Belfast, the town that built the Titanic, was the only city in Ireland which experienced the Industrial Revolution. Situated on the River Lagan, at the head of Belfast Lough, Belfast enjoys easy access by sea to Scotland. Because of its proximity to Scottish coal and iron, it became a great industrial centre during the Industrial Revolution and was home to a thriving linen and shipbuilding industry. The world's largest dry dock is located in Belfast and the giant shipyard cranes are still part of the sky line. There are many attractive Victorian and Edwardian buildings with elaborate sculptures over doors and windows. Stone-carved heads of gods and poets, scientists, kings and queens peer down from the high ledges of banks and old linen warehouses. Today, Belfast is the major administrative and commercial centre of Northern Ireland. The Greater Belfast population is c. 700,000. It is a vibrant city with much of the city centre being transformed into a pedestrian area. The best place to get your bearings in Belfast is the Belfast City Hall which is located on Donegal Square. The City Hall was built in the 1900s and has an impressive and imposing Edwardian structure, its interior being lavishly decorated with beautiful Italian works of marble. This fine building is worth visiting and tour guides are available. As you come out of City Hall, the Linen Hall Library is to your left; straight ahead of you is the main shopping area, Donegal Place.
Here you will find the Northern Ireland Tourist Centre. This office will provide you with all the information you require on travelling in and around Northern Ireland. The southern part of the city is dotted with restaurants, pubs and accommodation along with a theatre and cinema. You will also find the beautiful Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum which is well worth a visit. Opposite the Botanic Gardens is Queens University which was built in 1849 by Charles Lanyon who designed many other fine buildings in Belfast. While in the city, you would be well advised to pay a visit to the Ulster Museum. Its collections include contemporary international and Irish art, Irish furniture, glass, silver, ceramics, and costume, as well as a display of life in Ireland over 9,000 years. Perhaps the best known collection is the gold and silver jewellery from the wrecked Spanish Armada treasure ship Girona. This was recovered by divers in 1968. The Botanic Gardens is another fascinating Belfast attraction. Here you will see the beautiful rose gardens, colourful flowerbeds, extensive variety of trees, a Tropical Ravine and a Victorian Palm house which was built in 1839. On a sunny day you will find the park a hive of activity. Belfast Castle is situated on the slopes of Cave Hill, which is part of Belfast Hills, providing splendid views of the city and Lough. The castle is overlooked by "MacArt's Fort", a rock where the United Irish Men planned the rebellion of 1798. There are a number of walking paths and Neolithic caves to explore. Lagan Valley Park is a 12 mile stretch of open grasslands and wooded areas. You will find many scenic and pleasant walks along canal towpaths. Located just north of Belfast City, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum recaptures a disappearing way of life, while preserving traditional skills and celebrating transport history. You can stroll through yesteryear's countryside and a typical Ulster town. Opened in 1896, The Grand Opera House hosts a wide range of local and international entertainment encompassing theatre, musicals, opera, ballet, comedy, concerts, pantomime and much more