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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Drink Up and Rock Out in Belfast

The city now has off-kilter charm to spare: high-design hotels, a lively music scene, and a wealth of new spots to enjoy a craft pint.

1. Where to Stay

The handsomely cushy rooms at Malmaison belie the hotel's former life as a seed warehouse.  

Indulge your inner architecture nerd at the Merchant Hotel (doubles from $230), a Victorian masterpiece that once housed the Ulster Bank headquarters. The sandstone exterior has a stately financial air that’s playfully at odds with the sleek, Art Deco–inspired addition that came in 2010, bringing a rooftop gym and a luxury spa. The new rooms have duck-egg-blue bathrooms, tiled floors, and large-scale art, while the hotel’s bar looks straight out of a Wodehouse novel. Try one of the creative cocktails, like the Phoenix ($16), made with plum-infused poteen (Irish moonshine), poire eau de vie, fresh lemon, local flower honey, and apple juice from County Armagh. The Cloth Ear, the hotel’s public bar, mixes the traditional (overstuffed armchairs) with the modern (wooden cutouts shaped like deer heads hung behind the bar) and good pub grub, like the smoked salt beef sandwich with garlic mayo and fries ($17).

Sleep in a former seed warehouse at the central Malmaison (doubles from $146). The décor skews masculine here in rooms dominated by dark browns, reds, and purples, with leather couches and padded headboards. They’re superlatively comfortable, though, as everything is oversize (the hotel’s tribute to Belfast’s most famous ship, the Titanic), from the TVs to the bathtubs to the beds (seven-footers in the two suites). Ask for the Sansom suite, which comes with its own pool table. The Malbar downstairs becomes a scene in the evenings, but it’s plenty relaxing mid-afternoon with a glass of wine ($7.50).

Take a turn playing lord of the manor just six miles outside the city at Culloden Estate & Spa (doubles from $200), situated in the Holywood Hills on 12 verdant acres of gardens and woods. Request a room with a view of the County Antrim coastline, preferably one decorated in the traditional style with marble bathroom and floral drapes (there are also more contemporary rooms with brightly patterned duvets and striped chairs). A trip to the spa, which uses British Espa products and has its own pool, Jacuzzi and steam room, can easily become an all-day affair; indulge in the hour-and-50-minute Chakra Balancing with Hot Stones treatment, which starts with body brushing and ends with an acupressure head massage ($260).

Published on Oct 30, 2014 as a web exclusive.