Belfast Welcome Centre
Whatever kind of accommodation you are after, you should
make your first port of call the one-stop visitor information
centre, the Belfast Welcome Centre at 47 Donegall Place (tel:
028 9024 6609 or visit www.gotobelfast.com). They can advise
and book on your behalf.
Check online for special offers, such as weekend rates and
combined dinner and room rates (most hotels have their own
websites). Unlike many other countries, hotels in Northern
Ireland do include breakfast in their rates.
Many hotels cater to the budget market. Belfast’s famous bed
and breakfasts offer a friendly and modestly priced alternative
to hotels and all the facilities you need. Belfast also has several
modern, well-equipped hostels, largely around the city centre
and Queen’s Quarter, where you can stay for a small fee in a
dormitory room (they have single and double rooms too). The
Queen’s University and Stranmillis University College student
complex offers great value accommodation during the summer
(enquire at the Belfast Welcome Centre) and self-catering
options are also worth exploring.
There are many great value tours of Belfast, ranging from
bus and boat, to foot and black taxi. For a full list and more
information on all tours contact the Belfast Welcome Centre,
47 Donegall Square (tel: 028 9024 6609 or visit
www.gotobelfast.com). Here is just a small selection:
Behind the Scenes Tours
Get beneath the skin of some of Belfast’s most iconic buildings
(for free or very little), such as St Anne’s Cathedral, the Grand
Opera House, Belfast Waterfront Hall and the Linen Hall Library.
Literary Walking Tours
Discover locations and writers associated with Belfast’s thriving
literary scene, past and present, ending with a free pint of
Guinness at the Kitchen Bar, all for just £5, every Monday
evening at 5pm.
Historical Pub Tours
Leaving on Thursday at 7pm and Saturday at 4pm from the
Crown Dining Room, upstairs from the famous Crown Liquor
Saloon in Great Victoria Street, this is the best introduction to
Belfast’s atmospheric traditional pubs you could want. The
two-hour tour takes in at least six pubs. There is a £1 reduction
per person for groups of 12 or more. Groups can also arrange
specially tailored tours at other times too, subject to availability.
Call 028 9268 3665 or visit www.belfastpubtours.com for more
information. Tours are from May to October inclusive.
Easy-to-follow self-guided tour brochures of the Queen’s
Quarter, Gaeltacht Quarter and Cathedral Quarter are available
at the Belfast Welcome Centre. You can also enjoy expert
guided tours of Historic Belfast, which take you from the 17th
century to the present day, and the Blackstaff Way tour of
Belfast’s historic locations.
Run by the owners of the Belfast Palace Hostel, these excellent
value three and six-day tours of Ireland leave from Belfast, and
stay at hostels throughout Ireland. They also organise tours of
Belfast. Call Belfast (Paddy’s) Palace Hostel on 028 9033 3367
or visit www.paddywagontours.com.
A not-for-profit organisation, Belfast Safaris was set up to
give visitors a unique insight into local Belfast communities.
For instance, their Meet the People tour includes a chance to
chat with locals about life in Belfast. You can also follow in the
footsteps of ‘Belfast Boy’ George Best, track Belfast’s famous
maritime history and much more. Call 028 9031 0610 or visit
www.belfastsafaris.com for details.
Explore the political history of west Belfast on tours led by
Republican ex-prisoners. If booked ahead large group tours
and tours of the Shankill area by Loyalist ex-prisoners can be
arranged. Pre-booking essential for all tours. Contact Coiste
(10 Beechmount Avenue, tel: 028 9020 0770. Web: www.coiste.
ie/politicaltours) for details.
When you want to find out the best places to go with the least
expensive prices, ask a student. That’s what we did. So here
are some suggestions from students at Queen’s University.
There are a multitude of attractions
in Belfast which are free or very
reasonable, from groundbreaking arts
centres and museums to atmospheric
buildings that radiate history and
even castles with spectacular hilltop
locations. They are also easy to get
to, many, especially in the city centre,
are accessible by foot, others are
just a short bus ride away. You
should also check the various
Quarter guides which are
available at the Belfast
Old Museum Arts Centre (OMAC)
7 College Square North, tel: 028 9023 3332.
www.oldmuseumartscentre.org. Cutting-edge drama, comedy and
arts-related events that won’t cost a fortune.
Whiterock Road, tel: 028 9020 2222
The home of Dubbeljoint, the theatre company that spawned
‘Stones in his Pockets’ and which helped pioneer Belfast’s famous
An Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich
216 Falls Road, tel: 028 9096 4180. Web: www.culturlann.com.
Great traditional Irish music sessions on Friday evenings and
Saturday lunchtimes take place in the café/restaurant here.
