Belfast: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Published: March 25, 2023

Northern Ireland’s capital city has long been associated with the Troubles, sectarian clashes between religious communities that reflect a social divide. The 21st century is seeing progress towards peace with efforts to turn attention to other areas, such as economic or cultural development, and these new initiatives are transforming the urban landscape.

01. Titanic Belfast

Opened in 2012, the museum dedicated entirely to the Titanic has immediately become Belfast’s main tourist attraction. It is located in the shipyard where the liner was built. The visit is organised in several episodes, there is the socio-economic environment of the time, the technical performances, the luxury and comfort, and finally the tragic night of 1912.

02. City Hall

In the heart of the central district, the City Hall has been imposing its rather heavy mass since 1906. The building is surrounded by a small pleasant park, where several statues can be seen, including that of Queen Victoria and former mayors, all of whom are Protestants. As a result of changing demographics, the Catholic parties overthrew the Unionist majority in 2011.

03. Crumlin Road Gaol

From 1845 onwards, the prison received all the convicts from the endemic petty crime, often linked to poverty. Then came the Troubles, Republican and Loyalist activists replaced the common law prisoners. Many cells can be visited, including the cell of the condemned man, adjacent to the reconstituted place of execution.

04. Murals

The large murals mark the respective territories of each community and pay tribute to their values and heroes. They have become tourist objects and are visited by organised tours. It is however possible to see them easily on the edges of the central district, their themes are less hostile than before.

05. Ulster Museum

This large museum has several collections in various fields, from prehistoric times to contemporary art, with also the study of the local fauna. Its historical section tries to present the Troubles in an objective way. A lively museum with activities to engage children, it is easy to spend more time here than anticipated.

06. Stormont Palace

Following the partition of Ireland in 1922, a new building was needed to house the Northern Ireland Parliament. It was completed in 1932 to house both Houses of Parliament and the Executive, as well as some of the administration. Surrounded by large lawns, they are occasionally used for events.

07. Belfast Castle

The castle was built in the late 19th century by the Marquis of Donegall, a descendant of Arthur Chichester who led the English conquest of Belfast in the 17th century. It refers to a bygone era. Donated to the city in 1934, the castle can be visited freely and is also a venue for receptions. Its beautiful architecture is surrounded by an abundantly flowered park.

08. Palm House

In the university district, the botanical garden is open to the public since 1895 while cultivating its scientific vocation. The large greenhouse with its curved lines dates from 1840, preceding that of Kew Gardens in London, which is nevertheless a reference. The garden and glasshouse help to maintain the Victorian appearance of central Belfast, apart from the changing society.

09. Queen’s University

Founded in 1845, the university is an ancient institution that has been involved in the training of Ireland’s elite. From a few hundred students at the outset, there are now more than 25,000, many of whom are foreigners. In the Anglo-Saxon tradition, students are also involved in many extra-curricular activities that benefit the city.

10. Victoria Square

Little more than a shopping centre, VS for Victoria Square is the new face of Belfast’s pedestrianised, boutique-lined streets. With its glass dome overlooking the entire city centre, it’s a great place to visit to get an overview. There are also more than 70 shops on four levels along a glass-roofed street.

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  1. Enjoyed a terrific weekend in Belfast about 5 or 6 years ago, really had a great break there. A tour of the murals is an absolute must, but I would actually rate the Titanic Museum as one of the best museums we’ve visited anywhere, it’s really interesting and so well presented. Belfast is good!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree about the Titanic museum. I saw the building site at the beginning and was dubious about the interest of a museum on a sinking ship. Coming back ten years later, I was impressed by the presentation, there is much more than a sunken ship, it is a whole era that is shown. And the moment of the tragedy makes the visitors feel emotional.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Belfast is certainly more welcoming today than in 2008. Back then I lived in Dublin and every time I travelled to the “North” I felt better when I crossed back over the border.


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