City Guide to Belfast, Northern Ireland

Author: | Last Updated: 30 Jun 2019

Belfast is the biggest city in Northern Ireland, and it is also the capital. The city of Belfast has a population of 333,871. There is a vast amount of things to see and do in the city of Belfast and this includes some traditional pubs, fantastic restaurants and the city has a wealth of history including the building of the Titanic. The history of the city can be traced back to the Bronze Age.

Best time of the year to visit Belfast

Getting to Northern Ireland and the city of Belfast is very easy as it has three airports, direct road and rail links to Dublin and there are sea crossings from Scotland and England. The airports that are in the city are George Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport.  The city of Belfast has a temperate climate with a narrow range of rainfall and temperature throughout the year. The climate of Belfast is milder than some other areas around the world that have the same latitude. The winter months in Belfast are actually not too cold.

Albert Memorial Clock

The Albert Memorial Clock is one of the most famous landmarks and sights within the city of Belfast. This clock is located in the city centre and it was built between 1865 and 1869, as a memorial to Prince Albert. This structure is made from sands6tone and the memorial clock is thirty four meters in height. This clock was damaged by a bomb blast in 1992 however at the start of the 21st century there was a lot of money spent on repairing the damage and the clock has been fully restored.

Belfast Castle

One attraction that is very popular within the city is Belfast Castle as this location offers specular views around the city. The castle sits one hundred and twenty meters above sea level and is located in Cavehill Country Park. The predecessor of the castle dated back to the twelfth century; however, it was burned down in 1708. The castle that remains today was built during the nineteenth century and it has been operating as a visitor attraction since 1988. The castle is often used for special events such as weddings, receptions and other events.  As well as being home to vast collection of exhibits the castle is also home to a visitor centre, antiques shop and a restaurant.

Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Gardens in the city of Belfast is more than just gardens as it is also a public park, which covers more than 100,000 m2. This park is a very popular with people who are looking to enjoy some lunch outdoor, relax or even enjoy a romantic evening walk. The most famous building that is located in this park is Palm House, which was built during 1839. The palm house is home to a Xanthorrhoea which is four hundred years old and there are many other lovely plants in this area. Recently these gardens have been used for concerts including U2. There is a no alcohol policy in the park, which makes this a perfect location for people of all ages to relax and unwind. There is a large play park area where children can run and work off a bit of energy.

Ulster Museum

Ulster Museum is located in the beautiful Ulster Botanic Gardens which are only a mile from the heart of the city. The museum covers eight thousand square meters and it is home to some top quality displays, which includes Ancient Egypt. The exhibits at this museum are vast and as such there is something to suit all ages and interests. There are many short term displays within this attraction therefore there is always something different to see.

Belfast Mural Tour

The Belfast mural tour is an interesting way to spend a couple of hours. This tour is a great way to learn about the compelling street art of the city. Many of these murals depict the protests and conflicts that have taken place within the city.  The various murals have been designed by both loyalists and nationalists, which means that they capture events of the city from both angles. This activity needs to be booked in advance and you can travel to the local in a London style cab.

St Annes Cathedral

St Anne’s Cathedral is also commonly referred to as Belfast Cathedral and it is one of the most common churches in the city. This cathedral was consecrated in 1904 and it is used by two separate districts. The site of the cathedral was once occupied by a smaller church however the former church became too small and it was replaced by the cathedral. The foundations of the cathedral were laid in 1899 however over the past one hundred years the church has seen many extensions. There is a number of elements within the building that are well worth taking the time to look at, such as the Good Samaritan stain glassed window, which is the only thing that dates back to the original 1776 St Anne’s church. There is only one tomb within this cathedral, and this belongs to Lord Edward Carson who was an important unionist and political leader during the twentieth century. This cathedral is still actively used for worship however it is possible to book tours to see around for a small fee.

Belfast Zoo

Belfast Zoo is located on the outskirts of the city on the slopes of Cavehill and it occupies fifty five acres of ground and is home to more than one thousand animals which comprises of more than one hundred species. The zoo is open daily and offers feeding times, daily talks by the zookeepers and various other activities. The zoo has been operating as a visitor attraction since 1934, however it did suffer a lot during the Blitz. As well as being home to vast array of animals the zoo also has an adventure playground which is a great place for children to run around and explore. Once you have worked up an appetite walking around the various animals there are two cafés which serve drinks and hot food. There is also a picnic area if you wish to take your own food with you. After you have spent a fun filled day at the zoo why not treat yourself to some souvenirs to take home at the gift shop and there is also a visitor’s centre.

St George’s Market

St George’s Market is one of the oldest attractions within the city and a weekly market has been held here since 1604. The Victorian building where the market is held dates back to between 1890 and 1896. Nowadays markets are held here on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The building underwent a renovation in 1997 and over the years it has won many different awards both in Ireland and the UK. There are various different vendors at this market, and they sell a wealth of products including arts, crafts, souvenir, books, jewellery, spices, clothing, food produce and fresh produce, therefore there is something to suit everyone. There is also live music by local bands and artists, which makes this a very lively place to visit on the weekend.

Grand Opera House

The Grand Opera House was built by the Frank Matcham, the famous English theatre architect and it was built during 1895. This attraction is a landmark within the city, and it is known for its spectacular interior. This is the only Victorian theatre which still remains within Northern Ireland. Originally this theatre was able to house more than two thousand five hundred guests and it hosted a range of plays, operas, pantomimes and musicals. During the early part of the twentieth century this theatre also hosted variety shows. The opera house is still actively used nowadays for family shows, plays, dances, recitals, operas, ballets and pantomimes but it can only seat one thousand people. It is possible to book a tour around the opera house and the tour guide will tell you about the history of the building and the many famous actors who have performed there. The tours last for about an hour and they usually take place on the weekend about twice a year.

 Metropolitan Arts Centre

The Metropolitan Arts Centre was opened in 2012 and it is home to three main galleries. The exhibitions vary throughout the year and most of them are free to visit however some do charge a small fee. The art mainly focuses on contemporary, modern and experimental performances and pieces. There is regular workshops and events that are held at this centre. The centre also runs various family friendly activities, art shows and art classes. This attraction is also home to a café bar which is open all year round and serves snacks, tea, coffee, hot meals and alcoholic drinks.

City: Belfast

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