Explore Belfast's Historic Neighborhoods and the building of the Titanic.

Discover Belfast’s city center, tour the historic neighborhoods of the Troubles, and come on board the Titanic Museum.

Self-Driving Tour of Ireland -  Discovering Belfast on Days  6 - 8 of our Trip

We arrived in Belfast early evening and checked into the Merchant Hotel in downtown Belfast. It has  splendid decor, great amenities, incredible staff and is conveniently located in the heart of the city.  This hotel is a 5 star establishment featuring a beautiful dining room, afternoon tea, and a full spa.

Merchant Hotel Belfast Ireland
Merchant Hotel
  
We were able to get an especially good deal on the hotel rate because we were mid-week and slightly before the summer season. Our accommodations included breakfast with a full menu. There are many restaurants, pubs and stores in walking distance. And even a quick-serve coffee shop right across the street. The staff was very helpful in choosing a venue for traditional Irish music and good places to eat.

Belfast Past and Present

Belfast is the center of industry, arts, higher education, business, and law in Northern Ireland. Belfast has been the site of great strife between the Protestants (British Loyalist) and Catholics (Nationalist) call the "troubles". There has been much blood-shed: fires, bombings and killings some of the worse being in the 1970s. A political agreement was reached in 1998 but sporadic violence continues.
To gain a better understanding of both sides, take a Black Cab Tour of the political districts.  In the Protestant area you will see a wall mural of King William of Orange, King Billy (1650 1702) who conquered Ireland for England at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. The protestant group Orange Men who have been involved in much of fighting  are named after King William. 

King William of Orange Mural Northern Ireland
King William of Orange

Most protestants trace their heritage back to being English or Scottish who settled Northern Ireland after the  Battle of the Boyne. The rest of Ireland declared it's independence from England in 1922, in a deal with the British the northern province of Ulster remained under British control and comprises Northern Ireland.
The Protestants also have murals of fallen fighters and one of a fighter dressed in black holding an automatic rifle where the riffle follows you when you walk past. 

The Catholic section also has murals and a full shine to those who have died in conflict with the Protestants and the the British military and police.  Their full-size wall murals include a commemoration of those who died in prison on a hunger strike and other countries which they consider to also be occupied by foreign forces such as Palestine.

Catholic Neighborhood Mural Northern Ireland
Mural Catholic Neighborhood Northen Ireland 
It is surprising to still find iron gates which close off streets at 6 PM each night to separate the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, and police stations which look like forts surrounded by barbed wire and high fences.  

The peace wall is interesting and you can write a message of peace on it, there are 68 separate peace walls throughout the neighborhoods.  The saddest part about the peace walls is that the houses who back up to the peace wall have metal cages over their backyard to protect their home for items, sometimes dangerous,  thrown over the wall.

Peace Wall Northern Ireland

Driving through the neighborhood you will see more signs of loyalty to the British, such as Union Jack flags in the Protestant neighborhoods, this also occurs in other cites in Northern Ireland that are protestant dominated. 

In the Catholic neighborhood, you will see protest signs and shrines to the Blessed Virgin.  This also occurs in towns that are Catholic-dominated throughout Northern Ireland. Children attend separate school, Catholic or Protestant until college level.
Downtown Belfast is considered a neutral area and some integrated housing is beginning to appear.

City Hall

Take a tour of City Hall to learn about the history of Belfast and to see how the Post-Troubles government works.

Belfast Ireland City Hall
Belfast Ireland City Hall
Leadership transfers yearly between the two largest political groups Sinn Fein (Catholics) and Democratic Unionist Party (Protestants.)  

The City Hall features beautiful historic murals and colored glass windows and the main hall where special events are held.  Outside there is a statue of Queen Victoria and monument listing all the names of those who died on the Titanic.  Belfast ties to the Titanic are strong since the Titanic was built in here.

 Restaurants

For a traditional Irish meal visit the Robinsons Restaurant then head downstairs to Fibber McGees for some traditional Irish music. 

The Cloth Ear right next to the Merchant Hotel offers good food and a lively atmosphere. It's a great place to have appetizers and drinks.

The Yardbird has a delicious limited menu,  rotisserie chicken, ribs & wings only, music or other activities almost nightly with indoor and outside seating.

Titanic Museum

Titanic  Museum Belfast, Ireland
Titanic Museum Belfast, Ireland
The Titanic Museum opened 2012 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's fateful maiden voyage.  The Titanic Museum in Belfast has rocketed to the top of Ireland's tourist attractions. It is located in a beautiful glass building which has the shape of a large ship. 

The attraction includes: a picture gallery, information about the ship's builders Harland and Wolfe, and interactive sections about how the Titanic was built and even a ride through the shipbuilding yards.  See replicates of cabins, the dining room and a  complete deck of the Titanic. One floor features videos about the discovery of Titanic at the bottom of the ocean.
Audio guides are available and it is handicap accessible. Be sure to get your picture taken, you can simulate standing in the bow of the Titanic or get a photo of yourself in front of the Titanic. There are two Cafe's which offer snacks and full meals. 
Visiting the Titanic Museum is an almost all-day event you will find unforgettable, it's Open:

Please note the last admission is 1hr 40 minutes before closing time (excluding late saver ticket)
Closed: December 24th, 25th, 26th 
Titanic Walking Tour

You can purchase the Titanic Walking Tour separately or as an add on to your museum ticket.  it takes you to see the former headquarters of Harland & Wolfe, the original Drawing Office, Titanic's dock and pump house, and then descend 44th feet into the Titanic dry dock.

More information about the Titanic Museum

Comments

  1. Ireland has always had so much to offer the rest of the world in terms of vacations. So much to do and see. Or maybe it's me and my "love affair" with that country.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Titanic museum sounds fun. The interactive part where your picture can be super-imposed is what caught my eye. The scenery does look grand, that's for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Maybe we should set up a package deal. LOL

    I don't know about you, but this site is becoming one of my go-to places when I'm thinking about a vacation.

    ReplyDelete

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