Our new series showcasing both the most spectacular panoramas in Budapest and hardly accessible, untraditional gazebos kicks off with a night time tour of luxury hotel rooftops, and includes a necessary odd-one-out, namely Váci utca’s Tőzsdepalota (Váci Street Stock Exchange Palace). An all-around view of posh panoramas – even for those with a fear of height.
Located a short stroll away from Dohány utca’s Great Synagogue, Continental Hotel Budapest has a history that’s just as rich and bitersweet as that of Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest – you can read about the latter and the tale of our visit to Four Seasons’ presidential suite right here. As for the treasured site of Continental, it first gave home to Gamperl-féle Vasfürdő (roughly Gamperl’s Iron Bath, a name fitted for a heavy metal band or The Lord of the Rings), which opened its gates on 23 May 1827. The bath’s time on Earth was cut short by the Great Flood of 1838, which completely wiped it off the face of Budapest. The rebuilt construction was bought by the Ringer family in 1897, and soon blossomed into a state-of-the-art institution. In 1910, it was enlarged by the addition of a multi-storey, Viennese Secession-style house and a swimming hall crowned with an openable glass dome. The 1920s were full of changes: Continental Hotel began to operate in the building’s Nyár utca-wing, the public bath facing Klauzál utca was demolished, and a six-storey block of art deco flats were erected in its place.
The still-intact parts of the Viennese Secession-style building were taken over by Kamara Mozgó Filmszínház (Kamara Movie Theatre); and, later on, these premises also provided a venue for the performances of Bányász Színház (Miner’s Theatre), Fővárosi Nagy Varieté (Budapest Grand Vaudeville), and Tarka Színpad (Colorful Theatre). Continental Hotel was shut down in 1970, and, by 1980, the building’s status was well worthy of the life-threatening epithet. The interior’s priceless pieces were stolen, the glass dome disintegrated into shreds, and recurring guests were replaced by the homeless. Following the real estate turmoil of the 90s – the investor who bought the bath’s and the now non-existent hotel’s premises has failed to oblige the condition-preserving rules, moreover, due to demolitions orchestrated by said investor, the swimming hall collapsed – it was officially declared hazardous to life and safety in 2002, then, in 2005, it was elevated to monument-status.
After the building was completely demolished in 2008, new life blossomed from the ruins, and Continental Hotel Budapest, offering a wide variety of A-plus services, opened its gates in the summer of 2010. As for the panorama, the rooftop terrace opening from the wellness section and crowned with an outdoor pool would have offered a crystal clear view on a less foggy day; although we have absolutely no reason to complain, since Buda Castle's lights shined through the fog, and the bulbous domes of the Great Synagogue lit up the night sky like a pair of comet trails.
Heliport Panorama Terrace Restaurant, stylishly decorated with plants and classic, outdoor candelabra, serves as a gazebo at daylight, as a restaurant after nightfall, and also provides a one-of-a-kind location for various events.
Although this time around we hadn't arrived by helicopter, we still felt privileged on account of the breath-taking view on Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Citadel, the towers of St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Parliament, and, last not least, the Hungarian State Treasury’s rooftop covered in Zsolnay majolica tiles.
The most well-known hotel on the Danube Promenade, the world-renowned neighbour of Lánchíd (Chain Bridge), Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge, is surrounded by postcard-worthy sights, so it was evident that we were not going to miss out on snapping a couple of photos from its rooftop.
Although our first visit to Sofitel – which is characterized by five-star services and a minimalist, elegant interior – proved to be in vain due to a heavy snow storm, repetition is the mother of skill, and luck was on our side the second time around.
The results speak for themselves: Chain Bridge, Gresham Palace, Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, a hint of the Citadel and the Hungarian Statue of Liberty (which is sometimes meanspiritedly likened to a bottle-opener); so, all in all, eye-pleasing spectacles as far as the camera could see.
