Budapest has a plethora of rooftop bars and plenty of hotels with pools but, somehow, these two winning concepts had never been combined for public pleasure. Now you can head up to the Cortile Budapest Hotel on Dessewffy utca behind the Opera House, bringing your cossie and a thirst.
Floating down from the Opera, you waltz through the exotically decorated lobby of the Cortile Budapest Hotel to the lift at the back, ding the bell for ‘Swimming Pool’ on the sixth floor, to be greeted by the idyllic tableau of a long blue pool backdropped by Budapest cityscape.
Dealing with the basics first – hand sanitiser, fresh green towels for guests’ use, a flock of pink flamingos pre-inflated for little swimmers – you may opt for a table by the bobbing, brightly coloured pillows in the water, or one of eight safely ranged around the open panoramic patio, specked with a little natural greenery. Splash, shade or rays, the choice is yours. Welcome to the Cortile Sky Bar & Pool.
Outside, bearings immediately hone into view. At nine o’clock rises the roof of the Opera House, where a hard-hatted Will Smith Insta’d during his summer here in 2018. Towards noon stands the stately dome of the Basilica. Around two o’clock, Parliament, with the graceful Statue of Lady Liberty spreading out beyond. At four o’clock, the bar opens and it's time for drinks.
Your waiter, in our case Dávid, brings over the concise menu and with it several years’ experience of mixing drinks. Recently part of the crew who man the Shanghai-themed Tuk Tuk Bar within the nearby Casati boutique hotel, Dávid now oversees imbibing at its stablemate Cortile Budapest.
A font of mixology knowledge, Dávid navigates us through the selection, commendably dominated by G&Ts. London Tanqueray of Amy fame or Budapest’s very own Opera? Both bob with juniper berries and each dips below 2,500 forints on the price scale. Tonic is the de rigueur Fever Tree. Currently trendy and pricier Knut Hansen from the German-Danish border makes an appearance, while Dutch Black Tomato has been fermented with the titular fruit, a soft bite of which rounds off the bitter-sweet experience. Vodkas feature the likes of Beluga Transatlantic from deepest, darkest Siberia and Belvedere Pure out of Żyrardów, Poland.
Class in a glass, indeed, only this glass is polycarbonate plastic, lest shards sully someone else’s swim. Snacks are also currently kept to a minimum, a complimentary bowl of olives, apt for the occasion and mess-free.
Surrounded as you are by the iconography of your hosts, Parliament, the Basilica and the Opera House, it would be churlish not to take your barman up on his gentle offer of a Hungaria Spritz, Magyar Aperol for want of a better analogy. Extra-dry Hungaria champagne, lemon and cardamom are contrasted by strawberries for a complex and novel aftertaste. The popular Padua mainstay can also be ordered.
The mock in the many mocktails is provided by fashionable Fluère, zinging with Casablanca coriander and Himalayan juniper, Dutch-distilled and alc-free. Sobriety best suits a swim in the 32-degree water, a bubbly corner dedicated to deep relaxation à deux. Chat-level Balearic beats underscore the shift into evening as a pool length of sky blushes from blue to sunset.
Once this well-located boutique hotel kicks into a real gear and tourism returns to this strangest of summers, you may have to reserve a place. Until then, dive in, the water’s lovely.
Cortile Sky Bar & Pool
Cortile Budapest Hotel
District VI. Dessewffy utca 14
Open: Daily 4pm-10pm