- Belfast - the last leg of a cruise
- Belfast - discover according to plan
- Our first destination - City Hall
- The Europa Hotel - Europe's most attacked hotel
- Presbyterian Assembly Building
- Linen Hall Library - Belfast's oldest library
- Two churches worth seeing
- Don't miss: the Cathedral Quarter
- Custom House - an administrative building in the Italian style
- No time for the Titanic Museum
- Compare Dublin and Belfast
In June 2013 the cruise ship MS Astor circumnavigated the British Isles in a two-week voyage. We are on board. In Northern Ireland's capital Belfast, we leave MS Astor as scheduled at halfway through the voyage. Before our return flight to Germany we visit the most important sights of Belfast.
Belfast - the last leg of a cruise
MS Astor docks punctually at a makeshift cruise terminal, Stormont Wharf. A modern cruise terminal has been there since 2019. The berth is not far from the center.
A member of the Belfast Tourist Office will board the ship and advise those passengers who wish to explore Belfast on their own. Visitors can also obtain information from the Belfast Welcome Center at Donegall Place 47. The city is also organizing a free, half-hourly shuttle bus to City Hall.
Belfast - discover according to plan
At lunchtime our plane leaves for London Heathrow. It's important to be in a hurry, we want to see Belfast. Our luggage remains on board for the time being. We pick it up before departure.
We drive to the center with a waiting taxi. Our driver is not stingy with information while driving. The ride costs an acceptable eight pounds. Before the trip, we planned a city tour. We follow this consistently. If we don't dawdle, we will complete our planned sightseeing program.
Our first destination - City Hall
We leave the taxi at the Belfast Welcome Center on Donegall Place. In front of us is Belfast's City Hall. The representative town hall is surrounded by four corner towers, each crowned by a small dome. The town hall is dominated by a 53 meter high dome supported by columns. In the green space surrounding the building, we notice the Belfast Cenotaph. A war memorial dedicated to the city's sons who died in World War I. It consists of a huge stone block, which is bordered by a curved row of columns.
Belfast - Hotel Europe
The Europa Hotel - Europe's most attacked hotel
Two blocks further we arrive at Great Victoria Street. We want to see the Europa Hotel, Europe's most bombed hotel. Between 1970 and 1994, the hotel was damaged a total of 33 times by IRA bombs, according to the Belfast Telegraph. One of the hotel's most prominent guests is former US President Bill Clinton. He stayed at the hotel twice in 1995 and 1998. Previously, in 1993, the last time it had been attacked so severely that it had to be completely overhauled.
The neighboring Grand Opera House was also damaged in the bombings. It was hit several times by bombs that were actually aimed at the hotel. The multi-branch theater, which can hold more than 1.000 spectators, is like the other attractions below Belfast attractions described.
Belfast - Grand Opera House
Belfast - Robinson's Bistro and Crown Liquor Saloon
Opposite the Europa Hotel is the lavishly decorated Crown Liquor Saloon next to Robinson's Bistro. The National Trust, which is financed entirely by donations and whose job is to preserve historic buildings and squares, runs this pub. The saloon is considered to be Northern Ireland's oldest pub. The restaurant is lit with gas light in a stylish manner. The wall coverings of the restaurant on the first floor come from the "HMHS Britannic", the sister ship of the "RMS Titanic". The ship served as a hospital ship during the First World War and was lost in the Aegean Sea in 1916 after a mine hit.
Presbyterian Assembly Building
The three-story Presbyterian Assembly Building is on the corner of Great Victoria Street and Howard Street.
Belfast - Presbyterian Assembly Building
Just a short distance away is another prestigious building on College Square East. Two towers and a series of columns flank the exterior. It is the former headquarters of the Municipal Technical Institute. It is now used as a student residence. It is just one of the many historical and representative structures that can be seen in the center of Belfast.
Belfast - John Bell House
Linen Hall Library - Belfast's oldest library
We go towards the town hall again. Just before that, across the street, is Linen Hall Library. In 2013 the oldest library in Belfast celebrated its 225th anniversary.
