Did you know that Grand Metropolitan Hotels Group which was owned by the English hotelier Maxwell Joseph, announced in 1966 that they planned to construct a large new hotel on Great Victoria Street, on the site of former Great Northern Railway Station?

The hotel would, it was envisaged, be a shining example of Belfast’s contemporary “urban renaissance”. The architects (the London-based firm, Sydney Kaye, Eric Firkin & Partners) were not commissioned to begin work on the design until 1968, a matter of weeks after the British Army had been deployed to maintain law and order following sectarian clashes between the Protestant and Catholic communities. It would be almost two years before the hotel opened its doors to its first paying guests, but in July 1971 the twelve-storey, 210-room Europa did so.

In the hotel’s promotional literature, Lynn Steward, the public relations officer for the Europa upon its opening, stated that the hotel was “most attractive, with curved tower bedroom block on top of a ground and first floor podium, giving a visually attractive and dramatic addition to the [Belfast] skyline”.

Not everybody agreed. Writing in The Times, the esteemed foreign correspondent Robert Fisk said that [whatever architects tell you, the Grand Metropolitan-owned Europa hardly adds to the beauty of Belfast”. Some critics regarded it with outright disdain, with one commentator writing in The Irish Times that the Europa’s modernist architectural style was noting more than a “symbol of alien decadence and and extravagant affront to a working class city”.

Europa hotel was bombed 33 times during the Troubles.


(excerpt from War Hotels, Kenneth Morrison, Abdallah El Binni, 2022)