Belfast is a buzzing and vibrant city, valued for its unique history, diverse culture, and rich heritage, all of which resonates in its stunning architecture. From Gothic and Neo-Classical designs to state-of-the-art modern structures, Belfast has something to suit all tastes. Culture Trip presents the top 10 most beautiful architectural gems to look out for on your next visit.
At the very heart of Belfast, this historic masterpiece is symbolic of Belfast’s new found prosperity in the Victorian era, not to mention a fantastic source of local pride. The classical Renaissance stone exterior coated with elaborate designs, and an interior staircase adorned with exotic Italian marble, gives it a palace-like grandeur, which is intensified either when spectacularly lit up at night, or lavishly decorated at Christmas, leaving visitors in awe of its beauty. The stained glass windows and courtyard sculptures denote unique historic moments, and the elegant trees and springtime blossoms within the titanic memorial garden at its eastern side, inspire peace and relaxation.
This modern, iconic building – located in the Titanic quarter of Belfast – stands as the world’s largest Titanic museum. Shaped like a ship’s bow, it is deemed to be the exact height of the original Titanic (from her keel to her bow) giving off a fierce, striking appearance through its gleaming aluminium and crystalline facade. Representing Belfast’s contribution to the industrial revolution, it conveys the energy of the shipyards, and beautifully captures the soul and essence of the workers. The stunning bronze female figure featured at the front was designed to inspire positive thoughts and hope to all who pass by. A truly inspiring structure.
At the centre of student life – and a stone’s throw from Belfast City Centre – this majestic structure echoes the Tudor-Gothic style of soft red brick and sandstone. Famous for its Hogwarts-esque character and a facilitator of research, it also symbolises Belfast’s unique academic history. The front façade, the rising tower, and the war memorial statue of the cradled dying soldier at the front of the building, reflects the spirit of an era where architecture drew on historical associations to form an immediate authoritative presence. Come dusk, the lights of Lanyon are lit. A hauntingly beautiful sight, not to be missed.
An impressive Anglican church built upon a former site dedicated to St Anne, this Romanesque work of art is a popular place for prayer and worship, often holding cultural events in Belfast such as carol services and concerts. Noted for its famous soaring spire of hope, and stain glass windows which depict old testament figures and biblical scenes, visitors are drawn in by its prestige. The stunning Italian glass mosaics, and the ceiling depicting four archangels carved into the top corners of the nave, are what makes this an architectural beauty worth visiting.
Designed by Barrie Todd, this award winning beauty is one of the most unique and distinctive buildings in Belfast, incorporating work, leisure, and living space, all in one building. The classical name and boat-like design were inspired by its location on the Lagan riverfront, while the glass façade permits a sense of openness and a spectacular view of the city from within. The structure has a slight futuristic appearance, reflected in its soaring height, sculptural built form, and cool blue colours, enlivening the surrounding urban environment. The quirky lighthearted coloured squares representing the sails truly mirror Belfast’s industrial heritage.
Neo-classical in design, this handsome historical building (made up of plain white stone) is home to the NI Assembly, and remains a powerful symbol of Northern Ireland’s political process, with numerous sculptures within its grounds symbolising peace and reconciliation. Surrounded by tranquil regal lawns, and beautiful flowerbeds, leading into an enchanting forest, it also remains an important site for heritage as well as education for children.
Located in the culturally rich Cathedral Quarter, and a former home to Ulster Bank headquarters, this ornate five star hotel creates an instantly warm and welcoming ambience thanks to its wide stone steps. Built from Giffnock sandstone, the exterior reflects a classic Italian style, with Corinthian columns and mighty sculptures looking over the front façade. The sumptuous interiors of cherub statues and floral designs under the central dome in the main entrance hall, creates a calm atmosphere that embodies pure comfort and luxury. Unquestionably, a leading contender in the top 10.
What had once been named the Palace of Varieties, this innovative design by Frank Matcham stands out as a creative stroke of genius on Great Victoria Street, Belfast. The cream coloured cast stone and red brick exterior echo a creative mixture of Flemish, Baroque, and Oriental charms. The interior auditorium is breathtakingly beautiful, reflecting an Indian style, with elaborate curved balconies and turban-themed canopies. Large golden elephant heads on arches support the richly painted ceiling, which gives the place its handsome and unique Indian character. A beautiful sight to behold.
A fairytale-like castle, set at the foot of the rising slopes of Cavehill, this impressive landmark is steeped in history after being built to replace the older Belfast Castle destroyed by a fire. With the use of sandstone in a Scottish Baronial style, it echoes earlier Gothic medieval charms, with conical roof towers and an aesthetic winding stone staircase leading out to the garden. In the courtyard, the refreshing fountain and beautiful gardens promote tranquility, and visitors are offered splendid views overlooking the city which is why it is one of the most popular city attractions.
An exemplar of grandeur, this archaic, Neo-classical building, once stood as one of the finest and most important buildings in Belfast, remaining a huge part of its legal history. Abandoned since the late 1990s however, the exterior and interiors have been damaged over time, leaving the place decrepit and damp, with chipped walls, faded paint, and a roofless top, creating an eerie and bewitching atmosphere, adding to its haunting appeal. Fascinatingly, it is physically linked to the adjacent Crumlin Road Goal, by a secret underground passageway which was once used to escort prisoners along in its prime. Spooky!