The perfect way to see Belfast, in my opinion, is to take one of the Black Taxi Tours. The drivers are locals who’ve lived here during the roughly thirty year ethno-political conflict known as The Troubles. The tour I took was with CabtourNI and the driver was an extremely personable and knowledgeable guy named Bobby Walsh. The tour was a couple hours and ended up costing 10 GBP. It would have been 30 GBP for just myself, which is how it started, but we ended up picking up 2 more for the trip so the price dropped. I ended up meeting a very cool traveler from the States who totally failed to prevent me from breaking my no beer rule–yes, I had my first Guinness in Ireland and damn it was good. Even better, it was at the oldest tavern in Belfast–Whites Tavern that dates back to 1630.
Anyway, the tour was very informative but what happened here happens everywhere with the same types of people, fighting the same battles, for basically the same reasons, using the same methods and getting the same results. Just more history repeating itself and sure it’s sad that so many innocent people were affected by what happened but that’s just our nature. The Troubles have been technically over for 14 years now and Belfast is actually the 2nd safest city in the world for tourists behind only Tokyo.
The “Political Tour” focused of course on the recent conflict between Catholics (who are mainly nationalists that self-identify as Irish) and Protestants (who are mainly unionists that self-identify as British). We went through the two areas of the city where each group resides and saw the over 3 mile long “Peace Wall” that still separates them. The city center is neutral allowing people to move freely between the two areas and the gates set in the wall are open during the day (and not guarded) so it’s not like Berlin or anything but it’s still a huge freaking wall that should probably just get tore down (which is being discussed).
In addition to the political stuff we popped over to the old Harland and Wolff shipyard to see where they built the RMS Titanic.