Queen’s University Belfast | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Queen’s University Belfast

Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Sarah Roller

12 May 2021
Image Credit: Nahlik / Shutterstock

About Queen’s University Belfast

Queen’s University Belfast is one of the UK’s oldest universities, and remains part of the prestigious Russell Group today.

History of Queen’s Belfast

The university was founded in 1845 by Queen Victoria, as part of a wider institution known as the Queen’s University of Ireland, which aimed to encourage Catholics and Presbyterians into higher education – Ireland’s existing university, Trinity College Dublin, was an almost exclusively Anglican institution. Queen’s Belfast had its roots in the older Belfast Academical Institution.

The heart of the university – the Lanyon Building – was designed by the English architect Sir Charles Lanyon, and remains synonymous with the university to this day. Lanyon also designed multiple other iconic buildings in Belfast, including Belfast Castle and the Crumlin Road Gaol. The Lanyon Building is modelled on Magdalen College Oxford, and is Gothic Tudor in design, mimicking the much older universities of Oxford and Cambridge architecturally. When Queen’s opened, it had 195 students and 23 professors.

The Irish Universities Act (1908) split the Queen’s University of Ireland into Queen’s Belfast and the National University of Ireland. By this point, Queen’s had around 600 students, mainly from the counties of Ulster.

The university steadily grew throughout the 20th century: major benefactors like William Whitla helped expand the university and turn it into an increasingly prestigious institution. Queen’s was one of 8 UK universities to hold a seat in Parliament until the practice was abolished in 1950.

Queen’s Belfast today

The university remains a working academic institution, with around 23,000 students attending. Visitors should start at the Welcome Centre – regular exhibitions are held here, and it’s the best place to get up to date information about where you can or can’t see. Guided campus tours are available on request, although these tend to be reserved for larger groups.

The Lynn Building is particularly worthy seeing if you get the chance: originally designed as the university’s main library, it’s a vibrant example of Ruskinian Gothic architecture.

Getting to Queen’s Belfast

The university is located in the Queen’s Quarter, slightly south of the centre of Belfast. The main entrance, via the Lanyon Building, can be found on Queen’s Road. There’s limited residential parking in the area. Buses 8, 22, 93, 522 and 524 all stop opposite the entrance. The nearest station is Botanic, a 10 minute walk away, which can be reached from Bangor and elsewhere in and around Belfast.