Looking at the wonderful old buildings of Budapest, you can see the City fathers left behind an elegant metropolis. As always, the devil lies in the detail, as depicted by these fabulous façades. Fortunately, the work of the old masters have been respected during the renovation of these buildings, the detail embellished with love and expertise. Today, you can visit these wonderful palaces, sip coffee, tuck into a tasty dish and bask in the surroundings.
Alice Terrace x Veuve Clicquot Garden
One of the most pleasant surprises this summer is that the recently renovated Manfréd Weiss Palace has opened to guests at the Alice Hotel now operating here on showcase boulevard Andrássy út – and to anyone else who cares to visit. The hotel was named after the charismatic and caring wife of the former manufacturer, who must have been as strong a character as Madame Clicquot, the Grand Dame of Champagne, honoured on every label of the Veuve Clicquot brand that lends the hotel terrace its name. The lobby and bar were fashioned from the Weiss family rooms, where countless details – including a stunningly restored carved solid-wood staircase – connect the present and the past. The garden is beautiful, and on warm summer evenings, it’s a great to gaze at wide, illuminated Andrássy út over a light dish. And if you really want to go for it, then the two-person option Uzsi és bubi, ‘Dining & Bubbles’, involves nicely decorated snacks arriving on a tiered serving platter, accompanied by a glass of champagne and coffee or tea.
A slice of history has returned and one of the most beautiful views from Buda Castle with the opening of Aranybástya, which can finally be visited again after 20 years. The building gained its name of Golden Bastion from the fortifications that stood here during the Turkish era. At that time, of course, the magnificent panorama had another role, to spy on any approaching enemy. The bastion was destroyed during the Recapture of Buda in 1686, and in its place Miklós Ybl of Opera House fame designed a Neo-Renaissance building in the 1870s. This was later bought by the painter and art collector Ferenc Hatvany, who also kept his collection of 800 items here. Amid this selection of elegant locations, Aranybástya is a little different in that due to the storms of history, little of the original interior remains, but the wonderful view, the simple elegance, the exciting past and the delicious dishes more than compensate. For summer, they await with lighter dishes, among which you can find specialities such as a ceviche of marinated fish. The desserts alone are worth the visit.
The home of the Buda Civic Shooting Society was once housed in this wonderful Neo-Renaissance building, in whose ballroom the Empress Elisabeth once waltzed, but was also graced by famous visitors such as Count Gyula Andrássy, the Archduke Joseph and former minister Ignác Darányi. After the Golden Age before the wars, this Sleeping Beauty lay asnooze for half a century until her torpor was finally broken thanks to the Haris family, who thoroughly renovated the place, creating Haris Park and the Bobo Restaurant within. The result is an elegant, but still relaxed location with a classic Buda atmosphere, where wonderfully furnished rooms sit in a large park full of freshly mowed lawns, beautiful plants and huge trees. In summer, Bobo offers seasonal dishes, substantial or light, which may be accompanied by Haris Park’s own gin.
Four Seasons Hotel - Gresham Palace
Of course, the wonderful Art-Nouveau Gresham Palace cannot be left out of the selection, as today’s hotel, originally
designed as the headquarters of the Gresham Life Assurance Company, was already
the gold standard in luxury in its day. Masters such as Miksa Róth, the Zsolnay
ceramics factory and Gyula Jungfer, creator of wrought-iron detail, all contributed
to its construction.
But you don't need to
throw around famous names to see what a wonderful building you are in, the
glass ceiling, considered one of the most beautiful in the world,
and the beauty of the Art-Nouveau Múzsa cocktail bar,
dazzle even without any background knowledge. Múzsa now awaits with an exciting
menu based on the concept of connecting the present, the past and the future, and here you
can also enjoy afternoon tea. Culinary delights
are also served at the hotel restaurant, KOLLÁZS Brasserie & Bar.
