Belfast (from Irish: Béal Feirste, meaning “mouth of the sand-bank ford”) is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast. It is the 12th-largest city in the United Kingdom and the second-largest on the island of Ireland. It had a population of 333,871 as of 2015. Belfast suffered greatly in the Troubles: in the 1970s and 1980s it was one of the world’s most dangerous cities, with a homicide rate around 31 per 100,000.
By the early 19th century, Belfast became a major port. It played an important role in the Industrial Revolution in Ireland, becoming briefly the biggest linen-producer in the world, earning it the nickname “Linenopolis”. By the time it was granted city status in 1888, it was a major centre of Irish linen production, tobacco-processing and rope-making. Shipbuilding was also a key industry; the Harland and Wolff shipyard, which built the RMS Titanic, was the world’s largest shipyard. Belfast as of 2019 has a major aerospace and missiles industry. Industrialisation, and the inward migration it brought, made Belfast Northern Ireland’s biggest city and it became the de facto capital of Northern Ireland following the partition of Ireland in 1922.
Belfast is still a port with commercial and industrial docks, including the Harland and Wolff shipyard, dominating the Belfast Lough shoreline. It is served by two airports: George Best Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport 15 miles west of the city.