Belfast gained notoriety around the world during “The Troubles” (1969-1997) when gun and bomb attacks in the city made headlines on a regular basis. Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, most of the politically-motivated violence has evaporated and Belfast has become an increasingly popular short-break destination for tourists from around the world.
The Titanic Belfast Centre opened in April 2012 and has attracted thousands of visitors to the city. The museum, sited near the spot where the ship was built, recreates life on board as well as showing how it was built and launched. Ten galleries over six floors tell the story of Titanic’s conception, construction, launch, tragic maiden voyage, and rediscovery at the bottom of the Atlantic. Moored nearby is the recently restored SS Nomadic, tender to the Titanic and the only surviving vessel from the White Star Line. Towering over all are Samson and Goliath, the colossal cranes of Harland & Wolff, once the world’s biggest shipbuilder, employing 40,000, now a shadow of its former self.
The city has many other sights worth seeing including the Albert Clock which was erected in 1865 in Gothic style to commemorate Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert. It was tall enough at 113ft, to offer an excellent vantage point for at least one enterprising sightseer to get a birds-eye view of Titanic’s launch.
The Stormont Parliament Buildings are home to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the legislative body for Northern Ireland established under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The Parliament Buildings are open to the public between 9.00am and 4.00pm Monday to Friday, when you can see first-hand the building and beautiful surroundings of the Stormont Estate.
The splendid neoclassical City Hall was built in 1906 to symbolise the pride and might of a city which boasted the world’s largest shipyard, ropeworks and linen mills. Other claims to fame include the invention of air conditioning, the tractor, the pneumatic tyre – and Milk of Magnesia.
It is well worth taking a trip outside the city to The Giant’s Causeway. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this is a magnificent, mysterious geological formation on the North East coast of CountyAntrim steeped in myth and legend. The setting is a spectacular dynamic coastal landscape of Atlantic waves, rugged cliffs, secluded bays and magnificent views. The Causeway proper is a mass of basalt columns packed tightly together. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Altogether there are 40,000 of these stone columns, mostly hexagonal but some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 40 feet high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 90 feet thick in places. Visitors can walk along the basalt columns which are at the edge of the sea.