One Budapest hotel has a soft spot for those who enjoy the finer things in life.
Look no further than the heavenly great Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest.
In 2004 the magnificent Art Nouveau property finally opened its doors on the banks of the Danube River after the completion of an intensive five year $110-million restoration.
Considered one of the most outstanding examples of Art Nouveau in the world the original building was built in 1906 for the Gresham Life Assurance Company which was the U.K’s largest life insurance firm in the late 1800s.
Before you wander through the stylized iron Peacock Gates you can see a gold adorned face of a distinguished chap on the hotel’s facade. The golden boy is none other than the late Thomas Gresham who was a British Lord and founder of the London Stock Exchange’s predecessor, the Royal Exchange.
Ironically back then the London Stock Exchange was off-limits to the Gresham company which wasn’t permitted to play on the stock market. At that time, insurers were prohibited by law from investing in the stock market and other potentially risky investments.
This roadblock didn’t deter the company elite who set their sights on one exquisite patch of riverbank in Pest to house their newest venture: exclusive rental rooms for the aristocracy. Call it a discreet palace that overlooks the fairy tale setting of the grand Buda Castle surrounded by a stream of thermal hot springs for more ambitious leisurely pursuits, and of course, the steadfast Széchenyi Chain Bridge with its imposing stone lions.
The chosen location held significant bragging rights too. In 1867 Emperor Franz Joseph it is said wore the Hungarian crown of St. Stephen with its crooked cross and sat on his horse by the bank of present day Széchenyi István tér (then Ferenc Jozsef Square) and swung his coronation sword to declare Hungary as part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
Fast forward four decades when the Gresham financiers had the resources to build a jewel in the crown to show-off its power and wealth. No scrimping on details here. Only a leading architect and finest Hungarian artisans were selected to create a jaw-dropping palace that became the talk of the town. Picture lavish courtyard gates, ceramic tiles, stained-glass windows and spacious accommodations which were used as guestrooms for an A-list of guests and later for the company’s headquarters.
In the Golden Age of Budapest, the Gresham Palace became a cultural hub that attracted glitterati, thespians, academics and writers – everyone who’s anyone lingered at the Gresham coffee house, the Gresham-Venezia Cafe and nightly entertainment at the celebrated Podium Cabaret quickly rivaled other popular European cabarets.
Despite the hub’s near destruction in World War 2, stories float on how the patrons continued to enjoy their coffee, conversing and reading as the bullets and bombings raged outside, showing a testament to the Hungarian temperament.
The Gresham which has survived two world wars, the Hungarian Revolution and the neglect endured under Communism has once again become the Belle of the Ball in the Pearl of the Danube.
This year marks the 15th birthday to one of Europe’s newest Grand Dames. Fittingly, anyone can feel like royalty.
Now why should you go?
Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest Hotel Highlights
Is it any wonder Forbes Travel Guide has ranked the luxurious property as a five-star hotel for the third consecutive year?
Prepare for authentic Hungarian experiences on all fronts – be it dining, entertainment, and old fashioned leisure. At magic hour just before the sun descends behind the fabled Castle Hill sit by your window in your river view suite to watch the storied lights of Budapest illuminate the storybook setting. Catch a glimpse of the restored suspension bridge transform from the aged green copper to blazing white.
Each cup of tea at Gresham Palace represents an imaginary voyage with a distinctive taste, personality and most importantly destination.
Indulge in a bucket list menu of activities curated by the head of concierge, Mr. Buday who knows a thing or two about satisfying guests travel pursuits. He also serves as the President of Les Clefs d’Or Hungary, the highest honor of concierge-dom so you know you are in regal hands.
Head to the Spa and order a classical Hungarian body wrap. Unlike usual wraps, this massage treatment uses traditional Hungarian body massage techniques with finger pulsing and soothing pressure.
Pure Art Nouveau: The hotel showcases a range of 179 spacious guest rooms including nineteen suites. Each accommodation reflects the architectural heritage of Gresham Palace, with tall vaulted ceilings. Choose from Danube views or old city views or select intimate interior courtyard views.
