Exploring Belfast

Original Official Site of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Ulster Museum - In the Botanic Gardens - it's collections include contemporary international art, Irish art, Irish furniture, glass, silver, ceramics, and costume, and a display of life in Ireland over 9,000 years. Perhaps the best known collection is the gold and silver jewelry recovered by divers in 1968 from the Spanish Armada treasure ship Girona, wrecked off the Giant's Causeway in 1588.

Linen Hall Library - Located near City Hall, this facility was established in 1788 to improve the mind and excite a spirit of general inquiry. Includes an important Irish collection of over 20,000 volumes, with a Robert Burns collection. Archive material can be viewed by appointment.

Crown Liquor Saloon- Belfast's most famous pub, the Crown Liquor Saloon, once a railway hotel, has been restored by the conservationist National Trust.

Botanic Gardens - The Palm House dates from 1839, an elegant structure of curved glass and cast iron recently renovated. In the Tropical Ravine, plants grow in a sunken glen.

Home Front Heritage Centre - Nostalgic exhibits from World War II. The museum of the Royal Ulster Rifles, a famous regiment raised in 1793, is in the same building.

Belfast Zoo - In a picturesque mountain park high above the city.

Cave Hill - Climb the hill beyond Belfast Castle for a great view. A prominent rock at the top, known as MacArt's Fort, is where the United Irishmen planned rebellion in 1795.

Belfast Port and Harbour - City bus tours pass by the wharf where Titanic was built. Occasional tours of the harbour and the historic Harbour Office.

Lagan Valley Regional Park- Pleasant walks along the towpath past canal locks and lock-houses.

Dixon Park - The City of Belfast international rose trials are held in this beautiful park every year in July. At any time in the summer, there are always at least 100,000 blooms to see.

Visit an art gallery, step into St Anne's Cathedral, go souvenir hunting for fine Irish linen, pottery and hand-cut crystal in Belfast's covered arcades. If the sun is shining, drive out to Stormont for a glimpse of this impressive former parliament building.

In the evening book into the, Grand Opera House or see a theatre performance. You may decide to end up at a musical pub like the Duke of York, or atmospheric Kelly's Cellars.

The City Hall, built around 1903, dominates the main shopping area. Built in the grand Classical Renaissance style, with an Italian marble interior, it looks rather like American state capitol buildings except for the big statue of Queen Victoria at the front. She came to Belfast in 1849 - gave the town the status of city - and must have been held in high esteem by its citizens since dozens of streets, a hospital, a park,a man-made island, the harbour deep-water channel and the University were all named after her.

Half a century and half a mile separate the City Hall from Queen's University, with its mellow brickwork and Tudor cloister. It was built in 1849 by Charles Lanyon who designed more fine buildings in Belfast than anyone before or since. The university area is full of charming Edwardian terraces with magnolia trees in their front gardens.

This southern part of the city is good for moderately priced restaurants, pubs and accommodation, and for shopping and theatre. The Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum are here too.

Some of Belfast's grandest buildings are banks. On Waring Street - round the corner from the North Street tourist information centre - the interior of the Ulster Bank (1860) is like a Venetian palace, and the Northern Bank in the same street started life as a market house in 1769.

The Belfast Harp Festival was held in this building in 1792 when the famous gathering of ancient Irish harpers included blind 94-year-old Denis Hempson who played his Londonderry harp with long crooked fingernails.

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