Belfast, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s largest and capital city is a fascinating destination. Attractions include historic sites, grand architecture, riverside walks, fragrant roses plus a visit to the former Harland & Wolff shipyard to experience the Titanic.

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1 Titanic Belfast Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The RMS Titanic’s maiden voyage began on April 10, 1912. At 11:40 p.m. on April 14, the Olympic class ship and pride of the White Star Line struck an iceberg before sinking into the North Atlantic about 2.5 hours later. Over 1,500 of the 1,317 passengers and 885 crew were killed. These are some of the facts you will learn while visiting Titanic Belfast. The 126 foot, metallic exterior is shaped like ship prows. Locals call it the Iceberg. Inside the eight-floor facility are exhibitions telling the story of the ill-fated ship from construction to expeditions below the sea.

1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Belfast BT3 9EP, UK

2 Titanic Sign at Titanic Belfast in Belfast, Northern Ireland

This stenciled sign welcomes visitors to Titanic Belfast. The attraction was built on the old Harland & Wolff shipyard at Queen’s Island. The project was spearheaded by Harcourt Developments and partially funded by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. When it opened in 2012 to coincide with the centennial of the Titanic’s sinking, they hoped it would prove popular. First year attendance of over 800,000 was double their expectations.

1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Belfast BT3 9EP, UK

3 Titanic Grand Staircase inside Titanic Belfast in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Fans of the 1997 movie “Titanic” will immediately recognize the ship’s Grand Staircase. Initially elegant, it was later the scene of Cal Hockley chasing Jack Dawson with a gun. In the finale, passengers are killed by the exploding dome before it flooded with water. This replica of the first-class stairs is located in the Titanic Suite on the top floor of the Titanic Belfast. It includes a facsimile of the carved relief named, “Honor and Glory Crowning Time.”

1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Belfast BT3 9EP, UK

4 Graving Dock near Titanic Belfast in Belfast, Northern Ireland

It is fascinating to see the caisson at the Hamilton Dock in the Titanic Quarter. This is a large, hull-shaped chamber used during shipbuilding. Water was kept out of the pit until the lower portion of the vessel was constructed. It was then flooded to allow the ship to float and be towed. This graving dock was built by Harland & Wolff in 1867, six years after the company was founded.

1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Belfast BT3 9EP, UK

5 SS Nomadic near Titanic Belfast in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The yellow and black smokestack might look familiar. This is the SS Nomadic, a sister ship of the Titanic and the last of the White Star Line. The tender was built by Harland & Wolff in 1911 to serve the Titanic and the RMS Olympic. She could accommodate up to 1,000 passengers for their short journey to shore. The 230 foot vessel is on display at the Hamilton Dock in front of the Titanic Belfast Museum.

1 Olympic Way, Queens Road, Belfast BT3 9EP, UK

6 Odyssey Complex in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The Odyssey Complex consists of three entertainment venues. The W5 – which stands for who, what, where, when and why – is a science museum. The SSE Arena Belfast is a 10,000 seat stadium for sports, concerts and other special events. It is also home to the Belfast Giants, an ice hockey team. The Odyssey Pavilion contains bars, restaurants, a movie theater and bowling alley. They are located in the Titanic Quarter of the city.

2 Queens Quay, Belfast BT3 9QQ, UK

7 Big Fish Sculpture on Donegall Quay in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Big Fish is a 33 foot, abstract salmon. The sculpture by John Kindness was erected in 1999 on the Donegall Quay. For centuries, this area along the River Lagan was an active seaport. Now it and others collectively called The Quays have been converted into recreational waterfront. In the background is the Obel Tower. At 279 feet, the residential and office building is Belfast’s tallest since 2011.

68 Donegall Quay, Belfast BT1 3AS, UK

8 Custom House in Belfast, Northern Ireland

During the late 18th century and throughout the Victorian Era, Belfast was a major center for industry and commerce and Ireland’s largest city. When this Italianate-style Custom House by architect Charles Lanyon opened in 1857, it collected duties from the adjacent port, provided emigration services plus housed the offices of the post office and inland revenue. The Custom House Square in the foreground is a frequent venue for outdoor concerts.

