6 places to see when you are in Belfast
Once a powerful ship-building center, Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and the birthplace of the famous doomed ocean liner, The Titanic. Mention Belfast, and, to a certain generation, images of conflict may spring to mind. It would be wrong, however, to jump to such conclusions these days. In recent years, the peace process and power-sharing government mean that Belfast, along with the rest of Northern Ireland, has undergone a rebirth and remarkable transformation. Visitor numbers continue to increase year-on-year and with good reason. Belfast has an infectious atmosphere with a fabulous sense of humour, an ever-growing range of places to eat, drink and be entertained, and a small town feel which makes getting around easy. Here are our 6 places to see when you are in Belfast!
Billed as “the world’s largest titanic visitor attraction,” this distinctive landmark building is a tribute to the story of the Titanic and Belfast’s interesting maritime history. Nine interactive exhibitions show how Belfast has developed from a city that once boasted the most powerful ship building industry in the world into a reborn visitor destination. More than a century ago, the infamous and ill-fated ocean liner, Titanic, was built at this precise spot. There are guided tours around the slipway and gigantic dry-dock. The building, which is star-shaped to represent the logo of the White Star Line, houses a number of fascinating artifacts including letters, brochures, and menus. A particular treat is the fully restored tender to the Titanic, the SS Nomadic, which visitors can board and explore for an additional charge.
Belfast City Hall
This is a stunning Edwardian civic building in the centre of the city which was built during the early part of the 20th century. Take a tour around the beautifully decorated interior and learn about its history or walk in the gardens to discover the Titanic memorial and art work and statues linked to everyone from Queen Victoria to President Clinton. If you are ready for a cuppa, there’s even a café, the Bobbin Coffee Shop.
Princess Takabuti Mummy
A five-six-minute drive from the Waterfront Hall will bring you to The Ulster Museum. Having undergone a major refurbishment in recent years, it’s now one of Belfast’s must-sees. This impressive national museum should be high on the list for any visitor for a number of reasons, not least of all that it doesn’t shy away from the city’s recent troubled past. Exhibits include a 2.500-year-old Egyptian Mummy (Princess Takabuti – unwrapped in Belfast in 1835), the Armada Room, modern masterpieces, ancient relics, and a richly diverse collection of art, history, and natural science exhibits spread over several floors.
Crumlin Road Gaol
When it closed in 1996, many believed the infamous prison would never reopen. How wrong they were. The once notorious jail has quickly become one of Belfast’s premier visitor attractions since reopening just a short time ago in 2012. This is a great place to get to grips with Northern Ireland’s history. Fascinating guided tours tell of the women and children who were incarcerated here as well as the segregation of republican and loyalist prisoners. You can wander through the underground tunnel that used to connect the jail to the courthouse, sit in the Governor’s chair and, rather gruesomely, pay a visit to the condemned man’s cell.
Around 7 km from the city center is Belfast Castle. There are plenty of events here year round, and it’s a popular wedding venue due to its picturesque location and beautiful historic building. A castle has existed on this site since the 12th century in many different incarnations. The current structure dates from 1870, although additions and embellishments have taken place since then. There’s a restaurant on site as is Cave Hill Visitor Centre. Cave Hill Country Park and the Adventure Playground are well worth exploring, and the grounds are particularly popular for picnics during summer months.
No visit to Belfast, or indeed Northern Ireland, would be complete without at least seeing this grandiose and often controversial building. This is the home of the “Power Sharing Executive,” or Northern Ireland Assembly, the place where former foes sit down together and carry out the day-to-day business and politics of running the state. Dating from 1921, it was built to house the then newly formed government of the Province. It’s impossible to miss the statue of Unionist Sir Edward Carson on the front lawn. Despite its controversial legacy, the scenic grounds are popular with day-trippers, joggers, and those simply wishing to escape the city for a while.