To channel the inner-royal you book a stay at the Budapest Royal Suite. Located on the second floor, this spacious suite embodies Budapest’s imperial grandeur and youthful energy offering unparalleled panoramic views of the Buda Castle, Chain Bridge and historic Budapest from its furnished step-out balcony. Considered one of the largest suites in the capital, (2,400 square feet) it’s ideal for families or private entertaining.
If you truly want to indulge head to the fabled Presidential Suites, of which there are two. In this 1,991 square feet Royal Navy Blue castle-like suite adorned in white and gold, guests are treated to true opulence. Decorative wooden Art Deco furnishing add charm and character to the suites.
Indulge in modern spa treatments in this Ancient Spa City. Budapest thrives on thermal hot springs. Occupying the entire top floor the Four Seasons Health Club and Spa has rejuvenating therapies inspired by Budapest’s rich spa heritage from herbal to Hungarian Moor mud treatments. The Spa has private massage rooms, a sauna, a whirlpool, steam rooms, a relaxation area and an exercise room. For an aquatic workout plunge into the waist-high infinity-edge lap pool.
Kids are VIPs too. Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace extends a warm welcome to children. Complimentary cribs and kid-sized bathrobes are available, and the Hotel’s Concierge will help families create special local memories like a cruise along the Danube or a trip on the Children’s Railway.
For MICE groups, a team of conference and banqueting specialists can create events with a distinctively Central European flair. Picture tailor-made events like Hungarian folk, Baroque or Danube River themed occasions accompanied by the music of famous Hungarian composers such as Bartók and Liszt. Inquire about the spousal programs aimed to satisfy varied interests such as cooking classes, customized spa experiences, city and winery tours, and excursions to nearby attractions.
The spectacular Bar and Lobby Lounge spill into the Hotel’s historic Peacock Passage beneath its magnificent glass cupola. An inviting place to enjoy a cocktail, a leisurely afternoon tea or a glass of fine Hungarian wine.
For Budapest sightseeing, you have hit the jackpot.
Everywhere is either walking distance or accessible by taxi or by the popular bike rentals available across the city. Minutes away from the hotel, you can visit the Hungarian Parliament Building that stretches longer than two football fields. Take a tour of the Gothic Revival masterpiece which is rumored to have been built with 40 million bricks. Nearby on Hold Street, the Hungarian Royal Post Savings Bank is an Art Nouveau–inspired masterpiece by Ödön Lechner who earned the nickname “Hungarian Gaudí.”
You’ll find a wide variety of restaurants within a ten-minute walk from the hotel.
Café Gerbeaud is one of the most traditional coffeehouses in Europe. It shines in Gründerzeit style with its stucco, the grand chandeliers and paneling are made of exotic woods.
Next, head over the Chain Bridge to explore Buda and the Castle District which is the oldest part of Budapest. Explore the winding streets that lead to medieval and Baroque architecture.
Dine in the former Gresham Venezia Cafe, now the site of the cool light-clustered Kollázs (Hungarian for collage) – Brasserie & Bar bedecked in Old World wooden wall panelings and thick posh curtains with an open table seating that overlooks the Danube River.
The interior design reflects the artistic era of the 1910s and ’20s, honoring the Art Nouveau style and Budapest’s legendary coffee house culture. Conceived by EDG Design of San Francisco, the look is a collage of the old and new, the luxurious and simple, in keeping with the character of Budapest.
In this brasserie concept setting there is a rotisserie, bar, wine cellar and patisserie. For outdoor dining, the all-season terrace wraps around the hotel with river-facing views as well as views along the bustling pedestrian-friendly Zrinyi Utca.
The menu incorporates local and international cuisine with signature Hungarian specialties like Foie Gras Terrine and beef cheeks.
The Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest has combined the luxurious comforts of the 21st century with the elegance of the past. At this landmark property guests can truly imbibe on the magic of the city and feel like royalty when staying at the epitome of grand luxury.
You can make your booking at the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest website. For 3 or more hotel night stays, the luxury hotel has popular Budapest Escape packages as well as its Suite Break available by advanced bookings.
Photography by Ilona Kauremszky and supplied.
Ilona Kauremszky was a guest of Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest which did not approve this editorial.