the grandest of Budapest hotels

Four Seasons Gresham PalaceCourtesy of Four Seasons

At night, the Chain Bridge across the Danube linking Buda and Pest is bathed in golden light. The palaces and mansions on the skyline glimmer as well and I feel a special glow for having the best place from which to view this romantic panorama: the window of my suite at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace.

My bedroom is one of the most opulent imaginable, with 15-ft. ceilings trimmed in subtle Art Nouveau tracings of vines. Down a hall furnished in antiques is a marble-lined bath worthy of a Grand Duke.

Four Seasons Gresham Palace_RoomCourtesy of Four Seasons

Life must have been exceptionally sweet for executives who lived in these penthouses as a perk of their jobs when the palace was built in 1904 on the most prime piece of real estate in the city. It’s even sweeter today - now that the Gresham Palace is run by the Four Seasons.

The palace was built during the flowering of the Art Nouveau style of architecture, when the city was filled with artists experimenting with the colors and shapes of nature. Every wall, every floor, every staircase in the palace is a meticulously handcrafted artwork that’s a study in hue and sensuous natural curves. Tiles that cover the walls feature impressions of leaves, iron grills are alive with peacocks rampant and vines twisting heavenwards. Even the floor indicators above the elevator door have whimsical Art Nouveau arrows.

Four Seasons Gresham Palace_lobbyCourtesy of Four Seasons

The grand promenade that is today’s lobby with its soaring glass dome was - and still is - the must-see location in Budapest. There’s cachet factor to be in residence here while others come in just to take photos.  

But staying here is not living in a museum. It’s a vibrant hotel managed by Four Seasons, with all the expected attention to detail and service. The bar is an elegant place of small rooms and intimate tables. By day, the Gresham Café is the most elegant coffee house in the city, with it’s crystal chandeliers and tables with a panoramic view. By night, it transforms into one of the top restaurants in the city.

I’ll bet even in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire there weren’t as many staff paying attention to every detail as there are today. It’s sweet to stay at the palace.

Written by Wallace Immen and published in Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Fall/Winter 2015 issue.

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