On the Grand Boulevard, the three lives of a grande dame

A brief look at…
Budapest | Grand Hotel Royal (now Corinthia Hotel Budapest)

In contrast to Prague – the near picture-perfect ‘other’ capital city to which it is often compared – the upheavals in the second half of the 20th century have not been kind to Budapest’s cityscape: several Allied bomb raids, the 1956 revolution and the subsequent carelessness for its prewar architecture have taken a hefty toll on the city’s buildings. Especially vulnerable because of their exposed location on the Dunakorzó promenade in Pest, the traditional cluster of grand hotels on the river (Hungaria, Bristol, Carlton and Ritz) vanished after their destruction during the war. On the Buda side, the situation was only slightly better: severely damaged, the spa hotel Gellért – a fashionable destination during the 1920s and 1930s – could be saved but remained closed for necessary repairs that stretched over nearly three decades…

For the Grand Hotel Royal, the inner city location on the ‘Grand Boulevard’ was perhaps a saving grace. When it opened in 1896 to mark the Millenium Celebrations of Hungary, the 350 room hotel was considered the largest, most modern and most luxurious hotel in Central Europe. Suffering only minor damage, it almost naturally resumed its position as Budapest’s premier hotel in 1961 after an extensive remodeling which broke with its Austro-Hungarian architectural heritage, adopting a decidedly contemporary décor. By 1991, however, its charms had worn off completely, the hotel was closed, its landmark facade on Elizabeth Boulevard preserved and the building subsequently gutted.

Similar in many ways to the challenges that the reconstruction project of the new Hotel Adlon in Berlin was confronted with, an entirely rebuilt hotel opened in 2003, embracing a mixture of reinterpreted classical and inventive contemporary styles. Today, having begun its third life cycle as a hotel, the unique E-shape footprint of the building, its exteriors, the original ballroom and the incorporated ‘Royal Spa’ (originally a neighborhood public bath) are the sole remnants of the hotel’s earlier existence – a fact likely to be ignored by many satisfied guests who favor all the commodities of a contemporary five-star luxury hotel that lay underneath the apparent historical appeal of its shell.

Corinthia Hotel Budapest
Erzsébet körút 43-49
1073 Budapest
Hungary

From George Sand to James Bond

In and Out…
Venice | Hotel Danieli

At the end of an afternoon in late March, as the ambient dampness of the lagoon was getting more and more palpable, the sight of Hotel Danieli’s landmark facade on Riva degli Schiavoni offered an inviting opportunity to transfer the unique visual experience that is Venice into a warmer, cozier environment over coffee or tea…
The Danieli is without any doubt the most famous and iconic hotel in an equally famous and iconic city: its location mere steps from one of the world’s most fascinating urban ensembles, the main building itself (the historic Palazzo Dandolo dating back to the 15th century) and finally the profusion of illustrious visitors who have stayed here since 1840, has made the hotel the address of choice for the Who’s Who in real life and in fiction.

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On the Swiss Riviera, a historic property attempts to balance past and present

A close look at..
Montreux | Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic

When a Grand Hotel in Switzerland is brought to mind, the almost immediate association is a gracious historic building from the Belle Époque, a multitude of balconies with intricate iron railings, a view that embraces the natural spectacle of the Alps…
The Suisse Majestic is exactly that. Opened in 1870, it bears testimony to a time when wealthy English ‘tourists’ launched a fashion that would later be called ‘tourism’ and that helped to put Switzerland and its reputation in hospitality excellence on the map.
Even today, the area of Montreux advertises itself as the ‘Swiss Riviera’ and obvious indeed are the parallels to its famous French-Italian namesake: a rail line hugging the landscape and providing access that is a performance in itself, the high-rising peaks that protect south-facing locales, a particularly mild micro-climate, the views that open onto a deep blue expanse of water. But unlike the seemingly boundless Mediterranean, it is the mountainous French shore opposite Montreux that provides the ingredients which create a truly breathtaking alpine vista from almost every angle.

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Italy in the late 1950s: a historic inn reinvents itself

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Florence | Grand Hotel Minerva

In 1958, long before being acclaimed Italy’s mastermind of the so-called ‘organic architecture’, a young Carlo Scarpa received the commission by a local family of hoteliers to transform their venerable ‘Albergo della Minerva’ in Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
Assisted by his colleague and fellow architect Edoardo Detti, he designed an entirely new building, leaving only the historical front facade intact. The challenging project foreshadowed one of Scarpa’s main preoccupations in his later works: the integration of the Old and the New into a dramatic overall design concept.
Now called the ‘Grand Hotel Minerva’, the new hotel even featured a rooftop with swimming pool. When it reopened in 1961, its panoramic terrace was (and still is) the climactic exclamation point of a cutting-edge approach which gave way to the renaissance of one of Florence’s oldest hostelries, dating back to the 18th century.

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