Auntie Annie’s Porterhouse
44 Dublin Road, tel: 028 9032 5968. Web: www.the-limelight.co.uk
Often has free acoustic music in the downstairs bar. Good value
local and visiting rock bands too.
18 – 22 Hill St, tel: 028 9024 4400. Web: www.blackboxbelfast.com
This dedicated performance space in the Cathedral Quarter
presents all kinds of live music plus comedy, drama and more at
prices that won’t break the bank.
312 – 320 Ormeau Road, tel: 028 9064 1410
This multi-faceted pub is home to the Real Music Club, one of the
most important promoters of acoustic music in Northern Ireland,
having worked with everyone from Roger McGuinn and Steve Earle
to Janis Ian. A great place to see local talent too. Check out their
website on www.realmusicclub.com
The Front Page
110 Donegall Street, tel: 028 9032 4924
A hub of alternative music and homegrown talent.
17 Ormeau Avenue, tel: 028 9032 5968
Free live music and good cheap pub grub at lunchtime.
30-32 Bank St, tel: 028 9024 6058. Web: www.kellyscellars.com
There are free Irish traditional sessions each day of the week
except Mondays at the oldest continually run pub in Belfast.
Sessions start at 9.30pm weekdays and between 5pm and 6pm
17 Ormeau Avenue, tel: 028 9032 5942
One of Belfast’s top venues for upcoming bands, the Limelight has
hosted Oasis and the Manic Street Preachers in the past and has
good value club nights. Connected to it is the popular Spring and
Airbrake which features quality acts covering everything from rock
51 Donegall Street, tel: 028 9023 3768
Mostly free live music, including jazz, folk, traditional and blues, six
nights a week.
Lavery’s Gin Palace
Bradbury Place, tel: 028 9087 1106. Web: www.laverysbelfast.com
Punk, indie and dance nights.
74 Berry Street, tel: 028 9024 4114
Famous for Irish music session downstairs on Monday, Tuesday
and Saturday nights and upstairs on Friday evenings.
23 Bradbury Place, tel: 028 9023 3131. Web: www.mclub.co.uk
You can join the biggest party in Belfast either at dance nights or
their Groovytrain 70s tribute night. Free admission for over-18s.
10 – 14 Tomb Street, tel: 028 9027 8876. Web: www.clubmilk.com
Admission can be as little as £5 for nights of R&B, Hip Hop, Funky
House and more at one of Belfast’s top dance clubs.
In 2007 the prestigious ‘Lonely Planet’ travel guide
listed Belfast as one of its top ten ‘Cities on the Rise’.
Hundreds of thousands of people are now taking
advantage of the many low-cost direct flights to Belfast
from the UK, Europe and even the US and Canada.
When they get here they find a city transformed by
millions of pounds of investment in visitor attractions,
clubs, pubs, restaurants and hotels. They find
something else too. A city where you don’t need to
break the budget to have the time of your life.
A true ‘People’s City’, Belfast grew quickly, from an
oversized village in the 18th century to a thriving city of
450,000 by the time RMS Titanic was launched in 1911.
In that time, it had become one of the world’s leading
ports, one of its greatest shipbuilders and was famous
for its linen, tobacco and rope-making industries. Much
of Belfast’s most impressive architecture dates from
these vibrant Victorian and Edwardian eras. The ready
wit and warmth for which Belfast people are famous
is one of the city’s most distinct features and a great
attraction for visitors today.
This guide will help you enjoy Belfast
to the utmost without stretching your
budget, whether it’s getting around,
finding good value accommodation,
sightseeing, enjoying our thriving arts,
cultural and entertainment scenes,
shopping, eating or drinking.
We hope this guide will add to your
enjoyment of Belfast.
2-16 Dunbar Street, tel: 028 9023 4520. Web: www.myntbelfast.com.
Award-winning gay bar has packed club nights with free admission
for early arrivals.
Queen’s University Students Union Building
79 University Road, tel: 028 9097 1062. Web: www.qubsu-ents.com.
Queen’s University is itself a great source of low-cost entertainment.
Their famous Shine Dance Club is on the first Saturday of the month
in their Student Union building. There are free or inexpensive nights
at the two bars right through the week, including DJ sounds, quizzes,
live music and top comedy.
73 Rosetta Rd, tel: 028 9064 9297
Acoustic music and rock downstairs in the pleasant public bar of this
south Belfast pub with tribute and Goth bands in the purpose-built
music venue upstairs.