Donegall Quay, Belfast BT1 3GE, UK

9 The Speaker Statue at Custom House in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Historically, the steps of the Custom House were called the Speaker’s Corner. This was the stage for boisterous orators. The most infamous was Jim Larkin. In 1907, his rally cries to organize dock hands escalated into angry disputes between Protestant and Catholic workers followed by strikes and lockouts. The Speaker is a life-size bronze statue created by local-born artist Gareth Knowles.

Donegall Quay, Belfast BT1 3GE, UK

10 Unite The Union Mural in Belfast, Northern Ireland

There are numerous murals in Belfast. Most have political overtones and recall challenging times in the city’s history. Several are sponsored by Unite the Union, an organization dedicated to serving, protecting and negotiating for the rights and benefits of its worker members. This one by Danny and Marty Lyons is on Victoria Street. The painting features Jim Larkin, an early 20th century organizer of dock laborers. His efforts lead to the Belfast Lockout in 1907 and another one in Dublin in 1913. When Big Jim went to the U.S. and was sympathetic to the Communist Party, he was imprisoned in Sing Sing.

11 Victoria St, Belfast BT1 3GA, UK

11 Albert Memorial Clock in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Prince Albert was the first cousin and consort to Queen Victoria. After his death in Windsor Castle in 1861, a commission was awarded to William J. Barre to design this Gothic memorial clock. The 113 foot bell tower constructed from sandstone stands in the center of Queen’s Square in the Cathedral Quarter. The life-size statue of the Prince Consort was sculpted by S.F. Lynn.

Queens Square, Belfast BT1 3FF, United Kingdom

12 Former National Bank Building in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The former National Bank Limited building on High Street is an architectural delight. The red and white brick façade features pilasters with Corinthian capitals, two bay windows, dormers, and twin turrets topped with a fishscale pattern etched in green copper. The Franco-Flemish Renaissance design was the work of William Batt. This branch office opened in 1897. The banking company was acquired by the Bank of Ireland in 1965.

54 High St, Belfast BT1 2BE, UK

13 Oldest Building in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The marquee over the entrance to The Dirty Onion and Yardbird – a tavern and restaurant combination – proclaim it to be Belfast’s oldest building. Their premises were a warehouse when constructed during the 1750s. In 1921, it became a distributor of Jameson Irish Whiskey called STACK “N” operated by Edward Dillion Bonders. I am not sure of the validity of their claim. However, the thought of sitting in an area once filled with whiskey barrels has a certain appeal.

3 Hill St, Belfast BT1 2LA, UK

14 Son of Protagoras Mural by MTO in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Protagoras was a 5th century BC Greek philosopher. As a sophist, he was a teacher of virtue and pontificated on how a city’s affairs should be properly managed. Street artist MTO leveraged this by calling his mural on Talbot Street the Son of Protagoras. The 2014 street art at the War Memorial features a red hair man holding a dead pigeon. The image represents the conflict between the Irish Catholic nationalists and the Protestant unionists plus the peace walls separating their Northern Ireland neighborhoods. The two arrows bear the symbols of the Knights of Malta and the Latin Cross.

21 Talbot St, Belfast BT1 2LD, UK

15 St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Architecture as magnificent as St Anne’s Cathedral takes time. This Hiberno Romanesque design by architect Thomas Drew began in 1899 on the site of a parish church from 1776. The cathedral was not completely finished until 1981, although the nave was consecrated in 1904. Its namesake is Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary. In the left and right tympanums are reliefs of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Over the central Great West Door is an image by sculptor Esmond Burton showing God the Father surrounded by saints.

40 Donegall Street, Belfast, BT1 2HB

16 Ulster University Expansion Phase One in Belfast, Northern Ireland

In 1865, the Magee College opened in Derry, Northern Ireland’s second largest city. After a series of mergers during the next 150 years, it was rebranded the Ulster University in 2014. Approximately 26,000 graduate and undergraduate students attend the public school. One of UU’s four campuses is located within Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. Since 2013, it has been undergoing a £250 million expansion planned for completion in 2019. This first phase designed for the art college opened on York Street in 2016.

