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Belfast (population 279,237) is the administrative and major commercial centre of Northern Ireland. The politically and religiously divided city has a reputation for terrorist bombings, shootings, and beatings, but tourists are not targeted. Moreover, most of the terrorist organisations support the new Northern Ireland peace agreement and are observing cease-fires. The agreement, known as the Good Friday Agreement, basically transfers power from London to the new Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont in Belfast.

Belfast's shopping area centres on Royal Avenue, which runs north out of Donegall Square in the heart of the city. There are several modern shopping centres in the city. In addition, The Craftworks Gallery on Linenhall Street specialises in Northern Irish crafts, and Smyth's Irish Linens on Royal Avenue has Irish linen and Irish souvenirs.

Look for restaurants and B&B accommodation just south of Donegall Square on a stretch of University Road known as the Golden Mile. Here you will also find Queen's University, the Botanic Gardens, and the Ulster Museum.

Other Attractions
There are several interesting turn-of-the century buildings in Donegall Square. They include Belfast City Hall (1906) and Linen Hall Library, which has a major Irish collection.

The oldest part of Belfast is a collection of narrow alleyways north of High Street, between Royal Avenue and the river, known as the Entries. Some attractive old Belfast pubs are to be found in the alleyways.

Stormont, to the east of the city, is the location of Stormont Castle, which serves as the headquarters for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Office, the conduits for direct rule from London. Also in Stormont are the old Parliament Buildings, where the fledgling Northern Ireland Assembly now sits. Both Stormont Castle and the Parliament Buildings are not accessible to the public, but the surrounding park areas are an excellent family attraction and include a newly designed children's play area.

Cave Hill Country Park, on the shores of Belfast Lough in northern Belfast, features waymarked walks, several raths, a crannóg, and two nature reserves.

On the slopes of Cave Hill are Belfast Zoo http://www.belfastzoo.co.uk/ and Belfast Castle.

Citybus runs bus tours of Belfast, including a tour of areas associated with the troubles. Buses for the city tour leave from Castle Place, just north of Donegall Square, at 1.30 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays. Buses for the other tour leave at 2 pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Tel. +44 28 90458484

Festivals
The Belfast Folk Festival in mid-June.

The Civic Festival in May features music, dance, theatre, and sports events around the city.

The two-week Belfast Festival at Queen's in mid-November has drama, dance, music performances, and movies at various venues.

Accommodation
Belfast has several hostels and plenty of hotels. There is a lot of Bed & Breakfast accommodation on the Golden Mile and 2 kilometres south of the centre on Eglantine Avenue.

Amenities
There are several art galleries. The principal modern art gallery is the Ormeau Baths Gallery on Ormeau Avenue. Open Tuesday to Saturday.

There are also many venues for plays and concerts. Most notable is the
Grand Opera House on Great Victoria Street. http://www.goh.co.uk/
Tel. +44 28 90241919.

Transport
Most flights into Belfast go to Belfast International Airport, which is 30 kilometres north of the city in Aldergrove. However, some regional airports in Britain have flights to the centrally located Belfast City Airport.

Car ferries to Stranraer and the Isle of Man leave from the centrally located SeaCat terminal on Donegall Quay, and car ferries to Liverpool leave from the Victoria terminal, which is 5 kilometres more northerly.

Most major towns and cities in Northern Ireland are connected by rail to Belfast. There are also eight express trains to Dublin each day from Belfast Central Station.

The Laganside Buscentre in Oxford Street has buses for County Antrim, County Down, and eastern County Derry. Buses for all other destinations, including the Republic, the ferries in Larne, and Belfast International Airport, leave from the Europa Buscentre in Glengall Street.

Citybus operates 60 routes around the city, and most buses pick up at Donegall Square. Tel. +44 28 90246485

The Citybus Centrelink service provides a link between all the main bus and rail stations in Belfast as well as the principal shopping areas and the Waterfront Hall. The service is free for those who arrive in Belfast at either of the main bus/rail stations.

Useful contact details for Belfast
(When dialling from the Republic of Ireland, replace +44 28 with 048.)
NI Railways Enquiries +44 28 90899411
Ulsterbus Enquiries +44 28 90333000
Web site for trains and buses http://www.translink.co.uk
Belfast City Airport +44 28 90734828
Belfast International Airport +44 28 94422888
Donegall Pass RUC sub-Division +44 28 90650222
Bank of Ireland Belfast Head Office +44 28 90244901
Ulster Bank branches in Belfast http://www.ulsterbank.ie/ni/peop
le/b_belfast.asp
First Trust Bank branches in County Antrim www.aib.ie/ft/location/index.asp
Ledu The Small Business Agency +44 28 90491031
Tourist Information +44 28 90246609
Belfast City Hospital +44 28 90329241
Belfast City Council  
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