Albert Memorial Clock Tower:
Tilting a little to one side, the clock tower was named for Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. The square on which it stands has just undergone a face-lift. Unfortunately, the tower stands on fine, silt soil left by the melting of a glacier at the end of the Ice Age. Other Victorian buildings in Belfast have been affected by this instability also. The tower itself is not open to the public.
Belfast Botanic Gardens & Palm House:
Signposted from M1/M2 (Balmoral exit), Stranmillis Rd., County Antrim
Palm House and Tropical Ravine Apr-Sept Mon-Fri 10am-noon, daily 1-5pm; Oct-Mar Mon-Fri 10am-noon, daily 1-4pm.
Gardens daily 8am-sunset
Dating from 1827, the gardens were established by the Belfast Botanic and Horticultural Society. In 1839, Palm House, a stunning glass and iron conservatory, was designed by noted Belfast architect Charles Lanyon. This unique building is one of the earliest examples of curvilinear cast-iron glass-house construction. It contains many rare plants, including such tropical plants as sugar cane, coffee, cinnamon, banana, aloe, ivory nut, rubber, bamboo, guava, and a bird of paradise flower. The Tropical Ravine, also known as the fernery, provides a setting for plants to grow in a sunken glen that can be viewed from the observation balcony. The surrounding outdoor gardens feature colorful rose beds and herbaceous borders.
Signposted off the Antrim Rd., 2 1/2 miles (4km) north of the city center, County Antrim
Free admission and parking
Northwest of downtown and 400 feet above sea level, on Cave Hill, stands Belfast Castle, The castle, which affords panoramic views of Belfast Lough and the city, was built in the late 1800’s as a family residence. It was a gift to the city in 1934 by the Earl of Shaftesbury. The Scottish baronial architecture features a six story square tower. Its cellars have been transformed into a Victorian arcade, including an antiques and craft shop, a bar, and a bistro restaurant. The 200 acre grounds include a public park, which is ideal for walking, jogging, picnicking, or just enjoying the view.
5 miles (8km) north of the city on A6, Antrim Rd., County Antrim
Apr-Sept daily 10am-5pm; Oct-Mar daily 10am-3:30pm (to 2:30pm on Fri)
Admission charged; free for seniors and children under 4
In a picturesque mountain park on the slopes of Cave Hill overlooking the city, this zoo was founded in 1920 as Bellevue Gardens. A completely new, modern zoo was designed in recent years. It emphasizes conservation, education, and breeding rare species.
Cavehill Country Park:
Off the Antrim Rd., 4 miles (6.5km) north of city center, County Antrim
Parking at Belfast Castle or Belfast Zoo
This lovely park is on the slopes of a 1,200-foot basalt cliff. It offers panoramic views, walking trails, and a number of interesting archaeological and historical sights. The five Neolithic caves that gave the hill its name provided shelter from prehistoric times. There is also MacArt’s Fort, an ancient means of protection against the Viking invaders. There is also an adventure playground for children.
Birthplace of the Titanic:
The Harland & Wolff shipyard, whose two huge cranes be seen just across the river from the Prince Albert Memorial Clock Tower, claims the SS Titanic as its most famous creation.
Ormeau Baths Gallery:
18A Ormeau Ave Belfast, County Antrim
Occupying the site of, and partly incorporating, the old Victorian swimming baths designed by Robert Watt, Ormeau Baths Gallery opened in 1995 as the city’s principal exhibition space for contemporary visual art. This striking and versatile facility can program multiple simultaneous exhibitions in a variety of media, and has become the premier showcase for the best of Northern Irish contemporary art.
Ulster Folk And Transport Museum:
Cultra, near Holywood,
Devoted to the province’s social history, the unique Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is set on 176 acres of parkland 10 miles northeast of Belfast. It brings the North’s past to life with a fascinating collection of buildings, all furnished in 1900’s style. These structures represent different facets of Northern life: a traditional weaver’s cottage, terraces of Victorian town houses, an 18th-century country church, a village flax mill, a farmhouse, printer’s workshop, a rural school and many other buildings. Across the main road (by footbridge) is the beautifully designed Transport Museum, where exhibits include locally built airplanes, locomotive, and motorcycles; the car produced by John De Lorean in his Belfast factory in 1982; and a moving section on the Titanic, the Belfast-built luxury liner that sank on her first voyage, in 1912. Check for the special events held throughout the year.
Linen Hall Library:
Mon-Wed & Fri 9.30am-5.30pm, Thurs till 8.30pm, Sat till 4pm
Tours must be arranged in advance.
The oldest library in the city. Contains books on heraldry, collection of Robert Burns, and a complete Political Collection of over 80,000 publications dealing with every aspect of Northern Irish political life since 1966.
The Europa Hotel and the Crown mark the northern end of this arrowhead-shape area, which extends from Howard Street in the north to Shaftesbury Square at the southern tip, bordered on the west by Great Victoria Street and on the east by Bedford Street and Dublin Road. Golden Mile and its immediate environs harbor some of Belfast’s most noteworthy historic buildings. In addition, the area is filled with hotels, major civic and office buildings, as well as some restaurants, cafés, and stores.
Crown Liquor Saloon:
46 Great Victoria St.
Daily 11:30 AM-midnight
Opposite the Europa Hotel on Great Victoria Street and now owned by the National Trust (the U.K.’s official conservation organization), the Crown is one of Belfast’s fine old gathering places. Built in 1894, the bar has richly carved woodwork around cozy snugs (cubicles), leather seats, colored tile work, and abundant mirrors. It is still lit by gas, and is the perfect setting for a pint of Guinness and a plate of oysters.
Great Victoria St. at Glengall St.
A landmark in Belfast, the Europa is a monument to the resilience of the city in the face of the Troubles. The most bombed hotel in western Europe, it was targeted 11 times by the IRA from the early 1970s and refurbished every time.
Grand Opera House:
Great Victoria St.
Designed in 1894 by the famous theater architect Frank Matcham, this building reveals the Victorian age’s fascination with the East. Beautifully restored in the 1970s, the Grand Opera House is worth a visit, even if you don’t go to a show, for a chance to admire the opulence of the gilt moldings, ornamental plasterwork, and exquisite ceiling fresco by contemporary Irish artist Cherith McKinstry. The best way to see and enjoy the Grand Opera House is to attend a show; musical, operas, or conventional theater production.
May-Sept., Mon.-Sat. 10-4; Oct.-Apr., weekdays 10-4.
The main university buildings, modeled on Oxford’s Magdalen College and designed by Charles Lanyon, were constructed in 1849 in a Tudor Revival style. The long redbrick-and-sandstone facade of the main building has large leaded windows, with three square towers and crenellations. University Square, really a terrace, is another treasure from the same era. There is a Seamus Heaney library, named after the Ulster-born 1997 Nobel Prize-winning poet.
St. Anne’s Cathedral:
Weekdays 9:15-4:45, Sat. 9:15-4.
Deep, rounded arches in the Irish neo-Romanesque style accent this large edifice, which is basilican in plan and was built at the turn of the 20th century. Lord Carson (1854-1935), who was largely responsible for keeping the six counties inside the United Kingdom, is buried there.
St. Malachy’s Church:
Notable are its turrets overlooking the upper Market area. St. Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church opened in 1844.