On April 14th 1912, only four days into its maiden voyage, the RMS Titanic collided with a massive iceberg near Newfoundland, Canada and sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean taking about 1,500 passengers and crew with her.
Experts are still debating possible causes of this historic disaster of why the ship sank to its watery grave where it remained for 73 years before being discovered by the oceanographer Robert Ballard.
Some say that the wireless radio operator dismissed iceberg warning others seem to blame the Titanic’s skipper, Captain E.J. Smith, for sailing the massive ship at such a high speed through the iceberg-heavy waters of the North Atlantic.
The tragedy left a permanent mark on the World, and it was felt hard in Belfast where the ship was commissioned, designed and constructed at the massive Harland and Wolff shipyards because so many years and so much work had gone into its creation with the help of some 3,000 workers.
Titanic Exhibition in Belfast opened up a hundred years later, on Saturday 31st March 2012 tracing the story of the ship from Belfast’s industrial history through to modern-day efforts to view and protect the wreckage and it is simply unmissable if you find yourself flocking to Northern Ireland’s capital.
Various exhibitions detail every step from the construction of the ship, the subsequent inquiries to its sinking, the Ocean Exploration Centre, extending over nine interactive galleries. One of visitors favourite parts is the shipyard ride where the carriage travels through a riveting part of the construction of the Titanic.
Origins of the Museum
Titanic Belfast is situated on Queen’s Island directly next to the Titanic Slipways, which was formerly derelict land. It was reclaimed in 2001 and renamed as the ‘Titanic Quarter’, and earmarked for regeneration.
With a history of shipbuilding dating back as far as the late 1700s, Queen’s Island, formerly known as ‘Dargan’s Island’ has a rich and unique maritime heritage, protected today by the charity Maritime Belfast Trust.
The plans to build a museum dedicated to the ship were made in 2005 and London architects CivicArts are responsible for the original design concept, while local practice Todd Architects and interior designer Kay Elliott worked alongside them to deliver the completed building.
The total cost of the building reached £101 million; 50% was provided by the NI Executive through the NI Tourist Board and the other 50% was provided by Titanic Quarter Ltd, a sister company of Harcourt Developments, who bought over and developed the lands where the museum rests.
Did you know…
The Titanic sign, located in front of the museum, was cut from a steel plate, 2.5cm thick, similar to the ones used in the construction of the ship.
This sign weighs 16 tons, the same weight as the front anchor on the Titanic.
What can you do and see at the Titanic Belfast Experience
The RMS Titanic was built in Belfast’s dockyards by shipbuilders Harland and Wolff and by visiting Titanic Belfast, you can learn all about the infamous unsinkable ship in the world’s largest Titanic museum.
It’s located in the same place where the boat itself was built and upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by a striking building that replicates the hulls of four ships and elevates them 27 meters high, the same as the Titanic, from the keel to the deck and makes for a very captivating visit.
The massive 14,000 sq.m building features nine interpretative and interactive galleries that explore the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Titanic, as well as the city and people that made her 100 years ago.
The exhibition starts with the history of Belfast, displaying how its industries were booming at the time of the Titanic. Then we enter the shipyard and get to witness the hard labour employed in the construction of the ship.
After that comes the details of the launch of the ship followed by a 3D trip where we travel various floors of the vessel to discover the various types of accommodation on board. The tour goes on to look at the sinking of the ship and what came after the shipwreck.
Stop by the Titanic’s Dock & Pump-House
The access ticket to the Titanic Experience also entitles you to visit the SS Nomadic which is considered as the Titanic’s little sister and the last remaining vessel of the White Star company.
Stepping on board SS Nomadic allows you to experience first hand what it was like to be a passenger boarding RMS Titanic on her fateful maiden voyage, to marvel at the intricate details and the contrasts between the separated class areas on board.
After experiencing the Nomadic’s story that’s told through a wide variety of interactive, hands-on, technical and traditional storytelling methods, to get a feel for the massive scale of the Titanic, you have to visit Titanic’s Dock and Pump House located about a ten-minute walk from the Titanic Museum, too.
By going on a guided tour, you can follow in the footsteps of Titanic’s builders and marvel at her size as you walk along with the original keel blocks where she rested in 1912, and you have a unique opportunity to explore the site where Titanic last rested on dry ground and absorb the authenticity of her physical footprint in history.
Some of the interesting Titanic facts you need to know
When Titanic was launched on 31st May 1911 spectators and journalists travelled from as far as America to see the spectacle.
Around 300 American passengers were aboard the ship for the Titanic’s maiden voyage.
Titanic of course sank on route to New York and now lies 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, nearly two and a half miles (4000m) below sea level overlooking a small canyon below.
RMS Titanic was actually owned by an American! Although the RMS Titanic was registered as a British ship, it was owned by the American tycoon, John Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan, whose company was the controlling trust and retained ownership of the White Star Line!
The discovery of the Titanic stemmed from a secret United States Navy investigation of two wrecked nuclear submarines from the Cold War (U.S.S. Thresher and U.S.S. Scorpion). When Ballard had completed his mission, he was able to go and look for the Titanic.
