Lonely Planet review for City Hall
The Industrial Revolution transformed Belfast in the 19th century, and its rapid rise to muck-and-brass prosperity is manifested in the extravagance of City Hall. Built in classical Renaissance style in fine, white Portland stone, it was completed in 1906 and paid for from the profits of the gas supply company.
The hall is fronted by a statue of a rather dour 'we are not amused' Queen Victoria. The bronze figures on either side of her symbolise the textile and shipbuilding industries, while the child at the back represents education. At the northeastern corner of the grounds is a statue of Sir Edward Harland, the Yorkshire-born marine engineer who founded the Harland & Wolff shipyards and who served as mayor of Belfast from 1885 to 1886. To his south stands a memorial to the victims of the Titanic.
The highlights of the free, 45-minute guided tour of City Hall include the sumptuous, wedding-cake Italian marble and colourful stained glass of the entrance hall and rotunda; an opportunity to sit on the mayor's throne in the council chamber; and the idiosyncratic portraits of past lord mayors – each lord mayor is allowed to choose his or her own artist, and the variations in personal style are intriguing.
The Bobbin Coffee Shop, in the southeast corner of City Hall, houses an exhibition of photographic portraits of 68 of Belfast's most famous citizens, from footballer George Best and musician Van Morrison to broadcaster Gloria Hunniford and president of Ireland Mary McAleese.