There has never been a better time to see Belfast than now. Freed from the spectre of the gun by cease-fires and political agreement, it's buzzing with life and the economy is thriving. Violence and mistrust have moved quietly into the background and a new dawn full of possibility has emerged, allowing the natural warmth and good humour of the people to shine through the once dark clouds.
Today, people from all over the world flock to Belfast and tourism has emerged as a major industry. Still in its infancy, tourism is growing and the city's attractions - previously hidden under a cloud of negative publicity - now retain their rightful status as must-see places in the new Europe. A forward thinking government has recognized its natural resources and has invested heavily, making Belfast a city with much to offer and much more to come.
Today, the culture and uniqueness of Belfast grab the headlines as the city happily leaves its former troubles behind and embraces the future with spirit and enthusiasm. The Belfast Film Festival showcases big and small productions from around the world and an ever-growing number of fascinating city tours are available by bus, taxi, foot and boat.
Times have changed and Belfast has caught up very fast! Now people are learning what the locals have known for decades- that CS Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was born in Belfast or that the Harland & Wolff shipyard (where the Titanic was built) boasts he world's largest dry dock.
The city is packed with atmospheric bars, cutting-edge dance clubs, a burgeoning shopping scene, world-class music and entertainment and fabulous festivals throughout the year. It is therefore, no real surprise to find Belfast hotels busier than most as the city has quickly reached the top of the weekend city break list. All the top attractions are within a comfortable stroll of City Hall which celebrated its 100th birthday in August 2006.
With budget airlines gaining easy access to Belfast airport, tourism in Belfast shows no signs of slowing down and the children of Belfast will grow up in different era than their parents before them did. Now the city asks new questions about its future and seeks fewer answers from the past. It was not so long ago that the Belfast of today seemed a ridiculous concept to many of its residents; their surprise and delight has proven infectious and visitors warm to the people as much as to the attractions.
Most symbolic of the change in fortunes of this proud city is the latest wall mural, which depicts a unifying figure - the legendary footballer George Best - rather than images of difference. Having moved on from turbulent times, the Belfast of today is a city that engages on all levels and feeds off its own exciting potential.
Paul McIndoe writes for a digital marketing agency. This article has been commissioned by a client of said agency. This article is not designed to promote, but should be considered professional content.