Donegall Sq. marks the northern boundary of the Golden Mile and the southern end of the pedestrian-only Cornmarket district. City hall, once a favorite target for IRA bombers, dominates Belfast’s old city center.
Why not visit Linen Hall Library or Belfast City Hall, on our Titanic Belfast day tours from Dublin. The most dramatic and impressive piece of architecture in Belfast is also its administrative and geographic center. Towering over the grassy square that serves as the locus of downtown Belfast, its green copper dome (173 ft. high) is visible from nearly any point in the city. Inside, a grand staircase ascends to the second floor, where portraits of the city’s Lord Mayors line the halls, moving down the wall each year as the latest portrait is hung. Stained glass and huge paintings depicting all aspects of Belfast industry highlight the impressive rotunda, while glass and marble shimmer in three elaborate reception rooms. The City Council’s oak-paneled chambers, used only once per month, are deceptively austere, considering the Council’s reputation for rowdy meetings (fists have been known to fly).
Directly in front of the main entrance, an enormous marble Queen Victoria stares down visitors with her trademark formidable grimace, while bronze figures representing Shipbuilding and Spinning kneel at her feet. A more sympathetic figure of womanhood stands on East grounds, commemorating the fate of the Titanic and her passengers. The interior is accessible only by guided tour. (tours M-F 11am, 2, 3pm, Sa 2 and 3pm. Tour times may vary; no tours on Bank and Public Holidays.
Other Sights. One of Belfast’s oldest establishments is the Linen Hall Library with the red hand of Ulster atop its street entrance. The devoted librarians have compiled a famous collection of over a quarter million items documenting the social and political history of Northern Ireland since 1966. (Enter via 52 Fountain St. Free tours available, but call ahead. Open M-F 9:30am-5:30pm, Sa 9:30am-1pm.) Nearby, the Victorian Scottish Provident Institution, built in 1902, displays a facade featuring panels dedicated to the four main professions of Belfast’s industrial history—shipbuilding, ropemaking, spinning, and printing. (Across the street from City Hall, on the corner of Donegall Sq. N. and East Bedford St)