Next door to the Botanic Gardens, the rejuvenated Ulster Museum is a big hit with visitors for its spacious light-filled atrium and polished steel. The museum's forte is the history and prehistory of Ireland, using exhibitions to colorfully trace the rise of Belfast's crafts, trade, and industry, and offering a reflective photographic archive of the Troubles. In addition, the museum has a large natural history section, with a famed skeleton of the extinct Irish giant deer and a trove of jewelry and gold ornaments recovered from the Spanish Armada vessel Girona, which sank off the Antrim Coast in 1588. Take time to seek out the Girona's stunning gold salamander studded with rubies and still dazzling after 400 years in the Atlantic. The museum includes a first-rate collection of 19th- and 20th-century art from Europe, Britain, and America. The new Modern History gallery, opened in 2014, tells the story of Ulster from 1500 to 1968 and the outbreak of the Troubles. Along with
audiovisual presentations and interactive exhibits, the gallery shows a remarkable range of objects from the history collection, many on display for the first time. The art, history, and nature discovery zones are packed with hands-on activities for children. Kids enjoy the Peter the Polar Bear exhibit and the famed Egyptian mummy, Takabuti. There's an innovative 360-degree light-and-sound immersive experience, museum shop, café, and restaurant. Sunday morning is the quietest time to visit, but go early before the crowds. Afterwards, lay out a picnic in the Belfast Botanical Gardens next door.