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120-Year-Old Palace in Budapest Becomes Luxury Hotel

July 22, 2021 | 22:31

Matild Palace in Budapest, Hungary, was built in 1902, has been recently redesigned into a Luxury Collection, bringing the old historical palace back to life.

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Matild Palace boasts a distinctive ambience representative of its Austro-Hungarian heritage, which runs beautifully through its core and is unmistakable from the moment guests step in through the front doors.Built during the Belle Epoque era, in 1902, Matild Palace was developed under the patronage of Her Imperial and Royal Highness Maria Klotild of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to serve as the social hub of the city. She dreamed of the twin palaces to greet those who enter the bridge as a graceful lady. Renowned architects Korb and Giergl, named after projects like Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, envisioned of neo-baroque palaces that would serve as the gateway to the Elisabeth bridge. The palace is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and is under monumental protection. Today, the hotel is committed to inspiring guests with its rich history, culture and epicurean excellence. Combining luxurious surroundings with authentic experiences, it serves as the most spectacular gateway to exploring the magic of Budapest.

The exterior of the Maltid Palace Hotel in Budapest, Hungary. Maltid Palace/The Luxury Collection
The exterior of the Maltid Palace Hotel in Budapest, Hungary. Maltid Palace/The Luxury Collection

The property has 130 guestrooms, comprising 111 guestrooms and 19 suites, many with views of the Danube River. Bedrooms feature high ceilings, fishbone parquet floors and a teal, green, gold and copper color palette. There are a number of connecting family rooms throughout the property.

The Crown Tower Suite caps the property on its fifth floor, though the suite is split across three floors with a 157-foot tower that offers 360-degree views of the city. The Maria Klotid Royal Suite, named after the property's initial developer, is designed as an interpretation of her private suite. (Klotid had developed Matild Palace to serve as the social hub of the city.)

The lobby of the Matild Palace Hotel. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection
The lobby of the Matild Palace Hotel. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection

Dining operations will be overseen by Wolfgang Puck. His Spago restaurant opens for the first time in Hungary, featuring traditional Hungarian cuisine with a modern twist. He will also oversee the Duchess rooftop bar, opening next month, and Matild Cafe and Cabaret, opening in September. Both will offer year-round, outdoor dining. There will also be a "secret liquor library" overseen by Puck, Marriott said.

Matild Palace houses Swan Spa, which offers guests a Hungarian-influenced experience. That includes thermal therapy and hammam rituals. The spa uses Espa products. The property also has a gym and meetings and event space.

Rates start at 450 Euro per night, including breakfast.

Creation of two young, talented architects

The hotel's historical passage. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection
The hotel's historical passage. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection

The atmosphere and image of Pest in the late 1800s were completely changed by the construction of Elizabeth Bridge, and many buildings were demolished.

Of the plots left vacant in the 1880s, the two most valuable were bought by the wife of Archduke Joseph Karl, Princess Clotilde, who envisaged elegant palaces standing at the gates of the future bridge.

The Royal Suite. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection
The Royal Suite. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection

With this in mind, the commission was given to two young, talented architects of the day who had already shown their advance thinking in the design of the New York Palace.

The eclectic Klotild Palaces, which rise like a graceful princess on either side of the road, were designed by Flóris Korb and Kálmán Giergl, the same duo later behind Franz Liszt Music Academy. The most famous craftsmen of the period also worked on the building, namely the renowned trinity of Zsolnay, Gyula Jungfer and Miksa Róth, masters of ceramics, wrought iron and stained glass respectively.

The architects quickly built the two mirror-symmetrical palaces in three years, a major feat, especially because they were experimenting with the novelty of an iron structure, The building was so innovative, in fact, that lifts were installed for the first time in Budapest.

The Royal Suite living room. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection
The Royal Suite living room. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection

Business premises, associations and companies were located on the ground floor and mezzanine level of the southern palace, while rented apartments were located on the upper floors. The 48-metre-high corner towers were immediately distinctive.

One of novelist Gyula Krúdy’s favourite cafés operated here, where he wrote the revered stories of Szindbád at his usual cosy table, while artists József Rippl-Rónai and Pál Szinyei Merse were also frequent guests at the Belvárosi Kávéház – when they weren’t gathered at the famous Japán Kávéház.

Due to their central location, the buildings did not escape damage during the Siege of Budapest of early 1945 – the roof collapsed, the ground floor rooms burned down and the carved portals were destroyed. The façade was renovated in the 1960s and the café was reopened after World War II, the first business to relaunch, in fact, but the buildings slowly faded over the years.

The Royal Suite bathroom. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection
The Royal Suite bathroom. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection

The southern Klotild Palace has always been known as the Matild, although there is no single reason why. The Habsburgs had three Mathildes: a medieval Bavarian princess, another who set herself alight with a cigarette at the age of 19, and the ninth child of Buda-born Marie Valerie, but there is no evidence that they named the southern building because of any specific one of them.

Today's luxury Matild Palace hotel contains 120 years of history between its walls, as illustrated by the nine-metre-high photo mural of Clotild and sundry Habsburgs bisecting the relaxed lobby area.

For the renovation, they wanted to combine the atmosphere of Pest at the beginning of the 20th century, the original splendour of this listed building and the elegance of a five-star luxury hotel – but the mood of the surrounding residential blocks, with their long corridors, echoes in the atrium.

The palace's Loft Room. Maltid Palace's restaurant.
The palace's Loft Room. Maltid Palace's restaurant.

Everything that could have been restored from the original – the wrought-iron gates, Róth’s stained-glass windows, the terrazzo cladding – has been, while elements since lost were re-manufactured based on archive photos and old plans.

Hungarian motifs also return to the rooms and communal spaces of the Matild Palace: the familiar floral symbols on the pillows and bedrests, the bathrooms featuring mosaic tiles reminiscent of the Gellért Baths.

Interior aesthetics were take care of by Maria Katsarou Vafiadis, founder and MD of London-based MKV Design, behind the transformation of hotels from the Alps to Bangalore.

The Loft Room's Bathroom. Maltid Palace/The Luxury Collection
The Loft Room's Bathroom. Maltid Palace/The Luxury Collection

After it first opened, this building was the centre of social life, where various groups gathered in the ground-floor café but the attics housed the studios of painters and photographers, with a hidden room for secret trysts.

Entertainment and leisure also breathe new life into the old building, and put the hotel back into the flow of downtown life. Starting with Spago, the hotel’s signature ground-floor terrace restaurant, all aspects of gastronomy here is overseen by world-famous chef Wolfgang Puck, returning to his Central-European roots after making his name in Hollywood.

The terrace. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection
The terrace. Matild Palace/The Luxury Collection
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