10 fascinating facts about Belfast that you probably didn’t know

Here we round up 10 facts about Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital, that you probably didn’t know.

10 fascinating things you probably didn’t know about Belfast

Belfast is the Emerald Isle’s second largest city and is known the world over. It traces its beginnings back to the early 17th century, leaving the city with a long and proud history that has witnessed large-scale industrial growth but also conflict and division.

A lot of what has happened in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, is well-known, but surprisingly, a lot has happened in Belfast city across its history that remains largely unknown.

Here are the top 10 facts about Belfast that you probably didn’t know.

10. The Titanic was built in Belfast.

One of the 10 things you probably didn’t know about Belfast is that the Titanic was built here

The RMS Titanic, then the biggest ship in the world, was built in East Belfast at the Harland and Wolff shipyard, which was also the world’s biggest shipyard and employed 15,000 people.

The ship was completed by May 1911 after two years and two months of construction. It set sail from Southampton in England before infamously sinking on 14 April 1912.

9. Belfast has both town and city status.

One of the 10 things you probably didn’t know about Belfast is that it has both town and city status

Belfast was granted city status in 1888 by Queen Victoria, and the City Hall was built 18 years later to mark Belfast’s prominence.

It was made a town in the 17th century, and its growth from then on led it to become big enough to earn its status as a city.

8. The Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast.

One of the 10 things you probably didn’t know about Belfast is that Good Friday Agreement was signed here

The Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement, was signed in Belfast on Good Friday, 10 April 1998.

It was a peace agreement between the British and Irish Governments and the majority of the North’s political parties with the help of the EU and US Government, which brought to an end three decades of violence and established devolved government.

7. The city was once referred to as “Linenopolis.”

One of the things you probably didn’t know about Belfast is that it was once the largest linen producer in the world
Ewart’s Linen Factory, Crumlin Road, Belfast, circa 1897 (Credit: Flickr / National Library of Ireland on The Commons)

The linen industry in Ireland was centred in Belfast, and during the 19th century, the city was the largest linen producer in the world and played a key role in the Industrial Revolution.

Belfast’s linen industry grew rapidly in the 1860s and coincided with a doubling of Belfast’s size and population, owing to employment opportunities in the city created by the linen industry.

6. The Samson and Goliath cranes hold a world record.

One of the 10 things you probably didn’t know about Belfast is that Samson and Goliath are the largest free-standing cranes in the world
Credit: Tourism NI

The Samson and Goliath cranes, which dominate the city skyline and are emblematic of Belfast city, are the biggest free-standing cranes in the world.

The Goliath crane was completed in 1969 and has a height of 96 metres, while the Samson crane was finished by 1974 and stands at a huge 106 metres tall.

5. The Society of United Irishmen was founded in Belfast.

The Society of United Irishmen

The Society of United Irishmen was founded on 18 October 1791 in Belfast. This group rebelled against the British state in 1798, seeking the establishment of an Irish Republic.

After publishing “An Argument on Behalf of the Catholics of Ireland,” Theobald Wolfe Tone was invited to Belfast where he, Henry Joe McCracken, and Thomas Russell drafted the United Irishmen’s three resolutions.

4. James Connolly lived in Belfast.

James Connolly moved to Belfast in 1911

Irish revolutionary, socialist, and Easter Rising leader James Connolly lived on the Falls Road in the heart of West Belfast.

Having lived previously in Edinburgh, America, and Dublin, Connolly moved to Belfast in May 1911 and lived at 1 Glenalina Terrace, Falls Road.

3. Belfast was once bigger than Dublin.

Belfast used to be bigger than Dublin

One of the most fascinating facts about Belfast that you probably didn’t know was that, by 1891, Belfast was a bigger city than Dublin and was Ireland’s largest city around the beginning of the 20th century.

Belfast was Ireland’s industrial home, famous for tobacco, rope-making, linen, and ship-building, which made it the powerhouse it was.

2. Belfast was bombed by the Nazis in World War II.

The Belfast Blitz occurred in 1941

During what was known as the “Belfast Blitz,” 1,000 people were killed by bombs dropped by the Nazis in 1941 during the Second World War.

200 German bombers from the Luftwaffe shelled the largely unprepared city on 15 April 1941, which left over 100,000 people homeless.

1. “Belfast” is the Irish translation of “Beal Feirste.”

The Irish translation of Belfast is “Beal Feirste”
Credit: Flickr / @WilliamMurphy (cropped from original)

The Irish translation of Belfast is “Beal Feirste.” “Beal” means “mouth,” while “Feirste” means “sand bank ford,” roughly translating to the “mouth of the sea bank ford.”

This is in relation to the creation of Belfast, where the city’s original settlement was founded on the marshy ford where the River Lagan and River Farset cross. Today, this is where Belfast’s high street meets Victoria Street.

While you may know a lot about the history of Northern Ireland’s capital, there are always hidden facts and stored secrets—facts about Belfast that you probably didn’t know. However, it is much of the things you didn’t know that make the city the unique place it is today.