From it's roots as a small trading post, the city of Belfast has, partly because of the geography of it's location, grown into the active port it is today.
Location of the biggest dry-dock in the world and home to Harland and Wolff, one of the largest ship-building companies on the planet, Belfast's dock area has long fed the local economy through employment and trade with the rest of the world.
In the years after World War 2, during which Belfast was bombed, the city was comparatively peaceful until an upsurge of sectarian violence in the late 60's brought about a climate of fear and hatred that was to continue up to recent times. From 1969 right up until the Good Friday Agreement of 1999, life was lived against a backdrop of assassinations and bombings carried out by both Protestant and Catholic paramilitary groups struggling for supremecy, and to this day the city still has clearly defined neighbourhoods for each community. 'The Troubles' are probably best symbolised by the murals that adorn the houses of the Falls Road (Catholic) and Shankill Road (Protestant) areas of Belfast - the murals depict revolutionary fighters and religious imagery and clearly reflect local allegiances.
In recent years the conflict has become more of a political than military war between Catholics - represented by Sinn Fein - and Protestants - represented by the SDLP among others - and violence in the province as a whole, but Belfast in particular, has lessened dramatically.
Not to say that the paramilitary groups are not still active, the recent cases of a multi-million pound bank robbery and the murder of Robert McCartney are evidence of this, but bombs no longer endanger visitors and tourism is on the up.