Belfast is wonderful city. Full of stories and most of all, history. The city went through pretty much every phase we can think of and has suffered more than any other European cities. Today it’s a beautiful and dynamic city that is definitely worth a visit.
I love Belfast, it’s one of my favourite cities in the world. And yet, it’s one of the most underrated cities in the world! There are so many interesting facts about Belfast!
If you are looking to discover more about the history of Belfast, you’ve come to the right place! Here are 28 fun facts about Belfast.
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This fact about Belfast might seem obvious to some people but yet it’s worth being clarified. Northern Ireland (Belfast) and Republic of Ireland (Dublin) are two completely different countries, both located on the Island of Ireland. They have two different currencies, two different governments, two different political states and different religions. Northern Ireland uses the British Pound and is part of the UK, therefore, a monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as the sovereign and currently Boris Johnson as a Prime Minister. It is mainly protestant.
Northern Irish people have a British passport. The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro and has a president, currently Michael Higgins. It is mainly catholic. Irish people have an Irish passport.
From 1968 to 1998, Northern Ireland and specifically Belfast were going through war called the Troubles. It opposed Catholics and protestants. This political conflict led to a lot of bombings and made Belfast a very hostile and dangerous city to live in for 3 decades.
On a historical point of view, it’s a very interesting period. So many people suffered during the troubles. And this wasn’t that long ago!
RECOMMENDED BOOKS: If you want to learn more about the troubles, I would recommend reading One by one in the darkness and Eureka Street. They are very good read that will give you a feel of what it was to live in Belfast during the troubles.
RECOMMENDED TOURS: If you want to learn more about the Troubles, the best option would be to hear it from a local. I’d recommend going on a historical tour in Belfast. You will discover plenty of the Troubles but also the history of Belfast. Here are a few options available:
The Europa Hotel was bombed 36 times during the Troubles. The Europa was generally the hotel when reporters would stay when they were coming to Belfast. They were not particularly welcome so as a “welcome present” a bomb would be sent to the hotel. That having been said, the Europa would always get 20 mins notice to evacuate the hotel. The purpose of it was to make them go away, not to kill them.
Even though the Europa was re-built each time, it reached the point where nobody wanted to stay there anymore. This changed in 1994 when Bill Clinton decided to visit Belfast. He chose to stay at the Europa and more important to make everyone travelling with him stayed there. After this, the Europa started having guests again.
Bombs were placed all over the city. During the 30 years of conflicts, over 45,000 bombs have detonated in Belfast alone.
In 1998, the Good Friday agreement is signed which marks the end of the Troubles. Since then, Belfast has completely changed. It went from a completely bombed and hurt city to a brilliant technology hub. Nowadays, Belfast is a vibrant and welcoming city.
Here comes a more modern fact about Belfast!
Belfast is a very modern city now and is located on a beautiful island. For these reasons, it started to attract a lot of IT and entertainment companies. The TV industry is worth over a billion pounds in Northern Ireland.
Game of Thrones fans will absolutely love this fact about Belfast!
Located in Titanic Quarter, the Titanic studios are one of Europe’s largest film studios. The buildings were part of the Harland and Wolff shipyard and are just a few steps away from the site where the Titanic was built on.
The studios have welcomed some very famous production including the HBO series Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, this is not open to the public but still interesting to note that the set for Kings Landing is entirely built inside the Titanic Studios. Northern Ireland was also chosen as the main outdoor filming location for the show. This includes the wall and the dark hedges.
During the 1800s, Belfast was a very wealthy city. This was mainly due to the existence of two industries: linen manufacture and shipbuilding.
Thousands of gold rushers came to Belfast at the time to work in these warehouses and shipyards. Men would generally work on ships. Women and children in linen factories. This industry grew so fast that by the end of the 19th century Belfast became the linen capital of the world and was nicknamed Lineopolis.
Although Belfast had many linen warehouses back in the days, they have been almost all destroyed during the troubles because of the bombings. Today, only one still stands. You can see it at the corner of Linenhall Street in central Belfast.
C.S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, was born in Belfast and spent his childhood in Northern Ireland. It is believed that the landscapes around Belfast have inspired the world of Narnia.
At the beginning of the XX century, a lot of burlesque shows were performed in Belfast. This was particularly unusual for the United-Kingdom at the time which made the city of Belfast the burlesque capital of the UK.
The RMS Titanic is sadly famous for having sunk during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New-York after it struck an iceberg in 1912. Over 1,500 people died. At the time, it was the largest moving object built by the Man in the world. It was built in Belfast and what is now known as the Titanic Quarter. The shipyard where the Titanic and the Olympic (its twin) has been built are now located just being the Titanic Experience which is a beautiful and very interesting museum.
Owned and operated by the White Star Line, the Titanic was built by Harland and Wolff. H&W was one of the main shipbuilding companies in Belfast and had the largest shipyard in the world at the time they built Titanic. Even though it was built in Belfast, the port of registration of the Titanic was Liverpool.
RECOMMENDED MUSEUM: If you want to learn more about Titanic, I highly recommend going to the Titanic Experience in Titanic Quarter. It’s very interesting and well worth the money!
The Titanic was ordered in 1909. It took over 2 years to complete the project. Over that time, it became Belfast’s biggest pride. It was so unique and such an incredible piece of engineering and design that everyone wanted to see it. When they first launched the Titanic, over 100,000 people came to the port to see it.
