Queen's Rd, Titanic Quarter (+44) (0)28 9076 6386 more than a year ago
Outside thousands of 3D aluminium shards collide to create a four-bowed building designed to reflect the White Star Line giant of the seas. Each pinnacle is the exact height of Titanic, giving visitors a tantalising clue of the large-scale exhibits within.
At the front entrance, a giant TITANIC steel sign sits alongside a life-size Titanica female figure - a poignant reminder that the ship sailed without this maritime symbol of good fortune stretching from her bow. The sculpture is said to have been inspired by Kate Winslet's role in the 1997 Titanic blockbuster movie.
Once inside, the ground floor, with cafe, restaurant, shop and ticketing desks, features a full-height atrium and large engraved compass rose floor design. Dramatic use of metals and wood meld the past with the present and create an authentic shipyard atmosphere in a 21st century setting.
Ascend the stairs to begin your tour through nine galleries taking you from 1910 to the present day. The story starts with Boomtown Belfast where giant screens show street scenes from the era and a large interactive floor allows you to explore the ship's plans.
Next the Arrol Gantry and gentle six minute Shipyard Ride take you into the heart of Harland & Wolff with sights, sounds and smells providing a sensory exploration of what it was like to be a shipbuilder working on Titanic.
Exit the ride and enter The Launch - a moment in Belfast's history when excited citizens watched in awe as the world's largest movable object slid into Belfast Lough. Panoramic views overlook the slipway where she once sat, and stretch further to the Paint Hall Studios where, among other TV and film productions, fantasy sci-fi epic Game of Thrones is filmed.
Then it's time to 'board' the ship as The Fit-out reveals the opulence and craftsmanship embedded in her interior design. Large glass cases display replica cabins from all three classes. And a fantastic triple-aspect screen takes you on a virtual tour of the ship - from boiler room to bridge.
The Maiden Voyage introduces some of the people who sailed on that journey, blissfully unaware of the ship's imminent fate. Photos taken by Father Brown provide a priceless record of life on-board the luxury liner. The Irish priest embarked briefly when Titanic docked at Queenstown, now Cobh, Co. Cork. Listen,too, to the musings of a Palm Court cafe waiter as you absorb the seascape onboard Titanic's deck.
Then the atmosphere changes starkly as you enter the next gallery... The Sinking. A dark starry night descends and, as the ship hits the iceberg and begins to list, messages are relayed to nearby ships asking for help. Animations show Titanic's demise, with its final moments poignantly projected onto a large wall of lifebelts.
An exact-scale lifeboat sits in silent observance as The Aftermath recalls the British and American inquiries in the wake of the tragedy. Over 1500 souls had perished - and the fate of every single person who sailed on Titanic - including the survivors - is recorded in fully-searchable touch screens.
Myths and Legends explores the enduring global appeal of the Titanic story, as books, films, music and television tell their versions of the tragedy. A selection of memorabilia, from the tasteful to the downright tacky, is also displayed, showing just how ingrained the story has become in our popular culture - over a century later.
Titanic Beneath's 88-seat viewing theatre features images taken by Robert Ballard, the man who discovered Titanic in 1985. Look down at the glass floor to see dramatic footage of the ship resting on the seabed - it's as though you are diving to the wreck yourself. Finally, an Ocean Exploration Centre brings the story full circle as marine biologists reveal life beneath our local shores.
Hand-held multi-language, sign language and descriptions for the visually impaired Audio Guides are available at £3pp. Or you can take a self-guided tour with a member of staff on hand in each gallery to answer your questions. You can also book a guided Discovery Tour to find out more about the building and its surroundings' symbolism and architecture.
The top two floors house four conference and events suites one of which features an exact replica of the famous staircase. The staircase is not part of the regular tour but can be viewed if you book a Sunday or special event Afternoon Tea (see website). And two subterranean levels provide paid parking for 500 cars.
Allow at least half a day to see this super-sized attraction. And take time to explore the nearby sites associated with Titanic and her sister ships, including SS Nomadic (see White Star Premium Pass below) and Titanic's Dry Dock and Pump-House.
Nowhere else in the world can you come so close to this enduring story, and the arrival of Titanic Belfast makes a visit to the city a 'must-do' lifetime experience.
Daily April, May & Sept 09:00 - 18:00, June-August 09:00 - 19:00, Oct-March 10:00 - 17:00. Check for extended holiday hours. Last admission 1hr 45min before closing.
Price/Additional InfoTickets incl. admission to SS Nomadic, Titanic's tender ship moored outside: Adult £19.50, 5-15 £8.75, U5 Free, Student/Unemployed/Senior Citizen (Mon-Fri only) £15.50, 2+2 £48. Discovery Tour: Adult £10, child £8.
Hamilton Dry Dock, Queens Rd, Titanic Quarter