Exploring Belfast today! Northern Ireland conjures up thoughts of the Titanic, St. Patrick, Guinness and rolling Green hills and Castles. It’s that, and so much more! It’s port #6 on the Emerald Isles cruise on Viking Sky.
Belfast is impossible to see in one day. Decide on the type of day you envision and go have fun. Maybe your idea of fun is just planting somewhere and watching the city go by, that can be a perfect day.
One of the highlights of Belfast (meaning “river mouth of the sandbar” — for the River Lagan) is the interactive Titanic Museum, opened in 2012 on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of this famous ocean liner. This impressive, gleaming building on the waterfront was built to look like bow of the Titanic herself. The area down by the docks has been renamed the “Titanic Quarter” and includes the area previously owned by the ship yards of Harlan and Wolffe, where you will find the two original cranes used to build the Titanic, affectionately named Samson and Goliath. When the Titanic was built this was the largest dry dock in the world and is where Titanic last stood before setting off on her fateful last journey. The size of the dock – and the history it represents – is quite overwhelming!
The Leaning Tower of Belfast? (I bet you thought the only “leaning tower” was in Pisa.) Located in Queen’s Square, the Albert Memorial Clock and tower were completed in 1869 as a memorial to Prince Albert. A mixture of French and Italian Gothic styles the tower stands at 113 ft tall. Passing traffic over the years and a shallow wood foundation cause the tower to lean about 4 ft to one side. (A piece of clock tower trivia: Years ago, due to its easy accessibility, this was the area known as a prostitute big up spot. Of course I would know that!)
Within walking distance of the Albert Memorial Clock is the Belfast City Hall in Dongell Square. Completed in 1906 this Baroque Revival building sits in the heart of Belfast and is one of the city’s most important and impressive buildings. The area around the Hall has been the heart of Belfast and onced housed the White Linen Hall. City Hall was commissioned when Belfast was granted city status by Queen Victoria in 1888 and so marks a pivotal moment in the history of the city. The grounds of City Hall serve as a meeting point for many of the residents and workers of Belfast and feels very much like the central hub of the city with its large screen and communal feel.
Like many European cities, Belfast is known for its colorful murals spread around the city, with the main ones on Falls Road, Shankill road and Newtownards Road. While exploring Belfast, the inner-city suburbs are the heart land of “The Troubles” and the different sides of this city make themselves known. On the Falls Road there is no mistaking the fact that you are in republican turf with the tri-color flying high from almost every house. Murals like the memorial to Bobby Sands are of particular significance and a reminder of the atrocities committed on these streets.
The murals are very much respected among each group and are a way not only to differentiate which area of the city you are in, but to display an identity each community has in a way which doesn’t involve violence (despite the often depicted AK47!). (To see children walking past painting of men wearing balaclava and holding up rifles is a strange thing, my guess would be that the idea is to instill within each generation their identity but also to never forget what happened.)
Relax over a cup of coffee, sample fresh produce or pick up unique souvenirs and gifts of Belfast while listening to some of the area’s best musicians at St. George’s Market, one of Belfast’s oldest attractions and one of the best markets in the UK and Ireland. This charming Victorian building is one of the most vibrant and colorful destinations that Belfast has to offer. Shopping here is a must!
Belfast Pub Crawl
A popular pastime when exploring Belfast is a Pub Crawl. (Make sure you start out with food in your stomach and drink lots of water as you go from pub to pub. Since I had to go back onto the ship and work…no pub crawl for me.) A sampling of a crawl might include Lavery’s, The Five Points, The Crown Bar (Belfast’s most famous pub), Robinsons, Maddens Bar, Kelly’s Cellars, Whites Tavern, The Duke of York, The Harp Bar and the Dirty Onion.
If you like to walk the cities you visit, there are many self-guided free walking tours available. CLICK HERE for a map link of Belfast with attractions noted or there are many tours you can download onto your mobile device, also free.
Enjoy Belfast, and if you’re on the ship with me come and share what cool places you found today!
Hasta la bye bye!
Dee Serkin is a travel writer who specializes in destinations, culture, travel tips and advice. She is dedicated to inspiring travel in all and loves to share her adventures with others. Contact her at [email protected] or visit her site at https://travelovers.us