A rainy weekend in January had all the potential to be as grim as it sounds, but throw in a mini-getaway to Belfast and a stay in one of the country’s most stylish hotels and suddenly that rain is the most atmospheric thing you’ve seen.
I was up north to check out the new Titanic Hotel, which opened last autumn in the historic headquarters of shipbuilding yard Harland & Wolff – where the Titanic itself was created. An architectural dream, the hotel had a €32m investment and is designed with a nod to the RMS Titanic, right down to nautical details in the rooms and Art Deco style straight from the ‘Golden Age of Ocean Liners.
Walking inside you’re instantly struck by the timeless glamour of the building itself…
As you drive into the Titanic Quarter you’re greeted by the star-shaped Titanic Museum, which is handily located right beside the hotel.
The hotel has been built on and around the original offices, dating back from the early 1900s and as you walk up to the entrance you feel as though you’ve been transported right back to that glamorous era of the past.
Staff are brimming with northern charm and the concierge, Gerry, is even on hand over the course of your stay to give you a tour of the hotel and its history (well worth the 20 or so minutes for the fascinating behind the scenes facts of the hotel).
Parquet flooring featuring the Titanic White Star logo welcomes you at reception and the adjoining banquet room with cocktail bar is where the Harland & Wolff architects would work on their drawings, natural light streaming in and high arched ceilings.
Most of the features came from the original building, including a fabulous renovated staircase that’s more than 100 years old and tiles lining the cocktail bar that are the exact same as the ones used for the Titanic’s swimming pool.
First impressions? You’ll love it even before you’ve put down your suitcase.
Rooms are a design delight with an edgy view of the docklands and a bathroom you’ll never want to leave
Rooms wouldn’t look out of place on the famed ship and the bathroom is a DREAM. Black and white glossed tiles and a bath to soak away your stresses along with Paul Costello toiletries.
Views of the dockyards set the scene and some rooms even have views overlooking the Titanic Museum. Considering how stylish the rooms are they’re extremely reasonable – prices start at just £130 per night, making it an ideal break on a budget.
A cosy bed and a sleek grey colour scheme will have you snoozing like a little baba while hanging ship lanterns and maritime art work (an engineering sketch of the Titanic hung in mine) add a unique touch.
This is no run-of-the-mill hotel interior; preserved historic details mixed with contemporary luxury makes this spot very special indeed.
There’s history and stories from the past seeped in every corner of the Titanic Hotel
Old photographs hung around the hotel corridors show what the building looked like at the time of the Titanic’s maiden voyage and original rooms have been painstakingly restored.
Titanic might have become the ‘most famous ship since Noah’s Ark’ but the company built over 1700 other vessels, including many record breakers.
Work began in March 2016 and focused on restoring the heritage features; repairing the damage caused by being empty for almost thirty years. The offices of Harland & Wolff key figures have been restored to their former splendour, and you can check out Lord Pirrie’s Office, ‘The Corridor of Power’, the Presentation Room, and Thomas Andrews’ Office.
There’s also the small but poignant Telephone Exchange, which was the communications hub of Harland & Wolff and where the call announcing the sinking of the Titanic was received and Gerry tells me that they’ve arranged proposals in this very room since the hotel has opened.
The entire hotel is like being in a snapshot of a time that we can barely even imagine now and there’s fascinating facts about every room. An unopened safe, we’re told, was found in Lord Pirrie’s office during renovations and the hotel has been unable to access it as of yet.
What’s inside? It could be anything… From dusty old drawings to a Hollywood blue jewelled necklace.
Trendy cocktails and a tasty bar menu means you don’t have to venture into the city for some grub
Now restored to its former splendour, you can float in between the cocktail bar and restaurant and there’s plenty of food and drink options to choose from.
Try the Ms Millvina Dean cocktail which honours the last remaining surviver from the Titanic disaster or get a classic but oh-so well made Old Fashioned.
Grub includes a Confit Duck Leg, and Seafood Cocktail with Pickled Mussel and Crab Fritter while room service (yes yes, I am that lazy) comes up on a fancy white linen table which extends to perfectly seat two.
And of course… The Titanic museum itself is just metres away
Right on the doorstep is the Titanic Belfast, a multi-award winning visitor attraction that extends over nine interactive galleries, with multiple dimensions to the exhibition, drawing together special effects, dark rides, full-scale reconstructions and innovative interactive features.
It’s seriously impressive and I only wish I had more time to spend roaming around for the full experience as you could easily spend two hours or more. Virtual reality style screens make you feel like you’re on board with Jack and Rose while a glass “ocean” floor lets you deep dive to the wreck of the ship and explore the cargo on board.
It’s a must-visit for anyone in Belfast.
Just a short train ride away from Dublin, I’m convinced Belfast will soon be considered one of the coolest cities in Europe.
Amazing culture and more craic than you might expect, a weekend getaway here won’t disappoint…