52-54 Pilot St, tel: 028 9074 6021. Web: www.rotterdambar.com
A live music bar of the year, this historic pub presents fabulous free
sessions of all kinds of music, including blues and Irish traditional
1 Bankmore Square, off Dublin Road, tel: 028 9023 8700.
Free DJ’s at their bar at this popular bar/nightclub.
St George’s Market
May Street and Oxford Street, tel: 028 9043 5704
There are great bargains at the Friday Variety Market (6am – 1pm) at
the historic St George’s Market, near the waterfront, with over 200
stalls selling books, clothes, antiques, bric-a-brac etc as well as
various foods. Get there early for bargains!
The award-winning St George’s Market has many stalls selling
superb locally produced food, including cheeses, organic meats and
fish and seafood, at reasonable prices at the Friday Variety Market
(6am to 1pm) and Saturday Food and Garden Market (9am to 3pm).
West Street and Winetavern Street, tel: 028 9032 3248
Opposite CastleCourt shopping centre, this covered market contains
many fascinating and good value shops.
47 University Road, tel: 028 9032 8269
Down the road from Queen’s this atmospheric second hand
bookshop/café has a good choice of Irish interest books (as well
as poetry readings on the last Friday in the month). Good hearty
homemade food as well.
Harry Hall’s Bookshop
39 Gresham Street, tel: 028 9043 8474
Northern Ireland’s most famous second hand bookshop has a great
range of books.
83 Botanic Avenue, tel: 028 9031 9607. Web: www.noalibis.com
A favourite of local authors such as Colin Bateman, Northern
Ireland’s only specialist crime bookshop hosts loads of special
events, including book signings, readings and jazz and folk
Belfast Literary Guide
From CS Lewis and Anthony Trollope to Seamus Heaney and Samuel
Beckett, Belfast has connections to many great writers, poets and
playwrights. Literary Belfast, available free from the Belfast Welcome
Centre, is the definitive guide to Belfast’s fascinating literary
Haymarket Arcade, off Royal Avenue, tel: 028 9033 3131
A centre for alternative, indie and dance music, Backbeat sell second
hand records, while many local bands release records through them.
5 North St, tel: 028 9023 4040
Rare and collectible records. Good for roots music.
Royal Avenue, tel: 028 9023 9308
Run by the legendary Terri Hooley (founder of the Undertones), this
has everything from country to punk.
24 Rosemary Street, tel: 028 9024 2350
A Mecca for Goths, hippies, punks and other with all kinds of wellpriced
alternative clothes, posters, T-shirts and jewellery.
19-21 Lombard Street, tel: 028 9043 7745
Funky and affordable independent boutique with great range of
dresses. Some vintage clothes and jewellery too.
Oxfam Fair Trade Shop
16, Rosemary Street, tel: 028 9024 7168
Ethical shopping on a budget with great gift ideas.
28 Botanic Ave, tel: 9024 9700
A great place to find unusual clothes, with lots of second hand retro
clothes and an emphasis on 70s fashion.
Lot of High Street shops offer student discounts, usually 10 per cent,
if you present a valid student card.
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Belfast Welcome Centre
For up to the minute information or to book
your accommodation online, visit our website
on www.gotobelfast.com or call the Belfast
Welcome Centre on +44(0)28 9024 6609.
Here you will find great offers on all types
of accommodation, travel, transport and
This guide is one of a series of publications
produced by the Tourism Development Unit at
Belfast City Council to detail the best of Belfast’s
cultural, entertainment and tourist pursuits. For
more information visit:
Copyright and Disclaimer
This publication is the copyright of
Belfast City Council and is believed to
be accurate at time of print. We cannot
guarantee accuracy and accept no
responsibility for any errors.
St Anne’s Cathedral
Student areas, such as Botanic Avenue and Bradbury Place, are
filled with good value restaurants. Try Maggie Mays for filling meals
at under a fiver, the famous Ulster Fry at The Other Place (before
11am) and Belfast’s best, and most famous, traditional fish and
chips, Longs in the city centre. The Bonateee Bar in the Queen’s
Student’s Union Building has good value food, such as pizzas. There
are authentic Chinese restaurants in Donegall Pass too. Belfast’s
bakeries are famous for delicious, filling buns, Belfast Baps, soda,
potato bread and wheaten breads and much more.
