If we could travel through time to 20 years ago, we wouldn’t want to spend a night within the white-limestone building towering above Deák Square – back then, this was Budapest’s police headquarters. Fortunately, after an elaborate renovation beginning in the late ’90s, the five-star Le Méridien Budapest Hotel opened here in 2000, and ever since then this luxurious location ranks among Hungary’s most prestigious accommodations… so, it was with great enthusiasm that we stayed here in these modern times.
Nowadays, Le Méridien Budapest features 218 spacious rooms and suites that seamlessly meld classic elegance and contemporary style, providing comfortable lodgings for families, couples, and business travelers alike. Meanwhile, several world-class facilities are open to guests and the public here, including the gourmet Le Bourbon restaurant, the newly opened Longitude 19° 03’ lounge, and a sunshiny wellness area on the top floor. Eager to enjoy the same amenities experienced here by past Le Méridien Budapest guests – including numerous celebrities and dignitaries – we approached the hotel from the central transportation hub of Deák Square, literally located just a few steps away from the main entrance.
From the outside, this stately landmark certainly doesn’t look like a police station, and this is understandable; the pre-Modernist edifice was first constructed a century ago as the Adria Palace, an Italian insurance company’s sumptuous office that also featured 14 deluxe apartments. Now protected as a monument of architectural heritage, the building’s entire façade gleams brightly across Erzsébet Square with its original splendor – an impressive achievement of restoration, considering that the urban palace was damaged extensively during World War II before its repurposing into Budapest’s law-enforcement base during Hungary’s era under communism.
Stepping into the recently modernized lobby, we are initially overwhelmed by the view before us – the building’s circular atrium is topped with a gigantic stained-glass dome that supports a majestically curvaceous chandelier, the centerpiece of Le Bourbon. To the right we see all the way through Longitude 19° 03’ – opened this year in what was formerly the insurance company’s reception area, with the original marble floor perfectly blending into the modern bar ambience. As tempting as this is, for now we turn leftward to check in at the front desk.
On the wall behind the friendly receptionist, an oversized photograph of modern architecture adds contemporary flair to the painless process of registration; while the entire hotel bears a timelessly dignified atmosphere, every Le Méridien location makes a point to promote the avant-garde art of its region. Here in Budapest, this endeavor is obvious on every guest-room key card, colorfully emblazoned with diverse modern artworks; additionally, every overnight visitor is encouraged to enjoy free access to the gallery at the Trafó House of Contemporary Arts.
Arriving at our quarters for the night – a tastefully attractive corner business suite with a sweeping view over Fashion Street below – we are warmly enveloped by the pleasantly regal décor. The drawing room features a professional wooden desk with a high-speed Internet connection and lightning-fast Wi-Fi (standard in every room), along with a sofa and armchairs for receiving visitors, not to mention the guest WC.
Next we enter the cavernous bedroom, wishing that we could move in permanently – illuminated by ample natural light, the super-soft king-size bed beckons beside French-colonial furniture and the master bath with a marble sink and tub, along with a stand-up shower. All throughout the suite, traditional grace is established with flowing drapes, sparkling chandeliers, and ceramic vases; nonetheless, the flat-screen TV and top-quality Illy coffeemaker provide necessary present-day perks.
After dropping off our stuff we head back downstairs to the lounge to savor a delicious éclair (a specialty here) with a cappuccino, before heading out for a quick walk around the hotel. After continuous renovations to the city’s surrounding spaces in recent years – including Erzsébet Square, Fashion Street, and Madách Square – this urban core is now an eminently pleasant place to stroll, with many of Budapest’s nicest restaurants and nightclubs located within a few minutes’ walking distance, while everything else in the city is easily accessed through the Deák Square transport links – however, today we’re keen to return to Le Méridien for a highlight of our stay, dinner at Le Bourbon.
Fusing a menu of fine French cuisine with top-quality regional ingredients and Hungarian specialties, Le Bourbon is renowned among Budapest’s foodies for its authentic Gallic fare, especially during the restaurant’s magnificent Sunday brunches. Among the seasonal à la carte offers, the selection of fresh seafood enjoys a well-deserved reputation for excellence here, so we order the salmon with spiced chili, ginger, and kumquat, which is lusciously tender with hints of Asian flavor enhanced with egg noodles, soy, and coriander.
Freshly sated, we return to Longitude 19° 03’ for an early nightcap. Since the most recent renovation, this luxe lounge is impressively chic without the intimidating air that often pervades five-star nightspots – a variety of seating offers long tables for groups of friends, cozy nooks for sipping couples, and plenty of space to sit at the bar. Here several signature cocktails are mixed with professional panache, and since our visit was during wintertime, we enjoyed a selection from the hot-drink menu, the “Italian Almond” – a steaming concoction starring amaretto and a top-class Hungarian pálinka brandy distilled from pears. The drink delivered a powerful buzz that enhanced the dimly lit atmosphere, completed with upbeat live music performed nightly.
The evening’s high-quality consumption was already lulling us to sleep, but before succumbing to the soft sheets in our suite, we donned our woven white robes and headed up to the spa, where diverse massages, facials, and body treatments are available to the public. After a hot shower and pleasantly scalding session in the Finnish sauna, we progressed to the fitness center – alas, the gym area was temporarily closed to facilitate the installation of brand-new workout equipment, but the pool and Jacuzzi still welcomed us, and we happily forsook our exercise regimen to instead soak amid bubbling waters while admiring the heavens through the huge skylight above.
Collapsing into bed back at the suite, it took only a few moments to drift off to dreamland amid multiple oversized pillows, and we slept soundly and deeply; although this hotel is sited directly in the city center, we heard nothing through the soundproof windows. Awakening absolutely refreshed, we availed ourselves of the shower with adjustable water-flow settings, with the massaging option giving us just the wake-up call we needed before heading to breakfast.
The morning meal is served buffet-style in Le Bourbon, although the everyday offerings here would be considered as a luxurious brunch selection in most hotels. Feeling insatiable after our long slumber, we started with pineapple juice, dairy-fresh yogurt, sliced kiwi, Hungarian salami, and a flaky buttered croissant before moving on to scrambled eggs, Swiss-style rösti potato cakes, baked beans, bacon, veal sausages, and a waffle with maple syrup… needless to say, this feast gave us plenty of energy for the day ahead.
Returning to the suite to pack up our things, the king-sized bed was enticing for a mid-morning nap, but duty called back at We Love Budapest headquarters, and so we checked out with good memories of the previous hours already in mind. It’s too bad that we couldn’t be locked up here anymore – the Le Méridien Budapest Hotel was a spectacular place to “do time”!
As of press time, room rates at the Le Méridien Budapest Hotel for single-person occupancy range from approximately 130 euros per night to 1,500 euros per night, breakfast not included; see the hotel’s room-reservations webpage for current rates. We Love Budapest’s “Guest Experience” series profiles various Budapest hotels that invite our staff to visit at no charge, but with the understanding that we may include negative impressions in our coverage; hotel management is not allowed to review these articles before they are posted.
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