53 children died when the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. For the people of Belfast, it was really 54.
The Titanic was their baby, built in the shipyards of the city, and it never made it to adulthood before it sank to a watery grave on April 15 1912.
Many countries, many cities, can justifiably lay claim to a part of the tragedy that occurred that day as the ‘unsinkable’ ocean liner did just what many thought it could never do. But it was felt hard in Belfast because so many years and so much work had gone into its creation.
Why is Belfast famous for the Titanic?
The city has a very strong relationship with the ship because the Titanic was built in Belfast. Construction began on the Titanic in Belfast in 1909 and about 14,000 people were employed to work on the ship. It took about three years to build and the sinking of the Titanic was considered a huge loss to the people of Belfast.
Is Titanic Belfast worth it?
Visiting the Titanic Belfast museum in Northern Ireland is one of the best things to do in Belfast and it’s a highlight of any visit. Titanic Belfast is certainly worth the visit, with nine galleries full of interactive exhibitions, original artefacts, and fascinating information. It’s received 15 major awards since opening and is credited with helping transform tourism in Northern Ireland.
Is the real Titanic in Belfast?
Sadly, no, the real Titanic is not in Belfast. The real Titanic is still about 4,000 metres underwater in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. But there’s enough to see at Titanic Belfast that you may start to feel like some of it is here!
The story of the Titanic could well have been replayed in the story of Belfast. In the early 20th century the city’s economy and the livelihood of many of its residents were reliant on industry.
Shipbuilding was a large part of that and the Titanic sinking could have pulled down the city with it. But – luckily for the locals – it was not the construction of the ship which was called into question but the way the British owner White Star Line operated the vessel.
The tragedy left a permanent mark on Belfast, though. More than a hundred years on, its legacy is felt throughout the capital of Northern Ireland – no more so than in the Titanic Quarter.
It’s here that the epic monument to the history of the ship was erected in time for the centenary of its sinking in 2012. ‘Titanic Belfast’, as it’s called, is a £97 million museum tracing the story of the ship from Belfast’s industrial history through to modern day efforts to view and protect the wreckage.
Visiting Titanic Belfast
The exhibitions at Titanic Belfast cover every step from the construction of the ship, to the interior fit out, the sinking, the subsequent inquiries and even the movies it has inspired.
“Near, far, wherever you are…,” the voice of Celine Dion sings out in one of the galleries.
The story of Titanic has never been forgotten – moviemakers like James Cameron have made sure of that. But it’s unlikely it would quickly slip from our memories regardless.
There is something about the symbolism of human triumph quashed in such a dramatic way that is eternal. And that doesn’t even take into account the power of thousands of individual stories intertwined across the Atlantic Ocean from the Belfast shipyards to the rescue boats docking in New York with survivors.
Titanic Belfast captures all of this in a comprehensive blend of facts and emotions. You’ll come away with such a wealth of information about the ship – from its construction to its voyage. But you’ll also understand why it meant so much to so many people, here in Belfast and around the world.
Titanic Belfast tickets
Word has got around that visiting Titanic Belfast is a highlight of Belfast and it gets pretty crowded here, with about 800,000 people visiting each year. (To save you the maths – that’s an average of more than 2,000 people a day.)
There are a limited number of tickets to Titanic Belfast each day, and people enter at different intervals to try to prevent overcrowding. If there’s a particular day you know you want to visit, it’s worth buying your ticket in advance to avoid disappointment. You can see availability here:
The site gets particularly busy during the middle of the day and so, if possible, I would recommend going before 11:00 or after 15:00 for a more enjoyable experience.
I’ve got a bit more information later in this article about the latest Titanic Belfast opening hours and the current Titanic Belfast ticket prices.
It’s up to you how long a visit to Titanic Belfast takes because it’s self-guided. But the average duration is around two hours, plus another 30 minutes or so to see SS Nomadic outside.
Inside Titanic Belfast
The first thing that strikes you about the museum is the building. As you approach it, the silvery wave-like exterior shimmers slightly.
The building’s four corners jut out like the bows of four ships – so accurate you can almost imagine Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet standing on each.
The significance of the height of the building is not immediately obvious but I learn that it’s 38 metres – exactly the same as the hull of the Titanic itself. It’s hard inside to get a sense of the scale of the boat but easier outside.
