Belfast, the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, is also a center of Irish culture. It has two excellent universities, Queens University Belfast and the University of Ulster, and is home to the Ulster Symphony Orchestra, the Ulster Museum, the beautifully restored Grand Opera House, the Lyric Theatre and the Victorian Ulster Hall. With peace in Northern Ireland has massively boosted the local tourism industry, and after a decade of unprecedented economic growth, Belfast is now one of Europe's most popular weekend destinations, with record levels of visitor numbers and tourist expenditures. Belfast venues now comprise a range of world-class convention facilities, high-quality conference hotels, stylish bars, restaurants and cultural attractions.
Belfast International Airport is located just 18 miles northwest of the city center, providing Belfast and Northern Ireland with an extensive range of domestic, European, and international services, including all London airports. George Best Belfast City Airport is a smaller, domestic airport, providing mainly domestic flights across Ireland and to the UK (especially Liverpool and London). There is a regular express train service that connects Belfast to Dublin just 90 miles to the south and there are regular ferry services to Liverpool in England and Stranraer in Scotland.
A selection of Belfast venues includes the Belfast Waterfront Conference Centre. Centrally located, this multi-purpose convention center is capable of accommodating a wide variety of business, conference and cultural events. Its auditorium has state-of-the-art seating for over 2,200 delegates and a range of studios and meeting rooms which provide flexible facilities for up to 380 guests, as well as 27,000 square feet of floor space that can accommodate over 130 exhibition stands. Large-capacity venues include the 8,500-seat Odyssey Arena and the 6,000-seat Kings Hall Complex, both excellent facilities for exhibitions, conferences and business events. To these will be added the $158-million "Titanic Belfast" complex, one of the largest waterfront development projects in Europe and due to open in 2012.
This impressive portfolio of convention centers is matched by a range of modern and stylish convention hotels, including three 5 Star properties: the Merchant Hotel, the Belfast Hilton and the Fitzwilliam Belfast. Other quality hotels with meeting facilities include the 270-room Hastings Europa, the 190-room Jury's Inn. Belfast's overall room inventory within the city is currently about 4,000.
Dining venues in Belfast features the Michelin-starred Restaurant Michael Deane, as well as Brownes Bar and Grill, a new venue with private rooms for up to 100 guests provides a great spot for business lunches or evening receptions. Judes Bar and Restaurant is inspired by the lofts and warehouses of New York's SoHo District and is an ideal setting for corporate events for up to 200 guests.