The Merchant, Belfast

The Merchant, Belfast

Belfast? The capital of Northern
might not be the first place that pops into your head
when you’re choosing a romantic city break. But the opulence of

The Merchant
makes this hotel a destination in itself. The
wow-inducing building served as the headquarters of Ulster Bank
back in 1858, and the Victorians clearly knew how to build their
temples of mammon – think Italianate sandstone columns, sweeping
staircases and a glass dome.

Converted into a hotel in 2006, The Merchant has kept the
original period features and, in 2011, also added an Art Deco wing
complete with spa, gym and rooftop hot tub. A night at The Merchant
is a seriously swank affair, from the moment a top-hatted doorman
opens the huge glass doors for you and bellboys in uniforms
straight out of The Grand Budapest
Hotel rush to relieve you of your luggage. But because this is
Belfast – aka the chattiest place in the world – the friendliness
of the staff stops things feeling stuffy. Be sure to have breakfast
in the Great Room restaurant with its gold pillars, lute-playing
cherubs on the ceiling and a giant glass chandelier. This is
probably how Kanye West tucks into his Ready Brek in the

The hotel’s location in the newly-regenerated Cathedral Quarter
means that you’re right in the thick of some of Belfast’s coolest
bars, cobbled streets and festoon lantern-filled courtyards. Or you
could just watch it all unfold from the rooftop hot tub with a
chilled glass of champagne.


The hotel is divided into 21 Victorian rooms, which come with
bouncy four-poster beds, roll-top baths and portraits of people who
might well be haunting you later (from £160/night). These rooms
feel cosy but slightly on the chintzy side, so if you’re the type
of person who has a migraine just looking at a patterned carpet,
you might want to stay in one of the 36 Art-Deco rooms instead.
Here you can channel your inner Gatsby with Tiffany lamps, walk-in
marble rain showers and Corbusier chairs (from £180/night).

What’s for breakfast?

isn’t included, but you don’t want to miss it. The
Great Room might be the grandest place you’ll ever crack into a
boiled egg. The continental menu (£14) offers porridge with whiskey
cream and honey, but clearly it’s all about the Full Irish (£19),
complete with Ballinwillin black and white pudding and soda

What about lunch and dinner?

The hotel has three restaurants so you’re very much covered on
the eating front. There’s the Great Room, which offers fine-dining,
afternoon tea and a great value midweek set menu (£22.50 for two
courses). At lunchtime it’s a smart crowd on expenses-lunches and
during the evenings it’s definitely a ‘special occasion’ vibe. For
something more informal there’s Bert’s Jazz Bar, which offers an
old-school French bistro menu, so retro it even has Baked Alaska
for dessert. Lastly, The Cloth Ear serves up locally-sourced pub
grub, such as its signature hanging skewers of chargrilled

Is there a bar?

Yep, there’s two. Bert’s is Belfast’s only live jazz bar, so
it’s full of trendy musos with facial hair. We might have even
spotted a beret. There’s a younger, louder crowd getting stuck into
the craft beers and the craic at The Cloth Ear.


The rooftop
hot tub and glass-walled sauna have some of hottest views in town –
literally. There’s also a steam room and a gym, complete with iced
cucumber water (sometimes it’s the little things). As you’d expect
from a hotel of this standard, there’s free wifi, newspapers
delivered to your door and movies on your flatscreen.

Things you should know

The candle-lit spa
in the basement has an impressive hydrotherapy area and Darphin
treatments. The company that own The Merchant have just opened
Bullitt nearby, a sleek, no-frills hotel complex with 43 rooms, two
bars and a raved-about small plates restaurant.

Within a short walk you can find…

Directly opposite the hotel is The Spaniard, a quirky rum and
tapas bar with velvet ceilings and walls packed with religious
icons. Go early or late on a weekend night or risk being seriously
squeezed. Mourne seafood bar is the spot for fresh oysters and
check out SpaceCRAFT in the Fountain Centre for locally-made
ceramics and baskets.

Discover More
The 18 Coolest (and Cosiest) Cabins in the UK and Ireland