See also Antrim County Tour
Belfast, in county Antrim, is Northern Ireland’s capital city (first designated in 1920) and a busy port. The city grew around the port and the river Lagan and is surrounded by hills. The city centre is compact and easy to walk around with a number of pedestrianised areas.
The City Hall, begun in 1898, is designed in the classical renaissance style and built of Portland stone. A guided tour of the interior shows off a staircase, stained glass windows, and panelled chambers. On the river bank is an 1857 customhouse decorated with figures.
The Grand Opera House, finished in 1895, has twin domes and is decorated with over-the-top romantic oriental touches. The Crown liquor saloon (National Trust) is a high Victorian pub with gas lighting, coloured glass, moulded tiles, arcaded mirrors, carved animals, a fancy ceiling, and snugs. It was built in 1885 as a railway hotel. White’s Tavern is one of the oldest in Belfast.
The Royal Courts of Justice date from 1929-33 and were constructed of Portland stone in the neo-classical style. Clifton House, off Donegall Street in north Belfast, opened its doors to the poor of the city in 1774. You can tour Belfast Castle beneath Cave Hill. It’s a Scottish baronial castle with theme gardens, walks, and a heritage centre. The gardens were once a deer park and afford views over the city. McArts Fort is located here. It’s an earthwork with a ditch.
St Anne’s Anglican Cathedral was constructed in the Romanesque style of white stone. Begun in 1899, it was finished in 1981. The interior has a number of features of note: a large celtic cross in the north transept, stained glass windows, and mosaics.
Near the docks is Sinclair Seamen’s church, put in service in 1857. The L-shaped church has a tower leading to the gallery and is linked to the church by a bridge. Different ship-shaped parts play a large part in the interior decoration. Other churches to visit are St Malachy’s, built in 1844 with an ornate interior and white stucco rococo ceiling; the Oval church, Belfast’s oldest, dating from 1783; and the 15th century gothic style Presbyterian Church House, built in 1905 with a peal of bells in the tower.
Belfast has its own leaning tower of Pisa, the Albert Memorial clock. Constructed in 1865 by W J Barre, the statue facing the High Street has subsided. Author C S Lewis is represented at his family’s church, St Mark’s, where his baptismal font and stained glass window are in place. His statue, near Newtownards Road, opens the gateway to Narnia through the wardrobe door.
A number of walking tours trace the city's 17th century beginnings. Another walking tour, the Titanic Trail, commemorates the liner built in Belfast in 1912. A boat tour goes from the Lagan lookout around the Harland & Wolff shipyards where the Titanic was built. Another boat tour takes you on the river Lagan. If you don’t want to walk the city beat, you can rent a black taxi for a tour around the city’s historical sites or take one of the bus links.
The city is home to an outdoor gallery studded with 29 sculptures. You can hire an audio headset (from Lagan Lookout, £2.50 all day hire), and explore the riverside ambience while tracking a flock of bronze sheep, a shoal of eels, a giant bottle top, the barrel man, countless fish, and a tower of coins—all of which celebrate the city's industrial history and heritage.
Lovers of art will also want to visit the Ormeau Baths Gallery, known for its work by Irish and international artists, featuring contemporary painting. The Botanic Gardens, in south Belfast, have a palm house and tropical ravine, herbaceous walkways and shrubbery.
The Ulster Museum, by the Botanic Gardens, houses touring exhibitions as well as a permanent collection of Irish, British, and American art. Exhibits include Treasures of the Armada, an early Ireland gallery, and archaeological, history, and natural science galleries.
Queen’s University of Belfast was built in 1849. Buildings include a red Tudor style brick building, an Italianate building, and a university square.
The Parliament Buildings, in the neo-classical style, were opened in 1932 and are home to the Northern Ireland assembly. The interior has much marble and wood panelling. Belfast’s McMaster Street is a conservation area with its houses built in 1889-1899. The Conway Mill, a grade B2 listed building, once produced linen.
Upper Malone Rd, Belfast
Tel. 028 9068 1246
Belfast Castle and Visitor Centre
Cave Hill, signed off Antrim north 3.5 miles north of Belfast
Tel. 028 9077 6925
Web: Belfast Castle
Belfast Cathedral (St Anne’s Cathedral)
Donegall St, Belfast, Centrelink bus
Tel. 028 9032 8332 (tours)
Web: Belfast Cathedral
Belfast City Hall
Donegall Square, Belfast, Centrelink bus
Tel. 028 9027 0456
Belvoir Park Forest
Belfast Harbour Estate, Belvoir Park Forest, Belfast, A2 towards Bangor
Tel. 028 9147 9009
Stranmillis Rd/Botanic Ave, Belfast; citybus 71,69
Tel. 028 9038 3000
Castlereagh Presbyterian Church
79 Church Rd, Belfast
Tel. 028 9024 6609
Clifton House Interpretive Centre
2 North Queen St, Belfast
Tel. 028 9033 4201
5-7 Conway St, Belfast
Crown Liquor Saloon
46 Great Victoria St, Belfast
Tel. 028 9027 9901
Drumawhey Miniature Railway
Upper Gransha Rd, Newtownards
Tel. 028 9145 3563 or 9066 5794
Web: Drumawhey Miniature Railway
Donegall Quay; centrelink bus
Tel. 028 9031 5444
Upper Newtownards Rd, Belfast; citybus 24
Queen’s University Visitor Centre
University Rd, Belfast; city bus 70/71, 69
Tel. 028 9097 5252
Sinclair Seamen’s Church
Tel. 028 9071 5997
St Malachy’s Church
Alfred St; centrelink bus
Tel. 028 9032 1713
Botanic Gardens, Stranmillis Rd, Belfast, citybus #69
Tel. 028 9038 3000
Web: Ulster Museum
Belfast Tourist Information Centres
216 Falls Road
west Belfast, BT12 6AH
In former church; TIC, café, bookshop
Belfast and Northern Ireland Welcome Centre
47 Donegall Place
Tel. 028 9024 6609
Open: Oct-May, Mon-Sat, 9am-5.30pm; June-Sep, Mon-Sat, 9am-7pm, Sun from noon-5pm.
Belfast International Airport
Tel. 028 9448 4677
Belfast Boat Tours: Lagan Boat Company
Boats depart from Donegall Quay by Lagan Lookout. Tel. 028 9024 6609 (Belfast Welcome Centre) for hours.
Photos of Albert Clock, Belfast Castle, City Bus, Malone House, Queen’s University, Stormont, and Ulster Museum courtesy of Belfast Tourism.
Photos of Botanic Garden, Crown Pub, Opera House, City Hall, Big Fish, St Anne’s Cathedral, courtesy Britain on View
Photos of Belfast waterfront courtesy Visit Britain
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