The city of Belfast is located on the east coast of the country, on the floodplain of the River Lagan. As well as being the largest city in Northern Ireland it is also the capital, and is home to the main political and economic drivers of the country.
More than seven million visitors a year arrive in Belfast, drawn by an eclectic mix of high end culture, traditional Irish nights out, stunning architecture and the chance to explore the glorious surrounding countryside. There are hotels and guesthouses of every shape and size in the centre of Belfast, running from simple but comfortable hostels for backpacking students exploring Europe, to top of the range five star luxury establishments. Whether you’re here to simply have a good time, to attend a business conference or to partake in some of the art and entertainment on offer throughout the year, you’ll be able to find a room within easy walking distance of your field of interest.
Belfast and the Waterfront
The sea and water in general have played a huge part in the history of Belfast. Its harbour on the shore of the River Lagan leads out to the Irish Sea. The Harland and Wolff shipyard was the original home of the legendary but tragic ship the Titanic, and its massive cranes, Samson and Goliath, dominate the skyline. Throughout the years hundreds of sailors have frequented Belfast, doubtless helping to create and cement its reputation for being the place to head to for a lively night out.
The Big Fish
The importance of the water to the story of Belfast is underlined by the symbol that appears on much of the tourism literature – the Big Fish. This, also known as the Bigfish, is a 32 feet long printed ceramic sculpture of a salmon that can be found on Donegall Quay, close to two other Belfast landmarks, the Customs House and Lagan Lookout. It is a popular meeting point for people and provides irresistible as a tourist photo opportunities.
The Creation of the Big Fish
The sculptor was commissioned in 1999 as a means of celebrating the regeneration of the River Lagan. It was created by John Kindness and a close look will reveal that the tiles cladding the outside of the Big Fish aren’t merely painted blue. Instead, each of the ceramic scales is covered in text and images telling some of the history of Belfast. The material used ranges from contemporary newspaper headlines to content dating from Tudor times. As well as sourcing images from the Ulster museum, the artist asked local schools to contribute, and the children’s drawings provide a cheery counterpoint to the more serious material.
Art Along the Lagan
The Big Fish isn’t the only work of art along the banks of the Lagan. Stay in a hotel or guesthouse close to the waterfront and you’ll be able to explore an Art Trail that doubles as a pleasing walk along the banks of the river and takes in exhibits such as a giant ceramic map of the UK, a bronze statue of a cooper celebrating the history of brewing in Belfast and a herd of bronze sheep.