A brand new landmark has arrived in Belfast city, swathed in sleek grey and topped with a supersized silver seahorse. Rising 23 storeys to the Observatory Bar serving the best views in town, this magnificent structure seems to be smiling over a happy meld of citizens and visitors.
The Grand Central Hotel reflects its name in so many ways. A modern day reimagining of a hotel that once graced Royal Avenue, this bold new vision is the brainchild of Hastings Group, the family-owned company behind the iconic Europa Hotel just round the corner.
The Victorian social hub was a glittering affair that attracted everyone from Bob Hope to The Beatles. And its shiny new sibling is poised to continue the tradition well into the 21st Century and beyond.
Walking into the marble-clad foyer, guests are immediately enveloped in Art Deco grandeur reminiscent of an old Hollywood musical. Fred and Ginger wouldn’t look amiss wafting across the lobby in feathers and tails. The dazzling Grand Café is bathed in light flooding in from floor to ceiling windows. Drop in for a morning latte, relaxed lunch or pre-theatre bite.
The Seahorse Restaurant continues the luxe theme, with shimmers of gold threaded through its ornate white expanse. Enjoy fabulous cocktails and cuisine as you feast your eyes on the large artwork depicting Belfast’s coat of arms featuring, of course, the hotel’s symbolic seahorse. In fact, the history of Belfast is embedded in almost every surface of this thoughtfully crafted love letter to the city.
As you enter, look around you to read extracts from Belfast Hymn, a specially commissioned poem by local man Paul Muldoon etched on the pavement and reflected through a striking metalwork screen. The historic nods continue with suites named after the city’s great linen families and notable streets.
And the Hastings family have chosen the best suite to honour Sir William Hastings, founder of the hotel group and visionary behind this exceptional landmark. He didn’t live to see the Grand Central’s opening, but Sir William’s incredible story is forever fused in the very fabric of this already iconic hotel. His eponymous two-bedroom suite is without doubt Belfast’s finest overnight.
From suites to executive doubles, each room comes with dreamy Cloud Beds, walk-in showers with ESPA toiletries and exquisite fabrics whose muted tones reflect the city’s sprawling canvas below. It is so hard to tear yourself away from the panorama each large window frames. Whether overlooking glorious City Hall, gazing beyond to the big yellow cranes or marvelling at the rolling hills just beyond the busy streetscapes, each vista is a moment captured forever in the memory.
Back at the Observatory Bar, watch as day gives way to night and the city becomes a shimmering spectacle - both inside and out. The hotel has pulled off that elusive trick of combining glimpses of the past with an unabashed eye on the future. They say tourism is on the cusp of captivating our city. With the opening of the Grand Central, it has well and truly arrived.