Belfast is a wonderful city. Full of stories and most of all, history. The city went through so much and has suffered more than any other European city. Today it’s a beautiful and dynamic city that is well 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 29 fun facts about Belfast.
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1 – Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is one of the 4 countries part of the United Kingdom.
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 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.
People in Northern Ireland 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.
2 – Belfast was one of the most dangerous cities in the world until 1998
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!
HOW TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE TROUBLES: 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 reads and will give you a good idea of what it was to live in Belfast during the troubles.
If you are really keen in discovering more history facts about Belfast and Northern Ireland, the best option would be to hear it from a local guide! I recommend going on a historical tour in Belfast. You will discover plenty of the Troubles but also the history of Belfast. Click here for more information and see the latest prices.
3 – The Europa Hotel is the most bombed hotel in the world
The Europa Hotel was bombed 36 times during the Troubles. The Europa was the hotel where reporters would stay when they were coming to Belfast. Their presence wasn’t wanted at time 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. Not only he chose to stay at the Europa but he also asked everyone who was travelling with him to stay there as well. After this, guests started to return to the Europa.
4 – There were 45,000 bomb attacks in Belfast during the Troubles
Bombs were placed all over the city. During the 30 years of conflict, over 45,000 bombs have detonated in Belfast alone.
5 – Nowadays Belfast is very safe
In 1998, the Good Friday agreement is signed which marks the end of the Troubles. Since then, Belfast has completely changed. It went from being a hurt city to becoming an awesome technology hub. Nowadays, Belfast is a vibrant and welcoming city.
6 – In 2019, the three main industries in Belfast are IT, TV & Movies and tourism
Here comes a more recent 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.
7 – HBO’s Game of Thrones studios are in Belfast
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.
The studios have welcomed some very famous productions 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 inside the Titanic Studios.
But Belfast is not the only place in Northern Ireland where Game of Thrones was filmed. There are filming locations all around the country including the North wall and Dark Hedges.
8 – Belfast was nicknamed Lineopolis
During the 1800s, Belfast was a very wealthy city. This was mainly due to the existence of two industries: linen manufacturing 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.
9 – There is only one Linen warehouse left in Belfast today
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.
10 – Northern Ireland was the inspiration for Narnia
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. Quite a cute Belfast fun fact, right?
11 – Belfast is burlesque capital of the UK
At the beginning of the XX century, a lot of burlesque shows were performed in Belfast. This was very unusual in the United-Kingdom at the time. The city quickly became the burlesque capital of the UK.
12 – The Titanic was built in Belfast. It was the largest moving object in the world.
The RMS Titanic is the most sadly famous ship in the world.
It sank 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 in what is now known as the Titanic Quarter. The shipyard where the Titanic and the Olympic (its twin) were built is in Belfast Harbour.
If that’s something you are interested in, you can visit it! It’s located just next to 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 entertaining!
13 – Over 100,000 people came to see the launch of the Titanic
The Titanic was ordered in 1909. It took over 2 years to complete the project.
During 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 Titanic, over 100,000 people came to the harbour to see it.
14 – The Titanic Museum building is the exact same height as the RMS Titanic
In order to make the experience even more realistic, the architects who designed the Titanic Museum gave it a ship-shape. They also 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.
15 – The symbol of Belfast is a seahorse
The seahorse was chosen to be the symbol of Belfast in tribute to Belfast’s origins and maritime history. The city’s wealth was built around the shipbuilding industry. The sea horse was very iconic as it highlights this glorious past.
16 – You need a crane to remove the carpet in the city hall
Belfast city hall offers free walking tours every day. If you go on one, you will get to see some beautiful rooms including the dining room. The carpet on the floor is changed every 25 years and is so heavy that it requires a crane to take it off.
17 – The biggest chandelier in the city hall weights 1.5 tons and was melted during WWII to make munitions.
This is one of the most unknown and unusual facts about Belfast. When it comes to the history of Northern Ireland, we often hear about the Troubles but there is plenty to say about WWI and WWII too!
On the last floor of Belfast City Hall, hanging above a massive circular stairway stands a chandelier. It weighs over 1.5 tons! It’s also a replica of the one that was standing there 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 melted in order to make munitions to be sent to soldiers on the frontline.
18 – The motto of Belfast is “Pro tanto quid retribuamus”. It means “We received so much, what can we give in return”
19 – The tallest building in Ireland is in Belfast. The Obel Tower is 89m high.
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 only have a handful of floors.
20 – HBO had a very strict contract with Kit Harington (Jon Snow) in regards to selfies with fans in Belfast
SPOILER ALERT! Game of Thrones Season 5.
At the end of season 10, Jon Snow dies. He is then brought back to life at the beginning of season 11.
Because of this, Kit Harington obviously had to stay in Belfast to shoot the new season. As you can imagine, every Game of Thrones actor were being asked for selfies all the time in town. Fans would then post them on social media.
HBO got worried that people posting selfies with Kit Harrington in Belfast would give away the fact that Jon Snow wasn’t actually dead. At this point, HBO made Harrington sign a contract forbidding him to take any selfies or photos with fans in Belfast.
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 there was no secret to keep anymore, he sent the photos to the fans.
This is my favourite Game of Thrones fact about Belfast: such a cute story!
If you want to learn more facts like this one, you can go on a Game of Thrones walking tour in Belfast. Click here to see the prices.
21 – The jewellery Steensons made most of the jewels for Game of Thrones
Located on Bedford Street, the jewellery Steensons has custom made most of the jewels used in Game of Thrones. This includes earrings, necklaces, cufflinks and pins from the houses Tyrell, Targaryen, Stark and Lannister.
22 – The Good Friday agreement was signed in Belfast on the 10th of April 1998
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 the Troubles and over 30 years of conflict. It also marked the beginning of the regeneration process.
23 – Led Zeppelin performed Stairway to Heaven for the first time in Belfast
During the troubles, it was pretty uncommon for bands to go performing in Belfast. The city was rather unsafe and bands would receive regular death threats as soon as they would mention thinking of coming to Belfast.
This means that back in the 1970s, the music and entertainment scene in Belfast was very limited. Most bands and artists were refusing to perform in Belfast. One band decided to go anyway. They received numerous death threats but decided that they wanted to play there anyway and that the people of Belfast deserved to listen to music. This band was Led Zepellin! They performed for the first time live Stairway to Heaven at Ulster Live.
24 – The tyres Dunlop were invented in Belfast in 1887
Even though the company is now headquartered in Birmingham, when John Boyd Dunlop created his first pneumatic it was in his home in Belfast.
25 – The two H&W cranes are named Samson and Goliath
Located at the harbour, the famous 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. They were named after biblical characters: Samson and Goliath.
26 – The Albert Clock is Ireland’s leaning tower
The Albert Clock is sinking into the ground. It’s located too close to the harbour. The ground is not stable and hard enough and because of the weight of the tower itself, it’s now leaning by four feet. Some urban 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.
27 – The mobile defibrillator was invented in Belfast
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.
28 – Belfast’s ice hockey team, the Giants, is one of the best in Europe.
As odd as it may sound, Belfast is home to a very talented 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.
29 – Belfast was once bigger than Dublin
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.
How to plan a trip to Belfast
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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