Tourist Places To Visit In Belfast
Situated along the eastern coast of Northern Ireland, Belfast is the country’s largest city and also its capital. Belfast’s identity is most closely connected to the widely popular ship, Titanic, with an entire neighbourhood in the city named after the ocean liner. Apart from that, Belfast also played a key role in the Industrial Revolution and became the biggest producer of linen in the world at the time, along with a major centre for rope-making and tobacco-processing. Belfast’s nightlife and food scene are just as enticing as its colourful history, with plenty of museums and gardens in the city offering everyone the chance to catch a glimpse of the city’s beauty. Visit Belfast to explore its secrets for yourself, but don’t forget to check out our recommendations on the top places to visit here before you plan your trip.
The Ulster Museum contains a wide range of exhibits, which doesn’t follow any particular theme. From skeletons of dinosaurs to Egyptian mummies, and decorative items that include ceramics, glassware, textiles and metalwork; there is a little piece of various eras of history in this state-of-the-art museum. Among its notable displays are the Egyptian Room with the 2500-year-old Egyptian mummy Takabuti and the pieces of jewellery recovered from it, Armada Room with artefacts from the 1588 wreck of the Spanish ship Girona, and the Early People’s Gallery that contains the Bann Disc – a brilliant example of Celtic design dating back to the Iron Age. Other interesting exhibits here are the axes from the Neolithic period, the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to Mairead Corrigan, and a cool slice from a meteorite.
The world’s most famous ocean liner, the Titanic, was assembled here in Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard. While it remained in a derelict state for decades, the area was brought back to life after the establishment of the gleaming Titanic Belfast museum. With a bold design resembling four-ship bows, this museum is more of a multimedia extravaganza that will transport you back to the early 1900s when the Titanic and its sister ships, the Britannic and the Olympic were assembled. Here, visitors will see the Titanic’s interiors reproduced almost meticulously, with the ship’s last moments before it sank detailed in contemporary accounts. The museum also uses historical images and animated projections to chart out Belfast’s rise as an industrial superpower in the 20th century, followed by a much-too-realistic recreation of the city’s shipyards.
After Queen Victoria awarded Belfast city status, which was followed after humongous industrial growth of Belfast including shipbuilding and rope-making, the plans for the design of the City Hall were laid down and it officially opened in 1906. The Renaissance-style structure has been made entirely in white Portland stone and the interiors are decorated with Carrara, Brescia and Pavonazzo marble and colourful stained glass windows. Queen Victoria’s portrait adorns one of the windows and the Belfast coat of arms adorns another. Hour-long guided tours of the City Hall are free and given Mondays to Sundays, where visitors don’t just get to admire the plush interiors but can also sit on the mayor’s throne in the council chamber. A visitor’s exhibition that displays Belfast’s history is spread across 16 rooms, and the Titanic memorial garden on the outside is a great accompaniment to the tour of the City Hall.
St Anne’s Cathedral
The Cathedral of Belfast is interestingly not a cathedral since it isn’t the seat of a diocese; however, it is the main church for the Dromor, Down and Connor diocese. The construction of the church began in 1899 and was only completed by 1981, and it has been named after the site it was constructed on, which is the St. Anne’s parish church dating back to 1776.
Architecturally, the church has been designed in Hiberno-Romanesque style and shares a lot of common features with the High Medieval churches. These include ten carved column capitals in the nave, each of which has a different theme; carved tympanums on the western entrance and an apse with an ambulatory. The only surviving 18th-century element in the cathedral though is the Good Samaritan window in the sanctuary. Multiple tours a day are available on every day of the week except Sundays; make note of the maze-like black-and-white floor plan as you enter the church. The black route leads to a dead-end and the white route apparently leads to salvation and sanctuary.
Crumlin Road Gaol
The only Victorian jail left in Northern Ireland, Crumlin Road Gaol was founded in the year 1846 and housed criminals and terrorists – both Republican and Unionist – for the next 150 years. There have been 17 executions in this prison, with the last one done in 1961. The prison has witnessed wild moments like an escape attempt in 1866 and a bombing in 1991. After being spruced up in 2010, the jail building has become a popular tourist attraction. There are guided tours of the prison available, which also takes visitors through the tunnel that was used to transport prisoners from the courthouse to the jail. The building also doubles up as a function hall for wedding and dinners, and occasionally, a live music venue.
