This article is about the city of Belfast in Ireland. For other uses, see Belfast (disambiguation).

Template:Ireland city infobox Belfast (Bal Feirste in Irish) is the largest city in and capital of both Northern Ireland and Ulster, and the second largest city in Ireland. While the actual population within the city limits is c. 275,000, upwards of three-quarters of a million people live in the Greater Belfast area. It is situated at the south-western end of Belfast Lough, a long natural inlet ideal for the shipping trade that made the city famous, and near the mouth of the River Lagan. It is flanked by long stretches of hills on two sides.

The name Belfast originates from the Irish Bal Feirste, or the mouth of the Farset (feirste is the genitive of the word fearsaid, "a spindle"), the river on which the city was built. Interestingly, the river Farset has been superseded by the River Lagan as the most important river; the Farset now languishes under the High Street in obscurity. Bridge Street indicates where there was originally a bridge across the Farset.

Belfast saw the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. A calmer scene in recent years has allowed some development of the city. The Lagan riverfront has been regenerated, including the new Odyssey complex and sports arena. Much of the city centre has now been pedestrianised. The city has two airports: Belfast City Airport adjacent to Belfast Lough and Belfast International Airport which is near Lough Neagh. Queen's University Belfast is the main university in Belfast. The University of Ulster also maintains a campus in the city, which concentrates on arts.



In world terms Belfast is situated quite far to the north, in latitude 54.57 N, longitude 5.02 W. In consequence it endures both long winter days and long summer evenings. In the middle of the darkest period in December, darkness lasts from c. 3.45 p.m. to c. 8.15 a.m. However, this is counterbalanced by the period from May to July. In mid-to-late June, sunset occurs after 10 p.m. and the daylight survives until 11 p.m. on fine nights.

To the north of Belfast are the Antrim Hills in County Antrim, and to the south, the Castlereagh Hills in County Down. Overlooking the city are Divis Mountain, Black Mountain and Cavehill - the famous "Napoleon's Nose" is a basaltic outcrop here which forms the border with neighbouring Glengormley.

Like much of the country, Belfast has a temperate climate with a fair bit of rainfall.

Points of interest

The City Hall, dating from 1906, Queen's University, Belfast (1849), and other Victorian and Edwardian buildings display a large number of sculptures. Among the grandest buildings are two former banks: Ulster Bank (1860), in Waring Street and Northern Bank (1769), in nearby Donegall Street. Also notable is the Linenhall Library (1788), in Donegall Square North.

Panorama of Belfast on a dreary day, as seen from a tower block of Queen's University.
Panorama of Belfast on a dreary day, as seen from a tower block of Queen's University.

The world's largest dry dock is located in the city, and the giant cranes (Samson and Goliath) of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, builders of the Titanic, can be seen from afar. Other long-gone industries included Irish linen and rope-making.

The north of the city is known for its murals, reflecting the political and religious allegiances of the two communities. The Shankill Road, which is predominantly Protestant, has murals depicting loyalty to the British Crown, the Ulster Volunteer Force, and other unionist paramilitary groups. Conversely, murals on the Falls Road and Ardoyne, mainly Catholic areas, feature political themes like a united Ireland, and the Irish Republican Army, as well as traditional folklore and the Irish language. The Ulster folk hero C Chulainn has appeared on both loyalist and republican murals.

Belfast is the home of The News Letter (historically known as "The tuppenny liar"), the oldest newspaper in the world still in publication. Other main newspapers include The Irish News (historically known as "the penny liar"), Daily Ireland and the Belfast Telegraph.


The site of Belfast has been occupied since the Bronze ages, and the remains of Iron Age hill forts can still be seen.

The original Belfast Castle was at Castle Junction, where several roads meet at the top of the High Street. This was demolished at the same time the River Farset was covered over to create the High Street. There is a new castle on the slopes of the Cavehill at Glengormley, now a popular location for wedding receptions.

