Where did I go: Belfast, Northern Ireland
When did I go: January 2017
My first trip of 2017 was to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. It was the first time I visited Belfast, and for that matter, Northern Ireland. These are a few highlights of the city and my own thoughts about it.
Plans for the City Hall began in 1888 when Belfast was awarded city status by Queen Victoria. Construction began in 1898 under the supervision of architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas and was completed in 1906 at a cost of £369,000. Apparently, the city hall in Durban, South Africa is almost an exact replica of Belfast’s City Hall. It was built in 1910 and designed by Stanley G. Hudson, who was inspired by the Belfast design.
The interiors are just as impressive as the outside. The interior has a number of notable features including The Porte-Cochère and Grand Entrance, The Grand Staircase, The Reception Room and The Great Hall. The great hall was was destroyed during the World War II and subsequently rebuilt.
And of course, because it was only a few days after Christmas, there was a lovely Christmas Tree in the lobby.
A free 45 minute guided tour will take you through the most interesting parts if the city hall. I would highly recommend it. There are free guided tours available (11 am 2pm and 3pm on weekend and 12 noon, 2pm and 3 pm on weekends). The staff at the city hall and the tour guide were so welcoming and answered all our questions. Check the city hall gates for latest info about the tours.
Victoria square and the dome
Victoria Square is a shopping, leisure and, residential development in the heart of Belfast. The main feature of the centre is a glass dome that offers 360 degree views of Belfast. we only had time to visit it at night, when the glass panes reflect the inside of the centre. It’s like looking at a giant prism.
Formally known as the Queens Island, Titanic quarter is the folder shipbuilding quarter if Belfast. The area went through a period if decline when the ship building here reduced. But, the area has undergone a massive recent re-generation. It is now home to a number of waterfront developments, both residential and commercial and an indoor arena that seas 10,000.
It is also home to Titanic Belfast, the World’s largest attraction dedicated to the Titanic. We visited the Titanic Belfast, and you can read all about it here.
Samson and Goliath
Samson and Goliath are two enormous gantry Cranes in Belfast. They are situated in the Harland and Wolff shipyard in the titanic quarter. Named after the Biblical figures Samson and Goliath, the two cranes are permanent structures in Belfast. I wonder if there is any other city in the world that has two gigantic cranes as permanent features.
St George’s Market
St George’s Market is the last Victorian market in Belfast. Built in late 1800’s it still operates with 300 traders, craftsmen, musicians and foodies.
It reminded me of the bull ring markets in Birmingham, but in a much nicer building
Things we missed
We didn’t get time to go to the Cathedral Quarter (other than a brief drive through) or Queen’s Quarter but I couldn’t do a post about Belfast without mentioning these two. Cathedral Quarter is home to the impressive St Anne’s cathedral. It is also home to many pubs and bars, many of them with live Irish music. The Queen’s Quarter is home to the Queen’s University of Belfast. This is one of the prettiest areas of Belfast and located in the southern most part if the city.
Although we didn’t have time to fully explore Belfast, we saw enough to convince that it’s a place worth returning to. There is no doubt that Belfast is a modern and fast growing city. Nevertheless, it still retains its Irish charm. People we met were warm and friendly and were very happy to have visitors. I think it’s fair to say that Belfast has paid its dues and gone through the darker days with the “troubles” and decline of the shipbuilding industry. To paraphrase the words in the Titanic Belfast museum: “go now, before the World discovers Belfast”.
I’m certain we didn’t get around to seeing all there is to Belfast in our brief stay. Is there any where in Belfast that you’d recommend? Anything not to miss? Leave a comment below and let everyone know.