Revelations (tel: 028 9032 0337. Web: www.revelations.co.uk) in
Shaftesbury Square are good value. Great milkshakes too! Other
internet cafés include Surf City Café, 207 Woodstock Rd, tel: 028
9046 1717 and No Geeks, CastleCourt Shopping Centre; Royal
Avenue, tel: 028 9031 9607. You can also surf at the Belfast
Welcome Centre, the one-stop visitor information centre at 47
Donegall Place, across from City Hall.
Belfast has a packed calendar of cultural events and festivals
throughout the year, most of which are free to the public. Here is just
a small selection. Check the Belfast Welcome Centre at 47 Donegall
Place, tel: 028 9024 6609, or visit www.gotobelfast.com for up-todate
Out to Lunch
A recent addition, this offshoot of the acclaimed Cathedral Quarter
Arts Festival, offers superb theatre, comedy, music and talks with
lunch for just a fiver. Irresistible.
The Belfast Nashville Songwriters’ Festival
Belfast celebrates the art of songwriting with a series of superb
concerts from top American and Irish artists at reasonable prices
plus fascinating free talks.
St Patrick’s Day Carnival
Celebrate Ireland’s patron saint with a colourful carnival winding
through the streets of Belfast, ending with free live music at Custom
Titanic – Made in Belfast
The world’s biggest and best Titanic Festival brings exhibitions,
tours, film shows, talks and more to the city where the world’s most
famous ship was designed, built and launched. Most events are free.
Belfast Ulster Scots Festival
A celebration of the unique Ulster Scots culture that has been
so influential in Northern Irish life includes dance, music, history,
literature, food and song at venues throughout Belfast.
The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival
Out to Lunch’s big brother has the finest alternative arts performers
in the world at venues around Belfast’s cultural heartland. All events
are reasonably priced, some free.
The Lord Mayor’s Parade
A free carnival procession through the city celebrates the end of the
Lord Mayor’s term.
Belfast Maritime Festival
A chance to see some of the world’s most spectacular tall ships and
enjoy some great events down by the docks.
Opera in the Gardens
Enjoy world-class opera and live music for free at the lovely Botanic
There are street entertainers, kid’s’ events, dancing and drumming
displays and lots more to accompany the largest Orange Order
parade in Northern Ireland through the city on July 12th. Ends at
Barnett Demesne in south Belfast.
Féile an Phobail (West Belfast Festival)
Many reasonably priced, and some free, events from drama and
comedy to international food fairs and political discussions at
Europe’s largest community-led festival.
Proms in the Park
Tickets for this popular relay of the BBC Proms plus live music are
free but book as early as you can.
Fantastic roots music from the US and Ireland at venues throughout
the Cathedral Quarter. Some free, all good value. Talks and
Belfast Festival at Queen’s
There are lots of fascinating events which won’t cost the earth at
venues throughout Belfast at one of Europe’s biggest arts festivals.
The festive season comes to Belfast with carol singing, lantern
processions, the traditional switching on of the Christmas lights by a
visiting celebrity and much more.
CS Lewis Festival
The author of the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, CS Lewis, was born and
brought up in east Belfast and this popular festival celebrates his
work with tours, workshops, screenings and much more.
New Year’s Eve
The Belfast year ends with a spectacular free outdoor concert.
ON A BUDGET
T H E G U I D E
Belfast is such a compact
city to get around that
you can reach many of
its attractions on foot. If
you want to stray a little
further, especially to
Belfast’s beautiful parks,
then cycling on dedicated
cycle lanes is an option.
(see The Great Outdoors
Grand Opera House
Linen Hall Library
Begin at the Classical Renaissance City Hall, in Donegall Square at
the heart of Belfast. Though it will be closed for refurbishment for
a period from September 2007, its grounds contain many famous
statues and monuments.
To get a real feel for local culture, walk across Donegall Square (the
entrance is in adjoining Fountain Street) to the Linen Hall Library (tel:
028 9032 1707, www.linenhall.com). This historic building contains the
internationally renowned Northern Ireland Political and Irish Studies
collections while fans of Narnia can access their special CS Lewis
collection (only members can actually borrow books here though).
They also have regular free exhibitions and a relaxing café. A free
public tour is available at 11.30am on Wednesdays and at other times
A Day at the Opera
Around the corner in Great Victoria Street, is one of Belfast’s most
famous entertainment venues, the twin-domed 19th century Grand
Opera House, where Luciano Pavarotti made his UK debut. For a
small fee you can take a public tour of this beautiful building on
Saturdays between 11am and 2pm, which includes coffee and a
Danish pastry at their all-day restaurant. Call the Box Office on 028
9024 1919 to book. Just across the road, you must not miss one of
the world’s most beautiful Victorian gin palaces, the Crown Liquor
Saloon, preserved by the National Trust, where you can sample a
plate of Irish stew.
