If you;re lucky enough to be in this wonderful part of the world in the summer you may get to see your very own orange order parade. This is a good experience for all, unless you are stuck in a car behind 300 flute players. You should definately try to see one as it is important in understanding the history and tensions that surround the area. For a low-key, riot free parade check the papers and news in July and August times. Most pass peacefully if not conflicting with a nationalist area interface. Head for connswater (loyalist) area, but stay well clear of the short strand (nationalist area) or you could be in for a fright!!
See the green
One thing which really surprised me about Belfast was how near the hills and the countryside are.
I hadn't expected to look down side-streets and see the green.
But I finally realised it's because Belfast, unlike so many UK cities, has not pulled down its Victorian and Edwardian buildings to replace them with towers of concrete and glass.
I'm glad it didn't.....somehow, being able to see the countryside from the centre of a city makes one feel less confined, less claustrophobic.....the spirit is lifted as you glance down the side-street.
A quieter alternative
The eg is located across the street from the Bot, and don't get me wrong, it's by no means a decent bar by Belfast standards but if your heading up to the Bot and cant get in, or simply dont want to queue for an hour then check this place out. It kind of takes the overwash from the bot and its not a bad place to re-group and plan a new assaukt on the city centre. To be honest, this part of town is unimaginative and very repetitive and offers the visitor very little. Get back into town! casual
That’s a hard one. We have three superb Chinese restaurants with in about 500m’s of each other.
The Sun Kee was the original and on a good night still the best
The original chef and manager from the Sun Kee left and started a restaurant called Macu, which is the one to go for if you like superb fish.
For a good all rounder, even though it can be a little mass market, the Red Panda is hard to beat.
You will need to book the first two well in advance, as they are both quite small and in very high demand.
If I had to choose one, all I will say is the Sun Kee is where the majority of wealthy Chinese people in Belfast would eat. I shall say no more…
Arthur Square is also known as Cornmarket (It was previously known as The Shambles). This area in the heart of Belfast has been linked to commerce since at least 1604. Sir Arthur Chichester, the Lord Deputy of Ireland in that year, received a grant of this town, which along with the Manor and Castle included permission to hold fairs and Markets. Arthur wasted no time in developing the small settlement into a profitable centre of commerce. The first Belfast Fair was held on 1st August 1604. By encouraged traders and craftsmen to move here with their families, the area developed, and regular markets were held. A Market House was built at the corner of Cornmarket and High Street (it was demolished in 1811, having stood for 200 years).
This is also known in local history as the place where, on 17th July 1798, Henry Joy Mc Cracken was tried and found guilty of treason. He was hung in this square the same day.
Today, Arthur Square having undergone a period of restoration, (part of Belfasts Streets Ahead programme) is at the centre of the 21st Centuries retail market. Instead of the sale of potatoes and vegetables or dairy produce that traders from South and North Antrim were famed for- this is the place to find the well known corporate High Street names - Both around the square and in the nearby Victoria Square Shopping centre (see my previous tip)
You don't have to look too far to find the recognisable facade of 'Megabucks' coffee chain. It dominates the Arthur Street side of the square - my tip is to look a couple of doors to the left, where you'll find a friendly welcome from the family who run Campbells- possibly Belfasts oldest coffee house (see my restaurant tips). I was quite happy to hand my money over to these people, especially given the competition from 'The Big Boys', and the disruption to their business during the restoration of this area.
The centre piece of the square is the steel sculpture 'Spirit of Belfast' This was the peoples choice, in a poll that was narrowed down to 3 choices. Its alternative name (Most Irish statues and monuments seem to have a nick-name!) is Onion Rings. It was created from steel by Dan George, a New York artist, and eventually unveiled on 25th September 2009 -So less than 2 weeks before my visit!
The metal is intended to represent the strength and beauty of shipbuilding* while the coloured lights represent the texture and lightness of linen* The sculpture cost £180,000.
Apparently public opinion is divided on its installation- many prefer the old bandstand that sat here, where school choirs, the Salvation Army etc performed. The square also attracted protest groups, 'The End is Nigh' soothsayers, and anyone who had something to share! Giving some local colour and character.
However, not everything old has been demolished, the architecture is a mix of the brand new, new shops etc sympathetically being blended into old buildings (where the ground floor is a modern windowed shop, while above, the facade is the original architecture.
I was particularly intrigued by the building that houses the Argos Store. This had the name Ross's in metalwork on its roof, and under its window a stone ledge with W A Ross and Sons Limited written in relief lettering.(pic 4) Well I've since found out that this was Ross's Lemonade Factory! or more formally -W. A. ROSS & CO, Royal Belfast Ginger Ale and Aerated Water Works
(By Her Majesty's Royal Letters Patent) Victoria Square, Belfast.
Apparently this is where a renowned brew called Ross's Belfast Ginger Ale was manufactured
CLICK HERE to see a document from 1879 awarding W A Ross £3,250 damages.
The 4 storied factory later became a 'tacky' shopping arcade, known as Central Arcade then it had a short period as an upmarket shopping arcade called Ross's Court.
Also in Arthur Square is The Freemasons Hall CLICK HERE for info on this building and The Freemasons.
This is the white building above the Orange phone company shop(pic 3) This building was originally created by the renowned architect Sir Charles Lanyon, who was also responsible for designing the Queen’s University and many of Belfasts other attractive buildings.