Passing Ferenciek tere in downtown Budapest, the majestic, towering pair of Klotild palaces at the Pest end of the Elizabeth Bridge always seem to amaze. Whether walking from the bridge towards Pest, around riverside Március 15 tér, along Kossuth Lajos utca or over to Buda, they always seem to greet you. You might even dream of ascending one of those towers one day and have your own adventure in the palace. Now that the southern Klotild Palace – commonly known as Matild – has been renovated and opened as the Marriott’s first Luxury Collection Hotel in Hungary, we were able to move in for a day, not only as adventurers but as a royal couple.

A little history

The history of the Klotild palaces, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dates back to the 1880s, when the wife of Archduke Joseph Karl, Princess Clotilde, designed the graceful buildings rising as if they were the gateway to Elizabeth Bridge.

The mirror-symmetrical palaces were built within three years and immediately became bustling hives of bourgeois life. Their light then faded amid the storms of history and they were undeservedly neglected for many decades.

Now, however, one of these magnificent twins, the southern Klotild Palace, has been given a new dress, as the Matild Palace has opened its doors as part of the Marriott Luxury Collection. Its exterior is shining once more in its former splendour, while the interiors have been reconfigured by award-winning designer Maria Vafiadis, founder of MKV Design in London.

The palace, as in the past, has been given a wide range of functions, including a hotel, a restaurant and a secret rooftop bar with lavish views, all of which we have now tested. But we also looked behind the scenes, where the Matild Café & Cabaret, which opens in the autumn, is already being prepared, a fin-de-siècle café by day and stunning cabaret after dark.

A welcome of the highest standard

Arriving at the hotel, we were granted a royal reception, and our luggage flew from the imposing lobby almost invisibly to our room. We received our key card from staff in a matter of seconds, and we began to explore the building in the company of a refreshing lavender lemonade.

The nine-metre-high photo wall in the lobby bears witness to the rich history of the palace, best viewed from the comfortable armchairs of the reading corner – although you may be distracted by the carefully selected art and architectural albums, and sumptuous works of art and Zsolnay ceramics.

Matild’s interiors are meticulously designed, their original Art Nouveau motifs complemented by modern luxury elements. In the lobby, you find three lifts whose history also dates way back, 120 years to be precise. The Matild Palace was not only built at a rapid pace, but also embraced innovations such as Budapest’s first lift. In their old setting but now fully renovated, the lift for hotel guests whisked us up to access the upstairs rooms and suites with the help of our key card

Through the lift to the other side, we headed to the east wing of the palace where, next to the rooms, we reached the upstairs level of the soon-to-open Matild Café & Cabaret. We even caught a rehearsal of acrobatic dancers preparing for the kind of cabaret performances still unique in Hungary. Non-hotel guests can also use this lift to access The Duchess rooftop bar.

Oriental comfort, Western tranquillity

Upstairs are 111 spacious rooms and 19 princely suites, where modern elegance and fine luxury go hand in hand. The huge beds, made specifically for Luxury Collection hotels, await with Oriental comfort, and the perfectly soundproofed rooms exude Western tranquillity.

Entering our suite called Elisabeth Bridge, a personalised greeting card had been laid out for us, and the usual sweet left on the corner of the pillow was reinterpreted by Matild’s staff as a gorgeous dessert and cheese platter that we could enjoy with a scenic view of Elizabeth Bridge. Of course, the room also has a minibar, where limitless coffee, juices and soft drinks are available to guests free of charge.

The bathrooms are equally royal, the elegant white marble inlays complemented by turquoise mosaic tiles, which evoke Hungarian spa culture, so you can enjoy a real private spa experience in the comfortable bathtubs and rain-shower showers. The litmus test of any hotel stay is the quality of the dressing gowns, and at the Matild Palace, they’re a real luxury.

Adventures in the tower room

The suites are oriented so that the windows offer either city views or a panoramic ones of the Danube and Elizabeth Bridge. The Presidential Suite had just been taken when we arrived, but we were able to see the other Signature Suite, the Crown Tower Suite, which has a 360-degree panoramic view from the top. The name is no coincidence, as the top of the 48-metre-high tower was modelled after the Archduke's crown.

The Luxury Collection – a unique experience

The destination authority

The Matild Palace is the first Luxury Collection brand that Marriott has opened in Hungary, its essence being the fabulous and unique experiences these hotels offer. ’The destination authority’ is the brand motto, providing guests with accommodation focused on local values ​​and unique attractions.

The concierge service at Luxury Collection hotels is also outstanding: not only do the holders of the golden key know the hotel itself from top to toe, but as ambassadors to the city, they can also fully comply with specific requests.

At the Matild Palace, for example, the concierge guides guests from finding local designers to the best Hungarian wines and the city's secret attractions. It’s no coincidence that the target audience of Luxury Collection hotels is also defined as ’Collectors’ or ’Explorers’, meaning guests who come here are not only simply looking for luxury accommodation, but are gathering experiences from all over the world.

Clotilde, supporter of the arts

The presence of the arts is given a prominent role at the Matild Palace, as Princess Clotilde was a great patron. Some 120 years ago, the attic rooms housed studios for photographers, artists and sculptors, and Princess Clotilde organised her secret meetings and encounters with famous artists of the day.

The rooftop suites are therefore different from the lower levels, as here are laid-back and elegant loft spaces, the Art Studios, where you can experience the vivid everyday life of the former bohemian art world, re-arranged for the 21st century.

Not only does art play an important role in the studios, but in all the rooms and suites you can find works by contemporary artists. The paintings by Zsófi Szász were directly inspired by Gyula Krúdy, the famous fin-de-siècle author who wrote his most famous novel, Szindbád, in the former Downtown Café on the ground floor of the palace.

Spa experience akin to a Turkish bath

At the Matild Palace, not only do the bathrooms of the rooms and suites echo domestic spa culture, but the Swan SPA also evokes Turkish baths. There is an aromatherapy steam room, a Finnish sauna and salt spa, as well as an authentic Turkish hammam, where you can be bathed, almost literally, in milk and butter on a heated marble bed.

In addition, various facial and body treatments are available, and in the couples room, you can take a dip in the jacuzzi after a body-and-soul experience. The lounge area awaits with comfortable beds and refreshments, and those who want to work out can let off steam in the gym, open 24/7.

California dining and a secret rooftop bar

Moving from the tower room to our suite and trying out the spa, we went from one wonder to the next, then, in almost the blink of an eye, it was time for dinner at the recently opened Spago by Wolfgang Puck, the hotel restaurant on the ground floor.

It’s here that Wolfgang Puck, the Michelin-starred California chef, has opened his first European restaurant where, in addition to his signature dishes, such as salmon pizza, he has also placed great emphasis on the use of local ingredients.

Also serving non-hotel residents, the restaurant offers a laid-back and relaxed dinner with superb service, heavenly cocktails and fine bistro dishes. Some tables even overlook Elizabeth Bridge.

After dinner, we headed up to Matild’s secret bar, The Duchess, where a whole world of cocktails awaited.

We ventured to New York with a Duchess Sour and Japan with a Kanpai, but as soon as the night panorama of the Danube and Elizabeth Bridge unfolded before us, we realised that there was nothing better than home sweet home. This is particularly true even for a royal couple, which is how any guest will feel at the Matild Palace.

The lap of luxury

Matild Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Budapest
1056 Budapest. Váci utca 36