April 9, 2010

Belfast, full of history

Belfast, in Nothern Ireland is well known for all the troubles (1967-1997) due to the frequency of gun and bomb attacks in the city. But now it’s safe to travel around and there is so much to see. Dublin Airport car hire is the easiest and then take the M1 to Belfast

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, most of the politically-motivated violence has evaporated. Belfast was recently awarded the accolade of being the safest city in the UK, based on a comparison of nation-wide crime figures, and, as part of its commitment to maintain peace, now seeks tourism from all around the world, especially from countries other than the Irish Republic and the rest of the UK.

Some places not to miss are :
The City Hall : Opened in 1906, this is a fine example of turn of the century architecture from the heart of the British Empire's drafting office. The City Hall houses Belfast's Council chambers and administrative offices. Excellently presented free guided tours are available every day. Alse there is a memorial to victims of the Titanic and a statue of Queen Victoria.

Donegall Place : This diminutive shop space was recently taken over by the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) as a small gallery space to promote the built environment in Northern Ireland. Regular exhibitions and workshops are held here.

Saint Anne's Cathedral : The stunning cathedral building is situated at the opposite end of Royal Avenue, the main shopping street, from the City Hall. It is a fascinating building, and is at the centre of the "Cathedral Quarter", which is reluctantly being redesigned and cleaned up by various investment agencies to become Belfast's 'cultural' district. Thankfully, a lot of work remains to be done, and the area contains many fine caf├ęs, bars and interesting buildings that recall the city's commercial and industrial heritage.

Belfast Exposed : Belfast Exposed is Northern Ireland's only dedicated photography gallery, and as well as operating a fine exhibition space in a refurbished warehouse building, also provides local photographers with dark room and processing facilities and a well maintained library. Exhibitions are usually free and always worth seeing.

Titanic Boat Tour : Belfast takes a bizarre pride in that the ill-fated Titanic was built here and you can now take a boat tour around the area that the ship was built. The former boat yards of Belfast are being ambitiously redeveloped into a residential and commercial neighbourhood that will be called the Titanic Quarter. Tours cost £5.

Queen's University : At the southernmost end of the Golden Mile, the university is a fine Victorian building with extensive grounds. It contains a visitors' centre in the main central building.

Botanical Gardens : Accessed from University Rd beside the university and at the southern end of Botanic Ave, it’s very popular with locals and visitors alike. The Palm House contains local and interesting plants, such as carnivorous plants. Beside it is the Tropical Ravine, unique to the British Isles, where visitors walk around a raised balcony observing tropical flora and fauna. With large lawns and well maintained planting, the park is a popular destination in the summer.

Ulster Museum : Close to the Botanic Gardens, this excellent museum has much to see, including a large section on the history of Irish conflict, Northern Ireland's marine life and a significant collection of art. While many locals dislike the 1970s extension, it is one of the finest examples of a Brutalist modern extension being added and successfully integrated to an older classically designed museum. Free.

Belfast Castle (Antrim Rd) :Open  daily 9AM-6PM, admission is free.The castle was built in 1870 and was restored in 1988. It is situated on Cave Hill and has good views of the city and the coast.

Political Murals :  Visit the world renowned murals in the nationalist Falls and unionist Shankill portions of West Belfast. The main murals are situated on gable walls of buildings on both the Falls and Shankill roads, but others are located in the lower Shankill estate (off the lower Shankill Rd onto North Boundary St) and Bombay St (off the Falls Rd onto Clonard Gardens).

Milltown Cemetery, 546 Falls Rd : Milltown is dripping with history, being the final resting place for many Republican paramilitary members (mostly buried at the Republican plot, beneath the tricolour flag). There is also a memorial garden for IRA members killed during the Troubles, including those who took part in the 1981 Hunger Strike. Milltown cemetery is also the site of the notorious killings in 1988 of three mourners at an IRA funeral by Loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone. The attack took place near the Republican plot.


1 comment:

belfastattractions said...

What a fabulous city put it on your travel plans for your year ahead. http://www.belfastattractions.co.uk
was a taxi tour we were recommended by other tourist on the net.We were very glad we took their advise.Brllant,friendly,fabulous,quality and service all in 90 minutes of location location and murals.