Today, Belfast City is a very cosmopolitan city. Situated on the River Lagan and made famous for its ship building heritage with ‘The White Star Liners’. The youngest of the cities on the island, it was founded by French Linen weavers in the mid-1600’s. The surrounding fields were planted with flax to support the linen trade. The city only really grew in the industrial background post the French revolution and was granted City status in 1888.
Once known as a city not to visit due to ‘The Troubles’, the people of Belfast have reclaimed the city since the Peace Process of 1998 and transformed it into the vibrant, quirky and beautiful city it is today. Most commonly described as a Victorian City, it flourished from funding under Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The Central feature of the City is City Hall. Possibly the finest building on the whole island built with Portland stone in 1906 it varies from much of the architecture of Belfast which is built with red baked brick.
The Docklands of Belfast city contain the iconic landmark of the two great cranes for repairing ships; Samson and Goliath. Nowadays Belfast specialises in repairing Gas and Oil rigs which you can often catch a glimpse of in the distance. Yet the most infamous sunken ship was built here ‘The Titanic’ and to celebrate its heritage in 2013 a state of the art centre was built to tell its story known as ‘The Titanic Experience’. You would need 3 hours to visit the centre which costs £20 and gives you a great excuse to return.
Another landmark site would be the Crown Liquor Saloon, ask your guide where this is located. It still retains the flavour of yester year with its ornate Victorian exterior. It has lovely red and gold, varnished ceilings. This iconic site is also called Gin Palace. Some of the wood was salvaged from the Titanic’s sister ship and forms beautiful wooden snugs around the pub, allowing privacy for punters. You can also notice inside the snugs are little metal ribbed gun plates for people to light their matches off. The Crown Liquor Saloon has a mosaic tiled floor at the entrance with an English crown. The story goes that the husband and wife differed on political views. The wife wanted a crown emblazoned on the bar as she supported the crown. Her husband did not support the crown and after much discussion between them, they settled on placing the crown on the ground. Loyal supporters of the crown see the crown as they enter and tip their hat, while those who do not support the crown get to step over the symbol as a mark of disrespect.
Belfast city has nowadays capitalised on its dark past where taxi drivers who grew up during the Troubles/conflict have turned their hand at telling their cities story. You can take a short Belfast Black Taxi Tour for 1 hour whilst here with an extra cost. Please speak with your guide to organise this before arriving into Belfast. This tour is an intimate tour in a taxi with 4/5 others which brings you to look at the political murals/paintings on the walls of both Catholic and Protestant areas. You will also pass the barricade built to protect the 2 communities from each other during times of violence, yet since the Peace Process they call it ‘The Peace Wall’.
Victoria Square shopping Centre is a new centre that was built with a stunning glass dome on the top. You can walk up to the top of the dome and view the city from above. Donegal Place is the main shopping street which is the main street directly in front of City hall. ‘Visit Belfast’ is the tourist information office just across the road from City Hall.
City Hall is wonderful for a quick visit. The stained glass windows inside tell a variety of stories from ancient to modern for the people of Belfast. Whilst some of the glass cabins hold documents, seals, stamps and artefacts of political power in the hall. Outside the building on one side is the Titanic Memorial Garden definitely worth a look. Opening times: Monday to Friday 8.30 to 5pm. Saturday 10 to 4,30pm and Sunday 1 to 4.30.
For more information on our Belfast city tour and Northern Ireland download our App on Google play store “Irish Day Tours”