Belfast Murals and Political Monuments

The Belfast murals evoke controversy. During your travels in Ireland, its best to avoid discussing them with strangers. They have become symbols of Northern Ireland, depicting past and present religious and political divisions. Belfast and Derry are home to arguably the most famous political murals in Europe. Some 2,000 murals have been documented since the 1970s.

Tour the Belfast Murals Independently

I toured the Belfast murals with my father independently. It was an unforgettable experience. Trips like these can be great for bonding with parents – hopefully! It’s also compelling because of Belfast’s unique history. It was a rainy day, but that is pretty typical in Ireland.

Nelson Mandela mural in Belfast, Northern Ireland
Nelson Mandela mural in Belfast
A colorful West Belfast mural depicting athletics and other scenes
West Belfast mural

History of Irish Independence

When the Republic of Ireland gained independence from the British in 1922, after centuries of English rule, Northern Ireland was not part of the deal. It was bitter sweet for Michael Collins but one he felt necessary to avoid further blood shed. He also hoped that one day in the future the north would be re-united with the rest of the Republic.

Dad standing in front of one of the political murals in Belfast

The “Troubles”

The “Troubles” which later ensued with ferocity during the 1970’s to 1990’s between protestant unionists, loyal to the United Kingdom and catholic republicans wishing to re-unite the island flared up. There was bloodshed and political imprisonment in the north and the occasional car bombing, even in Dublin.

Bobby Sands IRA mural in Belfast
Bobby Sands, IRA Belfast mural

The Good Friday Agreement

The “Troubles” effectively came to end in 1999 with the Good Friday Agreement. Under this deal, residents of Northern Ireland can choose to hold British or Irish passports. During the 2012 London Olympics, Paddy Barnes from Belfast won a bronze medal in boxing competing for Ireland.

Pat McGeown memorial - "To live in the hearts of those left behind, is not to die"

Open Border Between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is now totally open. No border guards or check points and no passport required. Though it is advised that if you are not European, you should still be traveling with your passport as random checks are possible.

Political Murals of Belfast

The Peace Wall in Belfast

While there is peace, one wonders if this is merely just the quiet before another storm. Tensions are still evident with occasional flare-ups. The “peace wall” divides the catholic and protestant neighborhoods, and the political murals of Belfast that dominate the western half of the city. Lest we forget.

dad standing at the Peace Wall in Belfast, with an umbrella in the rain
The Belfast Peace Wall divides Catholics and Protestants

Belfast Murals Tour

You can easily travel to Belfast Independently. Either by train from Dublin, or by flying into Belfast. Visitors can also book a Belfast political murals tour. The Belfast political murals are among the best things to do in Belfast.

Northern Ireland Tours

I visited Northern Ireland multiple times. You can take a Highlights of Northern Ireland Tour with Paddywagon. It includes an hour of free time in Belfast. But that is not enough time to tour the Belfast murals. Maybe if you catch an Uber. But your time will be very tight.

Belfast Murals Recap

Exploring the political monuments and Belfast murals is a moving experience that my father and I will never forget. They are great works of art, and a touching testament to revolutionaries who fought for independence from the English crown.

Please don’t discuss the Belfast murals with a stranger in a pub. It’s a sensitive topic so it is considered in-polite in Ireland.

Planning a trip to Ireland? Read my article on how to spend a great week in Ireland! Visitors will also find these handy Ireland travel tips very useful for planning their vacation to Ireland! 

Frederick Douglas political mural in Belfast, topped with barbed wire

 Money in Northern Ireland – British Pounds

The currency in Northern Ireland is noteworthy. While they use sterling pounds, like the rest of Britain, not euros like the Irish, they mint and dispense special sterling pounds that do not include the Queen of England. I was shocked when I visited the Ulster Bank ATM to literally receive sterling pounds issued by Ulster Bank themselves. I also received sterling pounds issued by Bank of Ireland. And I received change from a coffee shop featuring normal sterling pounds with the Queen, as they will still trade these.

front and back of a 5 British pound note
different 5 pound British notes found in Northern Ireland. With and without Queen Elizabeth II

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  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

4 thoughts on “Belfast Murals and Political Monuments

  1. Hello! I love this post and all the photos you took in Belfast! I studied in Northern Ireland last year and loved it. Currently, I am working on a content analysis of murals of Northern Ireland for a class back in Minnesota, and I was wondering if I could use your second photo in my work?

    Looking forward to hearing back!


    1. Hi Alyssa, thank you for the compliment! I’m glad you enjoyed this post and happy to hear you enjoyed your time in Northern Ireland too. It’s a cool country with some very charming and witty people.

      You can definitely use the West Belfast mural photo for your project. Please give photo credit though. Have a great one and happy travels!

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