Smack in the heart of Donegall Square stands the Belfast City Hall, an impressive structure dominating the city centre skyline. Surrounded by manicured grounds and historic memorials, the civic building of Belfast’s city council is a welcome treat for any visitor to Northern Ireland.
Planning for Belfast City Hall began in 1888 on the site of the former White Linen Hall, a chief international linen exchange of the time. Up until this time Belfast held the status of a mere “town.” In 1888, Queen Victoria awarded Belfast “city” status after a rapid expansion due to the city’s shipbuilding, engineering, and linen enterprises. It was then decided a new city hall should be erected to reflect the promotion. It was during this period that Belfast led Dublin as Ireland’s most populous city.
Construction on Belfast City Hall began the same year under English architect Alfred Brumwell Thomas and was paid for with profits from the local gas industry. Thomas won a public competition to design the new city hall with one of the greatest examples of his beloved Baroque Revival style. Belfast City Hall was completed and opened on 1 August 1906, rewarding Thomas with a knighthood by King Edward VII.
What to See
A visit to Belfast City Hall is like a retreat from a bustling city centre. Built on 1.5 acres, the grounds offer a large, welcoming green perfect for family picnics, the Titanic Memorial Gardens, the popular Big Screen, and daily tours free to the public. A knowledgeable and passionate tour guide will lead you in exploring the Robing Room and Council Chamber, the Reception Hall, the Banqueting Hall, and the Great Hall with its seven vivid stained glass windows. These tours are offered daily but are first come, first served as they are popular among tourists. Don’t forget to stop by the Bobbin coffee shop and the special exhibition area before heading outside to the Titanic Memorial Gardens.
Titanic Memorial Gardens
The Titanic Memorial Gardens opened on 15 April 2012 marking the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic’s tragic sinking. At the centre is the marble and Cornish granite statue commemorating the lives lost including all passengers and crew, the only of its kind in the world. The gardens showcase seasonal plants encouraging reflection and are concentrated in white, blues, silver, and greens, all of which are colours closely associated with water and ice. Blue forget-me-nots and white star magnolias are two beautiful and fragrant examples.
Belfast Big Screen
Located on the grounds of the City Hall, Belfast’s Live Site, or Big Screen as it is known, was installed on 17 June 2011 and attracts 50,000 visitors per year. It is here you can enjoy sporting events, movie screenings, and the latest in news and cultural events in a relaxing outdoor setting.
Belfast City Hall is more than just the workplace for city council members. It is a place for gathering, relaxing, and reflecting. Reserve your spot on a guided tour and come explore this grand sampling of architecture, inside and out.