At the end of the 18th century, Belfast citizens saw their home as "a modern Athens". Now, renewed confidence means that the city and the region are welcoming visitors as never before.
Why go now?
The Belfast Food and Drink Festival kicks off tomorrow in St George's Market (September 1 to October 1, 028 9024 6609, www.gotobelfast.com) and the city's chefs will be vying to outdo each other with innovative dishes based on the excellent local ingredients. Everyone knows Irish stew, coffee and whiskey, but have you tried a soda farl (a soft bread made with buttermilk) or potato bread? They are essential to an Ulster Fry breakfast.
Where do I start?
The Hillsborough Oyster Festival continues until Sunday (www.hillsboroughoysterfestival.com), with thousands of the slippery molluscs shucked and ready to be slurped. Tomorrow (Saturday) is Family Fun Day with an evening barbecue at the Festival Marquee and a live concert.
I've just gone on a diet
Next weekend (September 8 and 9) the European Heritage Days event (www.ehsni.gov.uk) will see a variety of public and private buildings, gardens and monuments open to the public free of charge, or salute one of Northern Ireland's favourite sons by going on a George Best safari (028 9022 2925, www.belfastsafaris.com) or focus on music, literature or politics on one of the other themed walks with Belfast Safaris.
Doesn't it rain a lot?
Take the family to W5 (028 9046 7700, www.w5online.co.uk), at Odyssey in Belfast, where they'll be too busy pulling, pushing and generally discovering all the 160 interactive exhibits to notice a bit of soft weather outside. Its Eye for Colour special exhibition with an art focus continues until September 2. Or embrace the wet at the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry (028 4272 8062) and see divers feed sharks and conger eels in the open sea tank every Sunday.
But you can't ignore the history
Out of the Darkness, an exhibition of 40 years of Northern Irish press photography, continues at the Golden Thread gallery (028 9074 5241, www.gtgallery.fsnet.co.uk) until September 19, with images of Derry and Belfast in the 1970s and 1980s. Or, to get an angle on Belfast's shipbuilding heritage, take the new Thompson Titantic Trail, and see the dock where the Titanic was completed (028 9073 7813, www.nisp.co.uk).
Find out more?
Contact Belfast Welcome Centre (028 9024 6609, www.gotobelfast.com)