Who says you have to go to some far flung destination to be a tourist? I moved to Belfast in April 2016 and am still getting to know this amazing wee city that I now call ‘home’. I know there is much more I have yet to see but I’m getting there, slowly.
When I read about the new Titanic Hotel opening in September 2017 in the restored Harland & Wolff headquarters, I couldn’t wait to go and have a look inside it. A couple of months later, I found myself bored, browsing their website and soon booking a ‘Titanic Friday’ package. This included an overnight stay in a superior king room, 24 hours parking, a glass of prosecco each and a Titanic Breakfast. Why should visitors have all the fun??
We took the opportunity – and the 24 hours of free parking – to explore more of what the Titanic Quarter has to offer.
From the moment we stepped in to the hotel lobby, I fell in love with the place. The front desk staff were warm and welcoming, and our overnight bags were brought all the way to our room for us. We used the lift to get to the second floor but on our way down the darkly lit hallway, we passed the magnificent staircase. I even heard myself mumbling the words ‘Instagram-worthy’ – what have I become?? The entire decor has that classic aesthetic that I can’t help but continually photograph.
Despite the high ceilings, our room still had a cosy feel, and the view out to the iconic Titanic Museum building was splendid, even at night. The bed was so comfortable and combined with the blackout curtains, we had the most amazing sleep. It was difficult to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning to enjoy our Titanic breakfast, but we managed it! The breakfast food was the usual hot buffet fayre, eaten in the lovely surroundings of the Wolff Grill.
After fuelling up on our Titanic-sized breakfast, it was time to do some of the touristy things on offer in the Titanic Quarter!
In late 2016, the Titanic Museum fought off competition from the likes of Machu Picchu in Peru to be named the world’s best tourist attraction at the World Travel Awards. I once overheard some tourists in the Titanic Quarter saying, “what’s the big deal about a ship that sank?” I held my tongue but that oft recited Belfast adage jumped to my mind: “she was fine when she left here.” Despite the ship’s untimely demise, the Titanic was a remarkable piece of engineering and the history not only of the ill-fated ship, but of ship-building in Belfast is brought to life in the interactive museum.
I’ve been to a lot of museums in my time and few have impressed me as much as the Titanic Museum. No detail has been left to chance both inside and outside the impressive building, which has become a city landmark. The Shipyard Ride is a highlight for many visitors; at least it’s always what people tell me about when they’ve been! Six-seater carts descend in to the bows of a ship building yard, complete with furnace and a life-sized replica of a Titanic rudder, to give you the feeling of what it was like for the shipyard workers.
The museum has a total of 9 interactive galleries, including Titanic Beneath, where you can see video footage of the shipwreck as it appears lying on the seabed today. The experience is immersive, detailed and fascinating but it will take you a while to take all of it in, so make sure you’re fuelled up and set aside enough time to fully appreciate it.
Adult: £18 Child (5-16 years): £8
Student/Unemployed/Senior (60+): £14.50
Children under 5 and Essential Carers go free
*Includes timed entrance to the museum, and entry to the S.S. Nomadic, which is valid for 24 hours
If you’re going to the Titanic Museum, you simply must make time to take in the S.S. Nomadic! Our visit far exceeded my expectations and for an entrance fee of just £7, I will definitely return time and again! While the Titanic Museum is undoubtedly a must-see attraction in Belfast, I found the Nomadic to be a much more personal experience.
Not only is the ship a small part of Titanic’s story – the S.S. Nomadic brought passengers from France to board the Titanic before it set sail – it has a long and varied history besides, including a stint as a nightclub in Paris!
The museum includes a ‘dress-up’ area, where you can try on garb from the early 1900s, as well as interactive games, probably aimed at kids, but which we really enjoyed! Despite not actually being on the sea, the views from the deck are quite impressive.
Prices (if you don’t have the Titanic museum ticket):
Adult: £7 Child (5-16 years): £5
Student/Unemployed/Senior (60+): £5
Children under 5 and Essential Carers go free
Titanic Dry Dock & Pump-House
A short walk from the Titanic Museum is the Dry Dock and Pump House, which is in my opinion underrated and too often overlooked. The massive bathtub-like hole is the Dry Dock, where the Titanic was built. It’s absolutely huge, and gives you a good idea of the immense size of the ill-fated liner.
The best part is that you can descend 44 feet in to the dock: you are literally walking on Titanic’s ‘footprint’. The pump house displays the pumps used to empty the dry dock, as well as footage of the Titanic at the dock in 1912. For just £5, it’s well worth a visit!
Self-Guided Tour Prices:
Adult: £5 Child (5-16 years): £3.50
Groups of 15 or more: £3 per person
Children under 5 go free
There is lots more to do in the Titanic Quarter: the Wee Tram Tour and the H.M.S. Caroline to name just two, but we didn’t have time to do them all. Luckily, it’s just a few miles from home so we will return again.
What gems have you uncovered close to home?
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