Belfast’s Grand Central opened last summer offering a fresh take on the city’s Victorian splendour. This towering structure which now dominates the city skyline is the tallest hotel in Ireland and boasts 23 floors, 300 luxurious bedrooms and 10 suites. The impressive edifice, formerly a dull office block has attracted staff from far and wide inspired by its charming simplicity and the family ethos of the Hastings Hotels group. This is the seventh hotel in their collection which also includes the Europa and Culloden. On the approach towards the entrance, you are greeted by the work of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Paul Muldoon. His specially commissioned poem Belfast Hymn sets the tone of your time here conjuring the spirit of the city with verse decorating the stunning marble and elegant art deco interiors. The staff immediately offered a smile and a traditional Belfast welcome which is second to none.


The views of Belfast are simply spectacular at all hours of the day and night, I looked out onto the Castlereagh Hills and Belfast Lough as well as many of the city’s dramatic landmarks including the dominant Scottish Provident Institution. The City View Suites offer a king-size Cloud Bed, dining area, coffee machine and dressing room. The deluxe bathroom includes a selection of luxury toiletries and a walk-in shower. The standard rooms are also spacious offering an ideal place to relax with practical, comfortable beds and white bedlinen.


With three restaurants to choose from there’s no need to look beyond the hotel for breakfast or dinner. The Seahorse restaurant is a popular draw with Executive Head Chef, Damian Tumility bringing a creative spirit and atmosphere serving Guinness bread, freshly caught salmon and a recommended house white wine. The presentation of various dishes is a work of art in itself. For breakfast there is no other choice but the Ulster Fry from locally sourced farms. The easy-going Grand Cafe on the ground floor is another busy spot offering bistro style food as well as coffee and pastries. A visit here wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Observatory cocktail lounge on the 23rd floor which has a 1970s futurism style that evokes Stanley Kubrick’s film Clockwork Orange. Once again it’s the 23rd-floor view outside of a modern, European city that steals the moment.


Just a ten minute walk away is the Titanic Quarter, the world’s largest urban regeneration project. The Wee Tram powered by electricity offers an opportunity to see where the Titanic was designed and launched. Hearing the stories and history of the shipyards and of the Titanic journey is a captivating experience that steals away the hours. Get up close to the giant yellow Harland and Wolff cranes, Samson and Goliath yet another key landmark you can spot from the hotel window. The area also boasts Titanic Studios the largest film studios in Europe. Part of Northern Ireland’s reinvention owes something to the success of the HBO series Game of Thrones which is filmed here. The studio, where sets can be visited and actors are often spotted, is well worth a visit. To finish off why not visit the DOCK mini-market for a Belfast bap and a hot coffee? The experience is enhanced by a blast of traditional music and a variety of colourful stalls.


The seahorse in recent years has become a unifying symbol for the city celebrating its maritime past. As well as forming part of Belfast’s coat of arms it is also the hotel’s main emblem. While other Hastings hotels offer a collectable bathroom Hastings Duck which includes a Duck of Thrones and St Patrick’s Duck, the Grand Central offers an exclusive Seahorse Duck to take home with no extra charge.


Situated in the Linen Quarter and once known as “Linenopolis” there are endless options in terms of fashionable bars and restaurants. For more traditional tastes the Crown Bar is less than a minute’s walk and its Victorian snugs offer a refuge from the busy city. The Europa Hotel regularly hosts Van Morrison for cabaret style performances, the dinner and show event attracts fans from around the globe. Also nearby is The Ulster Hall which remains a popular concert venue, it boasts historic appearances by the likes of Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill. The hotel is just 12 minutes away from George Best Belfast City Airport.

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