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The building that keeps Belfast running


Guided Tours
The Bobbin
The City Hall is Belfast's heart. It stands right in the middle of town, pumping out ideas and keeping everything organised. The stern towers gaze down wisely in all directions like concerned parents.
Of course, the building only came into being when Belfast first became a city. That was in 1888, when the status was awarded by Queen Victoria. Planning began immediately, and construction was completed two decades later in 1906.

City Hall during construction.
Photo in the Public Domain
The structure is crowned by a 53-metre dome at its dead centre. Like other Victorian buildings, time has turned the copper coating a pale shade of green. At each of the four corners is a tall tower, making the entire site nearly - but not quite - symmetrical. The exteriors, with their pillars and parapets, are similarly coordinated.
Despite looking as severe and official as a city hall should, most residents treat the place like their own back yard. The main building is surrounded by open lawns that fill up on lunchtimes and sunny days with people eating packed lunches or generally relaxing.

The area around City Hall
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Scattered throughout the grounds are various statues and monuments. All the important events and characters from Belfast's past are summed up within these pieces of stone. Queen Victoria, the lady who turned this town into a city in the first place, is commemorated here. So are the casualties of World War II, and the unfortunate passengers of the Titanic. By looking at these carvings it becomes clear that this isn't just a landmark of Belfast. It's a 3-D photo album for the entire country. The structure is even featured on some of the national bank notes.

Queen Victoria Memorial
Photo Peter Clarke
The City Hall's appearance has gained attention abroad, in countries as far-flung as South Africa. The city of Durban liked the building so much that they copied it almost exactly. There's another suspiciously similar construction just across the Irish Sea, in Liverpool.
While most locals are content to just hang out in the hall's grounds, more curious visitors can go inside. The hour-long public tours are led by knowledgeable guides who explain the stories of both the building and city. The opulent stairways and reception rooms are filled with more tributes to Northern Ireland's past. The twinkling stained glass windows immortalise such heroes as King William III, known affectionately to his subjects as "King Billy".

Exploring City Hall
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board

Inside City Hall
Photo Northern Ireland Tourist Board
It's worth bearing in mind that the current incarnation of the City Hall isn't quite the same as the original. Like many of Belfast's important buildings, it was the recipient of a recent, expensive, refurbishment. The ribbon was cut by the American politician, Hilary Clinton. One of the new additions is a coffee shop and exhibition area called "The Bobbin", in reference to Belfast's growth in the textile industry. A bobbin was a tiny but essential part of the fabric-making machinery that brought wealth and prosperity. The exhibits looks further at industrial development since the 17th century. The hall, a product of these successful years, now helps to move its city towards more successful years in the future.
Visitor Information
Belfast Tourist Information Centre, 47 Donegall Place, BT1 5AD. Tel: 028 9024 6609
Belfast City Hall is open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm. The building is a working council building, so entry is FREE. Guided Tours take place 11am, 2pm & 3pm. The Bobbin Coffee Shop is open 9am to 4pm. Belfast City Hall, Belfast, BT1 5GS. Tel: 028 9027 0456

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