Belfast has made a remarkable transformation into a party town. Redevelopment has added a layer of glitz to a city that also boasts Victorian architecture, a glittering waterfront lined with modern art, music-filled pubs and the UK's second biggest arts festival.
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What To Do
Belfast is best seen on foot, with several organized walking tours to choose from, taking in the city's history, pubs, sights, and pubs. Gaelic football, hurling, soccer and rugby will get you on the green and keep your cheeks rosy.
What To See
What's not to see? Submerge yourself in historic Belfast.
Belfast is a tiny city, and walking is a good way to explore it. Take in its muck-and-brass civic architecture, the rich patina of history on its pubs, the Italianate surprises, the moss-furred stonework and what's left of the old town after the bombing of WWII.
Bars are to Belfast what art galleries are to Florence - a distillation of the city's culture.
Nightlife here has never been busier - sleek new bars opening, old ones changing, the club scene is booming and top-class live music is to be found in dozens of great venues around town.
Belfast hosts a plethora of festivals and special events. Summer in the City is a council-run program of events from May to September covering everything from classical and traditional music concerts to community events and the Lord Mayor's Show. The 17th is St Patrick's Carnival, a celebration of Ireland's national saint marked by community festivals and a grand city-center carnival. The Belfast Marathon is on the first Monday in May, and the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival is twelve days of drama, music, poetry, street theatre and art exhibitions held in early May, while Late May sees the week-long Belfast Film Festival. Féile an Phobail, said to be the largest community festival in Ireland, takes place in West Belfast over 10 days in early August, with a carnival parade, street parties, theatre performances, concerts and historical tours of the City and Milltown cemeteries. The Belfast Festival at Queen's is the UK's second-largest arts festival and is held in and around Queen's University during three weeks in late October and early November. The Halloween Carnival is held from 27 to 31 October, with special events across the city, including a carnival parade, ghost tours and fireworks.
Food and Drink
Arouse your taste buds by surfing the huge wave of new restaurants. Belfast has a surprising number and variety of restaurants, including a couple of the best in all Ireland.
When to Go
Belfast's open to visitors any time of year, but April-June and September are best: the weather's hopefully on form, the crowds are down, the days are longer and attractions are open.
Belfast's average temperature year-round is a relatively mild 50°F. Winter rarely sees ice and snow, but the January and February skies are interminably grey, and temperatures are a motley 40-45°F. July and August average 60°F, but at least the summer days are long, with true darkness not falling until 11pm. Perhaps the most defining aspect of Belfast's climate, other than its changeability, is its rainfall: February-June averages 2.3in, and things get wetter still from October to January with 4in. Don't even think about visiting without a raincoat, umbrella and warm clothes.
To be sure, the Atlantic Gulf Stream keeps Ireland just right with relatively mild winters and cool summers. Another certainty is the rain, Belfast has a decent share of it. True to its people, the weather is not without its own mischievousness with the occasional warm January day or cold July night.