Albert Memorial Clock Tower:
Tilting a little to one side, the clock tower was named for Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert. The square on which it stands has just undergone a face-lift. Unfortunately, the tower stands on fine, silt soil left by the melting of a glacier at the end of the Ice Age. Other Victorian buildings in Belfast have been affected by this instability also. The tower itself is not open to the public.
Belfast Botanic Gardens & Palm House:
Signposted from M1/M2 (Balmoral exit), Stranmillis Rd., County Antrim
Palm House and Tropical Ravine Apr-Sept Mon-Fri 10am-noon, daily 1-5pm; Oct-Mar Mon-Fri 10am-noon, daily 1-4pm.
Gardens daily 8am-sunset
Bus: 61, 71, 84, or 85
Dating from 1827, the gardens were established by the Belfast Botanic and Horticultural Society. In 1839, Palm House, a stunning glass and iron conservatory, was designed by noted Belfast architect Charles Lanyon. This unique building is one of the earliest examples of curvilinear cast-iron glass-house construction. It contains many rare plants, including such tropical plants as sugar cane, coffee, cinnamon, banana, aloe, ivory nut, rubber, bamboo, guava, and a bird of paradise flower. The Tropical Ravine, also known as the fernery, provides a setting for plants to grow in a sunken glen that can be viewed from the observation balcony. The surrounding outdoor gardens feature colorful rose beds and herbaceous borders.
Signposted off the Antrim Rd., 2 1/2 miles (4km) north of the city center, County Antrim
Free admission and parking
Northwest of downtown and 400 feet above sea level, on Cave Hill, stands Belfast Castle, The castle, which affords panoramic views of Belfast Lough and the city, was built in the late 1800's as a family residence. It was a gift to the city in 1934 by the Earl of Shaftesbury. The Scottish baronial architecture features a six story square tower. Its cellars have been transformed into a Victorian arcade, including an antiques and craft shop, a bar, and a bistro restaurant. The 200 acre grounds include a public park, which is ideal for walking, jogging, picnicking, or just enjoying the view.
5 miles (8km) north of the city on A6, Antrim Rd., County Antrim
Apr-Sept daily 10am-5pm; Oct-Mar daily 10am-3:30pm (to 2:30pm on Fri)
Bus: 9, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, or 51
Admission charged; free for seniors and children under 4
In a picturesque mountain park on the slopes of Cave Hill overlooking the city, this zoo was founded in 1920 as Bellevue Gardens. A completely new, modern zoo was designed in recent years. It emphasizes conservation, education, and breeding rare species.
Cavehill Country Park:
Off the Antrim Rd., 4 miles (6.5km) north of city center, County Antrim
Parking at Belfast Castle or Belfast Zoo
This lovely park is on the slopes of a 1,200-foot basalt cliff. It offers panoramic views, walking trails, and a number of interesting archaeological and historical sights. The five Neolithic caves that gave the hill its name provided shelter from prehistoric times. There is also MacArt's Fort, an ancient means of protection against the Viking invaders. There is also an adventure playground for children.
Donegall Sq., Belfast, County Antrim
Guided tours June-Sept Mon-Fri 10:30am, 11:30am, 2:30pm, Sat 2:30pm; Oct-May Mon-Sat 2:30pm. Otherwise by arrangement.
Free admission. Reservations required
Completed in 1906, this magnificent public building is the core of Belfast..It was built of Portland stone, capped with a copper dome, and set around a central courtyard. Inside it is decorated with Greek and Italian marble, stained glass, and rich mosaic. Queen Victoria granted Belfast the status of a city in 1888, and a bust of the beloved queen stands at the front of City Hall.
Birthplace of the Titanic:
The Harland & Wolff shipyard, whose two huge cranes be seen just across the river from the Prince Albert Memorial Clock Tower, claims the SS Titanic as its most famous creation.
Ormeau Baths Gallery:
18A Ormeau Ave Belfast, County Antrim
Occupying the site of, and partly incorporating, the old Victorian swimming baths designed by Robert Watt, Ormeau Baths Gallery opened in 1995 as the city's principal exhibition space for contemporary visual art. This striking and versatile facility can program multiple simultaneous exhibitions in a variety of media, and has become the premier showcase for the best of Northern Irish contemporary art.
