Check out the the best museums in Belfast and beyond, from history to transport and folk museums, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
The Ulster Museum is home to a rich collection of art, history and natural sciences and is free to all visitors. The museum tells the story of the people of the north of Ireland from earliest times to the present day. Impressive galleries and interactive discovery zones bring history, science and art collections to life for visitors of all ages. Free entry.
Titanic Belfast, named the World’s Leading Tourist Attraction at the prestigious World Travel Awards in 2016, is located beside the Titanic Slipways, the Harland and Wolff Drawing Offices and Hamilton Graving Dock, the very place where Titanic was designed, built and launched in 1911. On entering, visitors can step back in time and learn about the thriving industries and exciting design innovations that led to the creation of RMS Titanic, the largest and most luxurious ship in the world.
SS Nomadic is most famous for the part she played in the Titanic story when she ferried first and second class passengers to Titanic from Cherbourg, but this was only the beginning of her extraordinary journey that stretches over 100 years. Stretched over four decks a visit to Nomadic allows you to experience first-hand what it was like to be a passenger boarding Titanic on her fateful maiden voyage, to marvel at the intricate details and the contrasts between the separated class areas on board.
W5 is Belfast’s award-winning science and discovery centre and provides a unique experience as well as fantastic fun for visitors of all ages. With exhibits and experiences covering everything from climate change and nature to film and TV production, optical illusions, built engineering, medical science and much, much more.
Crumlin Road Gaol
The Crumlin Road Gaol is a 19th century Grade A listed jail, open to the public for tours, concerts and events. Take a tour to experience all aspects of the Gaol from the tunnel linking the courthouse on the other side of the Crumlin Road to the hanging cell, Governor’s office, hospital and graveyard.
Banana Block is a new living museum and events space set within a historic linen mill and inspired by the curious connections between Belfast and bananas. Host to an array of events Banana Block provides an ever changing schedule of things to do. Tour their exhibitor outlets and grab a bite to eat while you learn about the history of the space and plans for the future.
Irish FA Tours
Irish FA Tours tells the unique story of Northern Ireland football from 1880 to present day using a variety of media, interactive displays, key artefacts and behind the scenes access. Enjoy a tour of the iconic grounds of the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park and visit to the Education and Heritage Centre allows visitors to relive their favourite moments following Northern Ireland and walk in the footsteps of footballing legends.
Clifton House, formerly the Poor House, was built in 1774 by the Belfast Charitable Society and is one of Belfast’s most historic buildings. New immersive tours of Clifton House take place every Saturday and Sunday (advance booking is essential). Now, through the use of world class immersive technology, from the moment you step through the door you will be transported back in time to the Belfast Poor House – opened in 1774 – which provided sanctuary to thousands of people, from the young and old, to local citizens and passing sailors, throughout the years. The White Badge tour guides will share the history and stories of this fantastic building, while they come to life right before your eyes.
Áras Uí Chonghaile (James Connolly Visitor Centre)
Áras Uí Chonghaile is an award-winning modern, inspirational, visitor centre based in the heart of Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter and located only yards from where James Connolly, a man of formidable ideas and remarkable vision, lived on the Falls Road. The James Connolly Experience is an audio tour which will guide you from the interactive exhibition, which tells Connolly’s story, to the unique library, Leabharlann Uí Chonghaile and through the art and historic collections.
War Memorial Gallery
The war memorial gallery is a must-see attraction for visitors with an interest in the Home Front and US Forces in Northern Ireland during the Second World War. The activities of the local people on the Home Front and the US Forces are displayed in life size dioramas. The fallen are remembered in a magnificent stained glass window, a commemorative wall in black Belgian marble and a granite plinth containing Books of Remembrance from both world wars. The Belfast blitz of 1941 is recalled with an iconic memorial by the distinguished Irish sculptress, Carolyn Mulholland.
The ACT Initiative
This exhibition offers a chronological perspective on opposing ideologies and charts those conflict-related eras before and after the formation of Northern Ireland. Following the ceasefires of 1994, very little has been written about the progressive nature of loyalism. During our most recent period of conflict, known as ‘The Troubles’, a significant number of young men were incarcerated as political prisoners.
