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Sights in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and has a rich seafaring history and several historic sites that recount its long history in addition to fun museums for families to enjoy.

  • Botanic Gardens—a beautiful attraction with grass, trees, flowers, curving paths, and wrought-iron benches that was laid out in 1827 on land that slopes down to the Lagan River and includes the curved-iron and glass Palm House that is a conservatory designed in 1839 which has exotic plants such as the bird of paradise flower and the scented frangipani; the Tropical Ravine House; an arboretum; a tree trail that leads visitors around 20 trees such as the Tree-of-Heaven and Japanese red cedar; located on Stranmillis Road
  • City Hall—built between 1898 and 1906 and modeled on St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, this building was designed by Brumwell Thomas and is in the midst of Donegall Square which has statues of Queen Victoria and a column that honors the US Expeditionary Force, the first contingent of the US Army to arrive in Europe during World War II; inside is the 173-foot-high Great Dome with a magnificent view upwards from the entrance hall, beautiful stained-glass windows and arches, a café, an exhibition that describes the history of Belfast’s industrial development, and a photographic exhibition that celebrates 68 inspirational people of the past 100 years; Donegall Square
  • Crumlin Road Gaol—a major tourist attraction that formerly was a prison that opened in 1846 and had over 500 prisoners at its peak and held some of Northern Ireland’s most infamous murderers between 1969 and 1996 when the prison closed; tours of the jail are 75 minutes long and show the holding, punishment, and condemned prisoner cells as well as the execution chamber which is behind a moving bookcase and a museum with exhibits such as handcuffs, uniforms, a flogging rack, photographs, and maps; 53-55 Crumlin Road
  • Custom House—a creation of the 19th century architect Charles Lanyon that is not open to the public but features a pediment of Britannia, Mercury, and Neptune on the front and a blue plaque recording the fact that the 19th century novelist Anthony Trollope worked in the building as a post-office surveyor as well as a life-size bronze statue with arms raised commemorating the orator Jim Larkin who addressed crowds during the Dockers’ Strike of 1907 from the steps of the Custom House; Donegall Quay
  • Grand Opera House—Belfast’s opera house that is Victorian in design with ornamentation, opulent gilt moldings, and intricate plasterwork and was designed by the well-known theater architect Frank Matcham in 1894 featuring bars on all floors, a café on the ground floor, a party room, and an angel-and-cherub fresco over the auditorium ceiling; 2 Great Victoria Street
  • Knockbreda Parish Church—the oldest house of worship in Belfast that is dark and has large 18th century tombs in the churchyard; Church Road off A24
  • Lagan Boat Company N.I. Ltd.—a boat company that takes passengers on a 75-minute Titanic harbor tour of the shipyard where the liner was built; 66 Donegall Quay
  • Linen Hall Library—a distinctive gray-yellow brick library that is the oldest subscription library in Ireland with a huge collection of 80,000 documents and books relating to the Troubles regarded as the most definitive archive that attracts scholars from around the world and the original document recording the first ever acts passed by the American Congress in New York on March 4, 1789; 17 Donegall Square North
  • Metropolitan Arts Centre—Northern Ireland’s flagship home for the arts and an energetic fixture of the Cathedral Quarter’s creative scene that is six stories tall with two theaters, three art galleries, and artists’ studios along with a café, bar, and restaurant and galleries presenting current Northern Irish artists; St. Anne’s Square, Exchange Street
  • Northern Ireland War Memorial—a memorial building that has an interactive exhibition about World War II as the area was bombed by the Luftwaffe in April 1941 resulting in more than a thousand deaths and features the American Wall of Friendship that contains a copper frieze expressing the wartime bonds created between Northern Ireland and the United States; 21 Talbot Street
  • Queen’s University Belfast—a historic university with its main buildings modeled on Oxford University’s Magdalen College and designed by Charles Lanyon in 1849 in the Tudor Revival style with a redbrick and sandstone façade for the main building; the Seamus Heaney Library named after the Ulster-born 1997 Nobel Prize-winning poet who died in 2013; the McClay library in College Park with a multi-story open atrium, 1.5 million volumes, and the Brian Friel Theatre named in honor of one of Ireland’s most famous playwrights; and the C.S. Lewis reading room on the first floor that has a replica of the wardrobe door used in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; University Road
  • Sinclair Seamen’s Church—another Charles Lanyon building that has served seafarers since 1857 with a pulpit shaped like a ship’s prow, the bell from the HMS Hood sunk in 1916, and collection plates shaped like lifeboats; Corporation Square off Donegall Quay
  • Titanic Belfast Visitor Centre—a major attraction that is the headliner for the “Titanic Experience” exhibition with nine linked interpretive galleries that illustrate the Titanic’s history as well as Belfast’s seafaring and industrial heritage; a bow-shaped façade for the six-story building reflecting the lines of the Titanic; a ride through the reconstruction of the shipyard with the sounds and sensations of the past century; and a current view of the Titanic’s story with the discovery of its wreckage and live links to contemporary undersea exploration; Olympic Way, 6 Queen’s Road, Titanic Quarter
  • Titanic’s Dock and Pump-House Tour—one of the top attractions in Northern Ireland that has been accessible to visitors since 2012 and allows visitors to take steps down to the floor of the Titanic’s dock otherwise known as the Thompson Dry Dock which is a relic of the ship’s legacy and its physical footprint and taking a guided walk will allow visitors to reflect on the ship’s history and the importance of shipbuilding to Belfast’s history; Queen’s Road
  • Ulster Museum—a renovated museum that is popular with visitors for its light-filled atrium and polished steel and inside features exhibitions that trace the rise of Belfast’s crafts, trade, and industry and offers a photographic archive of the Troubles as well as a large natural history section with a famous skeleton of the extinct Irish giant deer, jewelry and gold ornaments recovered from the Spanish Armada vessel Girona; a great collection of 19th and 20th century art from Europe, Britain, and America; a modern history gallery which tells the story of Ulster from 1500 to 1968; and art, history, and nature discovery zones with hands-on activities for children; Stranmillis Road
  • W5: whowhatwherewhenwhy: a science discovery center with a high-tech focus that interprets science and creativity for adults and children with video displays and flashing lights that add to the futuristic atmosphere, Discovery exhibits for children under eight covering subjects such as spying and forensics, and a huge multistory climbing structure in the atrium which provides a great view of the city and beyond from the top; 2 Queen’s Quay
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