I can't believe I am saying this, but Belfast is the best city in the world. I've been all over the world -- Europe, Asia, North and South America, even Australia -- and no one has been so well mannered (even when drunk), welcoming, and friendly than Belfast people.
It's not the nicest place I've visited. It has few nice things to see, but I didn't especially like the city. The only thing I found that was awesome was Belfast Castle in Cave Hill -- that place was charming!
I'm English and my girlfriend lives in a Catholic area of North Belfast. I've never felt unsafe there once. It has its problems like any other city but as long as you're not brash and loud about religion and politics, it's fine. I like it that much, I'm moving there.
I found Belfast to be an awesome city. It is completely safe to walk around alone at 3 in the morning. There are great indie rock bars to go to and the people are extremely friendly. I cannot wait to go back.
Belfast is probably the most interesting place to visit on the Island of Ireland. It's emerging from conflict, and the people are very open and friendly. While it is true that there are drunks who may seem intimidating, as long as you leave them alone they shouldn't bother you. Belfast is very affordable and offers a lot of history. I would much prefer to have stayed here longer than in Dublin!
Belfast is a lovely place with lovely, friendly people and very helpful. They have a great sense of humor -- great craic.
Belfast is a really interesting place to visit. As a visitor from outside, I would say you are generally safe. For example everyone seems to feel the need to view the murals via a black cab tour, but walking around in the sectarian areas really isn't dangerous, as long as you have somewhat of a clue about what it's all about and don't put your foot in it (don't wear a Celtic top or a Union Jack)! The next generation seems to be making an effort to move on from the conflict, but a lot of the pubs we went into still seemed quite rough, macho, and a bit intimidating. There's probably somewhere in town with nice, funky bars that we just didn't find.
Not safe? Belfast's far friendlier than Dublin! In Belfast people actually smile at you. I've been all over the world and Belfast was one of the most welcoming cities I've ever been to.
We found Belfast disarming and charming, and I look forward to returning sometime. My experience has been that the media can give visitors a very distorted impression of any area that is only curable by an onsite visit so that we may form our own opinion. And our opinion of Belfast/Ireland is very, very favorable.
Belfast is an amazing city. I found it quite safe (same rules apply here as they do anywhere else in the world: don't walk around at 3am by yourself, etc etc) and the people of Belfast are among the friendliest I've ever met.
Belfast has more trouble than any other place. You can't even say you're from Northern Ireland because people feel sorry for you. It's a lovely place but why can't people get along?
I would say that no area east, west, or north is safe for anyone, locals or visitors-- they are all extremly dangarous after dark. Best for anyone coming to stick to the Queens area of the city: it is about the safest.
The city centre- royal avenue etc where the main shopping area is - is deserted after the shops close at 5pm, except for gangs of hoods who roam the streets. It is very dangarous to wander around that area after this time. I have been attacked and several of my friends have as well- police presence is zero. It is better to stay around the university area of the city after dark; it is very lively with lots to do.
A good tip is to check out the triangle bounded by Newtownards, Bangor, and Belfast. While driving is somwhat perilous on the narrow roads, if you hire a car and take the A2/A20/A21 and the roads via Craigantlet you get two different experiences of Northern Ireland - the urban metropolis and the country lanes where the only living being you're sharing the view with is a cow or two. People are very friendly and 75% of the city (basically anything that isn't west!) is unaffected by the troubles.
It's rubbish to say that Belfast is unsafe for women - it is no more unsafe than the rest of the UK and as a student from Belfast living in London and Manchester I would say it is a lot safer. If you stick to the city centre, university area, Lisburn Road, and the Oddysey complex to go out in, it's fine. There are some great bars and clubs about and the people are friendly - it's not a huge city but you'll have a great time - especially if you travel out to the coast or into the country! As for the troubles, it is a small minority of people that have anything to do with the unrest and only certain areas of the city. Do not be put off by the emphasis and exaggerations of the media!
If you are looking for some insight to the troubles surrounding Northern Ireland the Black Cab tour is highly recommended.
Belfast is a city with a lot of unrest and it is recommended that single women should not walk on the streets alone at night.