25-51 York St, Belfast BT15 1ED, UK

17 Carlisle Memorial Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The Carlisle Memorial Church was built in 1875 to serve a local congregation of Methodists. Its neo-Gothic design is by architect W. H. Lynn. After the church closed in 1982, it deteriorated for decades until it was purchased in 2011 by the Belfast Buildings Trust. The BBT’s mission is to lovingly revitalize city landmarks. At the time of this photo in 2016, the bell tower’s sandstone and limestone façade had been restored. However, the rest of the building was covered in scaffolding.

25 Clifton St, Belfast BT15 2BE, UK

18 Mater Infirmorum Hospital in Belfast, Northern Ireland

After forming a convent and school in Belfast, the Sisters of Mercy wanted to establish a hospital. In 1883, the former Bedeque House on Crumlin Road was purchased. They called their new institution Mater Infirmorum, meaning Mother of the Sick. In 1900, it was expanded by occupying seven red brick terrace houses. The acute and teaching hospital now has over 1,000 employees. Attached to this legacy building is an enormous, late 20th century glass addition.

45-54 Crumlin Rd, Belfast BT14 6AB, UK

19 Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast, Northern Ireland

HMP Belfast, which stands for Her Majesty’s Prison, was built with basalt rock on Crumlin Road in 1845. The ten-acre gaol was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, a prominent Belfast architect. The Crum, as it was unfavorably called, featured over five hundred cells measuring 12 by 7 feet where prisoners were kept in solitary confinement. After holding over 25,000 prisoners during its 150 year history, the jail closed in 1996. Since 2012, the Crumlin Road Gaol has become a tourist attraction. Notice the old wooden pillory once used to secure a prisoner’s head and hands during punishment.

97 Crumlin Rd, Belfast BT14 6AD, UK

20 Freemasons’ Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The first Masonic Lodge was built in Belfast in 1748. This Freemasons’ Hall was finished along Arthur Square in 1870. The façade with multiple arched windows was designed by Charles Lanyon. He was a famous local architect but also a grand master of the lodge. Since 1878, the hall has hosted the Donegall Club, named in honor of George Hamilton, the 3rd Marquis of Donegall. Look closely at the single blue balcony and you will see the Masonic Square and Compasses symbol.

7 Arthur St, Belfast BT1 5YF, UK

21 Victoria Square in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Since 2008, the premier shopping center in Belfast has been Victoria Square. An indoor plaza sits below a 115 foot diameter, glass dome. Surrounding it are four floors with about 100 retailers. The mall also includes restaurants, bars and a cinema. Need more shopping? Then also visit some of the 125 stores at nearby CastleCourt Shopping Centre.

1 Victoria Square, Belfast BT1 4QG, UK

22 Yellow Canopy of the Jaffe Fountain in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Daniel Joseph Jaffe arrived in Belfast in 1852 and established a linen business. After his death, his sons grew The Jaffe Brothers into Ireland’s largest linen exporter. To honor his father, Otto, who was twice elected as Belfast’s Lord Mayor, commissioned the Jaffe Fountain. It was moved to the Botanic Gardens in 1933 were it was left to languish. This tribute with its bright yellow canopy was restored in 2007 and returned to its original position, now at the main entrance of the Victoria Square shopping mall.

1 Victoria Square, Belfast BT1 4QG, UK

23 Red Brick Flatiron Building in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The silver shamrock near the top of this red brick, flatiron building proclaims it was built in 1861. Seven years later it became the Shakespeare Bar. The tavern tradition continues when it became Bittles Bar. It is a great place for lunch after shopping at nearby Victoria Square or in the evening for pint or two from their extensive beer collection. In the lower right corner is the Albert Memorial Clock, a monument to Prince Albert constructed in 1869.

70 Upper Church Ln, Belfast BT1, UK

24 Harmony Statue at Thanksgiving Square in Belfast, Northern Ireland

This angelic silhouette holding the globe is Harmony. The metalwork by Andy Scott, also called the Beacon of Hope, is an allegory for “oneness of mankind.” The plaque at its base further explains it symbolizes, “peace, reconciliation and respect for diversity.” The 64 foot, stainless steel sculpture was erected along the River Lagan in Thanksgiving Square in 2005.

