TitanCon extends a warm welcome to Belfast to you. Belfast has come a long way from its troubled past to present a modern, bijou city, full of character, which has been named in Lonely Planet’s Top Cities to visit.
Near the Convention
TitanCon is based at the Hilton Hotel, right across the road from St George’s Market, a traditional market held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s a great place to pick up food and offers a cracking Ulster Fry, the iconic breakfast of the region. Expect bacon, sausages, egg, soda bread, tattie bread (potato farls) and black pudding, and you’ll be set up for the day.
Getting around Belfast is easy. There are a number of taxi firms offering 24 hour service for a very reasonable fare. There are regular buses, and trains that connect Lanyon Place (the convention centre) and Great Victoria Street, which is a little closer to the city centre. But it’s also an easy city to walk around, with the designer shopping centre, Victoria Square, around 5 minutes walk from the convention (be sure to take a lift to the glass dome, with its viewing gallery offering a bird’s-eye view over the city).
Things To Do
For sightseeing, the hop-on/hop-off bus tours are great, and for a more local flavour, the Black Taxi tours take in the iconic murals of the city, originally used to denote the sectarian divide but with many now celebrating the city’s rich history, and the Peace Wall which divides the interface areas of the city (I believe many tourists are now offered the chance to sign the wall, much to the bemusement of the local residents).
The city is also home to a number of eateries and bars, including The Crown Bar opposite Great Victoria Train Station, just a few minutes up the line from Lanyon Place. Get to The Crown early enough and you might be able to secure one of the Victoria ‘snugs’; stay late enough and the gas-lights will be lit, glancing off the ornate tiling of the Italian craftsmen who furnished the building. Next door, at Fibber Magee’s, you’ll regularly pick up some traditional Irish music. Also worth a visit are the ‘entries’, just off High Street, with a number of vibrant bars, and the newly refurbished Cathedral Quarter, with the John Hewitt bar also known for its traditional music. One of the lovely things about Belfast is that walking from one side of the city centre to the other takes only about 20 minutes.
Close to the convention centre, Titanic Belfast is well worth a visit. The locals say, ‘She was all right when she left’, and the centre celebrates Belfast’s ship building tradition but also presents a sensitive, and moving, tribute to the tragedy. Close to the centre, for those bringing families to the convention, W5’s Science Centre is a great day out with a cinema, 10-pin bowling, and numerous eateries also housed in the same building.
About five minutes away by train, the University Quarter is well worth a visit. Botanic Gardens houses both the Ulster Museum and the newly-refurbished Victorian Tropical Ravine. The museum is free to visit (but a donation is always welcome) and houses a thought-provoking exhibition about the Troubles as well as many of the treasures of the Spanish Armada, much of which was wrecked off the County Antrim coast. The University Quarter is also home to a number of bookstores, including No Alibis, a favourite with the locals; Books, Paper, Scissors, just opposite the museum. In the city centre, Waterstones provide ample book browsing, too.
With its proud history of science fiction, from the likes of Bob Shaw and James Whyte, to Ian McDonald, and a number of up and coming writers using Belfast and its surrounds as inspiration, Belfast looks forward to welcoming you to Eurocon.
For those wishing to travel a little further afield, the Giant’s Causeway is a day trip away. Take the train to Coleraine and connect to the Causeway Rambler, which will take you to the Causeway, as well as Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (leading to one of the Game of Thrones locations). Alternatively, hire a car. The drive doesn’t take more than a couple of hours along the famous Antrim Coast Road.
Also worth a visit is Strangford Lough, which hosts two Game of Thrones carved doors, linked by a charming short ferry crossing, often complete with seals, and Castleward, Winterfell in the Game of Thrones series.