Belfast city centre has undergone expansion and regeneration since the late 1990s, notably around Victoria Square.In late 2018, it was announced that Belfast would undergo a £500 million urban regeneration project known as Tribeca on a large city centre site. However, tensions and civil disturbances still occur despite the 1998 peace agreement, including sectarian riots and paramilitary attacks.
Belfast and the Causeway Coast were together named the best place to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet. Tourist numbers have increased since the end of The Troubles, boosted in part by newer attractions such as Titanic Belfast and tours of locations used in the HBO television series Game of Thrones.
Belfast has been the capital of Northern Ireland since its establishment in 1921 following the Government of Ireland Act 1920. It had been the scene of various episodes of sectarian conflict between its Catholic and Protestant populations. These opposing groups in this conflict are now often termed republican and loyalist respectively, although they are also loosely referred to as 'nationalist' and 'unionist'. The most recent example of this conflict was known as the Troubles – a civil conflict that raged from around 1969 to 1998.
Belfast saw some of the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, particularly in the 1970s, with rival paramilitary groups formed on both sides. Bombing, assassination and street violence formed a backdrop to life throughout the Troubles. In December 1971 15 people, including two children, were killed when the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) bombed McGurk's Bar, the greatest loss of life in a single incident in Belfast. The Provisional IRA detonated 22 bombs within the confines of Belfast city centre on 21 July 1972, on what is known as Bloody Friday, killing nine people. Loyalist paramilitaries including the UVF and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) claimed that the killings they carried out were in retaliation for the IRA campaign. Most of their victims were Catholics with no links to the Provisional IRA. A particularly notorious group, based on the Shankill Road in the mid-1970s, became known as the Shankill Butchers.
During the Troubles the Europa Hotel suffered 36 bomb attacks becoming known as the most bombed hotel in the world
In all, over 1,600 people were killed in political violence in the city between 1969 and 2001.