Belfast audio tour: The Heart of Belfast: From Humble Beginnings to Shipbuilding Glory

The Heart of Belfast: From Humble Beginnings to Shipbuilding Glory

Walking Tour

60 mins

About the Tour

The story of Belfast is one of unlikely success. From a crossing at a sand bank without any natural resources, it mushroomed into a great Victorian city with thriving shipping and linen industries in the 1800s.

I’m a Belfast-born guide, and on this walking tour I’d like to share the city’s story with you. All roads lead to the City Hall, so there’s no better place to start a tour of the city centre than outside its front doors. Along the way, you’ll see icons of past industries that shaped Belfast into a great industrial city within the British Empire. You’ll discover the people who left their mark in the fields of science, architecture, religion, education and the arts too.

On this tour, you'll also hear about:

• The places where some of the most horrific events unfolded during Belfast’s ‘Troubles’
• Eight masts representing well-known Belfast-made ships
• The development of Belfast’s industries, including shipbuilding and linen
• The birth of the United Irishmen movement
• How Unionism and Republican Nationalism developed
• Winston Churchill facing an angry crowd of unionists in 1912
• The arrival of US Army troops during the Second World War
• Unionist leader Sir Edward Carson’s final resting place

We'll also visit sculptures and murals like the 'Spirit of Belfast' and see iconic landmarks including St Anne's Cathedral and the Albert Memorial Clock.

Tour Producer


William (Billy) Dickson BEM

Billy is a fully qualified Blue Badge guide, a member of the Institute of Tourist Guiding & TGNI. He was born in Belfast and has lived here all his life. Billy is the longest serving tour guide in Belfast. He created a wide range of themed walking tours and prides himself in providing a tour to suit the interests of a particular group. During the height of the 'Belfast Troubles' he would be seen taking groups around his beloved city. Time has moved on and Billy is no longer doing tours on his own and many more guides are available today, but Billy is still in great demand guiding on coaches and walking tours and he was the obvious choice to be a guide on Voice Map.

Major Landmarks

  • The Bank Buildings

  • Castle Court

  • First Presbyterian Church

  • Masonic Hall

  • Former Belfast News Letter building

  • Writers' Square

  • Former Belfast Telegraph building

  • St Anne's Cathedral and 'The Spire of Hope"

  • Albert Memorial Clock

  • St George's Church

  • Jaffe Memorial Fountain

  • 'The Spirit of Belfast' Sculpture

  • Titanic Memorial & Garden

  • Royal Irish Rifles Memorial

Directions to Starting Point

You should find no difficulty finding your way to the meeting point at the front gates of the City Hall. Even in the unlikelihood of losing your way, local people are very friendly and will point you in the right direction. Most bus routes include stops around the City Hall.

Show Directions
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Places to stop along the way

There are lots of eating places along the way, many with names that would be familiar to you. Others are local businesses like Blinkers Restaurant at 1 Bridge Street. At the end of the tour, you can have refreshments in the Bobbin Cafe situated on the ground floor of Belfast City Hall. You might also wish to return and visit some of the places that you would have passed during the tour. The First (Non-Subscribing) Presbyterian is only open at certain times, so if you find it open, then take the opportunity to go inside. Try not to spend too long as there is so much more to see on the tour.

Best time of day

Most times are suitable for taking the tour. Mornings and late afternoons might be best. Some prefer taking the tour before or after breakfast, when there are no distractions.


Major parades like the 12th July Orange Parade will pass the front of the City Hall. Promotional events and even protests are often held at the gates, so there might be some noise. If you are concerned, you can get advice from the official 'Visit Belfast' tourist centre, just opposite the City Hall, where the staff will give you every assistance in helping to make your visit to Belfast safe and enjoyable.


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The Heart of Belfast: From Humble Beginnings to Shipbuilding Glory