Hastings Hotels has completed a €17.5 million renovation at the iconic Europa Hotel in Belfast, marking a significant milestone in its history.

The extensive five-year renewal project encompasses upgrades to all 272 guest bedrooms, the Lobby Bar, Piano Restaurant, meeting rooms, and the Penthouse.

To commemorate, Hastings Hotels commissioned celebrated artist Colin Davidson to create new artwork that pays homage to the hotel’s historical significance.

Titled “The ‘71”, the painting captures the essence of a nostalgic journey home with an abstract rendering of the red double decker 71 bus both Davidson and Howard Hastings, Hastings Hotels’ chairman, used to take home from school.

It has added significance as The Europa first opened its doors in 1971 on the site of the former Great Northern Railway Station, when it inadvertently became a base for overseas journalists covering the Troubles – including Trevor McDonald, Kate Adie and John Sergeant.

“It is no mean feat to completely renovate a hotel, especially when it’s one of the busiest hotels in Northern Ireland,” said Howard Hastings.

“We are thrilled to unveil the culmination of our €17.5 million investment in the Europa Hotel. This project not only modernises the hotel’s facilities but also honours its rich heritage as a Belfast icon.

“To mark the completion of this momentous project, we are honoured to showcase Colin Davidson’s remarkable painting in our lobby, serving as a poignant tribute to the enduring spirit of the Europa.

“Close up, it is an abstract blaze of red and yellow brushstrokes and only by looking at it from a distance can the image of the double decker bus be discerned. “The painting evokes fond nostalgic childhood memories of growing up in Belfast, for Colin, myself and I hope lots of our guests and is a unique nod to the once in a generation renewal project of this special hotel.”

Davidson is a contemporary artist, living and working near Belfast.

His work is held in many public and corporate collections worldwide, including Queen’s University, the Ulster Museum and the National Gallery of Ireland.

As well as numerous commissions, Davidson’s portrait sitters have included Brad Pitt, a former guest at the Europa, as well as Seamus Heaney, Liam Neeson, Brian Friel, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Christy Moore and Ed Sheeran.

“It’s a real privilege for me, not just as an artist but also a native of Belfast who grew up during the dark days in this city, to have a painting hanging in this iconic hotel and to see it renewed once again and looking to the future,” said Davidson.

“This painting is personal to both me and Howard. The 71 is a red double-decker bus that we both got to and from our different schools, albeit a bit further down the road and a few years apart.

“As my child-self moved into adulthood, this was my journey home. I captured every landmark on that route as I looked outward. It became my escape. This is a painting of a memory.

“The lovely synergy in this is that the Europa was also opened for the first time in 1971, so it makes me feel that this painting is meant to be here and that is a delight for me.”

Acquired by the Hastings Hotels Group in 1993, the Europa underwent a significant €9.3 million refurbishment, spearheaded by the late Sir William Hastings, before reopening in 1994.

Throughout its illustrious history, the Europa Hotel has hosted a myriad of notable guests, including President Bill Clinton, musicians including Kurt Cobain, movie stars and fashion icons, solidifying its reputation as a premier destination in Belfast.