There is an incantation in the bones of grand old buildings. They still echo with the intrigues of those great men and women that built them, lived in them and often died in them. Yet so many times in history, they prevail against tumult, outlive their masters and endure, standing proud and bemused out of the dust of conflict and the rubble of history.
And so it is with the twin Klotild Palaces of Budapest, which were built by two of fin de sičcle Hungary’s most celebrated architects, Kálmán Giergl and Flóris Korb - who were also behind the exquisite New York Palace and Music Academy buildings in the city, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Commissioned by Archduchess Klothilde Habsburg, the daughter in law of none other than Austrian emperor and Hungarian King Franz Joseph, these symmetrical palaces stand on either side of the street leading from the Erzsébet Bridge. Inaugurated in 1903, the bridge spans the Danube with elegant modernity and, combined with the palaces, creates a thrilling gateway to the city center that is alive with history.
Where, in the buildings’ turn of the century imperial pomp, ornate arcades of luxury shops thronged with the cream of the European aristocracy and fabulous and imposing residences for them towered above, by the turn of the next century the palaces had suffered greatly. Damaged in the two world wars and the 1956 revolution, they had also served as the headquarters of the Hungarian Post and a bank by the time they were sold to developers in 2002.
This summer, this extraordinary symbol of one of the great European empires of the last millennia, will again play host to the upper echelons of international society and be once more bedecked in the finest furnishings and most opulent shades - the Buddha-Bar Hotel is opening in Budapest.
Based in the northern half of the Klotild development, the new Buddha-Bar Hotel is, like all the locales in the brand’s illustrious global collection, a feast for the senses. What began in Paris in 1996 as the brain child of Raymond Visan and Thierry Bégué was one of those revolutionarily simple ideas, “George V Eatertainment” - where the sophistication of an upscale restaurant is combined with the chilled out chic of a lounge bar.
Their vision involved first class service bringing the finest cuisine to the tables of the glamorous glitterati whilst all the while cutting edge, but appropriately languid music is delivered by the resident DJ. This vision has successfully evolved into a global brand of high-end lounge bar restaurants, where dinner can beatifically drift from drinks into dancing in just about every major city in the world - including Paris, London, Monte Carlo, Beirut and Dubai.
Each Buddha-Bar outpost conforms to the same design aesthetic - a melding of the luxurious stylings of the Orient, Eastern spirituality and classic Occidental luxury fixtures and fittings, painted in golden shades, reds and purples - and presents a certain number of signature features that make them unmistakably Buddha.
An enormous statue of the supreme being of this most peaceful philosophy benignly dominates every Buddha-Bar restaurant, radiating a sense of indulgent tranquility. Buddha-Bar Hotel Klotild Palace is no exception to this rule, nor when serving the finest Asian, pacific-rim fusion cuisine, nor when celebrities as A-List as Johnny Depp regard the restaurants as their home-from-home.
But here in Budapest, as in Prague before it, the conductors of the eatertainment orchestra have gone further, much further than to simply bring their first restaurant. This is a five star, fully appointed and integrated luxury hotel complex, boasting a fascinating variety in its 102 spacious rooms suites - all beautifully realized within the confines of what is a unique building whose essential structural had to be maintained.
Incredibly, the suites continue right up to almost the top of the palace’s landmark tower, where at such a lofty level also nestles an exquisitely rendered Skybar, from which guests can enjoy unparalleled views of this, one of the aristocrats of European cities. The fully appointed and expertly manned Buddhattitude Spa will ensure that guests truly unwind during their stay, while the Siddharta Café will provide them with a street level and slightly more low key refreshment option.
So this grandest of architectural grandees has sauntered back to bask in the limelight of luxury, as has its city home - now one of the premier glamour destinations in Europe, and once more casting a regal rule across its visitors.
- Ben Stewart
Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest, Klotild Palace
Address: Váci Utca 34
Tel: 361 413 2064
Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace