Waking up in the lovely Royal Budapest Hotel is nice, but we really wanted a to see the city from our window, not the atrium. We were in the modern addition, on the upper floors. So a few small chats with the reception desk and we were given a new room, overlooking the front of the hotel. Even better, our new room had a nice balcony over the main entrance. We were in the heart of it all.
Now one of the things you hear all over is how beautiful Budapest is, with all its architecture, and they are not kidding. The exterior of the hotel is French Renaissance. Everywhere you turn is all these wonderful buildings; ornate features, cornices and turrets. Now we could see it all from our room. Better yet, the balcony overlooking the street was part of the original hotel, which means we had a nice 10 foot high glass door going out. I got the impression they do not encourage people to hang on the balcony, because there were no seating, but that did not stop us from people watching.
We were in the Jewish quarter of the city, and it was a hopping bar district. As I had mentioned earlier, this hotel was an inspiration for the Grand Budapest Hotel, one of my favorite quirky movies. I was excited to stay in a historic hotel in Budapest. So I was disappointed to find out that the majority of the hotel, i.e., all of it, was gutted and rebuilt recently, except for two sections, the Ball Room and the Spa.
We took the history tour with Tibor Meskal, who turned out to be the most historic part of the tour. Tibor had worked in the hotel in its second reincarnation, after its first gut job in the 1950’s. He was a waiter, bar tender, and just about everything guy back then. You can see some of the old photos of him working on the walls. Now looking at the pictures back then, they had done a pretty nasty job redoing the hotel, but that probably has more to do with the fact that I think the modern architecture from the 50s is pretty hideous. He fled the country during the revolution, and ended up working in hotels all over the world.
Now Tibor is hilarious, and a great tour guide. He regaled us with his adventure tales, and from all things said, it seemed he traveled the world in search of the softer sex more often then not. According to him, three years in Aruba was all he could handle before word got out. A real Killer Diller and my grandmother would say. Well, after listening to all his stories, and dirty jokes, I realized that this is just he Hungarian side of us. After all, I am a huge fan of dirty off color jokes, and so is my father.
Now the Corinthian Group, who took over the hotel, did an amazing job rebuilding it, even if it was not original. They did take the original photos, and recreated the grand marble staircase, and atrium, with the lady statues on the post, like it originally was. The amount of marble in this place must have emptied out an entire quarry. But it’s all done beautifully.
The Spa was actually in another building, and had been rebuilt again. I loved this place, with its multiple hot tubs, steam and hot air rooms, central pool. There were arch’s everywhere and a balcony going around the pool, with little rooms for the therapy. Now, this is what I imagine a roman spa would look like.
Then they kept the old wooden staircase from the second round or renovations, which Tibor said is 70 percent original. The problem is, its kinda in the middle of no where, in their conference area. There’s no wood work around the place, so its just kinda there. Its wonderful, but the rest of the room should be designed to match it.
The ballroom is the only section that is still the same, well, close to the same anyway. You see the ball room went through many changes in its life time too. It started out as a gorgeous ballroom, with a parquet wood floor. The first film in Budapest was played here. Then the magic of cinema came to the world, and so the ball room was altered to house a theater, called the Apollo. In 1959 it was renamed the Red Star, and a giant red star was added to the building. Lovely. Well, you know, the communist do love their big stars and the color red. The giant tapestry in the pictures is where the screen was. Now the floor was left flat, but there were box seats all around the top, and the projector was in the balcony area. Where all the pictures of famous Hungarians are, those used to be private boxes. This remained a theater through all the demolitions, till it was closed in 1996. The Corinthia saved the theater and converted it back into a ball room. They tore the wood floors out unfortunately and installed, wait, yep, more marble.
In closing, this is a wonderful hotel. Staff are friendly and professional. The buildings exterior is glamorous, and the rooms are modern but lovely. I would stay here again in a heartbeat. And I do recommend the tour with Tibor, to understand how much history had passed on this little spot.