What does Belfast have in common with Kiev, Naples, Moscow and Valencia? They’re among Europe’s top destination spots — and that’s official.
The city received another welcome boost to its tourism industry after it was named by an influential travel website as a destination garnering rapidly growing admiration.
TripAdvisor ranked Belfast eighth in its Top 10 2012 Travellers' Choice Destinations on the Rise awards for Europe.
These awards honour locations that have seen the greatest increase in positive feedback and interest from travellers.
The winners are based on reviews, opinion and interest from millions of travellers across the world who use TripAdvisor.
Belfast is eighth place in the list, joining other UK cities such as Manchester (7), Liverpool (10) and Glasgow (6).
Kiev in Ukraine nabbed the top European spot, ahead of Moscow (2), Turin (3), St Petersberg (4) and Naples (5) and Valencia (9).
The recognition comes during an exciting year for Belfast which has seen the Our Time, Our Place Tourist Board campaign.
Gerry Lennon, chief executive of Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau, said the list demonstrated the city’s reputation as a “destination of distinction”.
He added: “Through significant investment and the development of existing and new tourist attractions such as Titanic Belfast, the MAC, the Lyric Theatre, and the Ulster Museum, and hosting of global events such as the MTV European Music Awards, the city is attracting increasing numbers of visitors.”
The Belfast Telegraph took to the streets on Monday to hear if tourists agreed with the list.
Bob Gladue, from New Jersey, US, has been to Ireland several times, but Monday marked his first trip to Belfast. We're staying in Dublin, but we travelled up for the day to see Belfast. We've never been before and wanted to experience it. It's beautiful here. I'd highly recommend the Ulster Museum, one of the best I've been in.”
Sara Dayton from Buffalo, New York, said she was struck by the friendliness. “I went to St George's Market at the weekend, which was great. The food here is amazing, I love the soda farls. I really liked the Titanic Belfast experience, the technology was impressive. I'd definitely recommend it to a friend.”
Perth native Kate Ternahan said: “Belfast is a fabulous city, it's very friendly, there's a great atmosphere. We haven't seen that much of it yet but Titanic Belfast was much better than I expected, it was really good. I'd definitely come here again.
“We came over for my nana's 100th birthday, Mrs Winnifred Ternahan, so it's a very special trip for us.”
Darren Hegarty (17) and Halah al Tuaihi (21) arrived in Belfast from Dublin on Monday on a college trip.
“The whole class picked Belfast because nobody had been before and we'd all heard about the Titanic. From what I've seen I'd definitely come back again,” said Darren. Halah added: “I'll come back again with my family.”
Yorkshire couple Simon and Julie Wright came over for the British and Irish Masters Cross Country International 2012 at Queen’s University over the weekend.
“We decided to stay on after the race to see the city. It's very impressive,” said Simon.
“You get a sense that a lot of the historic buildings in the city centre itself have been left untouched.”
Some visitors were returning. Mags Fitzgerald from Limerick was on her fourth or fifth visit. She said: “I love it here. I'm a big rugby fan.
“My last two trips up were for matches. There's loads of coffee shops and I have a favourite restaurant that I keep going back to. The shopping is excellent. I want to explore the Antrim coast.”