Belfast Architecture Jewels (Self Guided), Belfast

Belfast's architectural style ranges from Edwardian, like the City Hall, to modern style. Many of the city's Victorian landmarks, including the main Lanyon Building at Queen's University Belfast and the Linenhall Library, were designed by Sir Charles Lanyon. Among the city's grandest buildings are two former banks: Ulster Bank and Northern Bank. Take this tour to see the greatest architectural masterpieces the city of Belfast has to offer.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

Belfast Architecture Jewels Map

Guide Name: Belfast Architecture Jewels
Guide Location: Ireland » Belfast (See other walking tours in Belfast)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: DanaU
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Crown Liquor Saloon
  • Europa Hotel
  • Linen Hall Library
  • Belfast City Hall
  • Water Office
  • Ulster Bank
  • The Bar Council & Bar Library of Northern Ireland
  • Waterfront Hall
  • Albert Memorial Clock
  • Customs House
  • Merchant's Hotel
  • Belfast Central Library
Crown Liquor Saloon

1) Crown Liquor Saloon

The Crown Liquor Saloon is a public house in Belfast, Northern Ireland, located in Great Victoria Street. Refurbished to a high standard in 1885, it is an outstanding example of a Victorian gin palace, and is one of Northern Ireland's best-known pubs.

Originally opened by Felix O'Hanlon and known as The Railway Tavern, the pub was then bought by Michael Flanagan. Flanagan's son Patrick renamed and renovated the pub in 1885. The Crown owes its elaborate tiling, stained glass and woodwork to the Italian craftsmen whom Flanagan persuaded to work on the pub after hours. These craftsmen were brought to Ireland to work on the many new churches being built in Belfast at the time. It was this high standard of work that gave the Crown the reputation of being one of the finest Victorian Gin Palaces of its time.

In 1978 the National Trust, following persuasion by people including Sir John Betjeman, purchased the property and three years later completed the renovation to restore the bar to its original Victorian state. Further restoration by the National Trust was done in 2007. This work is the subject of a BBC Northern Ireland documentary entitled Jewel in the Crown, first screened early 2008. A recognisable landmark of Belfast, the pub has featured as a location in numerous film and television productions, such as David Caffrey's Divorcing Jack (1998) and as far back as Carol Reed's 1947 film Odd Man Out. The Crown has been given a Grade A Listed Building status by the Environment and Heritage Service.

The exterior is decorated in polychromatic tiles. This includes a mosaic of a Crown on the floor of the entrance. The interior is also decorated with complex mosaics of tiles. The red granite topped bar is of an altar style, with a heated footrest underneath and is lit by gas lamps on the highly decorative carved ceilings. The Crown has ten booths, or snugs. Built to accommodate the pub's more reserved customers during the austere Victorian period, the snugs feature the original gun metal plates for striking matches and an antique bell system for alerting staff. Extra privacy was then afforded by the pub's etched and stained glass windows which feature painted shells, fairies, pineapples,fleurs-de-lis and clowns.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Europa Hotel

2) Europa Hotel

The Europa Hotel is a four-star hotel in Great Victoria Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland. It has hosted presidents, prime ministers and celebrities, including President Bill Clinton during his visits to Belfast in 1995 and 1998. It is known as the "most bombed hotel in Europe" and the "most bombed hotel in the world" after having suffered 28 bomb attacks during the Troubles.

The hotel has 272 bedrooms following major refurbishment, including 92 executive suites. On the first floor is the Piano Bar Restaurant and there is also a bistro and bar. It also has a Eurobusiness centre, conference and exhibition centre and 16 flexible conference and banqueting suites, as well as a 12th-floor penthouse suite.

It opened in July 1971 and was built on the site of the former Great Northern Railway station. The architects were Sydney Kaye and Eric Firkin & Partners, the building height was 51 metres. During the Troubles, the hotel, where most journalists covering the Troubles stayed, was known as Europe’s most bombed hotel, earning the name “the Hardboard Hotel”. The hotel was blown up by the Provisional IRA in 1993 and damaged so badly that it sold for only £4.4m.