Titanic’s Dock and Pump House
What may be considered the birthplace of the RMS Titanic, the Thompson Dry Dock and its attached pump house are considered important cogs of the Harland and Wolff shipyard. Tour of the facility takes visitors 13 metres down into the dry dock, which can be viewed as a large footprint left behind by the Titanic. The full scale and immensity of the liner’s size and its sister ships like the Britannic and Olympic can be appreciated through a trip to this dock. The pump house also has original AV displays of the Titanic, along with a visit to the inner workings and authentic tools that were used by the shipbuilders here. The original pumps that could empty the dock out in 100 minutes have remained conserved here.
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum
Reconstructions of some of the most historic buildings from around Northern Ireland make the Ulster Folk Museum an interesting spot to visit and catch a glimpse of country life from the 20th-century. The reconstructed structures include churches, farmhouses, cottages and complete villages, making up the fictional town of ‘Ballycultra’. The tearoom has ongoing demonstrations of cooking at hearths, paintings and needlework. There are also red-brick terraces from the 19th-century Dromore and Belfast, showcasing the industrial age of the city.
The Transport Museum just across the road from the Folk Museum has all kinds of vehicles like the steam locomotives, motorcycles, rolling stock, buses, cars and trams that recount centuries worth of travel in Northern Ireland. The highlight of this collection is the DeLorean DMC-12, the famous car from the movie franchise Back to the Future that was manufactured here in Belfast in 1981.
Grand Opera House
The oriental architecture of this magnificent building is what sets the Grand Opera House apart from other theatres in the UK; conceived by the theatre designer Frank Matcham, it opened in December 1895 and was refurbished in the 1970s. The theatre can seat more than a thousand spectators and performances here range from musicals, pantomimes, and operas to comedy shows, dances and dramas. After the damage caused to the building in the 1991 and 1993 IRA bombings, the theatre again underwent renovations in the year 2006 where its Victorian pomp, fancy gilt-work and swirling wood and plasterwork was restored to its original appearance.
Crown Liquor Saloon
The Crown Liquor Saloon is a splendid-looking Victorian building dating back to the late 1800s. This Grade A-listed gin palace is owned by the National Trust and is famous for its ornate decoration produced by Italian craftsmen; there are also intricate wood carvings on the ceiling and on the ten booths inside. The style of the building is something of a clash of cultures, with hints of Hindu temples evident in its textured columns and the plasterwork around the bar. The bar was renovated by Peter Flanagan and displays typical Victorian flamboyance, since it was typically aimed at the posh crowd at the time but now welcomes people from all backgrounds, opening its doors to the public at 6 pm each evening.
St Malachy’s Church
The third-oldest church in the city, St Malachy’s Church boasts Tudor Revival architecture and was consecrated in 1844. Originally planned to house over 7000 worshippers, the building was eventually restricted to modest proportions before being completed due to financial constraints. The exquisite church is mostly admired for its feather-light fan-vaulted ceiling, which is supposed to be a reproduction of Westminster Abbey’s Chapel of Henry VII. Restoration work that took place about a decade ago returned the masterful appearance of the tracings around the sanctuary and the beautiful mosaic floor.
This Scottish-Baronial style residence was the 19th-century home of George Chichester – the third Marquess of Donegall. His house was named after the Norman Belfast Castle situated at the heart of the city, which was burned down towards the beginning of the 18th-century. The Chichesters then moved out of the stronghold and into their new home in the suburbs near the Cave Hill Country Park and gave it the same name as their previous residence. A mix of Gothic and Renaissance design is evident in the architecture of the building, which is endowed with multiple corner turrets, false machicolations and stepped gables.
After being handed over to the city’s administration in 1934, it is now mostly used for weddings and other types of functions. While most of the castle is closed to the public, there is a visitor centre and antique shops on the ground floor of the castle. Do check out the Cellar Restaurant inside as well.