Queen’s Arcade, Belfast


Before it opened in 1881, the Belfast Newsletter said Queen’s Arcade would become ‘one of the leading thoroughfares of the town’. And it still is today, running from Donegall Place to Fountain Street in the centre of Belfast’s shopping district, meaning a steady flow of shoppers and pedestrians walking through.

There were originally 27 shops, each with its own fireplace and spiral staircase, some of which are still in place today. The four-storey white façade at one end has a clock halfway up and an arched entrance to the arcade below. There’s beautiful mosaic tiling to the floors and gold-leaf cornices giving it an opulent feel today. The arcade is now owned by Lunn’s the Jeweller’s, which moved into the arcade in the 1950s, and has expanded since to occupy now several units. Very high occupancy rate compared to other arcades in the UK.

My favourite shop today

This is a tricky one: Lunn’s the Jeweller’s ought to get my vote since the managers there gave me so much of their time to talk about the arcade’s past, but I didn’t actually buy any jewellery. We did have lunch in the Queen’s Café, though most of the original features inside are long gone. So my favourite shops are the ones (we spotted at least three or four) which have kept their spiral staircase at the back, and the owner of one gift shop was happy for me to go back and take photos of the staircase.

My pick of the arcade’s past

By 1929 the Queen’s Café in the Arcade advertised that it was the place for lunch, dinner and tea if on a visit to Belfast. And judging by the number of diners on the day of our visit, not much has changed a century later.

The First World War and into the 1920s also saw a Miss Beresford running a milliner’s in the Arcade. “Paris and London modes. Moderate prices,” were her slogans. Also in the 1920s, WH Smyth’s was the place in the Queen’s Arcade where you’d buy a gramophone, as well as tickets for concerts in city centre venues. (not to be confused with the still-running WH Smith’s across the UK).

This arcade in films or books

Several scenes in the BBC mini-series Mrs Wilson in 2018 were filmed in Queen’s Arcade.

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

What memories do you have of visits in years gone by?

Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?

Have you seen Queen’s Arcade in any other film or book?

Is there a website for this arcade?

Queens Arcade in Belfast does have its own website. Click the link to view.

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