The Europa Hotel became part of the Hastings Hotels group on 3 August 1993, whereupon it was announced that it would close for the first time in its 22-year history to allow for major refurbishment. Following an £8m investment, the hotel reopened in February 1994, the first official event being the Flax Trust Ball, a gala evening for 500 local and international dignitaries. President Clinton and First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton stayed in the hotel in November 1995. The presidential entourage booked 110 rooms at the hotel. The suite used by the Clintons was subsequently renamed the Clinton Suite. Started in early 2008, an extension to the hotel increased the height of a rear wing of the hotel by seven floors to twelve and increased bedrooms from 240 to 272. The extension was designed by Robinson McIlwaine Architects and was completed late in 2008.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Linen Hall Library

3) Linen Hall Library (must see)

The Linen Hall Library is the oldest library in Belfast and the last subscribing library in Northern Ireland. The Library is physically in the centre of Belfast, and more generally at the centre of the cultural and creative life of the wider community. It is an independent and charitable body.

The Linen Hall Library is a unique institution. It was founded in 1788 by a group of artisans as the Belfast Reading Society and in 1792 became the Belfast Society for Promoting Knowledge. The society declined in the later 1790s however, as it owned no permanent premises and struggled with official attempts to control radical thought, though it survived a crackdown after the 1798 rebellion thanks to the efforts of Rev. William Bruce.

In addition to providing a free public reference service and a general lending service for both adults and children, the Library also houses several special collections. It is the leading centre for "Irish and Local Studies" in Northern Ireland which includes its comprehensive stock of "Early Belfast and Ulster printed books", periodicals and newspapers dating back as far as 1738 and a wide variety of archive and manuscript material. It also contains an extensive collection of maps (some of great historical interest) and extensive materials in the Irish language. Its "Northern Ireland Political Collection" collected since 1968 contains 250,000 items and is the definitive archive of the recent troubles, containing material looking at all sides of the conflict. It also houses collections devoted to genealogy, the poet Robert Burns and Northern Irish performing art.

Designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, The Linen Hall Library is built in yellow-grey brick, with a red hand on its facade representing its original use. It is a n outstanding combination of Georgian proportion and Victorian design. The name of the library tells that Donegall Square had once the name “Linen Hall Street”, after the building that was located on the territory of present City Hall.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Belfast City Hall

4) Belfast City Hall (must see)

Belfast City Hall is the civic building of the Belfast City Council. Located in Donegall Square, Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, it faces north and effectively divides the commercial and business areas of the city centre.

The site now occupied by Belfast City Hall was once the home of the White Linen Hall, an important international Linen Exchange. The Street that runs from the back door of Belfast City Hall through the middle of Linen Quarter is Linen Hall Street. Plans for the City Hall began in 1888 when Belfast was awarded city status by Queen Victoria. This was in recognition of Belfast's rapid expansion and thriving linen, rope-making, shipbuildingand engineering industries. During this period Belfast briefly overtook Dublin as the most populous city on the island of Ireland. Construction began in 1898 under the supervision of architect Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas and was completed in 1906.

The exterior is built mainly from Portland stone and is in the Baroque Revival style. It covers an area of one and a half acres and has an enclosed courtyard. Featuring towers at each of the four corners, with a lantern-crowned 173 ft (53 m) copper dome in the centre, the City Hall dominates the city centre skyline. As with other Victorian buildings in the city centre, the City Hall's copper-coated domes are a distinctive green. The pediment sculpture is by F. W. Pomeroy, assisted by local carver J. Edgar Winter, and features on the reverse side of the current series of £10, £20, £50 and £100 sterling banknotesissued by the Northern Bank.

The interior has a number of notable features, including The Porte-Cochère and Grand Entrance, The Grand Staircase, The Reception Room and The Great Hall. The latter was destroyed during the Belfast blitz and subsequently rebuilt. Various memorials are located in the building, including ones to Frederick Robert Chichester, Earl of Belfast, Sir Crawford and Lady McCullagh and the 36th (Ulster) Division.

The gardens surrounding the City Hall are a popular with office workers taking their lunch in the summer months, as well as tourists and teenagers gathering in their dozens to enjoy the green. Various statues stand on the grounds, including one of Queen Victoria by Sir Thomas Brock. There is also a granite column dedicated to the American Expeditionary Force. The grounds also house Northern Ireland's main war memorial, The Garden of Remembrance and Cenotaph, at which wreaths are laid on Remembrance Day.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Water Office

5) Water Office

Originally built in 1869 as a warehouse for Richardson Sons and Owdens, this marvelous building was designed by famed architect W.H. Lynn, Charles Lanyon’s pupil and partner.