There are four levels to the museum and the top three have the galleries. There’s a standard route that visitors must take and it’s a chronological journey through history.
There’s not much in the way of original items – for the obvious reason that a lot of the heritage is underwater (and Titanic Belfast has made a decision on ethical grounds not to include anything from the wreck site).
But there are lots of original artefacts related to the ship, including Titanic’s Plan, the Last Luncheon Menu, original Launch Notebook and Launch Day Tickets. The exhibitions also recreate the moments of time or moods through clever technological displays.
There are large video screens with actors having conversations between shipping company employees…
A ride where the carriages travel through a riveting part (pun intended) of the construction of Titanic…
A room with three sides of screens that take you through a clever tour of the ship’s interiors…
A dark and sombre section with displays of distress calls during the sinking…
And a theatrette with a movie of a diving expedition to the wreck.
A lost ship without people is just a sinking, not a tragedy, so throughout the museum experience are the stories of the passengers and crew who were on board. Their tales start innocently enough – why they were travelling, what their jobs were, for example.
Towards the end, though, the spectrum of human behaviour is revealed – those who lost their lives saving others, those who allegedly bribed the crew to leave the ship with almost empty lifeboats, those who never had a chance.
Although there are lots of things to do in Belfast, it doesn’t have as many big tourist attractions as other urban hubs in the United Kingdom or Ireland. But the Titanic Belfast experience is almost worth the trip alone.
Titanic Belfast tours
The actual visit to Titanic Belfast is self-guided – and I think that’s a good thing. There’s so much information on display, along with the detailed multimedia presentations, that you don’t need anybody to show you around. It’s actually a more rewarding experience to explore by yourself and take the journey the way you want.
But, having said that, the museum does offer a guided tour called the Discovery Tour which goes around the outside of the building. A guide will talk about how the ship was built and some of the people who were onboard when it sank. And you’ll also learn about the building itself and some of the things you can see in the shipyard district.
Another option that I think is quite good when you’re visiting Belfast is to book one of the tours that combines a visit to Titanic Belfast with some of the other sights around the city. That way all the logistics and timings are taken care of and you can just enjoy your day – and see as much as possible.
For example, there is this excellent tour that combines the Giant’s Causeway with Titanic Belfast. Or there are more options here:
But however you decide to do it, don’t miss Titanic Belfast, and be sure to book your ticket in advance. This is an attraction you won’t regret visiting.
Where is Titanic Belfast?
Titanic Belfast is located where the ship was built, on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It’s about 30 minutes’ walk from the city centre.
The official address of Titanic Belfast is 1 Olympic Way, Queen’s Road, Belfast BT3 9EP. You can see it on a map here.
When is Titanic Belfast open?
Titanic Belfast is open every day but at different times during the year.
From January to March, it’s open from 10:00 – 17:00.
From April to May, it’s open from 09:00 – 18:00.
From June to August, it’s open from 09:00 – 19:00.
In September, it’s open from 09:00 – 18:00.
From October to December, it’s open from 10:00 – 17:00.
Titanic Belfast is closed from 24th to 26th of December.
How much does it cost to visit Titanic Belfast
An entrance ticket for Titanic Belfast costs:
Child (5-15): £10
Child under 5: Free
Student/Senior (Monday to Friday only): £17
Family Pass (2 adults and 2 children): £53
Because it’s a very busy attraction, it’s highly recommended you book your ticket in advance.
For more information about Titanic Belfast, you can visit the museum’s official website.
Titanic Belfast is a pragmatic approach to a tragedy that Belfast didn’t have to own – and could have been forgiven for not doing so, considering the amount of trouble it’s faced in its own right. But that would be denying the reality.
The Titanic was this city’s baby and its birthplace has never forgotten it.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN BELFAST
As Belfast has embraced tourism in the past few years, there have been a lot of cool new accommodation options pop up in the city.
If you’re looking for a budget option, I think the best option in Belfast is Vagabonds.
Unfortunately there aren’t many cheap hotels in Belfast but you can often get good deals at ETAP Hotels.
For a cool boutique hotel, The Bullitt is my favourite choice.
And for luxury in a beautiful heritage building, you can’t go past The Merchant Hotel.
Time Travel Turtle was supported by Tourism Ireland but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.