As the creative and cultural hub of the city, the Cathedral Quarter is a hive of activity full of bespoke attractions. Tourists and natives alike can visit the renowned area of Belfast that provides contemporary street art, historic buildings with a troubled past, and spacious public areas for the environment.
Here you can discover a list of things to do at the Cathedral Quarter that are sure to keep you entertained.
There’s many views in the Cathedral Quarter to feast your eyes upon and if you’re an art lover, Hill Street has much to offer. Irish artist Conor Harrington’s The Duel of Belfast, Dance by Candlelight, 2012 is a must see, depicting duelling men and an onlooker.
The variety in street art showcases the creativity to be explored in Northern Ireland, including PANG’s Whitewashing a Rembrandt which is a part of his ‘Miniature Assholes’ series.
Hill Street is one of many streets in the Cathedral Quarter with art to offer, as Talbot Street is also renowned for its creative impact, especially Blurry Eyed by Dan Kitchener, 2016. The piece depicts an urban street during a downpour with the streetlights and car lights showering the area in colour and was created completely by freehand.
If you’re looking for a street art, music and pub experience all in one then a walking tour is perfect for you. Lasting for 2-3 hours, this tour will take you into live music venues whilst showcasing historic pubs in the Cathedral Quarter. Your guide will provide you with Belfast’s backstory whilst enlightening you with the beauty of the city. Discover the magic of The Cathedral Quarter whilst learning the history and culture of the city.
For more information, visit https://tinyurl.com/2p946vkv
Stop off at a local coffee shop and meander over to the Cathedral Gardens where you can watch your children run across the park, playing on the interactive playground with musical games and fun for all. This multifunctional facility is the first of its kind in the city and features a variety of play items, including a giant ‘hamster’ wheel which spins the person as they run inside the wheel.
The colourful surroundings and inventive equipment are intriguing for children and adults. As an outdoor family friendly space, the gardens provide vibrancy by utilising green space.
The Big Fish
The Salmon of Knowledge otherwise referred to as The Big Fish resides on Donegall Quay courtesy of mosaic artist John Kindness. You can take a picture with The Big Fish on your next visit. According to legend, the fish is symbolic of the story of Fionn McCool who ‘created’ The Giant’s Causeway and protected Ireland. Fionn McCool was sent to live/be educated by Finnegas, a wise poet. Finnegas fished in the River Boyne for the salmon of knowledge for years as it was said to contain the wisdom of the universe. The poet asked Fionn to cook the salmon and Fionn burnt his thumb, jutting it into his mouth to ease the pain and with it, he acquired the knowledge to become leader of the Irish mythological heroes.
Situated on Donegall Street, this outdoor venue is home to an array of events from circus acts to installations. Prior to the pandemic Writers’ Square hosted Culture Night which was one of Belfast’s largest free events that attracted almost 90,000 local and international visitors to the Cathedral Quarter. Writers’ Square encourages recognition of public access to open space which contributes to mental health and allows a protected open area to bring the city together.
The MAC has a series of events throughout the year, including Claire Barclay’s, Thrum across our Upper, Tall and Sunken Galleries which is on until the 3rd July 2022. The visual arts create an immersive experience that’s sculptural and sensory. Fenderesky Gallery also exhibits Irish and global artists on North Street.
The combination of artworks on view from the array of galleries along the Cathedral Quarter allow the viewer to form an interaction with the piece of art.
For more information on what’s on at The MAC, visit https://themaclive.com/
For further information on the Fenderesky Gallery, visit http://www.fendereskygallery.com/
Belfast Cathedral (St.Anne’s Cathedral)
The foundation stone was laid in 1899 and the building has since grown to encapsulate elaborately detailed mosaics, carved stonework by sculptors and stained glass windows. The beauty of the cathedral can be viewed for free in quiet prayer, although large groups should view the website before appearing.
The Romanesque building also has guided tours to pre-book to explore the historic artefacts and become one with the sacred nature of the cathedral.
To find out more, visit https://www.belfastcathedral.org/about
Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum
If interested in the history of Belfast during the war then this is the museum for you. As a donation based museum, you are free to explore the Home Front exhibition and the first national memorial which is in memory of those killed in the Belfast blitz.
The current museum opened in 2007 in Talbot Street, replacing Memorial House which was bombed during the Blitz in 1941.
In a competition to design the memorial to Prince Albert, W. J. Barre in 1865 was the chosen winner and he had previously designed Ulster Hall. The tower was constructed in an eclectic mix of French and Italian Gothic styles, housing a two tonne bell and heraldic lions surrounding the memorial.
The Albert Memorial Clock has withstood many a historical movement and even survived the 1992 bomb courtesy of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Having been constructed in 1869 and continuing to be a paramount memorial of history and attraction in modern public spaces makes this a must see.
The Dark Horse
In the heart of the city, this bar is home to one of the doors that are infamous across Northern Ireland, the Game Of Thrones Lancaster door. Nestled amongst antique decor and pottery, the intricately carved door stands. The hand carved splendour is one of ten that depicts the filming that took place in the city.
Visit today to view the rare and bespoke artwork that celebrates Belfast’s involvement in television.
Custom House Square
As a Victorian building influenced by the High Italian Renaissance, Customs House succeeds in creating a must see piece of history while remaining an integral part of Belfast.
Immerse yourself in the historic surroundings of Custom House Square which has partook in the expansive debates of the past, considering its popularity with public speakers in the late 1800’s up until the early 1900’s. Today, it is home to a variety of events including a star line up of international musical artists. If that wasn’t enough, there’s even nearby attractions including Lagan Weir and The Big Fish.
White Bank (Bank of Ireland)
If you are a fan of Art Deco, then this 1929-1930 architectural delight is a representation of linear and geometric ornamentation that’s true to the era in which it was built. Joseph Vincent Downes was inventive in his approach to the design of White Bank, creating a structure that rebelled against the revivalist style, instead adopting a sleek and modern approach to the design.
Nestled between Hill Street and Donegall Street, the cobbled alleyway bursts with artefacts including signs assembled to the walls, a bike with a man straddled upon it hoisted to the wall and there’s even pottery at the end of the entry. The alleyway is a celebration of the commercial past of the area which was occupied by whiskey merchants, ceramicists, grocers and much more.
This area pays homage to Belfast’s history with murals of infamous locals that are the quintessential backdrop to your photos which can be seen beside The Dark Horse, a traditional Irish pub.
Old Exchange and Assembly Rooms
The Old Exchange and Assembly Rooms that are quietly nestled into the architecture of Cathedral Quarter are often believed to be home to the oldest building in Belfast, built in 1769. However, this is not the case. The Assembly Rooms were of paramount importance in terms of county balls and as a place for hosting events; known as ‘The Four Corners’ by fashionable society. With a pit stop as a courtroom, the building became what it is known for today: the Northern Bank of Ireland.
With a rich history, this area has been dubbed one of the first and finest examples of the Renaissance Revival in Ireland and is a delight for anyone to experience.
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