The Europa Hotel, the grand dame of Hastings Hotels Belfast celebrates 50 years in business, after a checkered history. In July 1971 the Europa Hotel opened on Great Victoria Street in Belfast. It was the first modern 12-storey hotel, with 200 en suite rooms and owned by Grand Metropolitan Hotels. It was to go on to become world famous as the most bombed hotel in the world.
The Europa Hotel Belfast – Congratulations on 50 Years
Over the next 20 years the Europa Hotel would be bombed 32 times, each time causing damage of varying degrees. The final bomb in 1993 was estimated to be 450kg and severely damaged the structure of the hotel. During the Troubles it was the base for media from all over the world.
They were entertained by the Penthouse Poppets, Belfast’s answer to London’s bunny girls. The Poppets served cocktails while keeping the resident press upbeat as they looked out and reported on a city alight with bombs, bullets and violence. During the first 22 years, there was a number of owners and a name change, to the Forum Hotel.
In 1994, the Hastings Hotel Group, led by William Hastings, stepped into the ownership slot, buying the boarded-up bombed-out hotel. “This was the vision of my late father and founder of our hotel group” – Sir William Hastings, said Julie Hastings, director of Marketing for Hastings Hotels.” He purchased the Europa as a bombed-out shell just before the ceasefires of 1994 and what a risk he took.
His vision was to put back the finest hotel in the heart of the city. A beacon of hope and hospitality Belfast deserved. He has now handed his very fine legacy onto us, his family.”
The list of people who have stayed in the hotel is extraordinary. There is no other hotel in the world that could compete with the Europa’s list of guests. They include presidents, statesmen, politicians, actors, singers, writers, broadcasters, journalists and religious leaders. “
Julie continued, “Others looked on us as purveyors of peace, Cyril Ramaposa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dali Lama, have all made state of the nation addresses in the Europa”.
In no particular order, guests have included, President Bill Clinton and Hilary Clinton, William Hague, Elaine Paige, Patricia Hodge, Bianca Jagger, Robson Green, Sir Roger Moore, Marti Pellow, Nigel Havers, Paul Daniels, George Best, Dennis Law, Bobby Charlton, Kate Adie, Des O’Connor, Sir Alex Ferguson, Alan Whicker, Tony Bennett, Eliot Gould, Natalie Imbruglia, Ainsley Harriott. And they keep coming back for the warm welcome in the Europa, where staff retention is over 80 percent.
Howard Hastings, Chairman of Hastings Hotels, went on to reminisce about some of the events at the hotel. He said, “the afterparty MTV awards in 2011 brought much colour to the hotel, featuring Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Selena Gomez (who now has over 200m Instagram followers), Justin Bieber, and a certain David Hasselhof, amongst others.
However, I think the hotel is remembered equally for some of the headline events that come, year in and year out. It is the spiritual home to the boxing fraternity. Barney Eastwood hosted Barry McGuigan’s weigh ins and press conferences here, just as Barry in turn did the same for Carl Frampton.”
Sir Van Morrison, composer of the music for the film “Belfast” written by Belfast native Kenneth Branagh, makes regular appearances at the Europa, for intimate supper concerts.
The Europa continues to be one of the most popular hotels in Belfast and at present is going through £10m refurbishment of the bedrooms.
Hastings Hotels is Northern Ireland’s premier hotel collection. The Hastings group comprises of six luxurious hotels of character and distinction, each in key locations across Belfast, Derry, and the Antrim Coast.
In recognition of this significant milestone, the Europa will be hosting an interactive installation in the lobby depicting its impressive history and the finials outside the front of the hotel will be transformed to golden.
travel2ireland wishes the Hastings family and the staff a hearty congratulations and best wishes for another 50 years of providing quality accommodation in Northern Ireland.
As part of Northern Ireland’s biggest hotel company, other properties include the five-star Culloden Hotel, and the four-star Stormont Hotel, Grand Central Belfast, Ballygally Castle in Antrim, and Everglades Hotel in Derry.