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George Best’s birthplace, Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. A picturesque place to visit, with its own city hall, botanic gardens and hilltop castle boasting beautiful scenic views, Belfast has undergone a massive transformation over the years, evolving from a humble market town to a cultural centre. It is divided into a number of distinct quarters – the Cathedral Quarter, Gaeltacht Quarter, Queen’s Quarter and Titanic Quarter – where tourists flock to enjoy performing arts, free concerts and street entertainment. The Titanic Quarter is, of course, named after the famous ship, which was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in the city. You can find out more about the ill-fated ocean liner with a trip to the Titanic Belfast Museum on the site of the former shipyard.
For architecture enthusiasts, Belfast houses a range of building styles, from Edwardian, through to Victorian and modern. The Obel Tower is the tallest storeyed building in the whole of Ireland, measuring 85 metres in height and dominating the Belfast skyline. Or, if you’re a foodie at heart, head for the Golden Mile between the city hall and Queen’s University, which contains some of the best bars and restaurants in the area.
Belfast saw the worst of the troubles in Northern Ireland, but it has remained an industrial hub, with a rich history in Irish linen production, tobacco-processing, rope-making and shipbuilding. Today, most heavy industry has been replaced by services, and the top companies to work for include Danske Bank, NI Water, Viridian Group Investments and Bombardier, the world’s leading manufacturer of planes and trains.
Relatively car-dependent by European standards, Belfast has an extensive road network and is served by black taxis and a network of bus routes, linking residential districts to the city centre. There’s a direct rail connection with Dublin, while there are two airports offering domestic, European and international flights.
There’s a fantastic selection of primary, secondary and grammar schools in Belfast itself, as well as two universities – Queen’s University and Ulster University. The former is the city’s main university with over 25,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, while the latter is smaller in size, with a focus on fine art, design and architecture.
A recent slump in house prices in Belfast means the average property price currently stands at £159,564. In terms of property types, flats sell for an average of £133,526 and terraced houses for £131,246, making it easier for people to get on the property ladder, picking up more for your money than in many other UK cities.