< HUNGARY | BUDAPEST: Danubius Hotel Astoria
Built on the site of the medieval town walls, Danubius Hotel Astoria is one of the most charming old-style hotels of Hungary's capital. The history of the hotel dates back to the beginning of the 18th century when Benedek Unger opened a blacksmith’ shop on the site of the future hotel situated next to the city walls and the Hatvani Gate, the present crossroads of Múzeum Körút and Kossuth Lajos Street. After the Hatvani Gate and the medieval city walls were demolished in 1808, the Zrínyi Coffee Shop and Inn, the predecessor of the present Hotel Astoria was built on its site. The Inn was opened in 1824 and played an important role in the political, cultural, and literary life of Pest. One of its illustrious guests, Sándor Petőfi, the famous Hungarian poet stayed and wrote his epic poems in the hotel.
The Zrínyi Coffee Shop and Inn was pulled down at the end of the 19th century, the site was divided into three parts and the owners had built three buildings on its place. When the hotel opened
in March 1914, the Művészet (The Art Magazin), a periodical of that time, covered the opening of the new hotel: „The building represents a uniform entity towards the spectator, in spite of the
fact that the two architects built actually three separate buildings.”
The simple, unsophisticated building of the hotel, built in French Empire and Directoire styles, was an attraction in the downtown of the old Pest. The impressive main entrance with the elegant marquee matching to the facade of the hotel, opened from 21. Kossuth Lajos Street.
The restaurant and the café were located on the ground floor, while the tavern was placed in the basement. According to the demands of the modern age, the building was equipped with bathrooms, elevators, and central vacuum-cleaning system and central heating so the Astoria belonged to the leading hotels of its time.
The name of Astoria was given by the owners and Mihály Gellér, the first General Manager of the hotel, who formerly worked for the world-famous Waldorf Astoria in New York, and was an acknowledged expert in hospitality at that time.
At the end of 1918 during the revolution, Count Mihály Károlyi and his wife Countess Katinka Andrássy were accommodated in the Suite 414 and the National Council headed by Count Károlyi held its meetings on the first floor in the 105-109 rooms, and the Astoria became the political centre of the country. Nowadays, one of these rooms gives place to a conference room named after Count Károlyi.
In the golden age of the 1930s the Astoria with its 145 rooms (85 single and 60 double rooms), was in its glory, though the furnishings were rather moderate than luxurious compared to other grand hotels, but the interior of the hotel was really charming. The marble cover and the fancy carpets, the crystal chandelers and the copper brackets, the glittering mirrors and the lead-glass windows, the Sévres china vases, the works of art and the paintings in the lobby, the café and the restaurant invite the guests for a romantic journey back in time.
Although the Second World War left its mark on the hotel, the artworks were preserved and the Astoria was one of the first hotels in Budapest that reopened after the War in 1946.
In 1948 the hotel was nationalised by the Hungarian State, and the former owner, Dr. Ödön Unger with his family emigrated to England with only ”two suitcases and two champagne glasses in their hand". Dr. Unger started a new life there and became a successful businessman. His son, Dr. Ödön Unger attorney at law, currently resides in England, is a regular guest of the hotel.
In 1986 due to the general rebuilding of the hotel, Astoria was recategorised as a three-star hotel. The single rooms were rebuilt, and due to the conversion of the rooms, all of the 124 double rooms and 5 suites were equipped with bathroom.
In 1995 a bright, air-conditioned function room with the maximum capacity of 100 persons, the Green Saloon, was opened on the first floor of the hotel. At the same time, the Károlyi Room was refreshed, as well. The elegant silk wall-paper with its pastel shades, the Empire style furniture and the paintings recall the turn-of-the-century saloons of Budapest.
As part of the HungarHotels hotel chain, the Hotel Astoria was privatised in 1996 by the Danubius Hotels Group, one of Europe’s most respected hotel and spa resort chains. Due to the permanent development of the 90s that resulted higher level of services Astoria deserved the four-star classification in 1999.
An overall reconstruction started in 2004, in the year of the 90th anniversary of the hotel’s opening, with the aim of meeting the requirements and demands of the modern age, while preserving the hotel’s traditions and unique grace. The reconstruction, finished in 2006, included the renovation of the roof, the refreshment of the facade, refurbishment of the lobby, the restaurant and the café, installation of air-conditioning system in 44 Danubius Guestrooms, and the rebuild of the former standard rooms to 94 stylish and comfortable Deluxe Guestrooms. The colours, flat ochre, terracotta, and full Burgundian, the textile patterns, the elegant antique-like white furniture of the new room type remind of Provencal atmosphere. All the 138 guest rooms are equipped with soundproof windows, air-conditioning, direct dial telephone, WLAN-Internet, TV with satellite programmes and PAY-TV, built-in room safe, minibar.
Film producers and directors often take advantage of the excellent facilities the hotel, which provides perfect scenery for film shooting. The famous films Szabó István, or the film adaptation of Ray Cooney’s comedy, produced Andy G. Vajna, the film about the life of Perlasca with Luca Zingaretti or the “Being Julia” with Jeremy Irons and Anette Bening were shot in the hotel. During its 90-year history Astoria had famous guests: Wim Wenders, Jiri Menzel, Maurice Béjart and the Béjart Balett, Philip Glass, Peter Greenaway, Susanna York, Luca Zingaretti, Larry Hagman, Jan Timman Dutch chess grandmaster.
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