Belfast is a wonderfully compact, walkable city with a wealth of culture, history and heritage. This vibrant city is renowned the world over for the warmth of its people, and prides itself on its hospitality. In the last decade over £1billion has been invested in Belfast’s tourism infrastructure. Just a matter of weeks ago, Lonely Planet travel guide voted Belfast and the Causeway Coast 'Best Region in the World' to visit in 2018!
For those not in the know, the scenic Causeway Coast (around an hour’s drive from Belfast) is home to UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway, as well as a number of Game of Thrones film locations.
The Lonely Planet recommendation is only the latest in a long line of accolades. The Office of National Statistics declared Northern Ireland to have the highest wellbeing index in the UK in 2016. This came shortly after an unofficial poll of Instagram pictures declared Belfast to be the ‘happiest city in the UK’, on the basis of how many people were smiling in their snaps!
Meanwhile, the Financial Times newspaper voted Belfast as one of the Top 10 places in the world to host a major conference and the Titanic Belfast visitor centre (where the ASSET2018 Summit banquet will be held, and pictured above) won the title, 'World Leading Visitor Attraction', in 2016.
New hotels are rising on the city's skyline while airlines are struggling to keep up with increased tourism and business travel. The Belfast International Airport-London Gatwick link, which has 12 connections a-day, is now the UK’s busiest domestic route.
So with a growing reputation for hosting large-scale events like the MTV Europe awards, Giro d’Italia, the World Police and Fire Games, and conferences like the World Council of Credit Unions Congress, Belfast is well-poised to host the ASSET2018 Summit.
Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and is located on the north-east of the island, where the River Lagan meets Belfast Lough. Historically, Belfast was a major centre for 17th-19th century industrial development, including linen production, tobacco production, rope-making and ship building. The city’s main ship-builders, Harland and Wolff, which built the ill-fated Titanic in the early 20th century, propelled Belfast onto the global stage.
Today, Belfast remains a centre for industry, as well as the arts, higher education and businesss. With major investment in infrastructure, Belfast is now emerging as a dynamic new destination, while continuing to offer close access to some of the most beautiful and diverse countryside in Europe.
WHAT TO SEE
Attractions include the proud City Hall in the heart of the city, the beautifully restored carved stone and ironwork of St George’s Market near the Waterfront Hall, and the elegant Linen Hall library with its priceless collection of books. Queen's University, just a pleasant 20 minutes' walk from the Waterfront Hall, is well worth a visit as a beautifully maintained example of the celebrated architect Sir Charles Lanyon's (1813-1889) work.
For a more modern example of fine architecture, a walk upstream from the Waterfront Hall to the newly rebuilt Lyric theatre (winner of the Royal Gold Medal 2014, the world's most prestigious architecture prize) - Northern Irleand's only repertory theatre and the launchpad for some Hollywood names including Liam Neeson, Kenneth Branagh and Ciaran Hinds - is also worth a visit, and a relaxing coffee in its bar, overlooking the meandering River Lagan.
To add to this wonderful built heritage, you have city pubs, such as the historic Crown Liquor Saloon (looked after by the National Trust) and a warren of old and new pubs, clubs and restaurants in the burgeoning Cathedral Quarter. Dining out in Belfast has transformed over the past decade with a wealth of high-end eateries and cocktail bars while shoppers are spoilt for choice in the city-centre, just five minutes walk from the Waterfront Hall, including the upmarket Victoria Square development.