Belfast - Linen Hall Library
Two churches worth seeing
On the way to the cathedral we pass St Mary's Church and St Mary's Art Grotto & Rose Garden. The grotto next to St Mary's Church is dedicated to "Our Lady of Lourdes". It commemorates the apparitions of Mary from Lourdes, Knock / Northern Ireland and Fatima.
Before we get to the cathedral, we cross the CastleCourt Shopping Center to shorten the path. We leave the mall on Royal Avenue. In front of The Irish Linen & Gift Center we walk through Lower Garfield Street to “Writer's Square”. It pays homage to Belfast's eclectic literary tradition. Writers who mentioned Belfast in their works are honored with quotes in the pavement of the square.
Across the square is the Church of Ireland's St Anne Cathedral. It is dedicated to St Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary. The Romanesque church appears bright and light. The mosaic work inside is remarkable. In the church windows, traditional representations alternate with modern motifs. Through a window of the cathedral we can see the 40 meter high Spire of Hope towering over the cathedral. The “Top of Hope” was inaugurated on September 11th, 2007, a symbol of great symbolism. It heralds Christian hope for the city of Belfast, the island of Ireland and the whole world.
Don't miss: the Cathedral Quarter
The cathedral is located in the trendy Cathedral Quarter. Everywhere we look we see quaint pubs and galleries. We like the murals, well-made wall paintings with motifs from the time of the Irish struggle for freedom. We find that to see Belfast's famous murals, it is not necessary to go to the more distant Peace Line. The Peace Left is the walled, former dividing line between the Catholic and Protestant districts of Belfast.
Then we go through Skipper Street and take a look at the Merchant Hotel. The architectural style is a mix of Victorian and Art Deco elements. The elegant five-star hotel has a luxurious spa, a fitness studio in the roof area with a view of the city, lounges and a trendy jazz club.
Belfast - Merchant Hotel
Belfast - Albert Memorial Clock Tower
Afterwards we visit the Albert Memorial Clock Tower at the end of the High Street. The 34 meter high tower was built in honor of Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, who died in 1861. His statue adorns the west side of the tower. The building is worth mentioning because of its sloping position. The tower deviates from the vertical by 1,25 meters.
Custom House - an administrative building in the Italian style
Custom House is barely more than a stone's throw away. The former customs administration was built in the mid-19th century, during the heyday of Belfast, in the style of an Italian palazzo. The wide flight of stairs in front of the building was often used for rallies. A bronze figure called The Speaker is a reminder of this tradition.
No time for the Titanic Museum
Our time in Belfast is limited, the plane doesn't wait. It's time to walk back through central Belfast to Donegall Place. We pass St George's Church, then we dive again into the business center of Belfast. Here we meet them all again, the Starbucks, the Vodafones, the Clarks and the Zaras of this world.
There is no time for the Titanic Museum, which opened in 2012.
Belfast - Titanic Museum
Back on the ship, we receive our luggage, and our taxi driver from the morning is ready again. With three of his waiting colleagues he makes a somewhat unfair bet where we are going. The three are on Belfast International Airport. Our driver is the only one who knows the right destination. It is the George Best Belfast City Airport. He wins and is allowed to drive us.
On the way, the driver tells a nice story about the airport who gave it its name. It is footballer George Best, who died at the age of 49. The Manchester United dribbler had a dubious reputation. The sentence ascribed to him is legendary. "I spent a lot of money on alcohol, women and fast cars, the rest I just squandered." Welcome to real life. - By the way, George Best Airport is a small, convenient airport. It looks a bit “yesterday” and reminds of times when flying was still fun. What we cannot say about the subsequent stopover in London Heathrow.
Compare Dublin and Belfast
We leave Belfast with a good feeling. The city is compact, clearly laid out and well worth seeing. It looks tidy and clean. The Good Friday Agreement did a lot of positive things. Whoever we spoke to, we only met friendly people.
Two days earlier we were in Dublin. The capital of the Republic of Ireland has significantly more inhabitants than Belfast. Dublin is one of those cosmopolitan capitals in which we feel comfortable and which we would like to visit regularly. There is so much to see and the inevitable changes arouse curiosity. - It's hard to say which of the two cities we should give priority.
Update June 2020