Prior to World War II, the building was acquired by the Belfast Water Commissioners and is now known as the Water Office. The structure, like many other buildings in the city centre, is reminiscent of a Venetian palazzo. It is characterized by high roofs in chateau style with tall chimneys and amazing windows. It has been called one of Belfast’s most beautiful buildings by many people, including Oscar Wilde.
Ulster Bank

6) Ulster Bank

Ulster Bank is one of the largest banks in Northern Ireland and one of the traditional Big Four Irish banks. The seven storey building was raised behind the beautiful façade of an old Methodist church designed by Isaac Farrell in 1846. Don't miss the opportunity to admire this clever piece of architecture in the city of Belfast.
The Bar Council & Bar Library of Northern Ireland

7) The Bar Council & Bar Library of Northern Ireland

Not open to the public, but notable for its striking architectural design, The Bar Council & Bar Library of Northern Ireland is another remarkable place to see in Belfast. The northern half of the building is the opulent home of Belfast's (privately employed) barristers; meanwhile the southern end of the building is occupied by the more modest Royal Courts of Justice Stamp Office. Presented with two clients with two wildly different budgets, local architects Robinson McIlwaine successfully designed one building, which seamlessly merge a more modest design and cheaper materials for the southern half of the building and a more elaborate and expensive design at the northern end.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Waterfront Hall

8) Waterfront Hall (must see)

The Waterfront Hall is a multi-purpose facility in Belfast, Northern Ireland, designed by local architects' firm Robinson McIlwaine. Practice partner Peter McGukin was the project architect. The hall is located in Lanyon Place, the flagship development of the Laganside Corporation. The development is named after the architect Charles Lanyon. Planning for the building began 1989, with the hall being completed in 1997. The main circular Auditorium seats 2,241 and is based on the Berlin Philharmonic Hall designed by Hans Scharoun. However the flexible design of the Auditorium allows the stalls seating to be moved to create a larger arena. The smaller adjoining Studio seats 380. The dome of the building is coated in copper. This is so the exterior will eventually turn green and reflect the dome of Belfast City Hall and other Victorian buildings in the city centre. The building also contains bars and a restaurant.

In 2002, the hall was voted the second best conference centre in the world in the Apex Awards. Many plays take place every year, in the 350 seated capacity studio, including operas, pantomimes and musicals, including Scary Musical in Jan 2010. The hall is a key venue for the Belfast Festival at Queen's and for concerts given by the Ulster Orchestra. During their 2002 tour, in promotion of their album Right Now, famous pop trio Atomic Kitten recorded their Right Here, Right Now DVD at the auditorium.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Albert Memorial Clock

9) Albert Memorial Clock

The Albert Memorial Clock is a tall clock tower situated at Queen's Square in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was completed in 1869 and is one of the best known landmarks of Belfast.

In 1865, a competition for the design of a memorial to Queen Victoria's late Prince Consort, Prince Albert, was won by W. J. Barre, who had earlier designed Belfast's Ulster Hall. Initially Barre was not awarded his prize and the contract was secretly given to Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon, who had come second. Following public outcry the contract was eventually awarded to Barre. The sandstone memorial was constructed between 1865 and 1869 by Fitzpatrick Brothers builders and stands 113 feet tall in a mix of French and Italian Gothic styles. The base of the tower features flying buttresses with heraldic lions. A statue of the Prince in the robes of a Knight of the Garter stands on the western side of the tower and was sculpted by S.F. Lynn. A two tonne bell is housed in the tower and the clock was made by Francis Moore of High Street, Belfast. As a result of being built on wooden piles on marshy, reclaimed land around the River Farset, the top of the tower leans four feet off the perpendicular. Due to this movement, some ornamental work on the belfry was removed in 1924 along with a stone canopy over the statue of the Prince.

Being situated close to the docks, the tower was once infamous for being frequented by prostitutes plying their trade with visiting sailors. However, in recent years regeneration has turned the surrounding Queen's Square and Custom's House Square into attractive, modern public spaces with trees, fountains and sculptures.

In 1947, the film Odd Man Out was filmed partly in Belfast, with the Albert Clock as a central location, although neither the town nor the clock is explicitly identified.

To halt the worsening lean and repair damage caused by the elements and heavy passing traffic, a multi-million pound restoration project was completed in 2002. During the project, the wooden foundations were strengthened, the majority of the decaying carvings were replaced and the entire tower was cleaned.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Customs House

10) Customs House (must see)

Designed by architect Charles Lanyon, the Customs House is a beautiful Victorian building known to be the finest neoclassical building in town. This impressive structure shows the power of the British Empire under Victoria as well as Belfast's commercial success in the 19th century. Angels and classical deities depicting Manufacture, Commerce, Industry and Peace are carved on the river-facing side of the building. At the front there are the figures of Britannia, Neptune and Mercury.
Merchant's Hotel

11) Merchant's Hotel

Built of golden sandstone, the Merchant's Hotel building (former Ulster Bank ) is worth seeing while in Belfast. It is a Victorian style construction with outstanding ornamentation that has received a great deal of admiration over the years. The building site was originally acquired in 1836, but the actual construction works began in 1857.

