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A Guide To Visiting the Beautiful Botanic Gardens In Belfast

A Guide To Visiting the Beautiful Botanic Gardens In Belfast

The Botanic Gardens in Belfast provide a beautiful green space in the city centre where you can escape the hustle and bustle for a while.

Home to a Rose Garden, exotic plant collections and two landmark buildings (the Palm House and the Tropical Ravine House) a visit here is one of the best things to do in Belfast.

Admission to the gardens is also free, which makes it a handy spot to explore if you’re visiting the city on a budget.

Below, you’ll find everything from things to do at the Botanic Gardens in Belfast to where to visit a short walk away.

Some quick need-to-knows before visiting the Botanic Gardens in Belfast

A map of the botanic gardens in Belfast

 

Although a visit to the Botanic Gardens in Belfast is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location   

You’ll find the Botanic Gardens in Belfast City Centre at College Park Ave, Botanic Ave, Belfast BT7 1LP. They’re a short, 5-minute walk from Ormeau Park, a 20-minute walk from the Grand Opera House and 30-minute walk from St. George’s Market.

2. Admission and opening hours 

Admission to the Botanic Gardens is free and there are 7 entrances! The opening hours for the gardens vary greatly. Check here for the most up-to-date times.

3. Parking and public transport

Those arriving by car will find street parking nearby. The nearest station is Botanic Railway Station just a short walk away. Metro stops include Queens University (Metro #8) and College Park (Metro #7).

 

A history of Belfast’s Botanic Gardens  

 

Created in 1828, and opened to the public in 1895, the Botanic Gardens have been an important green space in the city for almost 200 years. 

One of the first buildings to be constructed was the Palm House conservatory. It’s an early example of a curvilinear cast iron glasshouse, designed by Charles Lanyon and built by Richard Turner.

The foundation stone was ceremonially laid by the Marquess of Donegall and it was completed in 1940.

Turner went on to build the glasshouses at Kew Gardens, London and the Irish National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin. 

In 1889, the Tropical Ravine House was built by Head Gardener Charles McKimm. The building covers a sunken ravine with viewing balconies on either side. 

These impressive Victorian structures were symbolic of Belfast’s growing prosperity and they attracted over 10,000 visitors every day. The Rose Garden was planted in 1932.

 

Things to do at the Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Photos via Shutterstock

One of the great things about the gardens is that there’s plenty to see and do if you visit on a day when the weather’s fine.

You can easily combine a bite-to-eat (or a coffee!) with a ramble around the Botanic Gardens in Belfast. Here’s how I’d tackle the gardens on a fine day.

1. Grab something tasty from Maggie Mays Cafe  

Maggie Mays is one of the best of the many coffee shops in Belfast – and they’re so much more than a regular aul cafe!

Located right next to the gardens on Stranmills Rd, this family-run chain of cafés has everything covered – artisan coffees, breakfast (served all day), lunch, dinner, custom shakes and funky sweet treats.

 

2. And then head off on the Botanic Gardens Walk  

Burn off these calories with a gentle stroll around the Botanic Gardens. Even on a showery day you can nip into the glasshouses and enjoy the tropical blooms.

There’s a circular walk taking in the main sights which is 0.8 miles long. Start from the main gate near the statue of Lord Kelvin.

Head right towards the Tropical Ravine, keep right past the famous herbaceous borders (longest in the UK) to reach the Rose Garden.

Pass the bowling green en route to the Rockery and Palm House then back to the main entrance. The stroll around the gardens is one of the best walks in Belfast for good reason!

 

3. Then explore some of the different buildings after  

You’ll want to pause and nosey inside the main buildings in the Botanic Gardens. The Palm House is a huge glass and iron structure full of tropical plants and seasonal displays.

One wing is a Cool Wing, the other is a Tropical Wing. There are three different sections altogether with footpaths winding through the tall greenery.

When it was built, Lanyon increased the height of the dome to 12m to accommodate taller plants.

Look for the 11-metre tall Globe Spear Lily from Australia which bloomed in 2005 after 23 years in-situ!

The Tropical Ravine House has viewing platforms overlooking the ravine. The star of the show is the pink-balled Dombeya.

 

Things to do nearby

the best things to do in Belfast Ireland

One of the beauties of the gardens is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Botanic Gardens:

  1. Ulster Museum: An award-winning museum at the main entrance to the Botanic Gardens packed with fascinating exhibits
  2. Ormeau Park: The oldest and largest park in the city
  3. Food and drink: There’s an endless number of excellent restaurants in Belfast (there’s some great old-school pubs in Belfast too!)
  4. Key attractions: Head to the Cathedral Quarter, Titanic Quarter – home of Titanic Belfast, spend a day at Belfast Zoo or see Belfast’s murals on a Black Cab Tour
 

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