What is the Capital of Northern Ireland?

The capital of Northern Ireland might be smaller than its nearby equivalent in the south but despite its modest size, it still packs a punch and has gained worldwide fame for reasons both good and bad. 

For various reasons, the capital of Northern Ireland might be considered the smaller relative (in some eyes) to the big smoke of Dublin in the south, even though the northern capital was once legitimately a bigger financial powerhouse and performer…

So, what is this famous city called?

What is the Capital of Northern Ireland? 

The capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast. 

Belfast sits approximately 2 hours (by car or train) north of Dublin and is currently the second largest city on the island of Ireland. It has an approximate population in the greater city area of 350,000 and has a rich, complex history. 

The city sits around the River Lagan, opening into the Irish Sea, with the Divis Mountains and Cavehill rising above. 

Belfast has been occupied for thousands of years and the signs and scars of early occupation, English, Irish and Scottish influence, industrial changes and more, are everywhere. The landscape of Belfast has been changed and dominated by its inhabitants and continues to be today. 

What is Belfast Known For? 

Despite its relatively small size, both as a city and as a population, Belfast is famous worldwide for a number of things. Some better than others. 

Belfast is probably most famous as the home of the Titanic, the infamous luxury ocean liner that collided with an iceberg and sank in 1912 after its creators declared it “unsinkable”!

Unfortunately the city is also known as the home of The Troubles, a civil war which raged across Northern Ireland, Ireland and the UK between the late-1960s to the 1990s. 

Thankfully the city also has numerous more fun and lighthearted exports including Manchester United legend George Best, considered one of the greatest ever football players by none other than Pele, blues icon Van Morrison, novelist C. S. Lewis, Olympian Mary Peters and more. 

The city is also home to Rugby Union side Ulster, bands such as Stiff Little Fingers and Snow Patrol (although they’re technically from nearby Bangor), actors including Jamie Dornan and Kenneth Branagh, and former Irish President Mary McAleese!

Why does Northern Ireland have a Capital?

It might seem strange to some guests and visitors that the island of Ireland has two capital cities, considering the islands relatively small size, but the history of Ireland north and south is deep and complex, if you hadn’t already guessed…

The key reason why a capital exists in Northern Ireland is that English occupation in Ireland eventually lead to the partition of Ireland in 1920-21. 

This act of partition split the island and give 6 northern counties of Ireland to what eventually became known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

During this time of political upheaval, Belfast was an industrial powerhouse (more so than Dublin, and many larger cities in Great Britain) known for building ocean liners, producing linen, rope, tobacco and more. 

This economic powerhouse was incredibly valuable to the UK post World War One, and the city also represented the largest urban area within the newly separated northern 6 counties. 

All of this, alongside Unionist concerns for a political vehicle within their island, lead to the creation of Belfast as the capital of Northern Ireland. 

How Far is Belfast from Dublin?

Belfast is remarkably close to Dublin, despite the two separate jurisdictions, and many tourists and visitors are pleasantly surprised that they can see and experience two famous cities in a relatively short period of time. 

Belfast is approximately 105 miles from Dublin if you’re driving by car. 

This distance may be slightly less if you grow some wings and fly, but as that’s unlikely you will probably make the journey by car, train or bus. In that case you’ll find that the journey can take just under or over 2 hours depending on traffic, pitstops etc.  

Make sure you visit both if and when you visit the Emerald Isle!