Bank directors Robert Grimshaw and James Heron traveled throughout the UK in order to find perfect examples of bank designs. Later, they held a competition for the best design and the winner was a talented Glaswegian named James Hamilton.

The exterior of the hotel is in decorated in Italian style, it sports three sculptures representing Commerce, Justice and Britannia on top of the fabulous facade. The hotel's main hall is decorated with fruit and foliage designs, and the four Corinthian columns complete the architectural complex of the interior.

Due to its magnificent design, the building of the Merchant's Hotel is known to be one of the most renowned and appreciated constructions in Belfast.
Belfast Central Library

12) Belfast Central Library (must see)

Belfast Central Library is a public library in Royal Avenue, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Opened in 1888, it was one of the first major public library buildings in Ireland.

A competition for the design of the building was won by architect WH Lynn in 1883 and it was built by H & J Martin builders. Designed to reflect the ambitions of the growing city of Belfast, its architecture is a fine example of public-service building at the height of the Victorian age. On a black granite base, the Dumfries red sandstone exterior with a slightly Italianate feel, houses a three-floor interior with a sweeping staircase, a pillared foyer, and a fine domed first-floor reading room. The top floor originally included a museum and art gallery. The building is a notable part of the 19th century cityscape of modern Belfast. It has survived undamaged through the Belfast Blitz of World War II and the Troubles of the late 20th century.

The library is located in the Cathedral Quarter, on the edge of Belfast City Centre and close to the Belfast Campus of the University of Ulster. Two additional buildings were added to the site in the 1960s and 1970s, providing staff accommodation and extra storage. These reflect the growth in the book stock of the library in the intervening decades. However, a current stock edit is reducing the size of the stock, with much material being effectively dumped. The Library is now run by Northern Ireland Libraries, an arms length public authority covering the whole of Northern Ireland. Belfast Central Library houses a range of sections, including a reference library still based in the original reading room, a Belfast, Ulster and Irish Department, and the only dedicated Music Library in Northern Ireland currently being run-down. It is a major provider of IT facilities, with half of the ground floor providing free internet access.

The Library has a number of special collections, including a fine book collection, the library and manuscripts of Francis Joseph Bigger currently stored in less than good facilities with poor public access, the manuscripts of the eccentric Amanda McKittrick Ros and the manuscripts of the Ulster playwright Sam Thompson including some material that is not available in print. A recent addition to the Library's collections is the Northern Ireland Music Archive, a computerised database housing recordings, scores and other materials relating to music created by Northern Ireland composers/artists. The Archive, which was funded and developed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, was officially launched in March 2006 with much media coverage, initially housing music solely from the contemporary/classical genre. Continuing development will see the archived materials expanding to represent all genres of music produced in Northern Ireland, including in 2007 the incorporation of folk and traditional materials from the Geoff Harden Archive.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Belfast, Ireland

Create Your Own Walk in Belfast

Create Your Own Walk in Belfast

Creating your own self-guided walk in Belfast is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Museums and Galleries Walking Tour

Museums and Galleries Walking Tour

While in Belfast, don't miss the opportunity to discover some of the best museums in Northern Ireland. Take this tour and visit the most-known museums and galleries that exhibit impressive works of history, contemporary art, photography, and many more.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Belfast Introduction Walk

Belfast Introduction Walk

Being the second-largest city in Northern Ireland, Belfast is full of 19th-century buildings, 20th-century architecture, ancient sites, beautiful landscapes, and many more. It is a city that offers plenty of excellent spots for tourists from all over the world. The City Hall, Saint Anne's Cathedral, The Waterfront Hall, just to name a few, form the grand centerpiece of the city and the...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 Km or 3 Miles
Historical Churches

Historical Churches

Belfast is a city that takes religion quite seriously, it is in fact one of the most religious cities in the UK, thus it has plenty of places of worship to offer its visitors. While in Belfast, don't miss the opportunity to admire the most noteworthy of these places. Take this self-guided walking tour to discover the most interesting religious buildings in Belfast.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles