Grand Central Hotel Belfast Review: Belfast's biggest, tallest and newest luxury hotel

LOCATION

Grand Central is a newly-opened high-rise hotel in the heart of Belfast. It's located in the city's up-and-coming Linen Quarter, which is the area for music, theatre and great food. Northern Ireland has just been named the world's best food destination, so there's no shortage of great eateries nearby. It's also an easy walk to most major attractions, including the landmark City Hall and the Ulster Hall classical music venue. 

THE SPACE

The 23-storey building has been completely renovated and is Belfast's biggest, tallest and newest luxury hotel. Grand Central was originally a famous Georgian-era hotel, and the modern incarnation opened its doors in June. It is owned by the Hastings group, which runs several other landmark hotels in Northern Ireland.

The building used to be a government office block known as one of Ireland's ugliest buildings but in a swan-like £53 million makeover, it now promises "glamour and grandeur". Visitors will find a winning combination of modern and more traditional luxury. In honour of the city's literary connection, Hastings commissioned local poet Paul Muldoon to write a "Belfast Hymn" for the opening and extracts from the poem appear throughout the hotel, on footpaths, on rusted metal features and stencilled on glass. It's a lovely touch and a great way for travellers to get an insider's take on the city. 

THE ROOM

There are 300 rooms, including 10 suites. We stayed in a deluxe double, which was extremely spacious and included two king-size Cloud beds, a 50-inch LCD TV, fluffy robes, double sinks, Espa toiletries and a rain shower. Oh yes, and being on the 14th floor there  were stunning views across the city to a mountain known as Napoleon's Nose, the supposed inspiration for Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

THE FOOD

Starting at ground level, the Grand Cafe is a laidback informal space and open from breakfast through to supper. On the first floor is the more upmarket Seahorse restaurant and bar, which offers bistro food in plush chairs beneath a specially commissioned mural celebrating the city's maritime and mercantile past. All the meat and dairy is locally sourced. You can opt for a quick pre-theatre special or more leisurely a la carte. For a spot of absolutely luxury, travel up to the top floor in your own special lift and take afternoon tea or have a cocktail in the Observatory bar. It's luxuriously quiet, with burnt-orange velvet chairs, plush carpet and the city's best views. With a glass of Penfolds, life is not so tough at the top. For breakfast, try the legendary Ulster Fry, or opt for some local oats topped with a wee drop of Northern's Ireland's own Bushmills. How many times in your life will you eat porridge with whiskey?

STEPPING OUT

 City Hall is a block away, as is the opulent Grand Opera House, which offers live productions most nights. Belfast's newest attraction is the award-winning Titanic museum, which is a short taxi ride down the quays. Allow plenty of time as the multi-level venue will soon sweep you up in the grand tragedy of the sunken ship.

If you are in the city on the weekend, you can stroll to the Victorian-era St George Markets, which are open from Friday to Sunday. If you can tear yourself away from the Observatory, visit Belfast's most famous pub, The Crown Liquor Saloon, which dates back to the 1800s and features mahogany booths, gas lamps and loads of charm.

THE VERDICT

Grand Central is a great symbol for the new Belfast: confident, modern, imaginative - but still with an eye on history. 

ESSENTIALS

Rooms from $235 to $1500 for the Linen Suite. See grandcentralhotelbelfast.com 

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HIGHLIGHT

Take the special lift up to the 23rd-floor Observatory bar, with its special cocktail menu, baby grand piano and a choice of grin-inspiring views on two sides.

LOWLIGHT

Lack of parking. You have to pay extra to park your car - although you do get a valet service.

Liam Phelan stayed as a guest of Tourism Ireland. 

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