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Belfast is the official capital of Northern Ireland, the seat of government and home to most of the country’s leading commercial and retail institutions. It is also the cultural and tourist capital of the country, offering a blend of hospitality, art, architectural splendour and accommodation that no other part of the country can match.
There are hotels of every shape and kind in Belfast, from luxury five star accommodation to cosy, family-run bed and breakfasts. No matter what kind of a visit you have in mind, you’ll be able to find the room that perfectly meets your needs, whether you’re looking for a base while you explore the wider city or a room in a boutique hotel that is an experience in its own right.
Many of the seven million people who visit Belfast every year come as a family group looking for child-friendly fun in a city that offers more than most. Belfast is packed with wide open green spaces, museums, galleries and shops, and a hotel close to the centre, on the waterfront or near to the Cathedral Quarter will be within easy walking distance of a huge number of these attractions.
Travel a little further afield, six miles outside the city centre itself, and you’ll find Belfast Zoo. It is located in Belfast Zoological Gardens on Antrim Road, and can easily be reached by car along the M2 north of the city. If you don’t have access to a car then don’t worry – as many as eight buses run direct from Upper Queens Street in Belfast city centre to the zoo, dropping off just 500 metres from the main entrance.
More than 300,000 people per year visit Belfast Zoo, making it the most popular fee-paying attraction in the whole of Northern Ireland. It covers 55 acres and is home to more than 1,000 animals. Most of the 150 species that call the zoo their home are actually endangered species, underlining the fact that it combines entertainment and education with a commitment to conservation.
Belfast Zoo originally opened in 1934, having cost a grand total of £10,000 to build. At that stage it only covered 12 acres. After a period of decline during the 50s and 60s, the zoo was rebuilt in 1974, and went on to become the leading attraction it is today.
With so many animals to choose from it’s pretty difficult to single out specific highlights of Belfast Zoo. Stay in a nearby Belfast hotel and the chances are that your kids (and you) will want to come back more than once, to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Some of the most popular animals in the zoo include the Barbary lions, which are the species once used by the Romans for gladiatorial combat, the spider monkeys, a herd of giraffes, 33 of which have been born at the zoo since 1996 and the stunning indoor Rainforest House.