The best of modern luxury served up in the grand old style
You know you’re staying somewhere a bit special when you see that Dame Helen Mirren has written in the visitors’ book: “the grandest of times in the grandest of hotels”. Anybody who has watched “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, starring Ralph Fiennes as the resourceful but duplicitous concierge of a stately European hotel, will understand how a building can take on a persona and charm all of its own. What is not so well known is that the Corinthia Budapest, which opened in 1896 as the Grand Hotel Royal, was the inspiration to director Wes Anderson for his widely acclaimed 2014 film.
Budapest – originally two cities, Buda and Pest, divided by the River Danube – is one of Europe’s treasures, a living repository of history, culture and architecture that gives even cities like Berlin and Vienna a run for their money. It is a perennially popular destination for long weekend city breaks due to its short flight time from the UK via several low-cost airlines and its seemingly endless choice of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues serving excellent food and drink (not just goulash!) at low prices.
Standing resplendent at the centre of one of the Hungarian capital’s largest and busiest thoroughfares, close to the UNESCO world heritage site of Andrássy Avenue, the Corinthia retains its impressive old world splendour on the exterior but delivers every modern convenience and luxury inside. The interior was almost completely rebuilt in 2003 yet history still remains in every corner: in 1956, the hotel was almost totally destroyed when Soviet tanks shelled it in an attempt to flush out revolutionary leaders who were hiding there during the country’s uprising against the communists; and the palatial, baroque stye ballroom was previously a cinema, the Royal Apollo, where the Lumiere brothers’ (two of the world’s very first filmmakers) showed their second ever movie screening.
The Corinthia now boasts 414 bedrooms, 26 apartments and 31 suites, including the Presidential Suite which is the largest hotel room in the country. Standard bedrooms can be booked seven days in advance – a substantial saving on the rack rate which is still lower than most five-star luxury hotels in other European capital cities.
For my stay, I was allocated a spacious and luxurious room on the Executive floor with a bed so wide that when I tried to reach across it for a glass of water from the bedside table, I almost considered calling room service to bring it to me! Guests staying on this floor have access to an exclusive lounge which, as well as offering business facilities, serves complimentary breakfast and snacks plus unlimited free drinks (hot, cold and alcoholic) from morning until night (non-Executive level guests can pay to access this lounge). There is a private lift accessible only to the guest floors which takes you directly to the spa facilities (more on those later) in the provided monogrammed bathrobe and slippers without risk of running into anybody in the public areas.
The Corinthia has three restaurants and I was treated to dinner at the hotel’s pan-Asian offering, Rickshaw, which serves far eastern cuisine in a contemporary oriental setting. My starter of grilled scallops with papadum and wasabi carrot salad was subtly spicy and well complemented by the local Sauska white wine recommended by the waitress. A rich, fruity red, also from the Sauska winery, was the perfect accompaniment to my main course of Rendang crocodile steak with fresh coconut and wok fried vegetables. The ethereal sounds of a ‘space drum’ being played by a musician seated nearby drifted gently over me as I enjoyed soothing green tea afterwards, expertly prepared by the hotel’s own tea sommelier.
Complimentary champagne is served at breakfast in the Brasserie and Atrium until 11am (ideal for decadent lie-in’s) and there is an impressive choice of all the usual cooked favourites, continental hams and cheeses, natural yoghurt, muesli and fresh fish as well as an omelette and pancake chef who will whip up any eggy creation you desire.
Visitors have been drawn to the ‘city of healing waters’ since Roman times by the health restoring properties of Budapest’s thermal springs and baths. Housed in an stunning Art Deco building spread over 1,000 square meters, the Corinthia’s Royal Spa is possibly the finest around; it is a veritable shrine to indulgent pampering and wellness. A beautiful glass ceiling covers the 15 metre swimming pool which predates even the original hotel itself. There are several saunas, jacuzzis, a steam room, Niagara bathtubs, a Vichy and tropical rain showers plus a range of optional therapeutic and massage treatments available.
From the moment you enter the lobby and admire the opulent, imposingly wide staircase that sweeps dramatically into the reception area like an updated version of something from the set of ‘Dynasty’, to the sumptuous richness of the bedding and furnishings which adorn the luxurious guest-rooms, a stay at the Corinthia affords a feeling of grand occasion that is rarely found elsewhere. Whilst Budapest, and Europe generally, has a plethora of five-star international hotels, very few of them manage to replicate the almost epic sense of extravagant, regal grandeur that is the hallmark of this fine property which must surely rank amongst the finest jewels of this majestic city’s crown.
Whilst in Budapest
Admire the historic architecture of the city centre on an enjoyable 20 minute stroll from the Corinthia to the banks of the Danube where you can take a 90 minute Legenda river cruise with free optional visit to Margaret Island.
The Budapest Card, which is available in 24, 48 or 72 hour versions, offers unlimited use of all public transportation, free entrance to 12 museums as well as the famous St.Lukacs thermal baths, plus discounts on many other attractions throughout the city.
Enjoy coffee and cake at BookCafe in Andrassy Street, located on the second floor of the former Paris Department Store, and listen to the resident pianist play as you admire the grand Soviet-style surroundings and ornately painted ceiling.
Corinthia Hotel Budapest
Erzsebet Korut 43-49
Tel: +36 1 479 4000