By Dave Philips
BELFAST’S Titanic Experience is a world-class attraction that’s just a short trip away if you’re looking for a simple and stress-free break from Dublin.
What’s better is that you can forget all about directions, parking, and even accommodation as you can easily get there and back by public transport in a day.
The Enterprise train service takes two hours to make its way from Dublin’s Connolly station to Belfast Central [train station], and splurging a little extra on a first-class ticket can help set the pace for the day.
In Belfast, your train ticket will also get you passage on buses to the city centre, where you can pick up maps and information on other attractions from the tourist office.
Since its launch in March 2012, the Titanic exhibition has become an instant must-see part of Belfast and, to date, has clocked up more than 700,000 visitors.
The numbers haven’t shown signs of slowing, so it is recommended to book tickets in advance. The iconic building that houses the exhibition has become an incredible part of the cityscape, and is located just a 10-minute walk from the city centre in a rejuvenated dockland area that feels similar to Dublin’s IFSC district.
The exhibition puts a lot of stock on bringing history to life, and it shows what an impact the RMS Titanic had on the city.
Just to ready the dry dock – which enabled workers to build Titanic and other Olympic-class liners – took almost two years.
The exhibition also highlights the connection between the Titanic and the Working Class citizens of Belfast.
So much of the ship was hand-built by an army of labourers, and the sheer scale of work involved can be difficult to grasp.
Utilising unique audiovisual installations, interactive displays – and even an electronic ride to explore the world of Titanic – you can get a real feel for the different aspects of the ship, from her construction and the experience aboard, to the disaster and its aftermath.
The exhibition seamlessly moves from personal to group stories, and shows how the building and sinking of Titanic affected the Belfast community.
There’s a lot to see, and it is presented in a way that children and adults alike should find fascinating. You could easily pass several hours here.
Walking back toward the city centre, you can pass through another of Belfast’s redeveloped areas, the Cathedral Quarter.
Based around St Anne’s Cathedral, this area is a hive of warmly-lit, winding streets and laneways, where you’ll find plenty of boutiques, restaurants, and galleries. Just opposite the cathedral, in St Anne’s Square, you’ll find Chopin Grand Cafe, which is the perfect place to stop for a coffee.
If you have time, you could easily spend another few hours exploring and going for dinner before taking the train back to Dublin. You’ll find plenty of free gallery attractions in the Cathedral Quarter.
Right across from the cafe is the MAC – a newly-opened arts venue that is displaying an Andy Warhol collection through April. If you visit Belfast on Saturday, make time to stop by St George’s Food Market, close to the train station, where you can try a great range of food and pick up some unique gifts.
For many people, time to get away is getting less and less as our working hours and commitments change, but it’s great to know you can still go somewhere completely different and be back in your own bed by the evening.
Tickets for Titanic Belfast cost approximately €16.50 for adults, or around €8 for children if booked online.
Trains run regularly from Dublin to Belfast, and ticket costs can vary depending on time. See translink.co.uk to book Enterprise tickets.
For further information, see www.titanicbelfast.com.