Go to Church
Nearby in Alfred Street is St Malachy’s Church, famous for its fanvaulted
ceiling which looks like an upside down wedding cake. From
here it’s a short walk to 18a Ormeau Avenue where a piece of Belfast
history, the redbrick Ormeau Baths washhouse (tel: 028 9032 1402.
Web: www.ormeaubaths.co.uk) has been converted to one of the
city’s premier public art galleries, with free exhibitions of leading
contemporary Irish and international artists. You’ll need to book ahead
for a free behind-the-screen tour of BBC Northern Ireland’s Ormeau
Avenue headquarters, with special access to areas like the BBC
Newsline studio floor and BBC NI newsroom. Call 028 9033 8000
for details of how to apply. Tour times are 12pm and 3pm Mondays
and 12pm Tuesdays. This is one of the Hard Hat Tours (free brochure
available from the Belfast Welcome Centre), which include lots of
fascinating, mostly free, tours of special Belfast buildings, many of
which are not usually open to the public. Take your pick of enthralling
artists’ workshops, traditional tea and coffee companies, a boutique
beer brewery and many more of Belfast’s most interesting buildings.
Searching for the Past
The Central Library in Royal Avenue (tel: 028 9050 9150) has
some excellent Irish studies collections and you can hit the net on
conveniently placed computers on all floors. Visitor cannot borrow
books but knowledgeable staff are happy to advise on local history
and there’s a newspaper archive dating back centuries (access from
Library Street, tel: 028 9050 9117) to delve into. The Central Library
is open until 8pm Monday to Thursday and you can book a tour on
these evenings at reception.
St George’s Church
A chapel is believed to have stood on the site which St George’s
Church now occupies in High Street as far back as the 13th century,
when Belfast was just a crossing place on the River Farset. The
magnificent St George’s itself was designed by John Bowden and
completed in 1816. Its impressive portico was transported by canal
from the house of the eccentric Earl Bishop of Derry. You can visit
between 10am and 3pm Monday to Fridays (check for service times
on the noticeboard outside) and between 10am and 1pm Saturday.
The main service on Sunday is at 11am. Call 028 9023 1275 for more
Belfast City Council’s More Time campaign has brought an enticing
series of great value early evening deals to restaurants, pubs, shops,
beauty salons and other venues. One of these is Live@5 which brings
all kinds of free live music (jazz, folk, acoustic etc) with special deal
prices to some of our most atmospheric bars. Check the More Time
booklet and Whatabout guide, both available at the Belfast Welcome
Centre or downloadable from www.gotobelfast.com
Belfast has an inexpensive and efficient public transport
system and there are a number of ways to make it even
cheaper. The Metro bus service, operated by Translink, will
take you to virtually all locations in the city and its suburbs
for surprisingly little outlay. Smartlink cards and travel cards
all help you save money and can be bought and topped up
at the Metro Kiosk in Donegall Square West (by City Hall) or
in shops displaying a ‘Smartlink Agent’ sign. A Metro Day
ticket can be purchased on board any Metro service and
allows you to travel on any Metro route throughout the day
(starting after 10am), while travel cards can be purchased
for a week or a month. You can buy Smartlink passes for
both Metro and Ulsterbus (which will take you throughout
Northern Ireland) which offer substantial savings if you are
planning more than a few journeys and make travelling by
bus much easier. Translink also run regular promotional
fares, so check out their website for the latest offers. For
information on Translink services contact 028 9066 6630 or
Cabbing with the locals
The black cabs of Belfast are now almost as famous around
the world as those of London (where many of them began
life) but for a very different reason. Thanks to the unique
shared-fare system of the West Belfast Taxi Association
(WBTA), you can travel from the city centre to the end of the
Falls Road for just over a pound, enjoying a real insight into
local life at the same time. WBTA offers transport to north
Belfast and seven areas in west Belfast, with inexpensive
adult fares for all their routes. The cabs start from Castle
Junction in the city centre (where WBTA have their offices)
but you can hail or leave a cab anywhere along the route,
which includes many places of interest. Just remember that
if the driver holds up two fingers to you it’s not a rare lapse
in Belfast hospitality, he’s telling you there are two places
inside. West Belfast Taxi Association (Castle Junction, tel:
028 9031 5777. Web: www.wbta.net). Tel: 028 9032 8775
Sharing the Shankill
A shared cab service is also run by the North Belfast Mutual
Association, 400 Shankill Road, which leaves from North
Street and Bridge Street and which will whisk you down the
Shankill Road with its famous political murals. For a small
fee their taxis will also take you on various other routes in
Belfast. Call 028 9032 8775 for more information.