The MAC is a cultural hub and since opening in 2012 has quickly become a beacon for the ongoing regeneration of Belfast, offering an eclectic programme of visual art, theatre, dance, family workshops and lots more. At the MAC, they are passionate about the arts and know that you are too. Many of their exhibitions have supporting talks, tours and events scheduled to complement the themes and styles of the work on display.
Ulster Folk Museum
Step back in time in and uncover a way of life from 100 years ago. Discover cottages, farms, schools and shops as you wander through the beautiful parkland of the Folk Museum chatting to costumed visitor guides demonstrating traditional crafts. Climb on and off majestic steam locomotives or experience the sensation of flight in the Transport Museum bursting with horse drawn carriages, electric trams, motorbikes, fire-engines and vintage cars.
Seamus Heaney HomePlace
Seamus Heaney HomePlace is a 2,000 square metre arts and literary centre in Bellaghy. It stands at the heart of the area where the poet, scholar and Nobel Laureate spent his formative years and to which he returned time and time again, both physically and as a rich source of inspiration for his poetry. A stunning exhibition packed with never-before-seen artefacts will help you discover the world in which Heaney lived.
North Down Museum
North Down Museum tells the story of the North Down area from the Bronze Age to the present day through a series of rooms, each dedicated to a particular era of history. Key artifacts on display include the Bronze Age Ballycroghan Swords, the Bangor Bell from the hugely important Bangor Abbey settlement, and the Raven Maps, the only complete folio of Plantation era maps in Ireland. Free entry.
Irish Linen Centre
Explore Ireland’s industrial heritage in the museums award-winning exhibition Flax to Fabric: The Story of Irish Linen. Trace the history of linen production in Ulster, from the earliest times to the present day, and see live spinning and weaving demonstrations. The Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museums galleries also feature a range of temporary and visiting exhibitions, featuring the history of Lisburn and its people, local artists, textile and linen industry and local poets and writers. Free entry.
Whitehead Railway Museum
This fascinating five-gallery museum provides an exciting opportunity to rub shoulders with the giants of steam. You can step onto the footplate of a heritage steam engine and learn how it works, walk through several historic carriages and observe from a viewing gallery as restoration work takes place on locomotives and coaches. The museum is the perfect place to hear entertaining stories of the railways of yesteryear and to learn about how the railway companies transformed society more than 100 years ago.
Discover Ulster Scots
The Discover Ulster-Scots Centre is situated on the ground floor of the Corn Exchange Building and contains information displays, free educational literature, a presentation space and a book and gift shop. Find out which heritage trails will lead you down the path to your ancestors. Free entry.
Ulster American Folk Park
The indoor exhibition at the Ulster American Folk Park examines life in Ulster in the 18th and 19th centuries and shows how the settlers adapted to the new and unfamiliar environment in America. The outdoor museum brings to life people’s daily routines and activities in both the Old and New Worlds and is the ultimate in living history. An Ulster street, complete with original shop fronts, and an American street have been reconstructed alongside a full-scale dockside galley and ship, the Brig Union. Together they recreate the conditions that many thousands of emigrants experienced before, during and after the arduous Atlantic crossing.
Museum at The Mill
Housed within what was originally the wet spinning floor of the mill, the museum tells the story of Mossley Mill and the people who worked there. The museum features the development of the mill in recent years as a civic and cultural centre and important site for natural heritage. Through a range of colourful displays including artefacts, images and archival film, you can explore both the past and present of this unique historical site. The museum conveys a real sense of the people who worked in the mill and their stories and histories.
Museum of Orange Heritage
The Museum of Orange Heritage, Schomberg House, focuses on the history and traditions of the Orange Institution, beginning with the Glorious Revolution, and travels right through until the present day. There is a strong focus on Orangeism around the world with a fascinating and exciting collection of artefacts to enhance the story of the Institution. You can experience the Orange story through new audio visual technologies and interactive facilities, and view the stunning artefacts, dating from 1689.