By Study UK

24 February 2020 - 10:57

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Queen's University Belfast

Belfast has long been a popular choice for students from the UK, Ireland and around the world. Queen’s University Belfast, ranked in the world top 200, is part of the elite Russell Group and has a worldwide reputation for excellence. Ulster University’s Belfast campus hosts an exciting range of artistic subjects, with frequent fashion shows and art exhibitions taking place on campus. But aside from the courses on offer, why is the capital of Northern Ireland so popular among students? 

It’s a welcoming city

The people in Northern Ireland are known for being friendly, so whether you’re making friends at university or simply chatting to the locals, you’ll feel at home here. You’ll also meet people from across the world – at Queen’s University alone, there are over 2,900 international students from 85 different countries.

Carmen, a final year Law student from Malaysia, describes why she chose to study at Queen’s University Belfast: 

‘One of the reasons I chose Queen’s University Belfast was the diversity it has to offer. Queen’s is a renowned university and certainly has made its mark globally, where it has many affiliations with different universities from different countries. I knew this would give me an opportunity to be able to broaden my horizons and get to know other international people as well as the locals.’

You’re never short of things to do

Whether you prefer a trip to St George’s Market, one of the city’s oldest attractions, or hunting for bargains in the second-hand shops of Botanic Avenue, you’ll always find something to occupy your spare time in Belfast.

Just a few miles outside the city, explore Cave Hill Country Park, and get incredible panoramic views across Belfast. There are plenty of outdoor activities throughout the region, whether you want to join a society with other students or simply go exploring for yourself. Try out mountain biking at Barnett’s Demesne trail, or hike in the spectacular Mourne Mountains.

Northern Ireland has a fiercely competitive spirit, and there’s so much sport to watch or participate in. The Ulster Senior Club Football Championship is an annual Gaelic football competition, so don’t miss your chance to experience one of the most popular sports in the island of Ireland. Experience a rugby match at Kingspan Stadium, the heart of Ulster Rugby, or catch a football match at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, home of Linfield FC and the Northern Ireland national football team.

Ireland is at your fingertips 

Belfast is located on the north east coast of Northern Ireland. Being a coastal city, it’s easy to access golden beaches, as well as beautiful forests and countryside throughout the island. 

Head north along the Antrim coast and you’ll reach Giant’s Causeway, an area of incredible basalt rock formations that you can explore for free. There’s plenty more to see in the area - surf the famous West Strand in Portrush or cross the infamous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. 

South of Belfast are the stunning Mourne Mountains, where you can scale Northern Ireland’s tallest peak, Slieve Donard, or follow the C.S. Lewis trail. Author of ‘The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe’, C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast, and its surrounding area was the inspiration for the magical world of Narnia. 

Heading slightly further afield, take the train two hours north of Belfast for a day out in Derry/Londonderry. Further west lies Donegal, a weather-beaten stretch of coastline dotted with beaches, pubs and villages. It’s also easy to visit Dublin, the capital of the Ireland, with eight trains a day to the city. Belfast is the perfect base to explore Ireland, the rest of the UK and Europe, as it has excellent plane, train and ferry links.  

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Giant's Causeway ©

Northern Ireland Tourism Board

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge ©

Northern Ireland Tourism Board

It’s an affordable city 

Belfast has won awards for its affordable living. It’s an easy city to get around, and affordable rent in the ‘Queen’s Quarter’ (a popular area for student accommodation) means you’ll have more money to spend on making the most of all that Belfast has to offer.

Having fun in Belfast doesn’t have to cost the earth, there are plenty of free things to do throughout the city. Take a walk or a jog along the Lagan river and look out for The Big Fish sculpture, its scales are made from ceramic tiles that describe different scenes from the city’s history. You can also explore some of the picturesque outdoor spaces around the city – take a stroll through the Botanic Gardens between lectures, play sport in Ormeau Park or explore the Lagan Meadows, a local nature reserve. 

Find out more about the cost of living in Belfast here.

It has a fascinating history

Whether you prefer a walking tour or a museum, there’s plenty of places to learn all about the history of Belfast, Northern Ireland and the ‘troubles’ during your time at university in Belfast.

Learn about Northern Irish history at Ulster Museum, conveniently located near Queen’s University campus. Step back in time at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, where you can explore thatched cottages, farms and schools that show what life was like 100 years ago. Don’t miss discovering the history of the Titanic, the famous ship built in Belfast that sunk in 1912. Visit the Titanic Belfast to learn about this fascinating event, and explore the famous slipway, where the Titanic was first launched into the water. 

You don’t need to enter a museum to explore Belfast’s art and history – the city is full of street art and graffiti. Walk around the Cathedral Quarter and you’ll see curated street art spaces and urban galleries, while a tour around West Belfast offers a look at the city’s troubled history. 

It’s a hub of creativity 

Northern Ireland has produced some iconic musicians and writers, from C.S. Lewis to Van Morrison. 

The music scene is thriving in Belfast, with live music on every night of the week. Explore up-and-coming venues such as Black Box and Voodoo, or see world-class acts at big venues like the SSE Arena, Waterfront and the Ulster Hall

From music festivals to cultural events, there’s always an event to look forward to in Belfast. Culture Night is a unique explosion of energy, arts, creativity and fun. Experience Belfast Mela, Northern Ireland's biggest annual celebration of cultural diversity. Don’t miss Belfast Pride, a colourful, LGBTQ+ festival that’s the biggest of its kind on the island of Ireland, or Belfast’s iconic St Patrick’s Day parade! 

Northern Ireland is also a hub for the film industry. Thanks to its green countryside, beautiful coastline and historic sites, many film and TV shows have been filmed here. ‘Game of Thrones’ fans flock to Belfast to discover some of the set locations – from exploring Winterfell Castle to playing with Direwolf pups, there are plenty of chances to re-enact your favourite scenes. In Belfast, you can also follow the Game of Thrones Trail Map, finding all six stained glass windows that depict iconic scenes from the show.

Whatever your interests, there’s no doubt that Belfast is a fantastic place to be a student.

Discover more about student life in the UK below.