Ulster Folk And Transport Museum:
Cultra, near Holywood,
Apr.-June and Sept., weekdays 9:30-5, Sat. 10:30-6, Sun. noon-6;
July-Aug., Mon.-Sat. 10:30-6, Sun. noon-6;
Oct.-Mar., weekdays 9:30-4, weekends 12:30-4:30
Devoted to the province's social history, the unique Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is set on 176 acres of parkland 10 miles northeast of Belfast. It brings the North's past to life with a fascinating collection of buildings, all furnished in 1900's style. These structures represent different facets of Northern life: a traditional weaver's cottage, terraces of Victorian town houses, an 18th-century country church, a village flax mill, a farmhouse, printer's workshop, a rural school and many other buildings. Across the main road (by footbridge) is the beautifully designed Transport Museum, where exhibits include locally built airplanes, locomotive, and motorcycles; the car produced by John De Lorean in his Belfast factory in 1982; and a moving section on the Titanic, the Belfast-built luxury liner that sank on her first voyage, in 1912. Check for the special events held throughout the year.
Weekdays 10-5, Sat. 1-5, Sun. 2-5.
In the southwest corner of the Botanic Gardens, this museum has three floors devoted to the life and history of Northern Ireland, together with a considerable collection of 19th- and 20th-century fine art. Also featured are armada treasures recovered from the 1588 shipwrecked Girona and two sister galleons lost off the Antrim coast in 1588. Other exhibits include one tracing the rise of Belfast's crafts, trade, and industry; another tells the story of the Nationalist movement and explains the separation of the North from the rest of the country.
Linen Hall Library:
Mon-Wed & Fri 9.30am-5.30pm, Thurs till 8.30pm, Sat till 4pm
Tours must be arranged in advance.
The oldest library in the city. Contains books on heraldry, collection of Robert Burns, and a complete Political Collection of over 80,000 publications dealing with every aspect of Northern Irish political life since 1966.
The Europa Hotel and the Crown mark the northern end of this arrowhead-shape area, which extends from Howard Street in the north to Shaftesbury Square at the southern tip, bordered on the west by Great Victoria Street and on the east by Bedford Street and Dublin Road. Golden Mile and its immediate environs harbor some of Belfast's most noteworthy historic buildings. In addition, the area is filled with hotels, major civic and office buildings, as well as some restaurants, caf√©s, and stores.
Crown Liquor Saloon:
46 Great Victoria St.
Daily 11:30 AM-midnight
Opposite the Europa Hotel on Great Victoria Street and now owned by the National Trust (the U.K.'s official conservation organization), the Crown is one of Belfast's fine old gathering places. Built in 1894, the bar has richly carved woodwork around cozy snugs (cubicles), leather seats, colored tile work, and abundant mirrors. It is still lit by gas, and is the perfect setting for a pint of Guinness and a plate of oysters.
Great Victoria St. at Glengall St.
A landmark in Belfast, the Europa is a monument to the resilience of the city in the face of the Troubles. The most bombed hotel in western Europe, it was targeted 11 times by the IRA from the early 1970s and refurbished every time.
Grand Opera House:
Great Victoria St.
Designed in 1894 by the famous theater architect Frank Matcham, this building reveals the Victorian age's fascination with the East. Beautifully restored in the 1970s, the Grand Opera House is worth a visit, even if you don't go to a show, for a chance to admire the opulence of the gilt moldings, ornamental plasterwork, and exquisite ceiling fresco by contemporary Irish artist Cherith McKinstry. The best way to see and enjoy the Grand Opera House is to attend a show; musical, operas, or conventional theater production.
May-Sept., Mon.-Sat. 10-4; Oct.-Apr., weekdays 10-4.
The main university buildings, modeled on Oxford's Magdalen College and designed by Charles Lanyon, were constructed in 1849 in a Tudor Revival style. The long redbrick-and-sandstone facade of the main building has large leaded windows, with three square towers and crenellations. University Square, really a terrace, is another treasure from the same era. There is a Seamus Heaney library, named after the Ulster-born 1997 Nobel Prize-winning poet.
St. Anne's Cathedral:
Weekdays 9:15-4:45, Sat. 9:15-4.
Deep, rounded arches in the Irish neo-Romanesque style accent this large edifice, which is basilican in plan and was built at the turn of the 20th century. Lord Carson (1854-1935), who was largely responsible for keeping the six counties inside the United Kingdom, is buried there.
St. Malachy's Church:
Notable are its turrets overlooking the upper Market area. St. Malachy's Roman Catholic Church opened in 1844.
First Presbyterian Church:
Located in the main shopping area, this church, built in 1783, is noteworthy for its elliptical interior and enclosed pews, each entered by a door. It was designed by John Wesley. Free noontime concerts are sometimes offered.
A mile long avenue leads up to this impressive gleaming white building that opened in 1932 and is the seat of Northern Ireland self-governing parliaments. The building is not open to the public, but the beautifully maintained grounds are open to all.
