Titanic Belfast sails off with best tourist attraction accolade
Titanic Belfast has been crowned best tourist attraction in Europe.
The museum, which opened in 2012, staved off competition from the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Rome's Colosseum, the Acropolis in Athens and La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona to scoop the title at the World Travel Awards in Italy.
It is the first time anywhere in Northern Ireland has won the accolade in the 23-year history of the awards, dubbed the "Tourism Oscars".
Tim Husbands, chief executive of Titanic Belfast, said: "After only four years in operation, to be recognised and beat off stiff competition from Europe's most iconic landmarks is a true honour.
"We know what we offer at Titanic Belfast is something our city and country can be proud of and are so pleased that this has been recognised on an international level."
Last year, the coveted award was presented to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.
Titanic Belfast is a six-floor building featuring nine interpretive and interactive galleries exploring the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Titanic, as well as celebrating the city and the people who built the doomed ocean liner.
Among the three million visitors from 145 different countries who have passed through its doors are the Queen, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, film director James Cameron and celebrities such as Adele and Michael Buble.
Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster has praised the success of the venue.
She said: "Titanic Belfast is now a global brand which has put Northern Ireland on the map for all the right reasons so official confirmation that it is now Europe's leading tourist attraction is well deserved."
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said it was a "phenomenal achievement" to have won.
"The story of the Titanic is known around the globe and it is only right and proper we have a world-class visitor attraction to match," he said.
Titanic Belfast was also recently included in Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travelist of 500 of the world's most striking locations.
It will now go on to compete for the title of world's leading attraction at a ceremony in the Maldives later this year.