A Comprehensive Guide to Visiting Stormont Parliament Buildings
When you visit Belfast, ensure that the Stormont Parliament Buildings are high on your list.
There is much for tourists to explore, from history and architecture to food and nature.
The Parliament Buildings are not just an embodiment of Northern Ireland’s rich history, but they also offer an engaging and educational experience for tourists.
You’ll find the Stormont Parliament Buildings in the heart of East Belfast, surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens and historical structures.
This grand edifice is home to the Northern Ireland Assembly and is a staple of Belfast’s architectural and historical landscape.
This guide will provide an in-depth look at the Parliament Buildings, acting as your personal tour guide for this iconic Northern Ireland landmark.
2. Location and Accessibility
Stormont Parliament Buildings are nestled within the Stormont Estate in Belfast.
They are easily accessible to the public from Mondays to Fridays, with operational hours spanning from 9:00AM to 4:00PM. However, please note that the building remains closed during public and bank holidays.
3. A Guided Tour Experience
Guided tours are available for tourists looking to gain an enriched understanding of the building’s history and significance. These tours begin at 11:00AM and 2:00PM, from Monday to Friday.
Prior booking of tickets is required to ensure a smooth and well-organised visit.
Note: If you’re unable to visit in person, you can still explore this historical marvel through a virtual tour www.virtualtourlink.com.
4. Architectural Brilliance: Parliament Buildings
The Parliament Buildings showcase the architectural prowess of Sir Arnold Thornley.
The structure spans 365ft in length, symbolising each day of the year, and features six floors and six front pillars, each representing one of the counties of Northern Ireland.
The building’s original white colour was lost during WWII when it was camouflaged with a concoction of cow dung and bitumen. Despite the paint’s removal post-war, the staining left the building with a distinctive hue.
5. Tasty Treats: The Members’ Dining Room
The Members’ Dining Room is open to tourists between 12:00pm and 3:00pm, Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays.
Here, you can savour a variety of dishes prepared by award-winning chefs using locally sourced, fresh ingredients. You might want to make a reservation, though, as it’s quite popular with both locals and tourists.
6. Tour Accessibility
The Parliament Buildings pride themselves on being accessible to all tourists. Facilities cater to wheelchair users and assistance dogs, with a Braille tour script readily available at the reception.
There’s also a Hearing Helper radio system for those who are hard of hearing. Should you require a sign language interpreter, make sure to inform the Events Office prior to your visit.
7. Historical Highlights: Stormont Estate
The Stormont Estate, home to the Parliament Buildings, also houses several other historic buildings:
Summer Houses: Two summer houses, one at the entrance of Massey Avenue and the other near Carson’s Statue, welcome visitors with their delightful charm.
Gate Lodges: The identical gate lodges at Massey Avenue and Prince of Wales Avenue add to the Estate’s architectural appeal.
Stormont Castle Cottages: Initially worker’s accommodation, these cottages now serve as offices for the Stormont Estate Management Unit.
Stormont House: Formerly the Speaker’s House, this neo-Georgian building was the first structure built as part of the Stormont Estate’s redevelopment.
Stormont Castle: This castle, closed to the public but open once a year during the European Heritage weekend, houses the Northern Ireland Executive.
8. A Peek into History
Originally, the Northern Ireland parliament convened at two venues, Belfast City Hall and the Presbyterian assembly college. The site for the new Parliament Buildings was acquired in 1922, and the current Greek Classical building was completed and opened by Edward Prince of Wales on 16th November 1932.
9. A Gift from a King
The building also houses a chandelier, a gift from King George V, that once hung in Windsor Castle. It has an interesting backstory, involving Kaiser Wilhelm II and the onset of World War I.
10. Exploring the Grounds
The Stormont Estate offers more than just buildings. It’s also home to the Reconciliation Garden, which provides a peaceful retreat for tourists.
The mile-long avenue leading up to the Parliament Buildings, lined with over 300 red-twigged lime trees, adds to the enchanting experience.