediate-level clubs are: Donegal Celtic, Dundela, Newington Youth, Queen's University and Sport & Leisure Swifts, who compete in the NIFL Premier Intermediate League; Albert Foundry, Bloomfield, Colin Valley, Crumlin Star, Dunmurry Rec., Dunmurry Young Men, East Belfast, Grove United, Immaculata, Iveagh United, Malachians, Orangefield Old Boys, Rosario Youth Club, St Luke's, St Patrick's Young Men, Shankill United, Short Brothers and Sirocco Works of the Northern Amateur Football League and Brantwood of the Ballymena & Provincial League. Belfast was the home town of Manchester United legend George Best who died in November 2005. On the day he was buried in the city, 100,000 people lined the route from his home on the Cregagh Road to Roselawn cemetery. Since his death the City Airport was named after him and a trust has been set up to fund a memorial to him in the city centre.

Belfast is home to over twenty Gaelic football and hurling clubs. Casement Park in west Belfast, home to the Antrim county teams, has a capacity of 32,000 which makes it the second largest Gaelic Athletic Association ground in Ulster. The 1999 Heineken Cup champions Ulster Rugby play at the Kingspan Stadium in the south of the city. Belfast has four teams in rugby's All-Ireland League: Belfast Harlequins in Division 1B; and Instonians, Queen's University and Malone in Division 2A.

Belfast is home to the Stormont cricket ground since 1949 and was the venue for the Irish cricket team's first ever one day international (ODI) against England in 2006.

In 2007, Pro Wrestling Ulster formed. This is wrestling promotion on the independent circuit, holding events and PPV's in Europa Hotel and The Mandela Hall. It runs to this day.

Belfast is home to one of the biggest British ice hockey clubs, the Belfast Giants. The Giants were founded in 2000 and play their games at the 9,500 capacity Odyssey Arena, crowds normally range from 4,000–7,000. Many ex-NHL players have featured on the Giants roster, none more famous than world superstar Theo Fleury. The Giants play in the 10 team professional Elite Ice Hockey League which is the top league in Britain. The Giants have been league champions 4 times, most recently in the 2013–14 season. The Belfast Giants are a huge brand in Northern Ireland and their increasing stature in the game led to the Belfast Giants playing the Boston Bruins of the NHL on 2 October 2010 at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, losing the game 5–1.

Other significant sportspeople from Belfast include double world snooker champion Alex "Hurricane" Higgins and world champion boxers Wayne McCullough and Rinty Monaghan. Leander A.S.C is a well known swimming club in Belfast. Belfast produced the Formula One racing stars John Watson who raced for five different teams during his career in the 1970s and 1980s and Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine.

Tourism

Titanic Belfast side view
Titanic Belfast, devoted to the Belfast-built RMS Titanic, opened in 2012

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 a tourist information centre located at Donegall Place.

Twin towns – Sister cities

Belfast has the following sister cities:

  • United States Nashville, Tennessee, United States (since 1994)
  • People's Republic of China Hefei, Anhui Province, China (since 2005)
  • United States Boston, Massachusetts, United States (since 2014)
  • People's Republic of China Shenyang, Liaoning Province, China (since 2016)
  • Beesley, S. and Wilde, J. 1997. Urban Flora of Belfast. Institute of Irish Studies & The Queen's University of Belfast.ISBN 0 85389 695 X
  • Nesbitt, Noel. 1982. The Changing Face of Belfast. Ulster Museum, Belfast. Publication no. 183.
  • McCracken, E. 1971. The Palm House and Botanic Garden, Belfast. Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.

Images for kids


Belfast Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.