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Europa Hotel Belfast: forty and fabulous

By Victoria O'Hara

As the Europa Hotel celebrates its 40th birthday, we reveal 40 fascinating facts about Belfast's most famous place to stay and the favourite haunt of presidents, politicians and celebrities.

1 The Europa Hotel is famously known as 'Europe's most bombed Hotel'.

2 The hotel was damaged 33 times by IRA bombs between 1970 and 1994.

3 President Bill Clinton stayed and was hosted at the hotel during his two visits to Belfast in 1995 and 1998.

4 The Presidential entourage in 1995 booked 110 rooms with the President and his wife staying in room 1011.

5 The hotel currently has 272 bedrooms following a major refurbishment in 2008.

6 It opened in 1971 and was built on the site of the former Great Northern Railway station.

7 When it first opened the building was 51 metres tall.

8 The hotel was blown up by the Provisional IRA in 1993 and damaged so badly that it sold for only £4.4m.

9 The Europa Hotel became part of the Hastings Hotels group on August 3, 1993.

10 Following an £8m investment, the hotel reopened in February 1994.

11 The first official event after the major renovation was the Flax Trust Ball, a gala evening for 500 local and international dignitaries.

12 The use of hardboard as a temporary substitute for shattered glass led to the Europa Hotel being known as 'the hardboard hotel'.

13 It was never destroyed and only closed its doors twice in its 40-year history.

14 Among many famous guests who have stayed are singer Lionel Richie, golfer Bob Charles and actress Patricia Hodge.

15 Actress Julia Roberts is reported to have stayed with boyfriend Jason Patric to escape the media after leaving Keifer Sutherland.

16 BBC documentary Lobby Lives was filmed there.

17 The hotel sits directly opposite the Crown Bar, one of Northern Ireland's most historically significant pubs.

18 An extension to the hotel in 2008 increased the height of a rear wing of the hotel by seven floors to 12 and added 32 bedrooms to its 240-room total.

19 In 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was criticised after incorrectly saying in a speech that the Europa Hotel was devastated by an explosion when she first stayed there in 1995.

20 The suite used by the Clintons was subsequently renamed the Clinton Suite.

21 During the BBC documentary Lobby Lives stars such as Englebert Humperdink and Paul Gascoigne checked in.

22 Actor Brad Pitt was also spotted hanging out in the lobby while researching for The Devil's Own.

23 The hotel has been the venue for crowning numerous Miss Northern Irelands.

24 In his candid memoir, former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald confessed to unwittingly borrowing £10 from UDA leader Andy Tyrie to buy a drink for unionist politicians at the Europa Hotel in 1974.

25 The late, celebrated manager of the hotel was Harper Brown.

26 Women, known as the 'Penthouse Poppets', wearing bunny ears mingled with guests in the Penthouse nightclub, situated on the 12th floor of the Europa Hotel, during the 1970s and 1980s.

27 It was famous for the Whip and Saddle restaurant and the Paradise Lost Night Club in the 1990s.

28 Based next to the Grand Opera House, it has had hundreds of pantomime actors stay as guests.

29 Sir Bob Geldof, Victoria Beckham (above) and Elvis Costello have also stayed at the hotel.

30 Copies of the historic coverage of the Clinton visit in the Belfast Telegraph are framed and hanging in the Lobby Bar.

31 The Europa is now Northern Ireland's biggest hotel.

32 The Europa provided a base for foreign journalists covering the Troubles.

33 It changed its name to Forum in the late 1980s.

34 When the hotel first opened a single room could be booked for £4.75, or £8 for a double.

35 A book has been written about the hotel's history. 'In The Headlines' was penned by Clive Scoular.

36 The Clinton factor proved to be a major boost for the Europa, increasing bookings from 50% when Hastings took over in 1993 to 80% in 1996.

37 James McGinn has been general manager at the Europa since September 2003.

38 At the height of the Troubles staff were able to clear the hotel in 20 minutes.

39 Billy Hastings, owner of the Europa, received a Knighthood for services to tourism in 2009.

40 To mark its 40th milestone the Europa is offering a room and 70s inspired cocktail for just £40 to the first 40 customers who book every month.

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