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

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