Angels and Artists
Start your tour of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, one of the most
historic parts of the city, with the building it takes its name from, the
neo-Romanesque St Anne’s Cathedral, which features a beautiful
tympanum of mosaic angels and a baptistry ceiling composed of over
150,000 pieces of glass. Call 028 9032 8332 to request a free evening
tour. Further along Donegall Street, Belfast Exposed at Exchange
Place (028 9023 0965) hosts free contemporary photography
exhibitions and also allows access to its digital archive of over
250,000 images of Belfast. Around the corner in Waring Street, Cotton
Court is the home of Craft NI, where you can see the work of talented
crafts designers at the Vision Studio. In the same building you can
also visit the ground floor gallery of the Belfast Print Workshop (tel:
028 9023 0323. Web: www.belfastprintworkshop.org.uk) which has
free exhibitions of leading artists working in the print media.
At 5 Waring Street, the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum (tel: 028 9023
2086) tells the story of the regiment from the reign of George III
onwards and has replicas of the three Victoria Crosses won by the
regiment on display. The World War Two Exhibition (tel: 028 9032
0392) at 9-13 Waring Street explores the role of Northern Ireland and
its people in the Second World War. It covers many aspects, from
the devastating Belfast Blitz that cost over 1,000 lives to accounts of
Belfast soldiers overseas and features medals, uniforms, newspapers
and posters. Entrance to both museums is free.
Training for the Big Top
If you’re up for something completely different why not drop in at the
Belfast Community Circus School between 7.30pm and 9.30pm on
a Wednesday evening. For just a small fee you can learn a variety of
circus skills, including acrobatics, juggling and stiltwalking. Beginners
welcome. Belfast Community Circus School, 23 – 25 Gordon Street,
tel: 028 9023 6007
Palm House, Botanic Gardens
The Art of Fun
At the bottom of University Road is one of Belfast’s most vibrant art
centres, the Crescent Arts Centre (2-4 University Road, tel: 028 9023
5245. Web: www.crescentarts.org) which is always worth checking
for all kinds of reasonably priced musical and artistic events and
workshops. Based there for over ten years is the groundbreaking
Fenderesky Gallery, which regularly features leading Irish artists such
as David Crone, Ciaran Lennon and Feilim Egan. A few minutes walk
up the road brings you to Queen’s University, where you can tour
Charles Lanyon’s distinguished building, beginning at the Visitor
Centre, making sure you take in the Naughton Gallery (tel: 028 9097
3580. Web: www.naughtongallery.org), which features classic Irish
paintings, by artists such as William Conor and Paul Henry, from
Queen’s extensive collection as well as touring exhibitions. For all
kinds of fascinating free literary events from poetry readings and book
launches to lectures and talks around Queen’s, make sure you check
out the Seamus Heaney Centre of Poetry (tel: 028 9097 1070, www.
You can arrange special free tours of the colourful Palm House, which
houses a spectacular range of tropical and temperate plants, and the
steamy Tropical Ravine, both buildings dating from the 19th century,
at the Botanic Gardens, a short walk from Queen’s University. Call 028
9031 4762. Not too far away, there’s another Hard Hat Tour attraction
waiting at the Lawrence Street Workshops at 1a Lawrence Street.
Call 028 9023 4993 to arrange a free tour of this old stables courtyard
which is now home to a community of some of Belfast’s most talented
artists and crafts people, with their work on display at an impressive
Tracing Your Roots
If you’re interested in local history or tracing your family roots (see
the Tracing Your Family Roots brochure, available from the Belfast
Welcome Centre) a trip to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
(PRONI) is a must. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable and there is
no cost. It’s located just off the Malone Road at 66 Balmoral Avenue
(tel: 028 9025 5921. Web: www.proni.gov.uk). For a small fee the
Ulster Historical Foundation (Unit 7, Cotton Court, Waring Street) in
the Cathedral Quarter will offer preliminary advice on your search for
ancestors and allow access to their extensive database. If you want to
commission a full report, their research team will agree a budget with
you and conduct a search on your behalf. Call 028 9033 2288 or visit
www.ancestryireland.com for more information.
