Oozing Golden Age glam, the Four Seasons Gresham Palace is a head-turning triumph, staking the prime spot on the banks of the Danube in one of Budapest’s most stunning Art Nouveau masterpieces. The arrival, meanwhile, of the freshly minted lobby bar, Múzsa, confirms this five-star stunner as a bona fide destination in its own right.
Review: Four Seasons Gresham Palace
In a city suffused with so much history, grand architecture, and pomp, it takes a very special kind of hotel to stand out from the pack. That the Four Seasons Gresham Palace achieves this in spades is, therefore, no mean feat.
Painstakingly restored to its 1906 glory, every detail of the building is an homage to its storied Art Nouveau past – from the very first steps through the wrought-iron peacock gates (so perfectly restored after they were literally wrenched off their hinges by the force of the explosion of the Chain Bridge set off by the retreating German army in 1944) to the soaring lobby emblazoned with over two million mosaic tiles, and through to the soothing pastels of the rooms and suites upstairs, and exquisite hand-painted Herend porcelain sets served at afternoon tea.
This, in other words, is a hotel romantically steeped in its vivid past – a time when tout le monde were entranced first by with the building’s elegance and power as headquarters of the Gresham Life Assurance Company, and later when it reopened as the Four Seasons Gresham Palace following an exquisite restoration and renovation carried out by a team of silversmiths, stained-glass makers, ceramists and artisans.
To state that all the rooms and suites at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace are special in their own way is not to invite comparisons to a diplomatic parent anxious to avoid a fractious sibling fallout. Rather, it is to state a simple truth that the hotel literally makes room for every occasion and need of the guest.
And so, work trips don’t need to feel like such a chore when the drapes in the Superior Room are thrown open to sparkling views of the Buda or the leafy courtyard; whilst the Art Deco mood of the River View Park Suite is set off very nicely, thank you, by the bracing panorama of the Danube, Buda Hills and the Royal Castle.
There are, in short, no bad angles to the hotel. The furnishings practically beg to be touched, sat on, or – in the case of the capacious beds wrapped in clouds of startlingly white linen – slid into. The trappings are unapologetically regal whether the vases of fresh flowers over the grey-stone fireplace and the original Art Nouveau pieces placed decorously around the Royal Suite, or the soft silvery grey rugs underfoot in the Sir Gresham Presidential Suite.
And with silver-plated room service at the ready, there really is no reason to ever leave your room. Well, there is the hotel’s private Venetian-style speedboat, engine idly purring, down by the river…
One of the hallmarks of the Four Seasons is its indefatigable concierge, a font of insider knowledge who can point you to the best watering hole in town (apart from the one in the hotel, of course) or open up a museum after hours so you can peer at a masterpiece in literal peace and quiet. The team at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace is no exception, organising day trips to the Etyek wine region on the Buda side for a leisurely tipple, a behind-the-scenes tour for the children of the Budapest Zoo, and even an express lane to the geothermal spa baths at the fabulous Szechenyi Baths.
Just be back in the hotel in time for your spa appointment. If a delicious treatment of lavender, grape seed oil, salt and Hungarian moor mud doesn’t revive you, little else will. Well, perhaps a pre-prandial chilled dry Tokaji at Kollázs’s bar downstairs might just do the trick.
Budapest surprises at every turn, not least in its gastronomic offerings which intertwine European influences, especially by way of Austria, with local traditions and ingredients. Whilst the hotel car could whisk you to any number of lively eateries in town at a moment’s notice, it pays dividends to just stay put.
After your cocktail at Kollázs’s bar, adjourn to your table for its contemporary brasserie menu of Wiener schnitzel, Oscietra caviar, oysters, and spicy octopus and seared scallops paired with potato paprikas and Hungarian sausages. Gresham, meanwhile, pairs views of Buda Castle with Hungarian standards.
The buzz, though, is dominated by Músza, the Four Seasons Gresham Palace’s newly launched lobby bar. Set beneath a dramatic glass dome, Budapest’s first art nouveau luxury craft cocktail bar is a glorious throwback to the city’s golden era when men wore tuxedos and women long white gloves. Of course, the fashion has been updated, but the mood remains defiantly Old World – both in terms of its decorative furnishings, raised piano platform, Varga Art crystal glasses on the tables, live jazz bands; and its heady cocktail list laced with orange sec, native herbs and local gin.
THE FINAL WORD
Palace hotels may be increasingly popular these days, but the Four Seasons Gresham Palace rises to the occasion with a suave mix of visual flair, unimpeachable pedigree, prime location, and trademark Four Seasons service. It’s hard not to be smitten by such a genuine tour de force.