Belfast banter

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

Belfast tends to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons but don’t be deterred from visiting, for the reality is very different. Louise Browne, a Belfast local, reveals all…

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Name: Louise Browne
Age: 28
Occupation: Graphic Designer

Are you a local girl?
Yes. I was born in Belfast and grew up in the east of the city until I left for university in England. After graduation, I worked in London for 18 months before moving to the Middle East where I lived and worked in Dubai for three years. I am now back in Belfast and loving it! It’s been great getting to know my home town all over again.

What’s it like to live in Belfast?
Fantastic. It’s a small city but despite its size there is an abundance of great galleries, pubs, live music venues and restaurants. Belfast is also home to some of the friendliest people on the planet.

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What is your favourite thing about Belfast?
I love that Belfast is so accessible. There’s plenty to see and do in the city but it’s good to know that you can escape city life and hit the beach or the countryside in just 15 minutes. I also adore Belfast’s art and culture scene which is really getting off the ground. There’s a myriad of music festivals, comedy shows and theatrical productions.

Why should we visit Belfast?
Because the bad stuff you see and hear about Belfast in the media isn’t the city I know at all. In reality, Belfast is a charming town that extends a warm welcome to all visitors.

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How long do we need?

Ideally you want about two days to see Belfast proper and perhaps another few days to explore beyond Belfast. Try and check out the north Antrim coast – Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge, the Giant’s Causeway, the Mourne Mountains – and other cities such as Derry whichhas just won ‘City of Culture 2013’. Portrush, a little seaside town on the north coast, is also easily reached from Belfast and an idyllic spot, especially in the summer.

How can tell you locals from tourists?
Tourists tend to ride around the city on designated tourist buses while locals ride the regular buses. Also tourists generally want to see all the negative stuff – ‘Doom and Gloom’ tours taking in the peace walls etc are very popular with visitors. By contrast locals prefer to sit in a nice pub enjoying a pint.

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Best sites?
The Shankill and Falls murals, Old Crumlin Road courthouse and prison, Stormont and the Cathedral Quarter. The area around Queen’s University is pretty great too – this is where you’ll find the beautiful Botanic Gardens and Belfast’s best boutiques.

Best bites?
If it’s fishy fare you’re after, make for the Mourne Seafood Bar. For pub grub, The Spaniard gets my vote.

Top shops?
Victoria Square is home to all your High Street favourites while Lisburn Road is worth a look for vintage finds. I also like Atelier in Queen’s Arcade which has sells an amazing selection of jewellery and beautiful one off dresses.

Where should we stay?
New hotels are opening all the time and keeping up with what’s hot and what’s noy and not is like trying to keep up with Lindsay Lohan’s love life. That said, The Stormont Hotel is safe bet but it’s about a 15 minute bus ride from the centre. A more centrally located option is The Merchant Hotel – it’s a gorgeous property although this is reflected in the room rates.

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Any insider tips for our readers?
If you’re on a budget, buy an all day bus ticket which is just £2.70 (off peak) – bargain!

Anything else you want to add?

Bring an umbrella. It rains – a lot!

Thanks Louise! To find out more about Belfast, check out www.gotobelfast.com

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