Belfast is the second largest city on the island of Ireland and the largest and capital city of Northern Ireland. The fact that the ill-fated ocean liner, The RMS Titanic, was built in Belfast bears testimony to the fact that it was once a powerful shipbuilding hub.
To a lot of people the mere mention of Belfast may conjure up images of conflict and violence but all that was in the past. For some years, now, sustained calm has prevailed not only in Belfast but the whole of Northern Ireland resulting in considerable growth in commerce and the economy.
Since the cessation of hostilities visitor numbers has been on the rise every year adding to the economy and growth.
It is an excellent travel destination with warm and friendly people, an absorbing history, great landmarks and tourist attractions, awesome cuisine, and fantastic shopping outlets, especially at Victoria Square which has undergone massive expansion and development in recent years.
The city is served by two airports, the George Best Belfast City Airport which is located within the city limits and the Belfast International Airport, 24 kilometers west of the city.
Here are some great places that should be a must-see on any tourist itinerary.
This symbolic structure is standing proof of Belfast’s illustrious maritime history and a tribute to the doomed Titanic which was built at this very same location more than a century ago.
The star shape of the structure represents the logo of the White Star Line, the owners of the Titanic. It is home to some captivating artifacts including letters, brochures, and menus.
For an additional charge, visitors can board and explore the fully restored SS Nomadic
April, and June- August – Open daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
May and September – Open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
October-March – Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Adults – £15.50
Children (age 5-16) – £7.25
Children (under 5) – Free
Family (2 adults, 2 children) – £39.00,
Senior Citizens (over 60) – Monday-Friday – £11.00
Senior Citizens (over 60) Saturday & Sunday – £13.00,
Students – £10.00
Address – 1 Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast
Official site – http://titanicbelfast.com/
The Botanic Gardens
Established in 1828 the Belfast Botanic Gardens is set on 28 acres of land and is under the ownership of the Belfast City Council since 1895 when it was declared a public park.
Designed by Sir Charles Lanyon in 1839, the Palm House, within the gardens, is a glasshouse made from curved iron and glass and is home to a vast range of tropical plants, hanging baskets, exotic birds, and seasonal displays.
The Tropical Ravine was built half a century later in 1889 by the park’s head gardener, Charles McKimm, and his staff. The Ravine boasts of some of the oldest seed plants including banana, cinnamon, bromeliad, orchids and other exotic flora.
Hours: Open 7.30am (seasonal closings)
Address: College Park, Botanic Avenue, Belfast
At a distance of 4 kilometers from the city center, the Belfast Castle is located on Antrim Road. Although some castle or the other has stood on this site since the 12th century, the current edifice has been in existence since 1870 undergoing numerous additions and changes ever since.
The castle is the venue for many an event all through the year, including weddings because of its pictorial setting and the historic significance of the building. It is a very popular summer picnic spot as well.
The castle houses a fine restaurant, the Cellar Restaurant. “There’s something to suit all tastes at the Cellar Restaurant, whether you’re looking for morning coffee, a quick snack or a full evening meal. All our menus use fresh, local produce to create innovative and modern dishes,’ says the Belfast City Council website http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk
The place also boasts some great attractions like Cave Hill Country Park, Cave Hill Adventurous Playground, and Cave Hill Visitor Centre.
Check out the pictures of the facilities and attractions of Belfast Castle here:
Address: Antrim Rd, Belfast
Crumlin Road Gaol
This infamous jail was never expected to reopen after having closed down in 1996 but it did, as recently as 2012. It has since become one of the top tourist attractions in Belfast.
There is a lot of history attached to this imposing and ominous looking structure. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a guided tour to know about the dark past of the place and its long gone inmates.
Hours: Open daily 10.00am-4.30pm
Admission: Adults £8.50, children £6.50, family £25.00 (2 adults & 2 children)
Address: Crumlin Road, Belfast|
Official site: www.crumlinroadgaol.com
St. Anne’s Cathedral
A great and a not-to-miss Belfast landmark is the St. Anne’s Cathedral built in the neo-Romanesque style of the basilican type. Its main features are the magnificent mosaic ceiling, beautiful stained glass windows, carved stonework, intricate woodwork, marble tiles on the floors and walls.
The Cathedral is the final resting place of the leader of the Ulster Unionists, Sir Edward Carson who dies in 1935.
Hours: Open 8:00 am – 6:00 pm (Monday-Saturday), and 8:00 am – 4:00 pm (Sunday)
Admission: Suggested donation £2-3 per adult
Address: Donegall Street, Belfast
Official site: www.belfastcathedral.org
Grand Opera House
Dating back to 1895, the Grand Opera House is located in the vibrant and bustling city center area of Belfast. It is Northern Ireland’s most famous theater and the venue for a host of programs and events like musicals, comedy, drama, dance, pantomime, family and West End shows etc. all through the year.
The theater houses the imposing and stately main auditorium designed by the eminent architect Frank Matcham, a theater with a 100-seat capacity, the cozy and intimate Baby Grand Studio, and most importantly, for many, it has three bars boasting great ambiance.
Address: Great Victoria Street, Belfast
Official site: www.goh.co.uk
Stormont Parliament Buildings
Designed by the celebrated architect Sir Arnold Thornely, this symbolic house of power is a perfect specimen of symmetry and grandiose in the center of the picturesque Stormont Estate.
The building is 365 feet wide, each foot representing a day of the year. The symbolism doesn’t end here; the six pillars at the entrance and the six floors of the building are dedicated to the six countries of Northern Ireland – Londonderry, Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone, and Fermanagh.
Hours: Open Monday-Friday 9am-4pm
Address: 587 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast
Free guided tours available.
Having opened in 1997 the Waterfront Hall has, since, seen over 5 million visitors. It is the venue for many an exhibition and attracts top Musicians and performers from around the world.
Located about a mile from the Titanic Quarter, this state-of-the-art entertainment and conference center overlooks the Lagan River and is a sight to behold when lit up at night. The Arc Brasserie is the on-site restaurant offering a great view of the riverfront and beyond.
Address: 2 Lanyon Place, Belfast
Official site: www.waterfront.co.uk
Originally known as the Belfast Municipal Museum and Art Gallery, it was renamed Ulster Museum in 1962 and officially given the status of National Museum in accordance with the Museum Act (Northern Ireland) 1961.
This museum, located in the lush Botanic Gardens, boasts 8000 square meters of display space housing some of the most exquisite works of art and historical artifacts one can ever hope to see. And, what’s more – it is free for all to behold.
Located not too far from Belfast Castle, overlooking Antrim Road is one of Belfast’s premier paid-attractions drawing over 300,000 visitors every year – the Belfast Zoo. Set over 55 acres of prime property it is home to more than 1200 exotic animals of 140 different species.
It is like a dream come true for wildlife lovers with