4 Queens Square, Belfast BT1 3DJ, UK

25 Waterfront Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland

In a city filled with Victorian architecture, you might expect a modern building to look out of place. Fortunately, the Waterfront Hall on Lanyon Place was a lovely addition to Belfast when it opened in 1997. The circular concert hall and conference center has a 2,250 capacity auditorium plus an intimate studio for 350 people. A 43,000 square foot extension opened in 2016.

2 Lanyon Pl, Belfast BT1 3WH, UK

26 Riverside Walk in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The best way to enjoy the scenic beauty of the River Lagan is during a stroll on the Riverwalk. Start on the east bank near the Lagan Weir. Crossing this bridge leads to the Belfast Waterfront and Central Station. If you can’t get enough of a good thing, also consider the Lagan Towpath. This easy walkway winds along the river and six locks of the Lagan Canal through parks, meadows and across charming wooden bridges. The terminus of the 11 mile path is the city of Lisburn.

3 Laganbank Rd, Belfast, BT1 3BN, UK

27 Ocean House in Belfast, Northern Ireland

This red, Scottish Baronial Tudor design was the headquarters for the Ocean Accident & Guarantee Corporation when it opened in 1902. Notice the delicate sculptures of animals holding a shield. This building on Donegall Square East was later the Pearl Assurance House. Maintaining the tradition, the lower level is now a branch of Nationwide.

1A Donegall Square E, Belfast BT1 5HB, UK

28 Cleaver House in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Robinson and Cleaver began as a department store in1874. In 1888, they moved into this Victorian Era building on Donegall Square North. Once you get beyond admiring the twin spires, look closely at the 50 busts by Harry Helms adorning the façade. Apparently these famous faces were patrons of the retailer nicknamed The Old Lady. The luxury store closed in 1984. Since 2013, the lower levels are occupied by Urban Deli and Robinson & Cleaver Ltd. restaurant . For a special treat, enjoy a meal on their balcony or terrace with a grand view of City Hall.

56 Donegall Pl, Belfast, BT1 5BB, UK

29 Dome of City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The green copper dome of the Belfast City Hall is a prominent landmark. One layer of the Portland stone is supported by Ionic columns while the other is surrounded by balusters before reaching its 173 foot summit. On the left is one of four corner towers. The Baroque Revival design was created by Alfred Brumwell Thomas. Affectionately called the “Wedding Cake,” the City Council’s building opened in 1906.

Donegall Square, Belfast, BT1 5GS

30 Queen Victoria Statue at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland

In 1613, Belfast became a borough by a decree from James VI and I, the king of Scotland, England and Ireland. 275 years later, Queen Victoria granted Belfast a Royal Charter. This marble statue by Sir Thomas Brock shows the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch holding a scepter and orb with cross, symbols of her sovereignty. Acquiring city status prompted the acquisition of the White Linen Hall in 1896 and the construction of the Belfast City Hall shown in the background.

Donegall Square, Belfast, BT1 5GS

31 Robert McMordie Statue at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The political position of Lord Mayor of Belfast dates back to 1613 when the Sovereign of Belfast received its charter as a town. This is one of four statues of famous Lord Mayors on the grounds of the Belfast City Hall. The sculpture by Frederick Pomeroy is a tribute to Robert James McMordie. He held the post from 1910 until his unexpected death during his fifth year in 1914.

Donegall Square, Belfast, BT1 5GS

32 Belfast Cenotaph near City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The Belfast Cenotaph in the foreground is a memorial to soldiers who sacrificed their lives during World War I. This 30 foot colonnade is within the Garden of Remembrance at Donegall Square. Also adjacent to the Belfast City Hall is the Titanic Memorial. It features a marble sculpture symbolizing death and the names of local men who died on the RMS Titanic in 1912.

Donegall Square, Belfast, BT1 5GS

33 Church House in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Since this Gothic style building opened on Fisherwick Place in 1905, the Church House has been the headquarters for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. It also hosts their General Assembly, the highest court and governing body. After an extensive renovation in 1992, the Assembly Buildings welcomed the Spires Shopping Mall to the lower level and began renting out the 1,100 person capacity Assembly Hall and Main Hall as a conference facility.

