The capital city of Northern Ireland sits on the River Lagan and is a devolved nation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We are separated from the rest of the UK by a stretch of water called the North Channel but have a land border with the Republic of Ireland, which makes us the only part of the UK to have a land border with another part of Europe. Belfast has developed over the recent past and is now emerging as a more cosmopolitan city of Europe and deserving its status as one of the must-see destinations after the more major Capital cities around the continent. You can check out our website for places to stay and restaurants to eat in if Belfast is a place you would like to visit.
1. Belfast City Hall
The iconic building situated in the middle of the city centre is open to the general public and offers free tours every day on a first come first served basis. The building and its gardens are fully accessible, and the tour guides recount the history of the Belfast, its Mayors and the building itself. The tour takes you into the council chamber as well as into the banqueting suite and explains a little about the functioning of local government for the City of Belfast. Toilet facilities are available inside. If you want to use explore the gardens, then it is possible to visit the Titanic Memorial Garden on one side of the gardens or visit the War Memorial Garden and Cenotaph on the opposite side. A great way to spend an hour or two if you’re on a budget.
2. Ulster Museum
A great museum on the fringe of the city, nestled on the edge of Botanic Gardens and beside Queens University Belfast. The museum is free to get into and is fully accessible over 5 floors and has disciplines in Art, Human History and Natural Sciences. The museum also offers guided tours and as well as visiting displays covering all manner of subjects from toy collections to a history of clothing. Many of the displays in the science section are interactive and the visit can be broken up with ice cream or picnic in the gardens or something freshly prepared in their café.
3. W5 Interactive Discovery Centre
Located within the Odyssey Arena, W5 is a paid in attraction, however, carers go free. The experience is a collection of interactive displays opening minds to the world of science and nature. This gives visitors a basic understanding of why and how things work and the different reactions that happen in the science world. With over 250 exhibits that are permanent, the centre often has visiting experiences which are an added bonus. The displays are primarily directed at children, but fun may be had by the whole family and for those adults who might want to rediscover their inner child. It is fully accessible, and the staff are more than happy to assist and ensure that everyone gets to see and use the exhibits and displays.
4. Titanic Belfast
Located in the Dockyard area of Belfast, that that has been renamed the Titanic Quarter, this is a fantastic place to visit. You will learn all about the ship, how and where it was built. Furnishings, passengers, crew, how and why she sank. There are many cinemascope productions as well as a moving tour ride around the structure of the skeleton of the ship. (You must be able to transfer to use this ride). That aside the museum is fully negotiable in a wheelchair, as are the slipways outside the museum, where you will find the names of everyone on the ship that perished as well as see an outline of the top deck of Titanic and look out over the stern veranda across Belfast Lough. Inside is also located a café, a restaurant, a shop, and toilets and a car park underneath. A paid for attraction however carers are free.
5. Cathedrals in Belfast
St Anne's Cathedral has stood for over 100 years as a place of Christian worship in the heart of the City of Belfast. Across the street from Writers Square, where one may also learn about the written heritage of Ireland. The cathedral is accessed via a ramp at the side of the main steps and is easy to get around inside. St Anne’s requests a small charge for access and there are no discounts for carers or people with a disability. Unless you are planning to attend a service, the visit will probably take an hour or so. There are no on-site car parks during the week, however, availability is possible at the weekend. There is some impressive visual art in mosaics, stained glass windows and some of the floor tiles. This is complemented by hand made cushions, which are the product of the congregation. During my visit, most of the cathedral was accessible except the Chapel of Unity. I was told that the ramp was away for repair. However, why a replacement ramp couldn’t have been provided, I’m not quite sure! It is a living place where day by day the cycle of worship is maintained and which welcomes visitors as tourists, pilgrims, regular worshippers, or merely those who seek a quiet place to ponder alone.
This cathedral is different in so much as it is located just outside of the city centre, in the middle of its community. Nestled amongst houses, St Peter’s has its own small car park, however, the church isn’t open for tourists unless attending Mass or you’re lucky enough to be in the city at the same time as one of the fortnightly tours. This is a great pity because it too has lots of history and has beauty inside that many would appreciate. Unfortunately, despite its locality, a parishioner told me that the cathedral has suffered terribly from vandalism and theft, which is a travesty.
6. Parks or Gardens
Situated behind the Ulster Museum and Queen’s University Belfast, the gardens are popular with locals and tourists alike. They aren’t particularly large, but the palm house has some interesting specimens and the gardens are often host to many festivals during the summer months, which makes them an ideal place to visit and or relax. They are situated on a hill behind the museum, where you will find toilets if needed and a place to buy snacks. If however you fancy to picnic, small supermarkets and coffee shops are readily available in this area as it is well populated by the student community of the city. The oath ways inside the garden are smooth and easy enough to negotiate.
Situated on the fringe of the city in the south, it is possible to walk to the park, but would take up a considerable part of the day, if you wanted to spend time here too. The park is fairly large and has lots of pathways and grassy areas. There is a place to play sports and a play park, but only suitable for toddlers. The park has lots of tree life and some plant life, with toilets located at one end of the park, these may only be accessed using a RADAR key, which is a universal key, used to unlock accessible toilets, often provided by local authorities. One of these keys may be purchased from the city council. There are often events planned during the summer months, however, the park has no other amenities to be able to enjoy food or a drink so these must be purchased and take with you. Please also note that this park is gated and locked in the evenings.
7. Parliament Buildings
The seat of our government in Northern Ireland, the parliament buildings are fully functional and sit in a huge parkland. All of which is open to the general public. Visitors are allowed inside the building at any time during the day unless there are special ceremonial activities and a guided tour is available, which is most interesting. There are no charges and a gift shop and toilets are available. Access for wheelchair users is at the side for the tour and at the front for the shop. The park is fully accessible too and there is a car park situated at the lower end of the estate if arriving by car. Alternatively, a bus or taxi is needed as the estate is several miles outside the city centre. The park area is set on a hill, so there is some exertion needed to get up to the buildings, but there are many statues and a play park for children located in the grounds as well. Parliament buildings have a changing places facility for the less independent person, which is equipped with hoists and changing benches and a centralised toilet for carers to assist.
St George’s Market
A large indoor market that is level access and has basic toilet facilities. On Saturdays the market has an artisan feel with local artists, craftsmen and micro producers selling their wares in an atmosphere of jollity and live local music. Voted as the best British Indoor Market for 2014 and if you happen to be in Belfast for the weekend then it is well worth a visit.
A large shopping mall with good facilities, restaurants and a cinema. The shopping centre houses more expensive retail outlets, but a unique point is the viewing dome on top of the centre where you may go free of charge and look out over the city and beyond.
For further accessible information about the city, you may download the Belfast City Guide