Northern Ireland's capital city of Belfast offers different points of interest beyond natural beauty. The city has been shaped by its recent religious, political, and social experience. This is starkly reflected in the murals and 'Peace Walls' (barriers) that run throughout the city. It is a challenge for the outside observer, the visiting tourist, to fully understand Belfast's complex past and present. On my visit, I found it beneficial to take advantage of guided tours from knowledgeable experts and to listen to many different stories and perspectives.
I visited the longest peace wall in Belfast, which runs along Cupar Way between the Shankill Road and the Falls Road. This section of the wall is covered in personal messages – certain tours of the city encourage visitors to write messages on the wall. It is possible to walk to the wall or take advantage of many companies that offer a visit to the wall as part of a city tour.
Nationalist Mural dedicated to IRA Volunteers Bobby McCrudden, Mundo O'Rawe, and Pearse Jordan
We took an open-top bus tour of the murals, which stopped at all major parts of the city. It was an ideal way to see as many murals as possible and to learn something about the significance and history behind the murals we observed. The images presented here are only a small sample of the murals distributed across the neighbourhoods of Belfast. It is possible to do a walking tour of some of the murals, but a bus or taxi tour will provide a better overview from an experienced guide.
When viewed in isolation, the murals pictured here, featuring gunmen etc, may paint Belfast as a threatening place. However, on our visit, we found the city to be calm and hospitable. Also, in addition to murals featuring division and violence, there are several depictions of peace across the city. One such mural is 'No More' at Kenilworth place off Newtonards Road. The mural features two real-life children, a Protestant boy from East Belfast joining hands with a Catholic girl from Short Strand.
There are many options for tours of the murals. The Black Cab Tours are perhaps the most well-known company for political, mural, and peace wall tours. Belfast Mural Tours is a company that offers walking or cab tours of the murals with local expert guides, but there are also hop-on, hop-off bus tours, which provide narratives of the city as well.