Customs House is one of Belfast’s most recognizable landmarks. This gorgeous 19th-century building is known not only for its regal design but also for its rich history. Come today and you may find a festival or event being held on its famous steps. In the past you would have been more likely to discover a protest or a rousing speech taking place here.
The building dates to the 1850s and is one of Belfast’s most magnificent examples of the neoclassical style popular at the time. See it up close to appreciate its many rich details, such as the stone heads of Neptune, Britannia and Mercury which adorn the pediment of the façade. Customs House’s creation marked a period in which Belfast’s importance as an industrial center was huge. In fact, tax revenue from Belfast’s port at the time were the third highest after London’s and Liverpool’s. Look out for the blue plaque commemorating Anthony Trollope, the Victorian author who worked here during this high point in Belfast’s economic history.
Wander past the skateboarders and chatting groups of people who gather in the square in front of the building. Its popularity as a meeting place is a legacy of the time when it played an important role in public movements. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, speakers used the steps of Customs House as a platform from which to address the crowds. Jim Larkin, a key figure in the movement for labor rights, addressed crowds of around 20,000 from here. See the statue of The Speaker on the steps today, a tribute to this key part of the building’s history.
Customs House is only open to the public a few times per year, but its steps remain a popular spot for both organized and impromptu events such as concerts, speeches and markets. Explore the surrounding area during your visit, as the building is close to many of Belfast’s attractions. See the grand Albert Memorial Clock Tower or stop to take fun photos with the delightful Big Fish sculpture. Spend the evening hopping between the many pubs and bars clustered in this busy area.