Belfast is the proud capital of Northern Ireland, its name translating roughly from Irish to ‘mouth of the sandbanks'. Rich in history, art and industry, Belfast is, by population, the 17th largest city in the UK, and has been the site of a major settlement for upwards of 5,000 years. Belfast actually straddles two counties, Antrim and Down, and sits at the head of the Belfast Lough, making it perfect for shipping access and industry.
Driving is on the left hand side of the road in Belfast, and although it has with 0.7 a relatively low number of cars per household, surveys have shown that 77% of all journeys within the city are made by car, with a further 11% utilizing public transport, and 6% on foot. This statistic is reflected in the city's vast and ever improving road network, which provides excellent access to all areas of Belfast, but can be heavily congested at times.
This said, there are also good rail links, multiple taxi services, and a regular, extensive bus service, as you would expect from a capital city. The prospect of a tunnel to mainland Britain is regularly touted, but for now, access to Scotland, England and beyond is provided by the city’s excellent ferry links via the expansive docks, and through its two international airports.
There are 184 schools in Belfast from primary to grammar school level, all of which have been under the control of the Belfast Education and Library Board since 1973. The education system at this level is structured and runs slightly differently to that of the rest of Britain, but the general consensus is that the system is a success, with generally good results across the board.
Moving on from standard education, Belfast metropolitan College is the largest further education institute on the island of Ireland, and mainly specializes in vocational education. The college has many opportunities for international students, with a large team dedicated to their success.
Belfast is also home to two large universities. Queen’s University is one of the most historically successful and respected higher education institutes in the UK, and has a student population of over 25,000. Known for its studies in medicine and sciences, as well as electronics and many other areas, Queen’s has many opportunities for international students. Ulster University is the other higher education institute in Belfast. Again offering a multitude of opportunities for international students, Ulster University predominantly specializes in health care and the sciences.
Expatriates planning their life in Belfast can look forward to a rich music and nightlife scene, with a wide range of choices of days or nights out, from sports bars to lavish restaurants and night clubs. Internationally renowned bands and musicians such as The Undertones and Van Morrison have emerged from the streets of Belfast, giving rise to a hip music scene, where covers of famous local songs are heard amid pictures of their heroes.
The most popular sports in Belfast are football, rugby, Gaelic games, and, rather surprisingly, ice hockey. Belfast is home to one of the most successful ice hockey teams in the UK, the Belfast Giants. The most successful sport in the city is rugby, with the local team Ulster being continuously high performers in Northern hemisphere rugby.
There are a number of museums expats living in Belfast can visit, with subject matter ranging from the history of the area, to the building of the Titanic, as well as dinosaurs. There are also a number of music and cultural festivals in the city, and the Grand Opera House attracts some top performances.