It’s impossible to walk the streets of Belfast city centre without being reminded of the vital role the city has played in the industrial, economic and political life of the UK throughout the centuries. As the capital of Northern Ireland, it boasts more than its share of striking and imposing buildings from throughout the centuries, and this rich architectural heritage is matched with a determination to move with the times – creating stunning new buildings and repurposing traditional structures and spaces.
Over seven million visitors a year make their way to Belfast, and this is reflected in the range of accommodation on offer in a fairly small area of the city centre. From the cutting edge boutique hotels of the bohemian Cathedral Quarter, to luxury five star accommodation along the waterfront, Belfast offers rooms of every type and size. Whether you’re a backpacker looking for a budget hostel or a family seeking the warm welcome of a family run bed and breakfast, you’ll be able to find the perfect base from which to explore.
Customs House Square
The area of Customs House Square offers a perfect illustration of the way in which Belfast, as a city, has moved on to offer a truly 21st century visitor experience without compromising on the beauty of its historical architecture. Customs House Square is located in the city centre, close to the River Lagan and the landmark of the Albert Memorial Clock Tower. This means it is easily reached no matter where your accommodation is based, and makes an excellent meeting point as well as being the perfect place to linger if you simply wish to while away a few hours watching the world go by.
The History of Customs House Square
The square is dominated by the presence of the Customs House itself, an Italianate structure built in 1857 and designed by Charles Lanyon, the architect responsible for many of the most striking buildings in Belfast. Other notable buildings surrounding the square include the Albert Memorial clock tower, the Northern Bank and McHugh’s Bar, which opened in 1711 and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Belfast.
For many years during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Customs House Square achieved fame as the Speakers Corner of Belfast; large crowds would gather in the square in front of the Customs House and listen, or heckle, as orators stood on the steps and held forth on the burning issues of the day. Perhaps fittingly, the street lights located around the edge of the square are known, to this day, as “hecklers”.
Modern Customs House Square
The square in front of Customs House has undergone a £4 million redevelopment in recent years, becoming a pedestrianised public space that is used as a venue for a range of live events, concerts, performances, markets and street carnivals. Whether you’re lucky enough to be in Belfast when an event such as the Belsonic Music Festival, which is held there during August each year, is taking place, or whether you simply want to explore one of the most pleasing public spaces in Belfast, Customs House Square is definitely well worth a visit.