A Tour of Belfast’s Victorian Architectural Landmarks
Belfast City Hall | Courtesy of Tourism NI
Belfast’s architectural heritage ranges from mock-Gothic to neo-classical to cutting-edge modern architecture, and its buildings are one of the best things about the city. Its Victorian architecture, however, just might be the most beautiful. If you want to know the best of the best, here’s our list of the most beautiful Victorian buildings in Belfast.
Lanyon Building, Queen's University Belfast (1849)
Queen's University Belfast | Courtesy of Tourism NI
One of the centres of the city, Queen’s University’s main building is the Lanyon Building, named after its architect Charles Lanyon, who designed so many buildings in Belfast that he could have a list of his own. Some people compare the structure to Hogwarts due to its towers and façade, and that’s not so far a stretch as you might think. Lanyon’s design borrowed features from medieval universities and Oxford’s Magdalen College in particular. QUB is the epicentre of city life for thousands of people and a crucial landmark for thousands more.
City Hall only just edges into this list, opening its doors in 1906, four years after Queen Victoria’s death. However, its building was a result of the Queen’s granting Belfast its city status, and construction of the hall began in 1888. The building features the Baroque Revival style, and it cost a monumental £369,000 to build. Adjusted for inflation, this works out to a whopping £128 million. It’s paid off, though, as City Hall is truly the centre of the city.
Another Lanyon work, the Palm House is a large glasshouse containing a great variety of tropical plants. Northern Ireland is not known for its good weather, and it is only through contemporary advances in glasshouse technology that these plants could be cultivated. There is also an accompanying Tropical Ravine, which is currently undergoing renovations and should reopen in early 2018.
The Crown Liquor Saloon is notable for many things, including the fact it is the only pub owned by the National Trust. Although the pub had previously operated as The Railway Tavern, it was renovated and renamed in 1885. The bar features unique multicoloured tiles, stained glass, and decorative carved ceilings, which is distinctively uncommon for Belfast. Owner Felix O’Hanlon persuaded Italian craftsmen (who were working on churches around the city) to work on the renovations, leading to The Crown’s characteristic grandiosity.
The present St George’s Market was built between 1890 and 1896, but there has been a market on the site since 1604. St George’s is now the oldest covered market in Belfast and has won multiple awards. After a 1997 refurbishment costing almost £5 million, the market is better than ever and is one of Belfast’s must-sees. It is open from 9 am to 3 pm every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Built as a memorial to Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, the Albert Clock is a large sandstone clock tower near Belfast’s docks. As a result of its position near the River Farset, which flows under Belfast, the tower actually used to have a slight lean, although it’s in no danger of collapse following a renovation project completed in 2002. During this renovation, most of the carvings around the tower were replaced, and the statue of Prince Albert himself stands on a pedestal on the west side of the tower.
Frank Matcham was a late 19th-century architect who carved a niche for himself as a prolific designer of theatres. The Grand Opera House was one of his earlier works, and it is about as successful as a theatre could be. Despite several bombings and a century in operation, the Grand Opera House is still going strong. Whilst you can see the other buildings, and even enter many of them, this is one building that you can use as it was originally intended to be used.