Belfast’s customs house was the city’s first neoclassical building, built in 1856 in the High Italian Renaissance, or “Palazzo” style. It is generally considered to be one of Belfast’s finest structures and features carvings of angels and classical deities representing manufacture, commerce, industry and peace. Figures of Britannia, flanked by the lion and unicorn of the British seal, as well as Neptune and Mercury, look down from the pediment over the entrance. The structure is meant to convey the great power of the British Empire under Queen Victoria.
The building's steps have long been a site where many of Belfast’s orators would give speeches, as well as the site of many protests. There is a bronze statue of the “speaker” that serves as a popular spot for photos. Customs House Square is also a major venue for outdoor concerts and street entertainment in Belfast.
One of the best ways to get a good look at the Customs House is from the water; many Belfast sightseeing cruises and tours include a look at the Customs House as you cruise down the River Lagan.