Mementos that evoke the vivid past of the Magyar metropolis are dear to our hearts, and we’ve recently come across a collection of old stickers issued by historic hotels that operated all over Budapest. Unlike posters or postcards, these little images were pasted on the suitcases of globetrotting guests visiting the Hungarian capital, to join a collage of other emblems collected at destinations worldwide. Produced from the turn of the century through the 1960s, the stickers depict the logos of elegant Budapest hotels, taking us back to an era of travel when the journey was the destination.
Collecting stamps on the pages of a passport has been going out of style in the past few decades; picking up fridge magnets wherever you go has become the new way of showing how well-traveled you are. Back in the day, the same effect could be achieved by adorning suitcases with attractively designed stickers available at the biggest hotels all over the world: London’s Park Hotel, New York’s Plaza, or Cannes’s Hotel Negresco. Tourists donning the logos of such hotels on their luggage were obviously globe-trotters, and they brought valuable publicity to the grand hospitality establishments. Browsing the selection of vintage markets, you might still come across one of these heavily decorated trunks, most of which are unfortunately in quite a bad state due to age and constant use.
Researching and restoring suitcase stickers is the obsession of many dedicated collectors worldwide – one of them is Tom Schifanella, who has an astonishing display posted on his Flickr page. The colorful designs were a huge hit in Hungary, so most hotels in Budapest and around Lake Balaton had their own stickers made. Some of the stickers are real works of art, which is hardly surprising: competition for the tiniest space on travelers’ suitcases was tough, so hotels were trying to make the little images as appealing as possible. Here we present some of the most striking hotel stickers of Hungary, and while many of the creative emblems promote places that no longer exist, some of these grand Budapest hotels still welcome guests today.
Grand Hotel Dunapalota
This lavish location was opened in 1913, and was regarded as one of the most elegant hotels of its time. Originally called the Ritz, it adopted the Dunapalota moniker three years later. The opulent edifice had its own rooftop garden with a magnificent view of the Danube. Today the building site is occupied by the InterContinental Budapest.
Hotel Carlton Budapest
As one of the most luxurious hotels of the Danube Promenade, the Carlton was a real trailblazer in several aspects: for example, thanks to a tunnel connecting it to the river, food and coal could be transported directly into the building. All of its 93 modern rooms had electricity, central heating, a radio, and a telephone, and guests could take a pleasant stroll in the hotel’s own palm garden. Famous Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy was a frequent visitor at the onsite café. The former site of the hotel is currently occupied by a parking lot.
Inspired by his travels in England and the Far East, in the early 1900s coffee merchant Henrik Fábri wanted to have a modern hotel built near central Nyugati Square. The hotel called Britannia opened in 1913, and it was later used as a military hospital after being damaged in the bombings of WWI. Relaunched under the name Béke Hotel, the establishment offered diverse evening entertainment with stars like comedian Géza Hofi, actor and dancer Kamill Feleki, and musician Péter Máté. The hotel became part of the Radisson SAS chain in 1988, and it’s been known as the Radisson Blu Béke Hotel since 2009.
Hotel Szt. Gellért Szálló
The hotel and the thermal bath were built in Art Nouveau style in 1916-18, but today they operate as separate units. Following a recent refurbishment of its glorious facade, the classic Hotel Gellért is still operating and widely admired, especially by guests from abroad who enjoy its wonderful panorama.
Erected in 1896 on the bustling thoroughfare of Rákóczi Avenue, this hotel used to owe its popularity to the proximity of Keleti Railway Station and the horse racing track. Metropol opened its cozy garden space in the 1940s, which further enhanced its characteristic charm. Later renamed Pannónia Hotel, the premises later became part of the Mercure hotel chain.
Hotel Erzsébet Királyné
Grand Hotel Margitsziget
Built in 1873, Grand Hotel Margitsziget was designed by renowned Magyar architect Miklós Ybl. After the 1965 flood of Budapest, parts of the emptied building collapsed in January of the next year. Still operating today as a four-star establishment, the Grand Hotel Margitsziget is linked to a nearby thermal bath via an underground tunnel to allow guests access to the healing waters.
Sited in Budapest’s busy Baross Square, Grand Hotel Park used to be a much more ornate building. Just like Metropol, Park was also an attractive choice for affluent guests frequenting the horse racing track.