Corinthia Hotel Budapest
B u d a p e s t
Erzsébet krt. 43-49
GPS: 47° 30′ 9.5″ N 19° 4′ 0.3″ E
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Grand Hotel Royal – as was known for years, was opened for visitors of the highly successful Millennium Exhibition in 1896. A joint-stock company, established by the most important hotel owners, including the chairman Mr. Frigyes Glück and the planner architect Mr. Rezsi Ray, had succeed in purchasing the largest piece of real estate on the developing Grand Boulevard. By this time the Grand Boulevard had become the main artery of the capital city and the hotel rooms enjoyed superb views of this most attractive part of Budapest. The official opening ceremony was 1st May 1896. The hotel comprised 232 guest rooms, 20 individual apartments in the adjacent buildings and attic rooms for the staff. The architectural style was French Renaissance. The latest technology of the era was used.
The aim was to create a building equipped to the highest level of luxury, with high quality service and professionally organized operations. Besides the facilities (post office, bank, hairdresser, ticket office) guests and the public had access to two restaurants, a café, a Gerbeaud confectionery and private rooms. In the cellar could be found not only a grocery store but also a bar. In the western cour d’honneur a palm garden made the court more attractive.
Since its opening, the Royal became a popular, regular haunt of contemporary Hungarian writers and journalists, including Mr. Jeni Heltay, Mr. Sándor Hunyadi, Mr. Lajos Nagy, Mr. Gyula Krúdy. The first screening in Budapest of a motion picture by the Lumiére brothers also took place at the hotel and later became highly successful as a regular exhibition. Several classical concerts were held in Royal’s Ballroom, and music was frequently conducted by Béla Bartók, the world famous Hungarian composer. The Royal soon became a favourite topic of journalists. In 1909, the first Hungarian airplane was exhibited in one of the hotel’s cour d’honneur. With the growing popularity of the motion picture the Ballroom ceased to exist as a part of the hotel when it was reconstructed as the Royal Apollo cinema and after the Second World War it reopened its doors as the Red Star cinema with its entrance on Hársfa Street in 1959.
During the 1920’s, as part of a modernisation process, several modifications were made to the hotel, reducing the number of the guest rooms, restaurants, apartments and bathrooms.
From the Second World War until 1953 the Royal served not as a hotel, but as an office building. In 1953 the building was restored to become a hotel, but three years later the roof was destroyed by fire. This unfortunate event forced the architects to reconstruct the whole building. The Royal was intended to be a hotel representative of the age, since none of the hotels on the Danube bank were still standing.
Mr. István Janáky, architect of the reconstruction, reconsidered the building’s interior as the ‘space idealism’ of his age. Today, the no remaining fragments of the original interior can be found. The demolition and reconstruction in 1956 destroyed every trace. In 1961 the Royal was re-opened as a hotel, with 367 guest rooms. Over the years the hotel became obsolete and finally, it was closed in the autumn of 1991 although the cinema continued working until the autumn of 1997.
Royal’s guest book contain signatures of the most important people from Europe and the rest of the world. Just a few examples are Max Reinhardt, Asta Nilsen, Saljapin, Valdemar Psylander, Professor Barnard, Roberto Benzi, Mario del Monaco, Anna Moffo, Renata Scotto, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Amerigo Tot, Valentina Tereskova…
The spa was planned and built by the architect Vilmos Freund in 1886-88. At that time it contained steam baths, wave and shower baths, electric baths, pneumatic chamber and a medical room with cold water. Contemporary journalists were fascinated by the spa’s appearance. In 1903 direct access was created for hotel guests. After the First World War, Freund was declared bankrupt and his heirs sold the spa in 1923 to the Royal Nagyszálló Rt. The spa operated until 1944 but from that time it has been closed. The abandoned, obsolete spa was rediscovered in 1983 and, according to the original documents, there were plans to use the spa area for parking facilities. Thankfully, János Dianóczki, who was in charge of planning the multi-storey car park, turned down the proposal. The media and the public supported him and his decision made it possible to restore the spa today.
The Royal, one of the best known historic hotels in Budapest and Europe, owes its revival to the Corinthia Group. The Maltese-based investment group operates four and five-star hotels in a number of countries, including Malta, Portugal, The Gambia, Tunisia, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Russia and Hungary. The operators of the Corinthia Aquincum Hotel and the Prague Panorama and Towers Hotels, take a prime position among the luxury hotel chains in Central Europe. Their first venture in Hungary was the acquisition of the Danube-side hotel Corinthia Aquincum in 1996. Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal initially, today: Corinthia Hotel Budapest, is now restored as a result of a 100 euro million investment, the largest scale hotel refurbishment project in Hungarian history.
The used noble materials and equipment in the refurbishment of the Hotel also come from far and wide. The Grand Ballroom and public rooms are laid with Italian limestone and Spanish marble. Czech doors open to guest rooms furnished with Slovakian furniture and South African carpets. This international selection is nevertheless framed by the expertise of Hungarian craftsmen: their fabulous plaster work puts the final touch on the Hotel, their gilded scrolls elevate the beauty of the Grand Ballroom.
# Andreas Augustin: Grand Hotel Royal Budapest; Part of “The Most Famous Hotels in the World” series
ISBN 3-900692-19-X; English language, 160 pages, hardback.
(also available in Hungarian).