C S Lewis statue, Hollywood Arches
Policing Down the Years
Check out displays of uniforms, equipment and weapons relating
to the history of policing in Northern Ireland from the 1800’s to the
present day at the Police Museum at 65 Knock Road, at the Police
Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) headquarters. It’s free but call 028
9065 0222 first to arrange a visit.
The Origins of Narnia
The author of the famous ‘Chronicles of Narnia’, CS Lewis, was
born and brought up in east Belfast. He was baptised at St Mark’s
Church on the Holywood Road by his formidable grandfather, the
Rev Thomas Hamilton, in 1899. In 1935 ‘Jack’, as he was known,
and brother Warnie, presented the magnificent stained glass
Lewis window to the church in memory of their parents. The lion
doorhandle from the old rectory, a possible inspiration for Aslan, is
still in the church grounds.
On the old Harland and Wolff shipyard on Queen’s Island, where
RMS Titanic and many other great ships were built, a magnificent
new mixed-use development is being built, called Titanic Quarter.
The area includes the Drawing Rooms where Titanic and her sister
ships were designed, the slipways from which she was launched
and the Thompson Dry Dock where her superstructure was added,
all of which will be part of a major tourist attraction. Tours are
available of the Thompson Dry Dock, as well as the Thompson
Pump House (which controlled the water in the dry dock) and
adjacent Alexandra Graving Dock. Call the Northern Ireland Science
Park on 028 9073 7813 for more information. The last surviving ship
with a Titanic connection, the Nomadic is currently being restored
at dry dock in Belfast and will become an important Titanic Quarter
attraction. Built by Harland and Wolff for the White Star Line, the
ship, which once ferried passengers from Cherbourg port to Titanic,
had been partially restored by volunteers after being returned from
France, where she last worked as a floating restaurant in Paris.
You can also find Samson and Goliath, the two great yellow cranes
which dominate the Belfast skyline on Queen’s Island. There
are several tours, including those by the Lagan Boat Company
and Belfast City Sightseeing, which take you to the heart of the
Titanic legend. Nearby, the Odyssey Pavilion has many attractions,
including tenpin bowling, an Imax cinema, a state-of-the-art cinema
complex and the award-winning W5 discovery centre. The adjacent
Odyssey Arena is a venue for major rock concerts, the Belfast
Giants ice hockey team and entertainment spectaculars.
Thompson Graving Dock
Clifton House spinning wheel
Samson Crane, Harland & Wolff
Sinclair Seaman’s Church
Signed in Blood
The Rev Henry Montgomery, who founded the Shankill Road Mission on
the Shankill Road, is reputed to have signed the famous Solemn League
and Covenant, which protested against the Home Rule Bill of 1912, in his
The Shamrock Church
When you see the distinctively shaped St Matthew’s Church in Woodvale
Road, just off the Shankill Road, for yourself you’ll understand how it
got its nickname. The ancient Ballaun stone which is set on a pedestal
outside the church, is thought to date from Druid times and was
discovered at the nearby Shankill Graveyard (see below).
The Shankill Graveyard
This was the Belfast City Cemetery until 1866 and during the Great
Plague mass burials took place here. Its oldest existing gravestone goes
back to 1685 but the site has been used for burials for much longer than
that, possibly as early as the 6th century when Belfast’s first church is
believed to have stood near here.
Just past the Rex Bar is one of the most famous murals of the Shankill
Road, Edward Carson signing the 1912 Solemn League and Covenant at
City Hall. Further up the road, a mural depicts James Buchanan, one of
the nine US presidents believed to be of Ulster Scots descent.
Also on the Shankill Road, the tranquil Shankill Memorial Gardens recalls
those who died in the two world wars.
Belfast’s Berlin Wall
The peace line at Cupar Way, which separates the Falls and the Shankill
districts, is the oldest in Europe. Taxi and bus tours frequently stop here.
Best View of Belfast
About a 25-minute bus ride from the city centre is the Scottish Baronialstyle
Belfast Castle, towering above the city on Cave Hill (tel: 028 9077
6925. Web: www.belfastcastle.co.uk), where you can stroll the beautiful
grounds, plan your tour of nearby Cave Hill Country Park at their Cave
Hill Visitor Centre, enjoy a superb meal and take a pre-booked free tour.
Radicals and Sailors
One of the oldest and most elegant buildings in Belfast, Clifton House
at 2 North Queen Street was opened in the 1770s as the Belfast Poor
House to house the poor, sick and destitute of the city. Its fascinating
history is connected to one of the world’s oldest newspapers, the Belfast
News Letter, and the local leader of the United Irishmen rebellion. Find
out more by ringing 028 9089 7534 to arrange a free tour. One of the
world’s most unusual nautically themed churches, Sinclair Seamen’s,
can be found just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre at Corporation
Square. Designed by Charles Lanyon, the architect of Queen’s University,
its pulpit is shaped like a ship’s prow, its bell is from the ill-fated HMS
Hood and even the collection plates are shaped like lifeboats! It’s open
Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4.30pm but you can prearrange
a free group tour at other times by calling 028 9071 5997.
