luxury hotels in Budapest

Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities you'll ever visit. The blue Danube flows through the middle of the city, dividing Buda on the west and Pest on the east. Buda is the hilly residential area of the city while Pest, much flatter in topography, is home to most business and nightlife. The four luxury hotels in Budapest covered in this review are all found in Pest.

Four Seasons Gresham Palace deserves its reputation as one of the finest hotels in the world. Originally built in 1906, the Gresham Palace was a magnificent art nouveau masterpiece built for the Gresham Life Assurance Company. It suffered serious damage at the hands of the German Army in 1944. Later nationalized by the government of Hungary, it was turned into an apartment house. Over time, however, the building fell into a state of disrepair. Finally, in 1998, Four Seasons was hired to oversee the conversion of the palace into a hotel; $110 million dollars and six years later, the hotel was unveiled in 2004. The glass domed roof of the lobby was restored (pictured at left), as were stained glass windows throughout the building, the mosaic lobby floor (with over 1 million tiles), and the the wrought iron peacock gates.

The whole point of the Gresham Palace is to stay in one of the Danube rooms on the front side of the building. These overlook Chain Bridge and the Royal Palace. Lit up at night, views from these rooms are spectacular (the picture above was taken from the window of my Danube Deluxe room at dusk). For complimentary breakfast, room upgrades upon availability, and more amenities, simply book through a Virtuoso luxury travel consultant.

Le Meridien is a very fine alternative for travelers seeking a lower priced alternative to the Four Seasons. Facing Elizabeth Square, the hotel lobby offers a classic European feel. Next to the lobby is a large, round atrium in which guests have breakfast; the ceiling of this room is a large stained glass dome (pictured above) - very impressive.

Originally built in 1914-1918 as the office of an insurance company, with some shops and luxury apartments, the building suffered damage during World War II. At the end of the war, it became the police headquarters and, following the fall of Communism, was converted into a luxury hotel with 218 rooms, opening in 2000. Room choices include Superior Rooms (one window with adequate space) Deluxe Rooms (two windows and very nice space), as well as Junior Suites which are spacious corner rooms with three or four windows. Free internet is provided in the Deluxe category and higher. Bathrooms are of moderate size but do provide separate tubs and walk-in showers.

Andrassy is a part of Mamaison Hotels and the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. A very nice four star hotel with 68 rooms, it is well located near the Opera, the Budapest Art Museum, the Zoo, and the Thermal Baths. This property does a good job of providing exactly what a four star hotel should. With a clean and interesting Bauhaus-style interior design, guestrooms are visually appealing and appropriately sized — Superior at 270 square feet, Deluxe at 375 square feet, and Junior Suite (pictured) at 430 square feet. Attractive tile bathrooms have tub/shower combinations. The hotel's restaurant, Bakara, features the cuisine of its young Hungarian chef. Though not luxurious at the level of the Four Seasons, Andrassy provides exactly what it promises, attractive accommodations at quite affordable rates.

Kempinski Corvinus, although it is just 16 years old, feels very dated. There was a black Mercedes SUV on display in the hotel lobby. Granted the hotel industry is facing some hard times, luxury hotels usually do not double as new car showrooms. It takes away from any ambiance that the hotel might have offered. I felt claustrophobic just walking through the hallways of this property. Long, winding corridors are decorated in shades of yellow and pale green (yuck) with no natural light, no decorations or anything else to take away from their plainness. The air was stale, and I was happy just to get out of the hotel at the end of the site inspection. Given these feelings, it really doesn't matter what the rooms were like.

luxury hotels in Budapest (search here on Google)

copyright (c) 2009 by David J. Ourisman. All rights reserved. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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