The city of Belfast (Béal Feirste, mouth of the sand bank) is the capital of Northern Ireland. Located on an inlet, the city lies on a plain, crossed by the river Lagan. Belfast is laid out like a chess-board, with Belfast Lough and the surrounding area, neatly divided up by the city’s main streets. The city’s urban area is extensive and stretches for a radius of over 30 km around the city centre. A visit to Belfast should start from Donegall Place, which winds its way north of Donegall Square, changing its name on the way to Royal Avenue. The roads, in this area, are the liveliest in the city and contain the finest examples of Belfast’s monuments. The area surrounding Donegall Square is one continuous display of beautiful and elegant buildings, including the Scottish Provident Building, with its statues of sphinxes, dolphins and lions’ heads. Queen’s College and Queen’s University stand one km to the south of Donegall Square. The University is home to 8,000 students and is the most prestigious in Northern Ireland, renown for its scientific studies. The refined Botanic Gardens, with its Palm House in cast iron and glass and its Tropical Ravine, a jungle environment, populated by tortoises, is located only a short distance away to the south. The adjacent University Square, is lined by one of the finest examples of terraced houses in all of Ireland. The zone houses many cafés, which are well hidden among the tree-lined streets and are always full of students. The imposing Neo-Renaissance City Hall dominates Donegall Square. A tangled web of narrow streets branch off from the High Street and Ann Street. These streets, called the Entries, are all that remain of the old district of Belfast. The lively zone is full of atmosphere, with its old pubs including White’s Tavern, dating back to 1630 and the Morning Star and Globe Tavern, famous for their cooking. Cathedral Quarter, close by, has been transformed from a zone of old warehouses in decay, into a fashionable area with restaurants and bars. The surrounding area has a number of noteworthy buildings, in particular the Ulster Bank (1860), complete with cast iron lamps and columns and sculptures which bear the Red Hand of Ulster, symbol of the province. Malone house, built around 1820, is a fine example of Belfast’s Georgian Architecture. Higgin Gallery houses many painting exhibitions, has a fine restaurant and its gardens, planted with rhododendrons and azaleas, have numerous paths leading through them, connecting to the Lagan Towpath. The gardens border the wood and fields at the river’s edge, in the Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park. Visiting West Belfast, separated from the heart of the city by the Westlink motorway, the visitor is transported back to a time when West Belfast was the fulcrum of the city’s linen industry. Today the zone is home to an almost entirely Catholic population. There is hardly a trace of the large blocks of flats or terraced worker’s houses destroyed during the struggles between the Catholics and Protestants. The murals have however survived, these paintings depict the history of the struggle between these two factions. Probably the most famous of the murals is the one dedicated to the hunger-striker Bobby Sands, located close to the seat of Sinn Féin. Other murals have Celtic, religious and historical themes including the potato famine and the various cease-fires and treaties. The Protestant murals are centered around the Shankhill Road, and have a military theme. The first mural example dates back to 1908 and portrays King William of Orange on his white horse. The icons of today's murals, are the members of the Ulster Defence Organisation and the Derry apprentices who barred the city gates in 1688.