10 things every Belfaster knows

Belfast has thrived in the 21st century thanks to its vibrant arts scene, a culinary culture that has given rise to Michelin-starred restaurants, a thriving television and film industry that has caused some to call it the “Hollywood of Europe” and the gentrification. projects that celebrate local heritage in neighborhoods that were once abandoned.

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Although Northern Ireland’s capital is now a safe and increasingly popular place to travel, it was engulfed in violent socio-political conflict from 1968 to 1998. Peace has continued unabated since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, but some they still have strong views on whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom or join the Republic in a united Ireland.

This is the topic of conversation to avoid when visiting – it’s a complex topic and respecting that fact is appropriate. This is especially important if you plan to venture into areas around the city’s fractured peace lines. But don’t let this put you off: Belfast is a wonderful tourist destination and the locals are incredibly warm, fun and welcoming.

So if you want to visit Belfast like a pro, keep the following 10 tips in mind.

You’ll understand ‘the craic’ better after an evening in the Belfast pub © Tourism Northern Ireland

The Belfast dialect is unique.

The Belfast accent is often praised as being one of the most pleasant accents in the Anglophone world. But you will notice that the local vernacular is full of jargon, linguistic quirks, and dialectical phrases that don’t always follow an obvious logic.

“Craic” (pronounced like crack), means “fun” or “a good time”. If someone says “What’s the craic?” means, “How are you doing?” “How about you?” or simply “About you?” carries the same meaning.

You will become very familiar with the words “aye”, which means “yes”, and “wee”, which means “little”. People may use strange grammar, such as “I say” or “Here I am” when talking about something they said in the past tense. Many end their sentences with a reaffirmation; a holdover from Belfast’s Celtic language routes. As an example: “I’m from Belfast, so I am.”

If you frequent pubs, as Belfast natives often do, you may find the word Health (pronounced “slawn-che”), which means “cheers” in Irish Gaelic. In today’s company, you can repeat it, but be careful using it elsewhere, as the Irish language can be a hot potato in conversation in unionist neighborhoods.

Make restaurant reservations, especially on weekends.

As Belfast’s restaurant scene has grown in stature, so have the waiting lists for its top restaurants. If you plan to try the Michelin star fare: OX, epic deans, and Muddlers Club currently make the list; be sure to book your weekend reservations in advance. The same goes for other fine dining options and the city’s most popular theater shows.

Fine dining platter from James St restaurant, Belfast city center
Belfast’s competitive restaurant scene is stronger than ever © James St & Co / Tourism Northern Ireland

Tipping is recommended, but not required.

Tipping 10-15% is standard in Belfast restaurants, especially at dinner. There is no obligation, if you find the service unsatisfactory, forgoing a tip is at your own discretion, although Belfast’s competitive restaurant scene has fostered a workforce of high-quality reception staff, expert sommeliers and waiters. who generally deserve a few extra pounds for their serving skills. Also note that some restaurants will add a tip to the bill.

Sundays can be sleepy

Due to its Christian roots, and the sanctity of the Lord’s day of rest, it was once common to see tourists wandering through Belfast city center on Sundays wondering why everything was closed. Although this has changed a bit in recent years, there is still a stipulation that stores of 3,000 square feet or more can only sell products between 1 pm and 6 pm Restaurants, bars and service shops may be open, but business hours are likely to be affected. Most businesses will also be closed on religious holidays, such as Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. Be sure to check ahead before venturing into spontaneity.

Always prepare for the possibility of rain

Northern Ireland’s climate is defined as “temperate”, with humidity in summer, heavy snow in winter, and extremely rare weather disasters. That said, given Belfast’s northern latitude and coastal location, rain is never out of the question. Bringing a raincoat, umbrella or extra layer, even in summer, is a good idea.

Use sterling pounds, not euros

Although Northern Ireland shares a porous border with the Republic of Ireland, which is in the Eurozone, the British pound is the currency traded. It’s also worth noting that Belfast is financially digitized, meaning you can use contactless payments in most bars, restaurants and shops.

Touring Around Belfast gives visitors an insight into the city of Belfast, its history, its murals and its people as they drive around the city in a vintage black cab.
Belfast Black Taxi Tours is highly recommended to learn more about Belfast and its history © Rob Durston / Tourism Northern Ireland

Use guided tours when visiting certain neighborhoods

Belfast’s street art is among the most powerful and provocative in the world. Depicting political prisoners, paramilitary groups and the nexus where peace and conflict collide, the murals are reminders of Belfast’s troubled past. Many are dotted across gabled walls in politically divided neighborhoods, so visiting with a licensed tour guide is recommended. Not only will this add a historical texture to the experience, but it will also help you avoid stumbling into areas considered less safe for tourists. The Belfast Black Cab Tour Is the best option.

Belfast does not have the most efficient transport network

Belfast hasn’t seen a tram since the 1950s, but in a recent bid to optimize its public transport service, it has introduced the Glider bus service – multi-journey tickets and travel cards are available. Currently, the gliders go from east to west and from the Titanic Quarter to the center of the city. A north-south route is expected to be introduced, but not until 2027. There is a rail system, but it is mainly used for transport between Belfast and surrounding towns and cities. Night services are currently non-existent.

It is fair to say that this is not the most efficient transport system in the UK, as evidenced by the fleets of cars that ply the streets of Belfast, although taxi services are relatively affordable. Belfast is also quite compact, so walking around the city center shouldn’t be a problem for most travellers. Alternatively, you can use the Just Eat Belfast Bike Programwhich has 46 connection stations spread throughout the city.

Private taxi companies continue to dominate Uber

Belfast is Uber friendly, but most locals still use the traditional taxi companies, of which Cheap taxis Y fonacab they are the most popular (you can book them by phone). However, in the post-pandemic era, many locals and politicians have lamented the lack of taxi drivers doing night shifts, so it’s best to pre-book night taxis home whenever possible.

Republican mural featuring Bobby Sands in Falls Road, Belfast
A republican mural featuring Bobby Sands in Falls Road, Belfast © Paul J Martin / Shutterstock

Tensions may rise on July 12

July 12 is a public holiday and an important day in the history of Northern Ireland. Often shortened to “The Twelfth”, it is an Ulster Protestant celebration dating back to the 1700s, commemorating Protestant King “Billy” William of Orange’s victory over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Protestant areas of the city raise Union flags, paint their street sidewalks red, white and blue, and watch under siege as huge bonfires burn on the night of the 11th, signaling upcoming celebrations. Then on July 12, parades with orange sashes take place, when the city’s streets ring out in chorus with politically divisive marching tunes.

Many Catholics, and those who identify as Irish, take this opportunity to leave the city for a few days. And unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for tensions to rise. In the past, this has led to riots in segments of the city, particularly where traditionally Protestant and Catholic communities collide. Although one can easily avoid the more contentious areas, it is probably not the best weekend to book a stay in Belfast.

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