Belfast, Northern Ireland


By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert

We just returned from a visit to Ireland on the Azamara Journey.  This 13 day British Isle cruise was a wonderful trip. We had never visited Belfast, Northern Ireland.    So, I thought you might like to see our photos from this recent trip to Northern Ireland.

Ireland Facts

Ireland is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth.  To its east is the island of Great Britain, from which it is separated by the Irish Sea.  In 1921 Ireland gained partial independence.  It was ruled by the English until 1949 when 26 counties formed the Republic of Ireland and 6 Northern counties became Northern Ireland.  It became a member of the EU in 1973.

Northern Ireland

The history of Northern Ireland is influenced by Protestant settlers from Scotland and England and the rest of the Irish island of Catholic Ireland.  The Protestant majority in Northern Ireland decided to remain aligned with Great Britain in 1921 when the 26 counties in the south became the Irish Free State.  It is often referred to as Ulster, the name it was called prior to separating from the rest of Ireland.  The country is roughly the size of the state of Connecticut.


Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and about 1/3 of the population of Northern Ireland lives in the city.  The main river of this city is the Lagan River and provides good access to the sea.  The close access to the sea has resulted in Belfast developing a robust shipbuilding industry.  The Industrial Revolution brought rapid growth to Belfast and the city has some fine buildings influenced by the architecture of the Victorian age.  The city center is an easy area to explore on foot.  Here are the main sights of Belfast from our guide (we have developed 50 city guides of Europe and are happy to send you any for free).

Belfast Highlights

In the City Center Area, here are some great sights

Albert Clock Tower

Located in Queen’s Square, this 113 foot tower is a memorial to Queen Victoria’s late Prince Consort, Prince Albert.  The tower leans 4 feet from perpendicular, and as a result is known locally as “the leaning tower of Belfast.” Another local description is “wee Ben”, as it looks similar to the Big Ben bell tower in London.  A spectacular view of Belfast’s shipyards awaits visitors who climb the tower at the end of High Street, where the tower is located. 

Albert Tower
Albert Tower, Belfast Ireland
Big Ben
Big Ben, London–it sure looks similar to the Albert Clock Tower

The Big Fish

This 32 foot salmon was created by John Kindress in 1999.  Its purpose was to celebrate the regeneration of the River Lagan.  The scales of the fish are ceramic tiles.  These tiles tell the history of Belfast.

The Big Fish

Belfast City Hall

The interior of this classical Renaissance-style building, built of Italian marble in 1906, can be toured on certain days.  On the grounds are monuments to the Titanic and its passengers and to the first US military forces to land in Europe in 1942.

City Hall, Belfast
Titanic Memorial
Titanic Memorial Belfast, Northern Ireland

Victoria Square

Victoria Square is Belfast’s number one shopping destination.  It is topped with a glass dome and has an excellent observation area to get views of Belfast.  Outside one of the entrances is the splendid Jaffe Fountain.  Here are some photos:

Victoria Square, Belfast
Glass Dome of Victoria Square, Belfast Ireland
Jafee Fountain
Jaffe Fountain

Crown Liquor Saloon

One of the most beautiful and famous bars in the world, the Crown was constructed in the 19th century by Italian artisans.  The result is a rich Baroque interior of stained glass windows, ornamental woodwork, colored tiles, private dining areas, Corinthian columns and an altar-like bar with heated footrests.


Crown Saloon
Crown Saloon
Crown Saloon
Interior Crown Saloon

Here are a few more photos of Belfast:Picture3:



In the Queen’s Quarter, here are some highlights:

Botanical Gardens

There are lovely areas of flowers and greenery surround the magnificent Palm House, a 150 year old iron and glass structure that is the oldest greenhouse in the world.

Queen’s University

Constructed in the 1840s, the handsome university buildings were inspired by the architecture the Oxford and features fine stonework.

Ulster Museum

The city’s major museum has excellent collections of prehistoric and Gaelic artifacts, 19th and 20th century art, and treasures from a Spanish ship that sank off the Antrim coast in 1588.

Outside the city, here are some interesting sights:

Belfast Castle

Interior tours of this 19th century castle are by reservation only, the gardens are open daily.  Here is a long distance photo:


Carrickferges Castle

Located 12 miles north of Belfast, this is the country’s largest and best preserved Norman castle.  With its 13th century gatehouse, massive keep with wall 8 ft. thick and vaulted Great Hall, the castle makes an great setting for medieval banquets for visitors.

Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

Located 7 miles east of Belfast, the museum’s highlight is its renowned collection of Titanic memorabilia, including photographs and accounts of survivors.  Other exhibits include a re-created Ulster town from the early 1900s.

Our Final Thoughts

Hope you liked the pictures!  For us, learning about Europe and its culture and history makes us want to go back again and again.  You might be inspired to see sights you never knew existed.  Why not let us plan a trip to Ireland, to include a visit to Northern Ireland or some other great Europe country for you?  Please reach out to us by sending me an email at or better yet, call me at 713-397-0188.  We want to be your trusted travel advisors.  We want to help you: Savor life . . . make memories . . . Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.   His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
  • Viking River Cruise Specialist
  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist
  • Emerald Waterways  Specialist
  • Avalon Waterways Specialist
  • Brit Agent




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