Belfast is a vibrant city taking the travel industry by storm. It is the new trend in travel. Northern Ireland’s capital and the Causeway Coast were named Lonely Planet’s top region for “Best in Travel 2018”, and last year the Titanic Belfast won the title of “World’s Leading Tourist Attraction” at the World Travel Awards.
While the city may have a turbulent past, the charming cobbled streets of present-day Belfast boast friendly locals, picturesque cafes, cultural sites and a beautiful, scenic backdrop of rolling hills dropping into the ocean.
Belfast has been rebuilding over the last few decades. For example, in 2001, Belfast’s Queen’s Island experienced a major regeneration. This area is now known as the Titanic Quarter. It houses multiple hotels and restaurants, but most noteworthy is the Titanic Belfast visitor attraction and monument which sits on the former Harland & Wolff shipyard, the original birthplace of the Titanic.
On our trip to Northern Ireland, Visit Belfast and Titanic Belfast provided us with entry to the museum and a guided private tour. We soon realized why the Titanic Belfast is the world’s leading tourist attraction…
The structure of the Titanic Belfast is striking. It is shingled with 3,000 silver anodized aluminum shards and silhouetted by the infamous yellow Samson and Goliath cranes in the distance. The reflective pools strategically placed around the structure reflect beautifully off the mirror-like panels and look particularly stunning at sunset.
The building has four wings, each angling up to 90 feet in height. Some say the building looks like a giant iceberg, but the angular wings actually represent four high hulls. The behemoth structure was completed in 2012 to mark 100 years since the Titanic’s maiden voyage.
What surprised us most was that every detail in the museum was purposeful. For example, the ticket desks duplicated the keel blocks the Titanic sat on at the dock. There is even a replica of the original staircase in the conference center.
While the structure itself is incredible, the nine interactive galleries take the cake. The galleries are in chronological order, and each includes interactive entertainment while maintaining its own unique character.
This gallery sets the tone for the museum. It immediately transports visitors back to the early 1900’s when the ship was being built. The layout guides you through the exhibit using life-size videos, interactive maps, original drawings of the ship and more.
This is where visitors get to go on a shipyard ride! A six-seat car brings guests through a life-size replication of the ship’s rudder, fit with big screens, sound effects and an audio tour.
The Titanic launched on May 31, 1911. This gallery exhibits scenes from the launch into Belfast Lough, an event witnessed by over 100,000 people. Here, you can look out the floor-to-ceiling window to view the ACTUAL launch site outside, outlined by lights on the pavement.
This might be our personal favorite gallery. There are replicas of all three classes of cabins, and best of all is the 360° computer-generated virtual Titanic. Here, you can travel from the ship’s engine room to the bridge, virtually.
The Maiden Voyage
This is one of the of the newer galleries which depicts the ship’s journey from Belfast. You can also walk the deck and enjoy a beautiful harbor view.
Although everyone knows the story of the Titanic, the disaster always strikes a chord. This gallery strongly juxtaposes the excitement of the six prior exhibits, a tactical move on the designer’s part. SOS sound effects echo the halls while haunting voices of survivors tell their stories, adding to the emotional effect.
Have you ever wondered if you had a long-lost relative aboard the Titanic? In this gallery, visitors can view interactive screens to search passenger lists and see life-size replicas of the actual Titanic lifeboats.
Myths & Legends
Who doesn’t like a good story? There are plenty of myths, legends and controversies behind the Titanic and its final moments. Everything is covered, including legends of the band playing on deck to the suggestion that a fire caused the ship to sink, not an iceberg…
This gallery is unlike any other. Here, you venture 12,000 feet under the sea to visit the Titanic in its final resting place. The floor is covered by glass, providing a slow-moving fisheye view of the remains sitting on the ocean floor.
THE TITANIC BELFAST GROUNDS
The building is not the only place where you can experience the history behind the Titanic. You can also venture outside to go aboard the S.S. Nomadic, an original tender ship to the RMS Titanic. When leaving the building, make sure to walk the historic Titanic slipway. Here you can see the outline of the promenade deck inlaid in white stone, and for a special treat, stay till dark and the ship’s outline will light up. Only then can you comprehend the size of the massive ship!
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Make sure to visit the Titanic Belfast’s website to learn about upcoming events at the exhibit. There are amazing events like light shows, firework displays, drive-in movies, afternoon tea and more. Also important to note, last admission is 1:45 minutes before closing. Therefore, if you want to enjoy the museum, note the closing times so you won’t feel rushed. Ideally, give yourself over two hours to explore. Trust us, you will enjoy every second!
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