On the banks of the Danube, a confusion of styles and genres

A close look at…
Budapest | Hotel Gellért

Few hotels of my investigations are as convoluted as Budapest’s famous ‘Hotel Gellért’, which happens to be Hungary’s most widely known hotel. Renowned for its exceptional Art Nouveau baths – their images have been published for decades in nearly any mainstream publication about the city – the hotel today seems to serve only as a rather humble supplement to the lavish historic spa complex with its central ‘effervescent’ indoor swimming pool and outdoor sun terraces that surround Europe’s very first wave pool. Although designed as a coherent ensemble in a capital where hot springs abound and bathing is part of everyday life, the ‘Gellért’ was inaugurated in 1918. Destined to become one of the continent’s most fashionable resorts that even offered a private seaplane shuttle service to Vienna, its luxurious hedonism was rather short-lived. In the aftermath of WWII, only the facade of the hotel was left intact while the famous baths escaped the turmoil nearly unscathed. Beneath the imposing beauty of the building’s Secessionist facade lies an apparent stylistic quandary that becomes less startling if one realizes that today’s ‘Gellért’ is essentially a modern hotel that was subsequently rebuilt within its historic shell in 1962 and 1973 when it became, once again, Hungary’s premier hotel.

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