In order to make the experience even more realistic, the architects who designed the Titanic Museum shaped it as the building and made sure it was the exact same height as the Titanic itself. If you get the chance to go to the Titanic Experience in Belfast, you will realise how massive and impressive this ship must have been. It was 32m high.
RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY: The Titanic Museum is a very good museum, probably one of the best in the world. If you want to more about the Titanic but also the history of Belfast in general, you can get a ticket here.
The seahorse has been chosen to be the symbol of Belfast in tribute to Belfast’s origins and maritime history. The city has built its wealth around the shipbuilding industry and a sea horse was particularly iconic to highlight this glorious past.
Belfast city hall offers free walking tours several times per day. If you go on one you will get to see some of the most beautiful rooms including the dining room. The carpet on the floor is changed every 25 years and is so heavy that it requires the use of a crane to take it off.
RECOMMENDED TOUR: This is a fun fact you’d learn during the City Hall free guided tour! They run every day from 9 am to 3 pm.
On the last floor of Belfast City Hall, hanging above a massive circular stairway stands a chandelier. It weighs over 1.5 tons and is actually an exact replica of what this chandelier was before WWII.
During the war, the United-Kingdom was running out of material to manufacture weapons and munitions and started melting everything they could. The chandelier in the city hall of Belfast was then melted in order to make munitions to be sent to soldiers at the front.
RECOMMENDED TOUR: Belfast City Hall offers free guided tour every day! It’s very interesting, you will learn plenty about the city!
Monday to Friday: 10:00, 11:00, 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00
Saturday and Sunday: 12:00, 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00
Located by the harbour, the Obel Tower is the tallest building in Ireland. It is 89 meters high (279 feet). To give you a bit of an idea of what 89 metres is, let’s compare it to other buildings. The Eiffel Tower is 324 metres high. The statue of Liberty is 93 metres high. Big Ben is 96 metres high.
Needless to say that even though the Obel Tower is the tallest building in Ireland, it is not particularly high. This is a common thing in Ireland, building tends to have only a handful of floors maximum.
SPOILER ALERT! Game of Thrones Season 5.
When Jon Snow dies at the end of season 10, HBO made him sign a very strict contract in regards to selfie. As fans know, in reality, Jon Snow was brought back to life and so needed to be in Belfast to be able to go to the studios. As HBO didn’t want to give away anything about the death of Jon Snow and knew that his presence in Belfast would attract the fans’ suspicions, they made him sign a contract forbidding him to take any selfies or photos with fans in Belfast so they wouldn’t spread on social media.
Obviously, Kit Harington did respect his contract and no photos of him in Belfast were leaked. However, as he felt bad about disappointing his fans, he would take the photos with his own phone and ask for their email address. Once the new season of the show was released and it wasn’t a secret anymore that he was still alive, he sent the photos to the fans.
This is my favourite fact about Belfast: such a cute story!
RECOMMENDED TOUR: You will learn plenty of facts just like this on the Game of Thrones walking tour in Belfast.
Located on Bedford Street, the jewellery Steensons has custom made most of the jewels used in the TV show Games of Throne. This includes earrings, necklaces, cufflinks and pins from the houses Tyrell, Targaryen, Stark and Lannister.
The Good Friday Agreement (or Belfast Agreement) is what started the peace process in Northern Ireland. It was a major political change for Belfast, the island of Ireland and the United Kingdom. It put an end to over 30 years of troubles. It also marked the beginning of the regeneration process.
During the troubles, it was pretty uncommon for bands to go performing in Belfast. The city was rather unsafe and the bands would receive regular death threats if they would mention the simple idea of even coming to Belfast. This means that back in the 1970s, the music and entertainment scene in Belfast was very limited. One band though decided to come anyway. They received numerous death threats but decided that they wanted to play there anyway and that the people from Belfast deserved to listen to music. This band was Led Zepellin and they performed for the first time live Stairway to Heaven at Ulster Live.
Even though the company is now headquartered in Birmingham, when John Boyd Dunlop created his first pneumatic it was in his home in Belfast.
Located on the port, the cranes used to belong to Harland & Wolff, the company that built the Titanic. Even though they were not supposed to stay there, they somehow became one of Belfast‘s main landmarks and have been named after biblical characters: Samson and Goliath.
The Albert Clock is sinking into the ground. As it’s located too close to the port, the ground is not stable or hard enough and because of the weight of the tower itself it’s now leaning by four feet. Some legends also say that it was because prostitutes were leaning against it waiting for the sailors to come back. The tower was located by a brothel.
In 1965, Professor James Francis Pantridge and Dr John Geddis create the world’s first mobile defibrillator using two car batteries. This invention has since saved thousands of lives and is now available in most public places all around the world.
As odd as it may sound, Belfast has an absolutely brilliant ice hockey team. The Belfast Giants are the current Elite League Champions and Challenge Cup winners. They also inaugurated the SSE Arena playing against Dundee.
As previously mentioned, Belfast has a very important industrial background. Back then, Belfast was the biggest city on the island. Dublin’s development is actually very recent. It became the European technology hub only in the last few decades.
Now that you’ve read these 29 amazing facts about Belfast, you know that it’s an incredibly interesting city. And most of all, it’s definitely worth a visit! The best way to learn more about Belfast is to go there!
Here are some tips to plan your trip to Belfast!
TOURS: You can find plenty of tours on Get your Guide. If you want to learn more about some facts previously mentioned, you may want to check out those:
BOOKS: Getting a Lonely Planet is always a good idea. If want to know more about the history of Belfast, I’d recommend checking out my article about the Troubles. You will find a selection of books there.
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