The wreck of the ship was discovered by American oceanographer, Dr Robert Ballard 73 years after it sunk in 1985.
The concept architect of Titanic Belfast, Eric Kuhne, is from Texas, USA.
Film director James Cameron, Former United States Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, the American rock band Journey and Jonathan Knight from New Kids On The Block have all visited Titanic Belfast.
Useful things to know before you go
Currency used in Northern Ireland | As part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland’s currency is the pound sterling (£). Usually, individual currency notes are available from all the major banks operating in Northern Ireland.
This can be confusing for visitors as not only will you find standard English (Bank of England) notes in circulation but also Sterling from Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland and Northern Bank as well as notes from Scottish banks and occasional Bank of Isle of Man notes.
How long does the tour take | It took us nearly three hours to do the Titanic Experience and visit the SS Nomadic. If you desire to see in detail all the pieces portrayed here, wish to grab a bite in one of the dining spaces next to the main lobby and visit the shop, then you should allow more time for your visit.
Getting to the Titanic Museum | Located in the heart of Titanic Quarter, tucked behind the SSE Arena and overlooking the Belfast Lough, Titanic Belfast is just a short walk from Belfast’s city centre, with easy access to public transport and car parking available.
Admission Prices | The Standard Titanic Experience Admission costs £19 per adult, £8.50 for a child aged between 5 and 16 while children under the age of 5 enter free of charge.
Opening Hours | Titanic Belfast operate seasonal opening hours with the last admission to the Titanic Experience 1 hour 40 minutes before closing time. SS Nomadic opens reduced hours in line with Titanic Belfast’s seasonal schedule.
Safety | Northern Ireland is as safe as anywhere else, but there are areas where the sectarian divide is bitterly pronounced, most notably in parts of Belfast, the interface areas of North Belfast particularly.
Other things to do in the city
Belfast is not all about its museums and the Titanic although they are pretty darn good. There are many things to do in Belfast, and there is little chance you could get through them all unless you are planning on staying for a good while.
Free things to do | St. Georges Market, the big fish, SC Lewis Square, Belfast City Hall, Linen Hall Library, Botanic Gardens
Urban exploring | From Linen Quarter and CS Lewis Square interactive trail to Maritime Mile and Titanic Trail, there is plenty to see and do. Belfast also has incredible street art and you can discover a lot of it on a stroll from the city centre to the Cathedral Quarter.
Cave Hill | Remember adventure story Gulliver’s Travels, a novel written by Jonathan Swift, involving voyages of Lemuel Gulliver? It is said that Swift took his inspiration from the mountain Napoleon’s Nose, cliff face overlooking Belfast city.
Belfast Castle | is a great place to get away from Bustling city. Situated on the slopes of Cave Hill county park, it overlooks Belfast Lough. If you are driving, it only takes 15 minutes to get there, or you can take buses 1A TO 1H from Donegall Square West to Belfast Castle.
Arriving to Belfast from Dublin
Belfast is an easy city to reach from multiple locations around the world. From the UK, you can either fly or take the ferry. Ferries to Belfast depart from Liverpool, Cairnryan (Scotland) and the Isle of Man.
Since the opening of the long-awaited new motorway, travel time between the two biggest cities on the island is now reduced down to 90 minutes, and it is very common for visitors flying into Dublin to schedule few days in Northern Ireland too.
There are multiple bus options from Dublin, including direct service from Dublin Airport.
Don’t worry about your passport, there are no formalities when crossing the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In fact, the only signs to look out for are different vehicle registration plates, red post boxes, as well as road signs stating that the speed limit is measured in miles and to pay for your dinner you will require Pound Sterling.
Where to stay in Belfast
If you’re planning a visit to the city and are wondering about the best places to stay in Belfast, there are a few neighbourhoods worth considering. If you’re coming to Belfast for the first time, and want to focus on sightseeing, the food and drinks scene, and Belfast’s exceptional cultural attractions, Central Belfast and the Cathedral Quarter are the best neighbourhoods in the city.
While there are plenty of small neighbourhoods around Belfast worth staying at, I wanted to focus on what I think are the best areas to stay in Belfast as a visitor.
The Cathedral Quarter | the Cathedral Quarter is home to the city’s art scene, and many of Belfast’s most famous street murals are found here. In addition to breathtaking architecture and plenty of open-air gigs and food and music festivals, you’ll also find a few historic pubs.
Queens Quarter | Like many university neighbourhoods, Queens Quarter is more affordable than surrounding areas and has a young and hip vibe to it. Here you’ll find many vintage shops, eclectic cafés and second-hand bookstores as well as two of the most popular attractions in Belfast: the Ulster Museum and the Botanic Gardens.
Central Belfast | Central Belfast is lively, vibrant and full of options to entertain newcomers and locals alike and it’s where nightlife, culture, food and drink happen,. At the heart of it is the majestic City Hall building which hosts a variety of events Belfast Christmas Market including. In addition to many hotels, it’s also a fantastic place to stay in the city if you plan on taking day trips to the surrounding towns and cities, as the train and bus stations are within walking distance.
… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …
Now, over to you!
Have you ever been to Northern Ireland? Let us know in the comments!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Northern Ireland and have travel-related questions!