Titanic Belfast is a must-see on any Northern Ireland visit. The beautiful state of the art museum tells the story of the Titanic in the city where she was built. Families can experience the Titanic through hands-on exhibits and explore the Family Trail, a fun and educational activity for children. The museum has so much to offer it makes families want to visit again and again. Titanic Belfast shares the story of the world’s most famous ship on levels appropriate for all ages.
Planning a Family Visit to Titanic Belfast Museum
The Titanic Belfast Museum is a beautiful, state of the art, interactive museum that honors arguably the world’s most famous ship. The museum covers her build in the very shipyards right outside the museum and what she meant to Belfast, life in Victorian times, her fateful voyage, and ultimately her rediscovery. The museum does a wonderful job telling the story in ways that are appropriate for all ages. We love the museum so much we have visited multiple times with our children ages 5 and 6. Each time we discover something new.
Family History in Belfast
My husband is from Northern Ireland, and I love getting to visit as a family. The kids can see where their dad is from and learn about their heritage.
One of the things Belfast is famous for is being the birthplace of the Titanic. Like two yellow giants, the cranes David and Goliath in the shipyards where she was built are a familiar part of the Belfast skyline. Beginning in 2012, a distinctive design reminiscent of the ship’s bow (or some say the iceberg) has also taken a prominent place in what is known as the Titanic Quarter.
Exploring the Museum with the Family Trail
As we walked into the main exhibit hall, we grabbed a Family Trail Handout to help make the museum fun and interactive for my younger children. The tragedy of the Titanic is an advanced concept for young minds who are not even old enough to have studied it in school yet, but the flyer is filled with photos of characters like a shipyard worker, a captain, and others for children to spot in a scavenger hunt as their family works their way through the museum’s nine galleries.
The characters are placed throughout each of the museum’s galleries. My kids had a fun time finding them and seeing who could be the first to spot them. On the back of the handout is a list of questions to search and answer to turn in at the end of the tour for a prize. The questions are age appropriate fun facts like, “How many eggs were on board the ship?” and “What was Margaret Brown’s nickname?”
The kids had fun learning about how the Titanic was built. They also learned about Victorian life, including what people wore, what jobs they held. The hunt was fun, but also taught my kids all about the Titanic’s voyage, its tragic sinking and ultimate rediscovery on a level that was easy to understand and above all, fun.
For the older children and grownups there are nine galleries to explore, including one on Boomtown Belfast, which set the scene for the Titanic’s build. Among the other galleries were the Launch, the Fit Out, the Fateful Maiden Voyage and the Aftermath.
The story is told through period photographs, wall texts, replicas and recreations.
The museum is filled with interactive exhibits and even holograms. There is also a shipyard ride that simulates what it was like to work in the harsh conditions of the Belfast shipyards building the Titanic.
As stated on the museum’s website, there are no artifacts from the wreck at the museum for ethical reason. However, there are fascinating exhibits like scale size replicas of first, second, and third class cabins.
There are original White Star documents and plans, scale size lifeboats, and the dry dock of the Titanic and her sister ship the Olympus. We had an extra guest on our Northern Ireland adventures. Kirby the Koala is my daughter’s preschool class mascot and it was her turn to have the koala during our visit.
One of my son’s favorite parts of the museum was the railing. He enjoyed being able to put his hand on the railing and feel what the vibrations of the Titanic’s engines would have felt like if he was sailing on the ship.
There is footage of the Titanic wreckage in the brief film in the museum’s theater and then in the final interactive exhibit. It’s a fascinating tour and the exhibits are done with respect and reverence.
A Special Needs Mom’s Perspective
The Titanic Belfast Museum is very special needs friendly. All galleries are fully accessible. There is parking right outside the museum, and there are accessible bathrooms on almost every level. There are also audio or printed guides available for those with vision and hearing loss. The museum itself is big and, depending on when you go, can be crowded so that is something to keep in mind. The lights are low and sensory friendly. Surprisingly, there are not a lot of loud noises.
The only challenge for my special needs son was the ship yard ride that simulates the loud, dark conditions of working in the yard. He remembered it from our first visit and refused to go on it during the second. There was, however, an easy bypass and it was not an issue. Having done the museum both with and without the ride, I feel that while the ride is interesting and certainly gives a perspective to the conditions they endured, I don’t feel missing it because of my son’s needs took anything away from the visit.
The museum will also accommodate ASD guests who have problems waiting if you call ahead. See a full list of Titanic Belfast’s special needs accommodations here.
Other Helpful Museum Info
We spent about two hours at the museum, but you could easily spend more than that if you don’t have little ones ushering you along to find the next thing on their scavenger hunt or asking, “Are you done reading yet?” It’s a balance sometimes, right? The Titanic Belfast has its own parking garage which is a huge plus in a city that is limited on parking.
The Titanic Belfast has two dining experiences to choose from. Bistro 401 features a full menu of Northern Irish fare. The Galley features a lighter menu and snacks. We had the tomato soup in Bistro 401 and it was excellent.
For a souvenir before you go or more educational materials on the Titanic, stop by the Titanic Shop. It also features items from local craftsman.
Outside the museum are photo opps.
There are also Titanic and Olympic (her sister ship) dry docks where they were actually built. There is a drawing for scale and a memorial garden.
You can also tour the last remaining ship of the White Star Line, the Nomadic. You could easily spend most of a day here to do everything the museum has to offer.
Other Things to Do In the Area
In 1912 the shipyard workers were taken to the Titanic worksite via an electric tram. The Wee Tram offers rides around the Titanic quarter on a scale replica. It’s a figure 8 with hop on and hop off stops including the Titanic’s drawing offices and the Odyssey Pavilion. And what kid doesn’t love a train ride?
If you’ve worked up an appetite visiting the Titanic Belfast? I highly recommend Little Wing (Yes, like the Jimi Hendrix song.)
You would have to drive and re-park or hop on a bus but the pizza is so worth the visit and there’s lots of other shops around it to check out. It’s a tiny little place with big flavor. We had to sit outside but the weather was perfect for people watching. The pizza is big in size as well as flavor. We also did the city’s hop on and hop off bus tour which was a great option with kids.
Northern Ireland is a bit of a second home for us. We are visiting again this summer and there’s still things we haven’t done yet! The Titanic Belfast is one of the jewels of the city and shows what an important part it played in Titanic’s history at levels appropriate for visiting families. Put this one on your Belfast itinerary.