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Budapest’s Aria Hotel makes a brilliant debut


  • Pákozdi Nóra

08/07/2015 12.15pm

The newest member of Budapest’s growing portfolio of next-generation luxury hotels is a haven of vibrant style in a historic building located just steps away from the Basilica. The Aria Hotel presents a uniquely harmonious ambience created by Hungarian designer Zoltán Varró, with an air of sleek sophistication balanced by a laid-back atmosphere. We take a tour of the facilities, from the rooms to the spa to the High Note Sky Bar on the rooftop, which will be open to the public in mid-July.

Aria is the newest member of the Library Hotel Collection, and only the second European member of the chain. It is important to know that the Library Hotel Collection chief, Henry Kallan, became the hotel manager and owner by climbing the ladder from the bottom, much like Mr. Moustafa from The Grand Budapest Hotel. After emigrating from the former Czechoslovakia, then-21-year-old Kallan applied so much diligence and eagerness to his work that he became one of New York’s leading hotel managers by the age of 27. His experience and love for catering meant a straight path to opening luxury hotels under his leadership. Henry Kallan created the concept of the boutique-hotel chain, which provides independent and creative accommodations with high-quality services, design, and philosophy – just like Aria in Budapest.

Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest

We have little data about the history of Aria’s originally eclectic-styled building on Hercegprímás Street, but it is certain that for the past few years, the once-grand edifice stood empty and in near-ruin condition. With the creation of Aria Hotel, the façade is re-shaped to its close-to-original state, to better fit the Budapest street scene. As we step into the hotel, we find a spacious inner courtyard – the reception is not centrally located, thus referring to the laid-back nature of the facility; this way there will be no spacial conflicts between hotel guests and public visitors to the restaurant and rooftop bar. The check-in desk is not an altar, and Aria is not just a hotel, but also an urban meeting place. The whole boutique hotel is built with musical themes, which is already obvious in the lobby with its floor resembling piano keys. This is where we started our “tour” with designer Zoltán Varró, who was also a visionary of refined interiors at places like Gerbeaud Confectionery, Émile, or the Michelin-starred Onyx Restaurant.

Photo: Balkányi László - We Love Budapest

Zoltán undertook the complete interior design of a sophisticated, modern, luxurious hotel, and considers it as one of his most significant projects. He definitely wanted to combine the atmosphere of early-20th-century bourgeois homes with stylish, detailed exclusivity. Aria is divided into four wings, all of which represent different musical trends: classical, opera, jazz, and contemporary. The rooms have small balconies that overlook the glass roof of the inner courtyard. Looking through the roof, we can see the stars in good weather, or admire the snowfall in the winter. All four wings have separate elevators that restricts guest access to their own room section, making the atmosphere much more intimate as there are no strangers walking in front of the rooms, and everyone gets to remain in their private sphere. We explored four rooms from the four different wings. There were smaller and larger ones, and we especially liked the ones decorated with the caricatures drawn by Luciano Pavarotti and James Brown, but we really liked the Franz Liszt suite. The concept is meticulously detailed: from the upholstery to the door handles, everything fits the theme, the given artist’s music and era.

Naturally, the top of the “apartment building” will not be left unused either. High Note Sky Bar will open in mid-July, and will not only please hotel guests, but also ordinary Budapest residents, as it will be available for everyone – with prior reservation. After all, there is no other rooftop bar with such a close view of the Basilica. Zoltán told us that recently there was a marriage proposal here, when the lucky lady exclaimed “yes!” on the sofa closest to the dome.We should not expect crazy techno parties here, since Aria is still a hotel with guests, but anyone with a wallet thick enough can go to the roof for a cocktail or Prosecco. There they will discover lounge music, comfortable sofas, and a stylish bar, made in collaboration with Ivanka. Another nice detail is that the rooftop bar of Aria is equipped with an outdoor shower, in case anyone would like to cool off.We visited the spa section as well, which is inspired by Oriental aesthetics, but with the same musical references we could see throughout the hotel, and a rather impressive swimming pool. Our tour came to an end on the ground floor, where we visited the conference room, the music library, Satchmo’s Bar, and Satchmo’s Lounge. Our favorite element was the spiral staircase, preserved in detail, which was formed in accordance with the hotel’s image – the evocation of the golden era of Budapest.

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