Tőzsdepalota (Stock Exchange Palace), located on the corner of Váci utca and Vörösmarty tér (Vörösmarty Square) was built between 1911 and 1915 according to the plans of Ignác Alpár. The first floor’s antique grandeur on-par with that of Gresham Palace is pillared by fine marble and the beautiful stained glass windows of Miksa Róth. The biggest, ballroom-sized hall gives home to an enormous safe conjured from burglar nightmares, while the neighbouring premises used to serve as offices; just like the other four floors, where the stockbrokers of the good old days were roaming around.
Tőzsdepalota has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1933, and was purchased by Orco Property Group in 2005. The investor group specializing in real estate has injected a futuristic edge into the building’s prestigious past with the help of French architect Christian Biecher.
A trio of venues operate on the Váci utca front: a clothes shop, Szamos Gourmet Ház, and Hard Rock Café Budapest; although real beauty is on the inside – or, at least this time around, on the rooftop. The mile-high terrace is planned to become a restaurant, and, after having explored the mesmerizing panorama – Vörösmarty tér, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Gerbeaud House -, we dare to declare that dishes are going to have a tough time competing with the view.
We have no intention of neglecting the significance of the past in the case of Le Meridien Budapest, a trendsetting luxury hotel located at Erzsébet tér (Erzsébet Square), a few dozen steps away from Deák tér, Fashion Street, Akvárium, Közért, and Design Terminal; so it’s high time we took another trip down memory lane. The building formerly known as Adria Palace was erected between 1914 and 1918 to the request of Adria Insurance Company. Besides the company’s offices, fabulous flats, chic boutiques, and artists’ studios set foot between the high class walls. Apropos walls: the statues on the building’s facade used to symbolize both the various fields of insurance constituting Adria's profile and the clerks working in said fields.
Although Adria’s architecturally pleasing headquarters were awarded with the historical monument status quite early, no status could have saved the building from the bombings of World War II. The half-hearted renovations of 1950 resulted in the shutting down of all the flats and boutiques, and the palace’s premises were taken over by Budapest’s Police Department.
The law enforcement-era ended in 1997, and a two-year-long, thorough renovation process began in 1998. Le Meridien, belonging to the creme of the crop of luxury hotels and characterized by exceptional services and an elegant interior, opened its gates at the dawn of the new century; and has accommodated an extensive number of prominent individuals. As for the panorama: Károly körút (Károly Boulevard) on the right crowned with the better-deserving Anker-ház (Anker Residence); St. Stephen’s Basilica and Erzsébet tér on the left, and the never-boring cityscape of Buda highlighted by the Buda Castle – Fisherman’s Bastion – Citadel triumvirate behind us.
If there ever was such a thing as location lottery, Hilton Budapest would take home the jackpot every single week; since it’s surrounded by a duo of world-famous Budapest-symbols, namely the Fisherman’s Bastion and freshly refurbished Mátyás-templom (Matthias Church). Moreover, the panorama provided by the cityside rooms has catapulted Hilton Budapest to the fifth place of tripadvisor.com’s toplist ranking the world’s hotels with the most beautiful views.
Hilton’s building is just as rich in history as Buda Castle, so it’s not overly shocking that historical monuments constitue a major part of this unique construction; one of them being a sun-yellow, 13th century church – St. Nicholas’ Church -, the remainders of which can be seen through the lobby’s windows. A floor below ground level, you can wander around the corridors of a Dominican cloister sprinkled with archaeological treasures found on-site - the most ancient one being a 2000-year-old Roman milestone -, and plastered with a collection of photos presenting the hotel’s history. The 8-meter-deep well gaping in the middle of the cloister’s courtyard decorated with the seals of Matthias Corvinus and János Szapolyai puts the icing on the cake.
The more-than-impressive panorama in headlines: Matthias Church, the Parliament, Margit híd (Margaret Bridge), Lánchíd (Chain Bridge), Gresham Palace, the mountains of Buda, and we could go on until the first flowers of spring begin to bloom. We would emphasize that the last became first in our compilation, but it’s needless to say anything, because these pictures worth more than a thousand poems.
If you visit the city, you should defentely read our article about the Top 10 Must-Dos in Budapest.