Beyond the attractions, many of which require some sort of monetary donation, there are many sights to be seen around Belfast that cost nothing (minus travel). From recent additions to older pieces of architecture to natural beauty, the city is filled with intriguing sights to be seen. Many of these are within walking distance of the city centre and a number of our self-catering properties (Belfast) have some of these almost on their doorsteps. To help you along, we have a list of some of these sights and where to see them.
The Clocktower, Still Majestic on a Rainy Day
Fashioned out of sandstone in the 1860s, the tower is a tribute to Queen Victoria's late husband Prince Albert and is a great piece of fine architecture. Designed by W.J. Barre, who beat out long-term rivals Lanyon, Lynn, and Lanyon, the clocktower features a statue of Prince Albert facing towards the city centre, heraldic lions adorn the base with the overall design taking some cues from the Elizabeth Tower housing Big Ben in London. Within the tower there is a two-tone bell which rings out to mark special occasions. You'll find the tower in Queen's Square on Victoria Street.
The Big Fish Casts a Big Shadow
At ten metres long, the Big Fish would make quite a catch. Constructed in 1999 in the heart of the city on the banks of the River Lagan, The Big Fish is a big time capsule; inside a future generation will find items on the city's history, works of fiction including poetry and photographs. The Fish's ceramic body is printed with text and images from Belfast's long history and is well worth an explore. It is also a popular place to get a photo snapped with this fascinating fish. Found on the bank of the River Lagan and less than 5 minutes walk from Albert Memorial Clock.
The Beacon of Hope's Ring Held High
Upstream from the Big Fish, The Beacon of Hope holds her ring high above the city for all to see and was built with the goal of providing a place for people to come and give thanks for all they have. As the second largest public art sculpture in Belfast, it is popular among locals and visitors alike. Built in 2006 after 6 years of planning, the sculpture is made of stainless steel and cast bronze and goes by a number of names like "The Thanksgiving Statue", "Nuala with the Hula" and "The Thing with The Ring". You'll find the statue on Oxford Street near the Waterfront Hall (where Barack Obama gave a speech before the G8).
Rise at Night
The sculpture is a representation of Belfast's efforts to shed the past and stride towards a new future of prosperity. These attempts are evident throughout the city and are definitely having a very positive impact as it reflects the feelings of the majority of Belfastians. The sculpture itself is a steel construct of two spheres; one within the other to represent a rising sun and the dawn of a new era. It is the largest piece of public artwork in Belfast. The sculpture can be seen for miles if not obscured and is easy to catch a glimpse of even if you're just passing through. The Rise can be seen on the Broadway roundabout, at the junction of the Westlink and M1 motorway.
The Gantry Cranes Reflected
Intricate to Belfast's skyline, the Harland and Wolff gantry cranes of Samson and Goliath are products of Belfast's once booming shipbuilding industry. Coming at the tail end of this time of prosperity, the cranes were finished in 1974 and 1969 respectively and sit over one of the world's largest dry docks. Each can pick up objects as heavy as 800 tonnes but they are more of a lasting reminder of Belfast's roots. Seeing a picture cannot does these justice; they need to be seen in person. The cranes are easy to find; they're on Queen's Island in the Titanic Quarter.
The Parliment Buildings at Stormont
Meeting place of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Parliament buildings at Stormont are an impressive piece of architecture. A mile-long driveway leads to the houses' front steps and large stone columns. Opened by Edward, Prince of Wales in 1932, the grounds of Stormont also include Stormont House and Stomont Castle. In front of the parliament buildings you'll find a statue of Northern Irish politician Lord Edward Carson. The Parliament Buildings can be found off Upper Newtonards Road to the east of the city.
One of Belfast's Most Famous Murals
Throughout the city, you'll see many murals which range from statements, reflections on the past, re-eneactments of historical events, memorials and politically motivated artwork. Much of this colour upon the city's walls stem from The Troubles and you'll find these produced by both sides. These are all very telling of the times that Belfast is slowly coming out of but act as a constant reminder of how far things have come. There are a number of tours available around the murals, as well as the peace lines which separate Catholic and Protestant communities. The murals and peace lines can be found throughout Belfast, and Northern Ireland as a whole.
There's many more things to see in Belfast with a walk or drive up Cavehill giving a great view of the entire city itself. With so much going on in Belfast, it's sometimes nice just to have a break and take in the sights.
Words by John Temke
Image Credits: Albert Memorial Clock by John Temke, Big Fish by John Purvis, Beacon of Hope by Paul Wilkinson, Rise by Leo McCourt, Crane Reflection by Jacqui, Stormont by Daniel Daranas and Bobby Sands Mural by Andy Lapham.