Lagan Valley Regional Park:
Nine miles of paths along the banks of the River Lagan pass old locks and lock houses from the early 1700's when the towpaths were used by horses pulling coal barges. The path begins near Belfast Boat Club in Stranmillis and goes to Lisburn.
Lagan Lookout Center:
Hands-on exhibits and videos explain the river's influence on the city. Outside, river activity can be viewed from the lookout platform.
Once its own village, now the off-campus quarter, Stranmillis is one of Belfast's most appealing neighborhoods, filled with tree-lined residential streets on which you'll find a wide choice of ethnic restaurants. Reached via Stranmillis Road (near the Ulster Museum), the neighborhood is home to "Little Paris," a stretch of shops and caf√©s. The community reaches down to the riverside towpath along the Lagan. Malone Road joins the river farther south, close to the out-of-town Giant's Ring (off Ballyleeson Road), a large, Neolithic earthwork .
The Performing Arts:
Up-to-date listings of shows and concerts, there are several sources. That's Entertainment is free and widely available at tourist offices and pubs, as is The Big List. Artslink, published monthly, is also free and useful. The Buzz is neither free nor particularly useful: it comes out only every 2 months. And there's always the Belfast Daily Telegraph and The Irish News.
Belfast has several city-center movie theaters that show the major new British and American box-office favorites.
Queen's Film Theatre
University Sq. Mews, off Botanic Ave.,
Belfast's main art cinema, shows domestic and foreign movies on its two screens.
028/9024-3200 for information;
028/9055-5176 for credit-card booking (both 24 hrs)
Has 10 screens.
484 Lisburn Rd.,
This is the major venue for pop and rock concerts.
Home to the Ulster Orchestra, the hall has excellent acoustics and a splendid Victorian organ.
Opera and Theater:
Belfast Civic Arts Theatre
41 Botanic Ave
Near the university area, this venue specializes in comedies and similar productions.
Crescent Arts Centre
2-4 University Rd.
"The Crescent" to its habitu√©s, this huge, rambling black stone building off the campus end of Bradbury Place is a focus for experimental theater and dance, provocative art in its Fenderesky Gallery, and experimental jazz.
Call for prices and schedule.
In the south of Belfast, at King's Bridge on the banks of the Lagan, the Lyric stages thoughtful drama inspired by traditional and contemporary Irish culture.
Old Museum Arts Centre (Omac)
7 College Sq. N
A powerhouse of challenging, avant-garde theater and modern dance, OMAC also has a risk-taking art gallery.
Opera Northern Ireland
Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi were scheduled in past years; performances are at the Grand Opera House.
Theaters and Arts Centers:
Grand Opera House
Great Victoria St.
This beautifully restored Victorian playhouse has no company of its own but books shows from all over the British Isles and sometimes farther afield. It puts on a constant stream of West End musicals and plays of widely differing kinds, plus occasional operas and ballets. It's worth going to a show if only to enjoy the atmosphere of the opera house itself.
Everyone in Belfast is still singing the praises of this civic structure, which opened in January 1997. The hall is an odd marriage of Close Encounters modern and Castel Sant'Angelo antique. It houses both a major 2,235-seat concert hall (used for ballet, symphony, rock, and Irish music) and a 500-seat studio space (for modern dance, jazz, and experimental theater). If you don't mind the airport-lounge feel, the river-view Terrace Caf√© restaurant and two bars make the hall a convenient place to eat or have a pint before or after your culture fix.
The Belfast epicenter is in the basement of the Empire Music Hall, 42 Botanic (028/9032-8110). It's home every Tuesday at 9pm to The Empire Laughs Back. If you'd rather sit down than stand up, get there at least an hour early.
The 5 1/2-mile (8.9km) stretch of the Lagan River from Stranmillis weir to Shaw's Bridge offers fishing, popular especially on summer evenings. From May to July, Lough Neagh has good shore and boat fishing.
Oxford Island, Craigavon
Village Tackle Shop
55a Newtownbreda Rd., Belfast
Shankill Fishing Tackle
366 Shankill Rd., Belfast
The Belfast area offers four parkland 18-hole courses within 4 miles (6.5km) of the city center. Weekdays are usually better for visitors, and each club has preferred weekdays. Phone ahead. Club pros offer lessons, usually for about ¬£25 ($41.25) per hour; book at least 2 days ahead.
Balmoral Golf Club
Dunmurry Golf Club
518 Lisburn Rd., Belfast
With greens fees of ¬£20 ($33) weekdays (except Wed), ¬£30 ($49.50) weekends and Wednesday; Three miles (4.8km) southwest of the city.
91 Dunmurry Lane, Dunmurry, Belfast
¬£17 ($28.05) weekdays, ¬£26.50 ($43.75) weekends; 4 miles (6.5km) southwest of the city center.
Belvoir Park Golf Club
73 Church Rd.
¬£33 ($54.45) weekdays, ¬£38 ($62.70) weekends; 3 miles (4.8km) south of the city center.
Fortwilliam Golf Club
Downview Avenue, Belfast
¬£22 ($36.30) weekdays, ¬£29 ($47.85) weekends. 3 miles (4.8km) north.
Drumgooland House Equestrian Centre
29 Dunnanew Rd., Seaforde, Downpatrick, County Down
It offers 1- to 4-hour treks, beach rides, and lessons. Full equestrian holidays are available.
13 Adelaide Park, Malone Rd.
Weekdays 9-5 and by appointment), in his Victorian home in the leafy university suburbs, is a mecca for many of Ireland's more traditional painters.
Crescent Arts Centre, 2 University Rd.
Owned by Iranian philosopher Jamshid Mirfenderesky, has extensive showings of the works of modern Irish artists known throughout Europe.
Old Museum Arts Center
College Square North
Exhibits of local artists in a converted Georgian house with a drama space upstairs
Ormeau Baths Gallery
18A Ormeau Ave
In a former municipal bathhouse, now display the work of major contemporary international and Irish artists.
Bedford House, 16-22 Bedford St.
Stocks inexpensive crafts by local designers.
10 Royal Ave.
The city's largest, most varied upscale shopping mall.
Donegall Pass, runs from Shaftesbury Square at the point of the Golden Mile east to Ormeau Road. It is a unique mix of biker shops and antiques arcades, and a good place to stroll.
Belfast has dozens of pubs packed with relics of the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Although pubs typically close around 11:30 PM, many city-center/Golden Mile nightclubs often stay open until 1 AM.
70 Upper Church La
028/9031-1088, on Victoria Square
Has informal music sessions on weekends.
30-32 Bank St.,
Open since 1720, offers blues on Saturday nights.
The Kitchen Bar
16 Victoria Sq.
Is a real ale bar with traditional music on Friday nights.
74 Smithfield St.
Is a popular pub with traditional tunes.
29-30 Queen's Sq.
In Belfast's oldest building, dating from 1711, is three floors of bars, restaurants, and live music on weekends.
19-22 Prince's Dock St.
Has regular first-rate sessions of traditional music.
54 Pilot St
Features folk, jazz, and blues performers.
Golden Mile Area
Crown Liquor Saloon
46 Great Victoria St.,
Is far from being the only impressive old pub in the Golden Mile area: most of Belfast's evening life takes place in bars and restaurants here. There are a number of replicated Victorian bars with more locals and fewer visitors.
The Beaten Docket
48 Great Victoria St.
Named after a losing betting slip, is a noisy, modern pub that attracts a young crowd; it features up-to-the-minute music.
7-21 Bradbury Pl.
Is a bar, music venue, disco, 150-seat restaurant, and hotel.
17 Ormeau Ave
Is a disco-nightclub with cabaret on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday and music on other nights.
23 Bradbury Pl.
The M-Club, is Belfast's hottest place for dedicated clubbers, with TV soap-opera celebrities flown in weekly to mix with the local nighthawks.
21 Bedford St.
Is a haunt of media types. It has a music lounge upstairs, where there's a mix of jazz, rock, and discussions for film buffs arranged by local directors in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Film Council; Saturday, it's rock; Sunday, Irish music.
38 Great Victoria St.
Two doors from the Crown, is a popular pub that appeals to a young crowd with folk music in its Fibber Magee's bar on Saturday and rock in its Rock Bottom basement on Wednesday.
Crescent Town House
13 Lower Crescent
Is an excellent venue for some fashionable wine sipping.
The Botanic Inn
23-27 Malone Rd.
Known as "the Bot" to its student clientele, is a big, popular disco-pub.
4 Lockview St.
Down by the river south of the university, is at its best on summer evenings and at the Sunday jazz brunch.
The Eglantine Inn
32-40 Malone Rd.
Known as "the Egg," faces "the Bot" across Malone Road.
The Empire Music Hall
42 Botanic Ave.
A deconsecrated church, is the city's leading music venue. Stand-up comedy nights are usually on Tuesday.
Lavery's Gin Palace
12 Bradbury Pl.
Mixes old-fashioned beer drinking downstairs with dancing upstairs.
56 Lower Crescent
With its over-the-top but impressive interior, playing on the fly theme, is a lively spot for a cocktail in the evenings.