Cathedrals and Crafts
A great area to get to know local people, everyone in west Belfast
seems to have time and it’s easy to get into conversation. Start
your tour at the beautiful French-style St Peter’s Cathedral (Peter’s
Square, tel: 028 9032 7573), easy to find due to its two great towers
with rising spires. Built in 1866, it was the first Catholic church in
Belfast to be designed in the Gothic style. Entrance is through a
side door and you can pick up a brochure on the Cathedral inside.
Further up the Falls Road, Conway Mill (5 – 7 Conway Street,
tel: 028 9024 9323. Web: www.conwaymill.org) was the first flax
spinning mill in west Belfast and is now an important hub of local
community arts. The atmospheric building is home to the Space
Gallery on the third floor (lift available), with work from international
artists and its 22 resident artists and craft producers on show. Free
tours of the building can be arranged if you ring first.
The Hub of West Belfast
Another Hard Hat Tour possibility is Clonard Church and Monastery
(1 Clonard Gardens, tel: Tel: 028 9044 5950. Web: www.clonard.
com). The beautiful French Gothic-style church, with its striking
Rose Window and magnificent organ, and the adjacent monastery
are situated on the peace line between the Shankill Road and Falls
Road. The church is open seven days a week from 6am to 8pm
(10pm on Thursdays). Private tours of the crypt and monastery can
be arranged. Call 028 9044 5950 for more information.
A short black taxi trip up the Falls Road is the cultural hub of west
Belfast, An Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich (216 Falls Road. tel: 028
9096 4180. Web: www.culturlann.com), an Irish language book and
gift shop and home to all kinds of cultural activities, either free or
reasonably priced. Good-value food is available at its café.
St Peter’s Cathedral
Falls Road Mural
The Great Outdoors
Few cities in Europe boast as many parks,
forests and open spaces as Belfast and
whatever way you choose to enjoy them, it
won’t break the budget.
Cycling is gaining popularity fast with visitors to Belfast. If
you’ve got the energy it’s the best way to get around our
beautiful parks, especially Clement Wilson Park, Barnett
Demesne and Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park which
are off the Lagan Towpath (part of the National Cycle
Network). Why not take a picnic (made up of good-value
and delicious local food from St George’s Market on Friday
and Saturday or Sawers deli in College Street) with you.
Bike hire is available at Life Cycles, 36-37 Smithfield
Market (tel: 028 9043 9959 or visit www.lifecycles.co.uk)
with daily and weekly rates. You can also hire bikes at
McConvey Cycles (183 Ormeau Road, tel: 028 9033 0322
or visit www.rentabikebelfast.com) who are just yards from
the National Cycle Network. Copies of the ‘Belfast by Bike’
cycling map, along with lots more information on cycling in
the city, are available at the Belfast Welcome Centre.
Take a Hike
Apart from Belfast’s parks and forests (see below) the
spectacular hills and mountains which frame the city offer
wonderful walks. The Belfast Hills Partnership advises
on a range of enjoyable walks, such as those through the
200 acres of woodland and open grassland of beautiful
Colin Glen Forest Park, and has produced a walking map
and guide. For more information call the Belfast Hills
Partnership on 028 9060 3466 or visit www.belfasthills.org
A Walk in the Park
From the Botanic Gardens in the Queen’s Quarter to
the heights of Cave Hill Country Park, none of Belfast’s
parks is more than a 30-minute bus ride from the heart of
Belfast. You’ll get an idea of how best to enjoy them from
brochures such as ‘A Guide to the Wildlife of Belfast’ and
‘A Walk in the Park’, available free at the Belfast Welcome
Centre. From International Rose Week at Sir Thomas and
Lady Dixon Park to balmy summer weekend afternoons of
free entertainment in many different parks, there are lots
of events to enjoy through the year. Get a copy of ‘What’s
on in Parks’ from Belfast City Council Parks Department
(call 028 9027 0467 or visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/
Belfast City Council runs leisure centres throughout
Belfast, offering a range of leisure and sporting activities at
very reasonable prices. Call 028 9032 0202 or visit
www.belfastcity.gov.uk/leisurecentres for more information.