An architectural gem of the finest Art Nouveau style, built in 1906, The Four Seasons Gresham Palace, Budapest is a true landmark of the Hungarian capital, with unique views of the Danube, the Széchenyi Bridge (Chain Bridge) and the Castel District of Buda, with its Fisherman’s Bastion, Royal Palace, Matthias Church – among the top attractions of the city.
The restoration and renovation works preeceding the opening of the palace in 2005, as a Four Seasons Hotel, are a testiment to the outstanding craftsmanship and creativity of Hungarian masters of trades – mosaicists reconstructed the original mosaics using materials imported from Venice, as were the originals; ironsmiths restored the beautiful peacock gates at the building’s entrance as well as the two staircases of the buiilding adorned with peacocks; stained-glass masters repainted the glass works throughout the hotel based on documents and photos etc.
The Art Nouveau style is widely present throughout the entire hotel, to the smallest details: the white tiling in the lobby was laid using the tube lining technique to make the design stand out from the surface; fireplaces with cast iron hoods (entrance of Gresham Restaurant, the SPA and in the Presidential Suite); parquet floors throughout all rooms and suites as well as hallways; door handles of beaten metal with a special curvy shape; stylized branches and leaves motives on wall and in bathroom ligh boxes; wrought iron Peacoks and leaves, original iron made heating units with leaves and branches motive engravings in each room (part of the centralized heating system, a novelty at the time); two large peacocks made of copper in the ballroom of the hotel.
In perfect synergy with the majestic lobby, the hallways leading up to the rooms and suites are equially impressive, each room and suite with tall wooden sculpted doors. Walking through the hallways and gazing through the courtyards instills a very warm, residential feel, which is widely present in all accommodations too, with plush, dark wood furnishings.
In my Park Suite, on the corner of the building, i had two large balconies opening onto the Danube, with such beautiful views (day time and night time) I would not want to leave the room. Watching boats and ships sail by the Danube is such a feast for the eyes… The views will mesmerize you througout the hotel – at breakfast in the Gresham restaurant or even at the Fitness Centre on the top floor of the hotel, with peep holes opening onto the Danube.
The Four Seasons ”essentials” are not missed at the Gresham Palace: the usual, heavenly Four Seasons bed, marble bathrooms with separate glass enclosed showe (perfect water pressure), high speed wi-fi internet throughout the entire hotel, the finest Egyptian cotton towels and bed linens, and generous wardrobe space.
In a historical building like this, I was pleasantly surprised to find a roof top swimming pool – one could only imagine the tecnical and buidling challenges of contructing such a pool. On both occasions I visited the SPA, the pool was quiet and very few people around. Due to space limitations, the SPA itself is rather small, however, the Four Seasons have done their magic, especially at the level of training and quality of products used. I had a Hungarian Classic Wrap ritual using seasalts and real Hungarian thermal mud. My therapist, Eva, is one of those gifted professionals, as I could feel her passion and dedication during my treatment. The effects were instant: purified, softer skin, detension of muscles, overall detox and a lightweight feeling.
Each morning, it was a plesure to be greeted and served by waiters such as Peter, with a genuinely warm attitude, extremely attentive and intuitive. Make sure you try the Hungarian salamis and cheeses as well as the Hungarian traditional omlette, one of the best omlettes I have ever had. As the second restaurant of the hotel is closed, the Gresham Restaurant serves both lunch and dinner, with a Hungarian / Italian menu by Executive Sous Chef Walter Miculan. Make sure you try the Goulas Soup (the real one!), fresh local Hungarian foie gras and the selection of Hungarian wines. The Four Seasons Gresham Palace stocks some of the finest Hungarian wines: Gere, Sauska, Szepsy.
The conciege, headed by Marta, one of the best concierge I have ever met, cater to the most discerning requirements and needs, from the traditional sightseeing tours to more exclusive activies such as helicopter rides, rental of luxury boats for Danube cruises or even rental of a Trabant car, the symbol of the bygone era. Besides the well known thermal baths (Gellert, Szecsenyi, Rudas, Kiraly), Marta has reccommended me the Veli Bej Thermal Bath, one of the oldest Turkish baths from the 1500, recently reopened after an extensive renovation. The experience was a bliss…
Housekeeping service is flawless, every time I would meet one of the staff, I felt truly welcomed and respected. No need to schedule or ask for service, the housekeeping would perform the cleaning service and the turndown in perfect synchrony. I also appreciated not seeing any of those large housekeeping carts on the hallways and not bumping into staff hoovering the carpets on the hallways.
Given the economic hardships of Hungary in the past 4 years, the Four Seasons has excelled by not compromising on the standards it has been providing and General Manager Yves Giacometti and his entire team have managed to navigate this turbulent times, mainting the top spot among luxury hotels in Budapest. My special thanks to Andrea (Front Office), Falko and Gabor (Gresham Restaurant) and Judith (Housekeeping) who have made this a memorable stay.
Having learned that this past Summer business has shown signs of improvement, I am certain the Four Seasons will proceed with the much needed renovations, especially carpets, TV sets, some furniture and lighting, as well as reopening of the second restaurant, which, considering its stunning views could well be a beautiful Cafe.
More photos on the dedicated gallery in our Facebook page.
Oliver Petcu in Budapest
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