Fisherwick Place, Belfast, BT1 6DU, UK

34 Church House Bell Tower in Belfast, Northern Ireland

The clock tower of the Presbyterian Church House caught my attention. I zoomed in to admire the crown-shaped, copper dome with delicate pinnacles. Inside the belfry are a dozen bells, more than any other tower in Belfast. Equally interesting is the backstory on the architects, Robert Young and John Mackenzie. They began their practice in 1850 and developed numerous Belfast landmarks. The firm Young & Mackenzie continued in the family for 100 years.

Fisherwick Place, Belfast, BT1 6DU, UK

35 Grand Opera House in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast’s Grand Opera House was designed by Frank Matcham. He was Britain’s most prolific theater architect. Along with two colleges, he is credited with about 200 of them from 1890 through 1915. For five years starting in 1904, the Opera House was called the Palace of Varieties. The theater has the distinction of staging Luciano Pavarotti’s U.K. debut in 1963, the famous Italian tenor’s first year as a performer. The Grand Opera House closed on two occasions but reopened as a venue for musicals, dance, concerts, plays and of course operas after an extensive renovation in 2006.

2-4 Great Victoria St, Belfast BT2 7HR, UK

36 Crescent Church Steeple in Belfast, Northern Ireland

I was most impressed with the see-through central steeple with a pyramid roof on the Crescent Church. This Gothic Revival design by John Bernnie Wilson was finished in 1887. The façade was built with red and beige sandstone. This is a Christian church with a strong orientation around the Bible.

6 University Rd, Belfast BT7 1NH, UK

37 Lanyon Building at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland

In 1845, Queen Victoria chartered Queen’s College, Belfast. Within four years, about 340 students began attending classes in this stunning Gothic Revival building. Its namesake is Sir Charles Lanyon, Belfast’s most famous and prolific 19th century architect. About 24,000 graduate and undergraduate students currently attend the university.

70 University Rd, Belfast BT9, UK

38 Elmwood Hall Tower in Belfast, Northern Ireland

This stunning bell tower by John Corry – with its three layers of Corinthian columns supporting arches with dentil accents – resembles an Italian campanile. It was added in 1872, ten years after the completion of the Elmwood Presbyterian Church. A century later, the Queen’s University acquired and remodeled it as the Elmwood Hall, their venue for concerts.

1 University Terrace Belfast BT9 6BD, UK

39 Botanic Gardens in Belfast, Northern Ireland

When the Royal Belfast Botanical Gardens was created in 1828, admission was very restrictive. That changed in 1895. Now fans of horticulture and botany can enjoy the 28 acres of the Botanic Gardens. The park is located along Stranmillis Road within the Queen’s Quarter. The year-round attraction is free.

College Park, Botanic Avenue, Belfast BT7 1LP, UK

40 Rose Garden in Botanic Gardens in Belfast, Northern Ireland

One of the most popular sections of the Botanic Gardens is the Rose Garden. You can walk along the rows of numerous species while enjoying their heavenly fragrance. This flower bed is filled with pink, blooming roses called Shot Silk. They were first bred in a Northern Ireland nursery by Alexander Dickson II in 1924.

College Park, Botanic Avenue, Belfast BT7 1LP, UK

41 Palm House in Botanic Gardens in Belfast, Northern Ireland

This glass greenhouse, supported by white ironwork, was designed by Charles Lanyon and opened in 1840. The conservatory’s 46 foot tall dome was added in 1852. The Palm House has two wings, each 65 feet in length. The cool wing houses flowers while the stove wing simulates the climate of a rain forest.

7-9 College Park, Botanic Avenue, Belfast BT7 1LP, UK

42 Ulster Museum in Botanic Gardens in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Founded as the Belfast Municipal Museum and Art Gallery in 1821, the institution moved into the Botanic Gardens in 1929. It was renamed the Ulster Museum in 1962. You will find a variety of zoology, geology and history displays. Their collection also includes over 12,000 works by predominately Irish artists. Notice the large concrete cubes attached to the original building. This 1972 extension was designed by Francis Prm. The style is called Brutalist. Many believe it tarnished the structure’s 1929 classical design by James Cumming Wynnes.

10 Stranmillis Rd, Belfast BT9 5AA, UK