With its distinctive grayish-yellow brick, this library—the oldest subscription library in Ireland—is a comfortable place to escape the bustle of the city streets. The library has an unparalleled collection of 80,000 documents and books relating to the Troubles, regarded as the definitive archive and attracting scholars from all over the world. One early librarian, Thomas Russell, was hanged in 1803 for supporting an Irish uprising; another early user, Henry Joy McCracken,
a founding member of the United Irishmen, went to the scaffold owing the library £1.30 in subscriptions arrears, a debt that was eventually paid by a descendant in 2001. On the walls are paintings and prints depicting Belfast views and landmarks. Much of this artwork is for sale. Look out for the beautiful stained-glass windows on the first floor featuring portraits of men eminent in literature and science. It's an ideal hideaway for relaxing with a newspaper, enjoying the library's café, and falling into conversation.