The city that is the largest in Northern Ireland and the city that is the fourteenth largest in the United Kingdom, Belfast is also the seat of the government and the Northern Ireland Assembly legislature. With its location at the mouth of the River Lagan, Belfast became known as the biggest and most productive of all the shipyards in the world after the main shipbuilders of the city built the RMS Titanic. It had an important role in the Industrial Revolution and became a centre for the Irish linen industry.
Today, Belfast is still an industrial centre and also the heart for the arts, business, the law, higher education and the economy of Northern Ireland. In recent years, the city centre around the area of Victoria Square has undergone a great deal of expansion and regeneration where there has been much commercial, residential and leisure development. Belfast is still a major port city along the Belfast Lough shoreline featuring many commercial and industrial docks and the home of the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard.
Yet, Belfast remains an important attraction for tourists and was voted one of the top travel destinations in the world for 2012. There are a variety of hotels in Belfast that can accommodate the varying needs of its travelers. Some of the hotels in Belfast have special arrangements for pets and families, with packages that are affordable for families and cottage-like facilities that enable one to take their pet for walks and enjoy the delights and scenery outside the city. Bed and breakfast lodgings and self-catering facilities are also abundant for those who either like the intimacy of a small inn or are perhaps more budget conscious and prefer to prepare most of their own meals and snacks.
There are, of course, many attractions to visit within the city of Belfast itself. One of the most popular is Titanic Belfast, a building of six floors that is located next to the historic site where the ship was constructed. The museum is an experience of walking through wings shaped like ships’ hulls each of which tells the story of the Titanic, from the early 1900s when it was conceived in Belfast, through the construction of the massive ship and then the maiden voyage and final, disastrous end. The exhibits are very state-of-the art with interactive media and various hands-on experiences.
One attraction of more historic significance is the Belfast Cathedral, which is located in the Cathedral quarter of the city. The Cathedral is also known as St. Anne’s Cathedral and was consecrated in 1904. It features large mosaics and stained glass windows of Celtic themes which were designed by Sir Charles Nicholson and then constructed by Margaret and Gertrude Martin. It is also home to the Celtic Cross that is the largest in Ireland.
With mountains surrounding the city, Belfast is a deep and sheltered lough that enables horticulture to flourish. The city is home to many parks and gardens and range from the Victorian Botanic Gardens in the city centre to the many parklands and forest parks outside the city.
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