One of Ireland’s most famous hotels is celebrating its 50th anniversary – and how it withstood the Troubles to emerge as an iconic beacon of hope for Belfast.
Whilst often referred to as ‘the world’s most bombed hotel’ – having been targeted 33 times due to its visibility as a landmark building – The Europa Hotel has been transformed into a powerful symbol of the city’s survival.
“Today, we are seen quite differently – possibly as one of the world’s most resilient and famous hotels,” said Julie Hastings of operators Hastings Hotels.
To mark its half century, guests and visitors will be able to enjoy an interactive installation in the lobby that will bring alive its rich history and central place in the peace story of Northern Ireland.
Built on the site of the former Great Northern Railway Station, the Europa was first opened in 1971 by Grand Metropolitan Hotels, when it inadvertently became a base for overseas journalists covering the Troubles – including Trevor McDonald, Katie Adie, John Sergeant, and Richard Ford.
And during the Summer of 1973, the entire Irish Times Belfast desk ended up working from the hotel, after a car bomb destroyed the newspaper’s Great Victoria Street offices.
The Europa is now owned by the Hastings Hotel Group, after the late Sir William Hastings bought it in 1993, and invested £8 million into refurbishing it before reopening it in 1994.
Since then, it has hosted Presidents, movie stars, musicians, and fashion icons, including Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Bob Dylan, Lionel Ritchie, Victoria Beckham, and Elvis Costello.
President Clinton became the first serving US President to visit Northern Ireland, and stayed there in 1995, booking 110 rooms for his entourage. Clinton returned to stay at the hotel in 1998.
Over the last 30 years, Hastings Hotels has invested over £40 million in continuous renovations, adding 88 new luxurious bedrooms to the existing 184.
A new renovation programme currently underway will see the 90 front-facing superior bedrooms, 85 classic bedrooms, and six suites redesigned and upgraded.
Marketing Director Ms Hastings said:
“Despite almost constant challenges and setbacks, the Europa continues to stand proud as a beacon for Belfast’s unique enduring spirit.”
The story of the Europa was told in a book published 10 years ago, called ‘In the Headlines’ because it always was. No other hotel in the world has the history to rival that of the Europa’s.
“My father had the courage and optimism to buy it when nobody else wanted to. He invested heavily at the time despite the bombings that followed over the next three years. It was his confidence and that of many others that led to Belfast, and Northern Ireland, to begin its journey to become the well-loved tourist destination that it is today,” Ms Hastings added.
Martin Mulholland, Head Concierge of the Europa Hotel, and one of the longest-serving employees, having started there in 1983, added:
“The Europa is a Belfast icon. Guests love its story, the characters that have stayed here and indeed worked here.
“The story of Belfast in the last 50 years can’t be told without mentioning the Europa. It has never rested on its laurels, constantly extending, refurbishing and updating to maintain its reputation as the place to stay when visiting Belfast. It has been my absolute joy and pleasure to be on the front line welcoming our guests from around the world for the last 35 years.”
As part of the 50th birthday celebrations, the Europa Hotel has launched a Golden Moments package from £115 per room, which includes luxurious overnight accommodation, full Irish breakfast, signature cocktail in the Piano Lounge, signature truffles etc.
For further information or to book, go to www.hastingshotels.com