It was worth the wait for the renovation of Gundel,
the legendary restaurant with a century-long heritage, whose menu dates back to
the time of Károly Gundel 80 years ago. After its recent facelift, the classic Golden-Age atmosphere of the interior and the wonderful garden was cleared of elements
that did not belong and a more fitting milieu was created for the overall
picture. Dishes did not have to be reinvented, chefs András Wolf and Viktor
Moldován rather adopting Károly Gundel’s legacy, so the menu became the basis of
the 11 dishes he bequeathed. Tokaji
foie gras, goulash, Palóc soup, Újházy chicken soup, chicken paprikash,
Feszty sandwiches, Bakony-style mangalica pork, Carpathian-style pike-perch,
Somló galuska, Gundel pancakes and the Rákóczi cottage cheese have all
been included in the current selection. At the same time, Gundel is not only
for famous its food, but also for its hospitality and diversity. In its heyday,
families visiting Budapest Zoo would pop in, as would the bohemian fraternity
of City Park. The menu and décor equally echo this tradition.
Matild Café & Cabaret
The former Belvárosi Café, frequented by writer Gyula Krúdy, has reopened under the name of the Matild Café & Cabaret and is finally shining again in all its former glory. When you enter the Art-Nouveau interior, you are immediately captivated by the atmosphere, the olive-green decoration and gilded tendrils, the feather logos and the revolving stage that can ascend into view. Amid such elegance of the Gatsby era, you can look out over busy Ferenciek tere. Similar to the Spago restaurant and Duchess cocktail bar, the development of the gastronomic concept here is also taken care of by Austro-American star chef Wolfgang Puck and team. In addition to traditional main dishes, excellent desserts such as Rákóczi cottage cheese and Esterházy cake await.
New York Café
Another insurance company built this gem, its designer none other than Alajos Hauszmann, who also designed Buda Palace, so this radiant splendour should be no surprise. The style of the palace, which now operates as a hotel in addition to the café, is eclectic, with bronze fauns on the façade inviting you to take a look at the interior, whose shining chandeliers, beautiful gold decoration and mirrored interiors are reminiscent of an ornate Baroque castle. Sitting here and sampling the fine dishes of star chef András Wolf, Hungarians can muse on the fact that some of the nation’s most famous writers, Kosztolányi, Karinthy, Sándor Bródy, Mihály Babits, Margit Kaffka, Sándor Márai and Ferenc Molnár, the editorial staff of seminal literary journal Nyugat, all convened here.
Párisi Passage Café & Brasserie
The building of the
Párisi Udvar, completed in 1912-13, is particularly worth visiting because of its palatial elegance, combining eclectic Arab, Moorish and
Gothic features, a compilation of the architectural styles found in Budapest at
the time. Originally creating it for the Downtown Savings Bank, the finest
masters of the era worked on this apartment construction, so today you can once
again admire the Villeroy & Boch floor covering, the mahogany portal by Sage, also responsible for similar work at Harrods, the Zsolnay
tiling and Miksa Róth’s stained-glass windows. The restaurant within the
imposing arcade is overseen by chef Lajos Lutz, a member of the Bocuse d’Or Academy,
who has worked at many outstanding restaurants during his three-decade career,
including Kalla Kálmán’s Gundel and Mágnáskert.
From the renewed menu, guests can sample the Chef’s personal favourites, which include classic Hungarian dishes such as Baja fish soup, mangalica pork chops and golden dumplings. Since April, you have also been able to admire the wonderful building accompanied by sparkling bubbles, as that was when the ÉTOILE Champagne Bar was unveiled, where from Wednesday to Sunday you can sample unique vintage champagnes. (x)
Royal Guard Café
building at Buda Castle, designed by Alajos Hauszmann for the Royal Hungarian Guard,
was renovated in 2020,
its interior opened to visitors a little later, in 2021. In the events space,
where you also find an exhibition and a café, the red-and-gold interior evokes
the uniforms of hussars, also depicted. On the other side of the building, a
wonderful view of Krisztinaváros and Tabán spreads out below. The food
selection is somewhat eclectic, you can find traditional dishes such as goulash
and pumpkin stew, but also hamburgers, and after lunch you can look forward to
Stylish cafés in town
During the Golden Age of Budapest, while the gentlemen frequented
pubs and coffeehouses, the well-bred ladies preferred a slice of cake at a confectionery.
Fortunately, traces of this tradition remain to this day in the form of elegant
pâtisseries in the city centre. Of course, mention must be made of the reliably
excellent Gerbeaud and
jewellery boxes both, as well as Geraldine,
which opened last year in the National Museum gardens. Here you can easily sense
the fin-de-siècle ambience and luxury within a modern interior.