Planning a trip to Belfast before Christmas? Whether it’s to fill those shopping bags to bursting point, or just to enjoy a leisurely break in this cosmopolitan city, make sure you include the Queen’s Quarter. Also known as the University Quarter it’s filled with stunning architecture, character and interesting places to explore.
The Queen’s Quarter is located in southern Belfast, and is home to the famous Queen’s University. Recognized as being the architectural centre of the city, it is an area that is laced with charm and history, and it derives its name from the celebrated University in the area.
Notable former Queen’s University graduates include poet and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, Mary McAleese, the current President of Ireland as well as other political figures in the current Northern Ireland Government, such as Lord Trimble.
2008 is a special year in the life of Queen’s University. It’s the 100th anniversary of its official status as a University, and there will be a special Charter Dinner in the University on December 2nd next to acknowledge this, as well as celebrate its life and contribution to the arts, economic, business and social worlds.
The Lanyon Building forms the centrepiece of the Queen’s Quarter, and it’s the most striking building of the University. The main streets that make up the Queen’s Quarter are Botanic Avenue, Stranmillis Road, the University Road and Malone Road. Holylands, Ormeau Road and Stranmillis border the Quarter to the eastern side and on the west it’s bordered by Lisburn Road.
It’s true to say that the academic world, culture, arts and commerce have blended together to create an innovative and bustling area. The area is home to several important cultural events held during the year. The biggest is the esteemed Belfast Festival at Queens which is held every November, and is now in its 46th year.
The Festival features a huge array of talent from the theatre, dance, music, comedy, and literary worlds, and is perhaps one of the largest festivals to be seen on the Island of Ireland. Some huge international music artists such as Jimi Hendrix have appeared in the past at the festival, along with comedians Billy Connolly and Harry Hill.
What to do and see in the area…
The Lanyon Building, which was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, is the main building of Queen’s University Belfast. It’s located on University Road at the centre of Queen’s Quarter. Its impressive architecture will astound the visitor!
If you’re into arts and live performances, you’ll get your fill of the arts world at the Lyric Players Theatre, the Queen’s Film theatre and the Crescent Arts Centre. The Queen’s Film Theatre is one of the hosting venues for the Belfast Festival. Add in the mix of students and their love for live music – you can catch some popular artists performing at the Mandela Hall which is home to the Students Union.
There are also plenty of art galleries in the area including the Naughton Gallery, the Crescent Arts Centre, the Square Space Gallery and the Lawrence Street Workshop.
Another impressive building of architectural brilliance is the Union Theological College, which was created in the middle of the 19th century as a training college for theology. The Elmwood Hall in the area is also worth a visit. It’s now part of Queen’s University Campus and utilised as a concert hall.
No trip to the Queen’s Quarter would be complete without a trip to the Botanic Gardens. The gardens are a striking testimony to Belfast’s Victorian Heritage, and contain a wide array of tropical and outdoor plants, beautiful trees and flowers, as well as glasshouses of architectural beauty.
The most striking building in the Botanic Gardens is the dome shaped Palm House, which is one of the first curving cast iron glasshouses created in the world. It was designed by Charles Lanyon, and is home to some of the most unusual and tallest plants in the country.
The gardens also contain another striking glasshouse of extreme beauty, the Tropical Ravine House. It was constructed by head gardener Charles McKimm in 1889. It features a unique design of a sunken ravine and has a balcony on both sides for viewing.
Both glasshouses are iconic symbols of Victorian Belfast and are well worth viewing on your tour of the Queen’s Quarter. In the past there has been popular music concerts held in the Gardens area, such as the Tennants Vital Festival, which incorporated many international artists.
When in the area, you should also fit in visit to the Ulster Museum, which is located near the Botanic Gardens. The museum is situated in the area close to Friar’s Bush Graveyard, which is a former monastery and one of Belfast’s oldest Christian sites. Here you’ll find graves dating back as far as the time of Saint Patrick. Note that the Museum is currently undergoing a huge renovation and will be re-opening in 2009.
Belfast’s Queen’s Quarter for shopping and nightlife…
As plenty of students from the University reside in the area, there are plenty pubs and nightclubs to choose from if that’s your thing! Some of the most popular pubs and nightclubs in the whole of Belfast are to be found in the Queens Quarter. The Empire, The Fly, Mclub, The Globe and The Parlour to name but a few, are some of the most popular entertainment venues. All offer tasty food as well as live music and discos in a wonderful ambiance!
There’s plenty of shopping to be enjoyed in the Queens Quarter as well. And if you’ve any Christmas shopping to do, this is the place to go! It was once said the Lisburn Road is Belfast’s equivalent of London’s Bond Street, with a huge selection of high street stores, and upmarket boutiques that offer much to the shopper! And if you’re interested in arts and crafts, check out the area around Botanic Gardens, that offers much to the art lover for that perfect gift!
How to get to the Queens Quarter from Belfast city centre…
From Belfast city centre, the best route would be to take (if you’re walking or going by car) is to veer west on the A1 (Donegall Square) towards Donegall Place. Turn left at Bedford Street and keep on the A1 road. Keep going on the University Road and then turn left at Elmwood Avenue and keep left, following the signs for Queens University. There is ample parking there in the University Grounds!
From Belfast Donegall Square East bus stop, take the 8A or 8B to get to Queens University to start your tour of the Queens Quarter.
Find out more about the Queen’s Quarter and Belfast.
After your day exploring the Queens Quarter, you might just need somewhere to stay. Why not check into one of our quality Belfast hotels?