In the early 17th century Belfast was settled by English and Scottish settlers, under a plan by Sir Arthur Chichester to colonise and remove Irish Catholics from the land. This caused much tension with the existing Irish Catholic population who rebelled in 1641, when England was distracted with its Civil War. The resulting slaughter is still strong in Ulster Protestant folk memory. It was later settled by a small number of French Huguenots who established a sizeable linen trade.

In the 19th Century, Belfast became Ireland's pre-eminent industrial city, with linen, heavy engineering, tobacco and shipbuilding dominating the economy, and Belfast briefly overtook Dublin in population at the end of the 19th Century. Migrants to Belfast came from across Ireland, Scotland and England, but particularly from rural Ulster, where sectarian tensions ran deep. The same period saw the first outbreaks of sectarian riots, which have recurred regularly since.

Conditions for the new working-class were often squalid, with much of the population packed into overcrowded and unsanitary tenements, and the city suffered from repeated cholera outbreaks in the mid 19th Century. Conditions improved somewhat after a wholesale slum clearance programme in the 1900s.

Belfast became the centre of Irish Protestantism, and in 1922 it was declared the capital of Northern Ireland after Ireland was partitioned into Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State (later to become the Republic of Ireland, when it withdrew from the British Commonwealth in 1949). The period immediately after partition was marked by vicious sectarian disturbances, and a dramatic hardening of the City's sectarian frontiers. In common with similar cities world-wide, Belfast suffered particularly during the Great Depression.

During the Second World War, Belfast was one of the major United Kingdom cities bombed by German forces and one of the few bombed on the isle of Ireland. Belfast was targeted due to its concentration of heavy shipbuilding and aerospace industries. Ironically, the same period saw the economy recover as the War economy saw great demand for the products of these industries. See Belfast_Blitz

The post-War years were relatively placid in Belfast, but sectarian tensions and resentment among the Catholic population at discrimination festered below the surface, and the city errupted into violence in 1969 and bombing, assassination and street violence formed a backdrop to life throughout The Troubles. In the early 1970s, the City saw huge forced population movements as families, mostly Catholic, living in areas dominated by the other community were intimidated from their homes. The general decline in European manufacturing industry of the early 1980s, exacerbated by political violence, devastated the City's economy.

In 1997, unionists lost control of Belfast City Council for the first time in its history.

Missing image
Loyalist mural
Missing image
Republican mural

The formation of the Laganside Corporation in 1989 heralded the start of the regeneration of the River Lagan and its surrounding areas, a process assisted by the ceasefires of 1994, although communal segregation has continued since then, with occasional low level street violence in isolated flashpoints and the construction of new Peace Lines.

Local Politics

In the 2005 local government elections, the voters of Belfast elected 51 councillors to Belfast City Council from the following political parties: 15 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), 14 Sinn Fin, 8 Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), 7 Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), 4 Alliance Party, 2 Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), and 1 Independent.

Belfast has four UK parliamentary and Assembly constituencies - North Belfast, West Belfast, South Belfast and East Belfast. All four extend somewhat beyond the city boundaries into parts of Castlereagh, Lisburn and Newtownabbey districts. In 2003, they elected 7 Sinn Fin, 6 DUP, 5 UUP, 4 SDLP, 1 PUP, and 1 Alliance MLAs (members of the Northern Ireland Assembly). In the 2005 general election, they elected 2 DUP MPs, 1 SDLP MP, and 1 Sinn Fein MP.

Notable people

Template:GBdot Famous people from or living in Belfast


See also

External links

United Kingdom | Ireland | Northern Ireland | Districts of Northern Ireland

Antrim | Ards | Armagh | Ballymena | Ballymoney | Banbridge | Belfast | Carrickfergus | Castlereagh | Coleraine | Cookstown | Craigavon | Derry | Down | Dungannon and South Tyrone | Fermanagh | Larne | Limavady | Lisburn | Magherafelt | Moyle | Newry and Mourne | Newtownabbey | North Down | Omagh | Strabane

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Cities in Ireland
Republic of Ireland: Dublin | Cork | Limerick | Galway | Waterford | Kilkenny
Northern Ireland: Belfast | Derry | Armagh | Newry | Lisburn

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