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
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.
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.
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).
4. A whole lot of history
Opened in 1828, the Royal Belfast Botanical Gardens (as they were known then) were privately owned by the Belfast Botanical and Horticultural Society. They were only open to the public on Sundays. After 1895, the gardens were purchased by Belfast Corporation and became a public park. They have since been used as a public green space in the city and frequently host concerts and outdoor events.
A speedy 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
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 we’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 old 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. They also do dairy free, vegetarian and vegan options.
2. And then head off on the Botanic Gardens Walk
Burn off these yummy calories with a pleasant stroll around the Botanic Gardens. Even on a showery day you can dive 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!
4. 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 near Belfast’s Botanic Gardens
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 (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Ulster Museum
The award-winning Ulster Museum is at the main entrance to the Botanic Gardens and is packed with fascinating exhibits. It’s also free admission. Come face-to-face with a dinosaur and an Egyptian mummy. Learn more about the history of Northern Ireland through art and natural sciences. The excellent Loaf Café has superb views of the gardens.
2. Ormeau Park
Ormeau Park was once the home of the Donegall family who lived in Ormeau Cottage from 1807. When they sold the estate to Belfast Corporation in 1869, it became a municipal park, now the oldest in the city. Holder of the Green Flag Award for open spaces, it has woodland, wildlife and flower beds, sports pitches, eco trails, bowling greens and BMX tracks.
3. Food and drink
There’s an endless number of excellent restaurants in Belfast, from great spots for brunch, and hearty Belfast breakfasts, to boozy bottomless brunch or vegan food, there’s something to tickle most tastebuds (there’s some great old-school pubs in Belfast too!).
4. Lots more to see in the city
The Botanic Gardens are one of many superb attractions in Belfast. 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.
FAQs about the Botanic Gardens in Belfast
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from how much is it into the gardens to what to see nearby.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is Botanic Gardens Belfast free?
Yes, admission to the gardens is free, making a visit here one of the best free things to do in Belfast City.
How big is Botanic Gardens Belfast?
The gardens are a whopping 28 acres in size, making it a fine spot for an early-morning stroll.
Is it worth visiting the Botanic Gardens?
Yes! Especially if you’re basing yourself in the city. The gardens provide ample respite from the hustle and bustle.