Belfast city hall and Big Wheel.
With years of political strife and civil unrest behind it and billions of dollars of investment, Northern Ireland’s capital exudes vitality and boasts award-winning hotels, unique historical venues and contemporary attractions. written by Donna Carter
Recommended Websites: belfastconventionbureau.com; gotobelfast.com
Average Hotel Room Rates: $64-$146 (three-star hotels); $81-$398 (four-star hotels); $145-$975 (five-star hotels).
Getting there: There are no direct flights from Canada to Belfast. Air Canada offers daily service to Dublin, July 1 to Sept. 15, and Air Transat flies weekly, April through October (dublinairport.com). Belfast’s two airports are within one hour of London and U.K. regional airports (belfastairport.com; belfastcityairport.com).
Convention Facilities: Belfast Waterfront offers more than 11,000 sq. ft. of function space, 14 meeting rooms and 27,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space.
The 272-room Europa Hotel is one of the largest in the city. Located in the heart of downtown, it has 16 meeting rooms and a ballroom accommodating 750. Renovations in 2008 added 5,543 sq. ft. of conference and exhibition space.
The elegant Merchant Hotel is a 632-room luxury property ideal for high-end groups and executives. Major renovations were completed in 2010 and the property features 3,724 sq. ft. of meeting and event space.
Located near the city centre, the 198-room Hilton Belfast recently underwent renovations to its more than 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space.
attractions + distractions
Slated for completion in April, 2012, the $153-million Titanic Belfast building will profile the ill-fated vessel through interactive displays and exhibits. The facility will feature 18,890 sq. ft. of meeting and event space, including a 750-seat banquet suite.
After a $15-million expansion, completed in 2007, the city’s Grand Opera House hosts small to mid-size groups, plus special events for up to 1,000 in its main auditorium.
In May, 2011, the Lyric Theatre raised its curtain following a $27-million rebuild, hosting meetings/events (main theatre seats 389).
a la carte
Following major renovations in 2010, Deanes Restaurant has reopened, to reclaim its reputation as one of Northern Ireland’s premier dining spots.
Amidst the Victorian grandeur of the five-star Merchant Hotel, The Great Room Restaurant offers a seven-course tasting menu.
Attracting a discerning clientele, Shu is one of the city’s most upmarket restaurants, featuring impeccably attired wait staff and exquisitely prepared fusion food.
Itinerary for a FAM hosted by Tourism Ireland, Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Failte Ireland, and planned by Pat Crowley, CEO, Odyssey International, based in Ballycasey House, Shannon, County Clare.
7:50 a.m. Arrivals at Belfast International Airport.
8:30 a.m. Departure by luxury mini-coach to Belfast City Centre.
Tour of Hastings Europa Hotel, followed by light breakfast.
11:00 a.m. Tour of Belfast City Hall.
11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. A brief orientation tour of the city.
12:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Tour of Hastings Culloden Estate and Spa. Lunch at Cultra Inn, an Irish pub on the grounds of the Culloden.
2:30 p.m. Check-in, Merchant Hotel.
2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Time at leisure.
6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Depart for Montalto House, for dinner.
10:00 p.m. Return to hotel, for live music and a drink.
7:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Breakfast at leisure, at hotel.
9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Tour Stormont Parliament Buildings.
10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tour Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.
1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Lunch, Ballywalter Park.
2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Return to Belfast by an alternative route, in time to visit Queen’s University, home to conference and banquet space.
4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Return to hotel. Time at leisure.
5:30 p.m. Pre-dinner cocktail at hotel.
6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Walk to Tedfords restaurant, for dinner.
9:30 p.m. Return to hotel.
7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Breakfast at leisure.
9:00 a.m. Check-out of hotel.
9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Tour counties Down, Armagh and Fermanagh, in surrounding countryside. En route, tour visits Grange Lodge Country House, where group joins Norah Browne, MBE, for coffee and scones. Primary visit will be to Colebrooke Park, the stately home of Viscount Brookeborough and his wife. Lunch will be family style.
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Visit historic town of Enniskillen. Tour includes a private cruise aboard the Lady of the Lakes. A local guide will share tales from the region.
4:30 p.m. Check-in, Lough Erne Resort, on the shores of Lough Erne.
6:00 p.m. Dinner, Cafe Merlot, in Enniskillen.
6:00 a.m. Check-out of hotel (with breakfast-to-go) and transfer to Belfast Airport in time for check-in, duty-free shopping, VAT/cash-back and flights home.