One of the most beautiful countries in the world is Ireland. Lush, green, provincial, full of sheep and cows, this sea island nation is a true beauty to behold. There are many fun things to do in Ireland, but a must-see is the city of Belfast. This isn’t a quick one day visit, though, this city is where the troubles of Ireland began, which makes it an historically rich area of the country, as well as cultural. Check out these 10 things you should see when you visit Belfast.
1.The Titanic Belfast
The Titanic’s sinking was a monumental tragedy. As such, there are a number of Titanic museums around the world, but Belfast has the largest, built in April of 2012. This museum is a highlight in Belfast, as the ship was built in this city. Information about building the ship, its facts, and exhibits are fascinating. The museum consistently draws large crowds, so expect a line, which is worth the wait.
2.The Ulster Museum
Not far from the Titanic Belfast is a national museum of Ireland, The Ulster Museum. This lovely hall features all kinds of Irish heritage, as well as dinosaur bones, an incredible exhibit featuring artifacts from the wreck of La Girona in 1588 – the Spanish Armada which crashed in Northern Ireland, as well as a 2500 year old Egyptian mummy, Princess Takabuti. Renovated and pristine, this museum is an architectural beauty, mixing old with new.
3.Have Dinner at the Waterfront Hotel
Opened in 1997, this luxury hotel isn’t an item from the past, but it is a marvel. Breath taking in design, the hotel is circular. It hosts an incredible arts and events center, in addition to decadent rooms. Come check out the beauty of the hotel, then treat yourself to a fabulous dinner at the Arc Brasserie, which has stunning views over the river.
4.The Botanic Gardens
A lush country like Ireland guarantees beautiful gardens, that’s true, but what you really want to check out at the Belfast Botanic Gardens is the Palm House. You can’t miss it, this old greenhouse is domed with iron railings, giving it a look that some say is like a bird cage. Inside, you find a cornucopia of plant life that’s predominantly flowers. Spend some time here so you can lounge on the lawns while you admire the views.
5.Crown Liquor Saloon
No trip to Ireland is complete without a pub. This pub, however, isn’t your average pint and quart affair. Built by Patrick Flanagan, the idea was to bring in the upper crust society, which meant that Flanagan’s task was to create an establishment fit for just that sect. And so it is, this pub has a tin roof, meticulously ornate carved wood, and stained glass windows. Even the exterior is fancy, complete with Italian tiles. On the pavement in front of the door, a crown mosaic has been added; some say because Flanagan was Catholic and he wanted the patrons to step on the crown every time they entered the pub.
6.Hit the Links
If you play golf, Belfast has several options for you. The first is the Royal County Golf Club, which is considered the best course in the world outside the United States. Or, if you’re feeling strong and competitive, try your hand at the Royal Portrush Golf Course, considered one of the hardest courses in the world. Either way, between the limey fairway and the salt air from the sea, you’re playing the round to remember.
7.Grand Opera House
Get yourself a ticket for a performance at the Grand Opera House. The Victorian building was completed and opened in 1895, and is a gorgeous affair. The interior is glittering with gold leafed balconies, red velvet seats, and a stunning fresco overhead. The building is said to be the best surviving example of U.K. “oriental style” applied to theater. The house was refurbished in the 1970s, only to be severely damaged by IRA bomb incidents in 1991 and 1993. Since then, the building’s gone under a renovation, during which they added The Hippodrome Restaurant. The opera house is open and in excellent condition. Catch a show!
8.St. Anne’s Cathedral
An important structure, St. Anne’s is the main church of Ireland. It was completed just after the Opera House, in 1898 by Sir Thomas Drew. The style is Neo-Romanesque, tall and full of magnificent stone columns and arches on the interior. When you visit, make sure to check out the tomb of Sir Edward Carson (d. 1935) – he was the leader of the Unionists, and it was in his time that Ireland became divided.
9.Stroll St. George’s Market
While there’s been a market at the site of St. George’s since 1604, the structure surrounding it wasn’t completed until 1896, which, again, was the same time period St. Anne’s and the Grand Opera House were completed as well. This outdoor market is not to be missed, one supposes there’s a reason it’s been around so long, and indeed, it was ranked as the U.K.’s largest outdoor market. On Fridays, fish day, you can find as many as 248 stalls. You want to go over the weekend, though, when the place bustles with craft vendors and food for sale. Spend a good morning here to get the full Irish flavor.
10.Read a Book
With a rich literary history, it shouldn’t be too surprising that a major must-see site is the Linen Hall Library. This old library does feel old. Some sections are brand new, like the reception area, and the performance space, but much of the library hasn’t been touched much since its inception in 1788. Of the 260,000 books, more than half concern Irish history, and important local studies. Nearly every item about politics since 1966 can be found in the library, which makes it an incredible place to learn all about the complexities of Irish history. They’ve included a coffee shop, now, so grab a cup of brew and sit down with an old, Irish yarn.
Have you been to Belfast? What was your favorite sight?