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It was the world’s largest passenger ship: the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic. After hitting an iceberg the ship sank with a loss of 1,517 lives. The Titanic was built in the harbour of Belfast. Now this part of the city is home to the Titanic Quarter, a brand-new residential, work and shopping district on the waterfront. An 8-story museum is entirely dedicated to the most famous shipping disaster in the world.
“Well, she was alright when she left here...” The residents of Belfast don’t seem to mind that local businesses take advantage of the famous shipping disaster. There are Titanic tours, Titanic souvenir shops and Titanic restaurants. And one will soon be able to spend the night at the site where the Titanic was designed, as the former head office of shipbuilder Harland and Wolff is being transformed into a boutique hotel. But the absolute highlight is the Titanic Belfast, not just a stuffy museum, but an ‘Experience’.
Harland and Wolff was once the world’s largest shipyard, occupying the entire Queen’s Island. This is where 30,000 people worked to build the Titanic and the nearly identical sister ships Olympic and Britannic. After the demise of the shipbuilding industry, the island became derelict until it underwent a major redevelopment in honour of the 100th memorial anniversary of the Titanic disaster in 2012. Described by the BBC as ‘the largest project in Belfast since the Titanic’, the interactive 100 million pound museum is the jewel of the Titanic Quarter. At its inauguration, Titanic Belfast was compared to Disneyland, Tate Modern and the Guggenheim in Bilbao. The 12,000 m2 ultra-modern building offers a detailed explanation of 9 different themes, from the ship’s launch to its furnishings, the maiden voyage, the disaster in 1912, the aftermath and the discovery of the wreck in 1985. Visitors are guided over the shipyard in a type of cable car, and a replica of the grand Titanic staircase is available for weddings.
“The world’s largest shipyard built the Titanic and sister ships Britannic and Olympic”
Titanic Belfast has become the city’s most visited attraction, drawing more than 800,000 visitors in the first year - twice as many as expected. But there is a lot more to see and do in the Titanic Quarter. Visit the restored dry docks and building slips, the enormous cranes named Samson and Goliath, as well as the only remaining ship of the White Star Line, the SS Nomadic. For now, the former head office of Harland and Wolff can only be admired from the outside. The Titanic Studios, where the TV series Game of Thrones was filmed, are not open to the public. The area also features a multiplex cinema and a sports and concert arena.