Merchant Hotel BelfastOur family stayed at the Merchant Hotel in downtown Belfast which has splendid decor, great amenities, incredible staff and is conveniently located in the heart of the city.  This hotel is a 5 star establishment featuring a beautiful dining room, afternoon tea, and a full spa.
 
 
We were able to get an especially good deal on the hotel rate because we were mid-week and slightly before the summer season. Our accommodations included breakfast with a full menu. There are many restaurants, pubs and stores in walking distance. And even a quick serve coffee shop right across the street. The staff was very helpful with choosing a venue for traditional Irish music and good places to eat.
 
Belfast Past and Present
 
Belfast is the center of industry, arts, higher education, business, and law in Northern Ireland. Belfast has been the site of 
great strife between the Protestants (British Loyalist) and Catholics (Nationalist) call the “troubles”. There  has much blood-shed: fires, bombings and killings some of the worse being in the 1970’s. A political agreement was reached in 1998 but sporadic violence continues.
 
King William MuralTo gain a better understanding of both sides, take a Black Cab Tour of the political districts.  In the Protestant area you will 
 
see a wall mural of King William of Orange, King Billy (1650 1702) who conquered Ireland for England at the Battle of the 
Boyne in 1690. The protestant group Orange Men who have been involved in much of fighting  are named after King William. 
Most protestants trace their heritage back to being English or Scottish who settled Northern Ireland after the 
Battle of the Boyne. The rest of Ireland declared it’s independence from England in 1922, in a deal with the British the 
northern province of Ulster remained under British control and comprises Northern Ireland.
 
The Protestants also have murals of fallen fighters and one of a fighter dressed in black holding an automatic riffle where the riffle follows you when you walk past. This may not be appropriate for small children but is  educational for adolescents 
and teens.  The Catholic section also has murals and a full shine to those who have died in conflict with the Protestants 
and the the British military and police.  Their full size wall murals include commemoration of those who died in prison on
Catholic wall mural Belfasta hunger strike and other countries which they consider to also be occupied by foreign forces such as Palestine.
  
It is surprising in 2015 to still find iron gates which close off streets at 6PM each night to separate the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, and police stations which look like forts surrounded by barbed wire and high fences.  The peace wall is interesting and you can write a message of peace on it, there  are 68 separate peace walls throughout the neighborhoods.  The saddest part about the peace walls is that the houses who back up to the peace wall have metal cages over their backyard to protect their home for items, sometimes dangerous,  thrown over the wall.
 
peace wallDriving through the neighborhood you will see more signs of loyalty to the British, such as Union Jack flags in the Protestant 
 
neighborhoods, this also occurs in other cites in Northern Ireland that are protestant dominated. In the Catholic neighborhood you will see protest signs and shrines to the Blessed Virgin.  This also occurs in towns that are Catholic dominated throughout Northern Ireland. Children attend separate school, Catholic or Protestant until college level.
 
Downtown Belfast is considered a neutral area and some integrated housing is beginning to appear.
 
City Hall
 
Belfast City HallTake a tour of City Hall to learn about the history of Belfast and to see how the Post-Troubles government works.
 
Leadership transfers yearly between the two largest political groups Siin Fein (Catholics) and Democratic Unionist Party  
(Protestants.)The City Hall features beautiful historic murals and colored glass windows and a main hall where special events are held.  Outside there is a statue of Queen Victoria and  monument listing all the names of those who died on the Titanic.  
The Belfast ties to the Titanic are strong since the Titanic was built in here.
 
 Restaurants
 For a family style Irish meal visit the Robinsons Restaurant then head downstairs to Fibber McGees for some traditional Irish 
 music. The Cloth Ear right next to the Merchant Hotel offers good food and a lively atmosphere. The Yardbird has a limited menu,  rostesserie chicken, ribs & wings only, music or other activities almost nightly with indoor and outside seating.
 
Titanic Museum
 
The Titanic Museum opened 2012 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage.  The Titanic Museum in Belfast has rocketed to the top of Ireland’s tourist attractions. It is located in a beautiful glass building which has the shape of a large ship. The attraction includes: a picture gallery, information about the ship’s builders Harland and Wolfe, and interactive sections about how the Titanic was built and even a ride through the Titanic Museum Belfastshipbuilding yards.  See replicates of cabins, the dining room and a  complete deck of the Titanic. One floor features videos about the discovery of Titanic at the bottom of the ocean.
 
 
Audio guides are available and it is handicap accessible. Be sure to get your picture taken, you can simulate standing 
in the bow of the Titanic or get a photo of yourself in front of the Titanic. There are two Cafe’s which offer snacks and full meals. 
 
Visiting the Titanic Museum is an almost all day event you will find unforgettable, it’s Open:
 
January – March – 10am – 5pm Daily
 
April – May  –  9am – 6pm Daily
 
June, July, August  –  9am – 7pm Daily
 
September – 9am – 6pm Daily
 
October – December –   10am – 5pm Daily
 
Please note last admission is 1hr 40m before closing time (excluding late saver ticket)
 
Closed: December 24th, 25th, 26th 
 
Titanic Walking Tour
You can purchase the Titanic Walking Tour separately or as an add on to your museum ticket.  it takes you to see the former
headquarters of Harland & Wolfe, the original Drawing Office, Titanic’s dock and pump house, and then
descend 44th feet into the Titanic dry dock. tours at  11AM, 1 PM and  3 PM daily.
 
 

Geraldine Jensen

Publisher and Editor of Families Online Magazine. Our experts provide warm, loving, and generous advice for you, your family and children, no matter their age -- infants, school age, 'tweens, and teenagers. Features include:Parenting, Ages and Stages of Child Development, Child Support, Cooking, Health, Children's Books, Nutrition, Christian Parenting, Relationships, Green-living, Education and School

Ms. Jensen is a leading advocate for families and children and was the founder and president of ACES, The Association for Children for Enforcement of Support.
http://www.familiesonlinemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Merchant_Hotel_Belfast1.jpghttp://www.familiesonlinemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Merchant_Hotel_Belfast1-150x150.jpgGeraldine JensenAre we there Yet?Our family stayed at the Merchant Hotel in downtown Belfast which has splendid decor, great amenities, incredible staff and is conveniently located in the heart of the city.  This hotel is a 5 star establishment featuring a beautiful dining room, afternoon tea, and a full spa.  ...Parenting Advice and Family Fun Activities