Latest destination to be awarded UNESCO City of Music status

Everyone knows Belfast rocks, but now the city has hit yet another high note by being awarded the coveted City of Music status by UNESCO.

After Liverpool and Glasgow, Belfast is only the third city in the UK to be given the honour and there are just 59 Cities of Music worldwide forming part of the prestigious UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Belfast is also the first city in Ireland to receive City of Music status, which celebrates the city’s rich musical heritage and recognises its outstanding contribution to music.

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Various home-grown musicians were involved in making the successful bid to UNESCO, including Gary Lightbody, best known as a vocalist and guitarist in the band Snow Patrol, as well as Emmy-nominated composer Hannah Peel. Having supported and committed to the delivery of the Belfast City Council bid, the pair have now been appointed official Belfast Music patrons.

As a holder of the title, and as part of UNESCO’s City of Music program and the wider Creative Cities Network, Belfast will deliver a series of major music events over the next few years.

The events will aim to build an infrastructure to further support music creators, and will also see music woven into public spaces to ensure the power and benefits of music can be felt by all who live, work in or visit Belfast.

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Music has long been recognised as a distinctive aspect of Belfast’s cultural profile. A sister city of Nashville, the world’s country music capital, Belfast has nurtured diverse music scenes and artists ranging from harpists and counter-culture punks, to rock legends, ravers and outstanding trad musicians.

The city’s musical roots run deep and more and more talent continues to emerge.

The capital of Northern Ireland is dotted with live music venues suitable for small and intimate gigs as well as the big sets of international superstars. The city regularly hosts top-notch music festivals, and it even hosted the MTV European Music Awards back in 2011.

Among the musical highlights on a trip to Belfast is the Oh Yeah Music Centre, a three-storeyed creative hub for musicians housed in what used to be a bonded whiskey warehouse.

Here, visitors can enjoy an exhibition and learn about the depth and breadth of creative talent that has originated from Belfast and Northern Ireland, including top DJs, world-famous bands such Snow Patrol, Thin Lizzy and The Undertones, the legendary Sir Van Morrison, plus a modern scene that includes the likes of Foy Vance, Ryan McMullan and Two Door Cinema Club.

Read: Ultimate Ireland must-dos

A great way to experience Belfast as a music city is to take the Belfast Traditional Music Trail, which starts in The Dirty Onion bar in the buzzing Cathedral Quarter.

Visitors can also delve into Belfast’s musical heritage with a trip to EastSide Visitor Centre, just a short distance from the childhood home of Van Morrison, or take the self-guided Van Morrison Trail, which reveals a wealth of information about his life and links to the city.

For more information, visit

Have you visited Belfast? Which music tour around the world would you most like to take? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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