Jim’s Journal: A Luxurious Take on Budapest

by  Jim Sherman | Aug 11, 2014
Four Seasons Budapest Gresham Palace
Four Seasons Budapest Gresham Palace / Photo courtesy of the property

I have been to Budapest several times and, on each visit, I adore staying at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace. In the off-season (winter, or shoulder season in fall or early spring), rates are quite reasonable relative to other 5-star properties in Paris, London, or New York City. (Think $280-$320 per night, compared with $500+.) The Gresham Palace is, in many ways, in a league of its own when it comes to Budapest’s hotel offerings. In fact, it was just named the number three hotel in the world in Travel + Leisure's 2014 World Best Awards. The majestic old-world structure was originally designed to be an insurance company before it became a hotel.

Rooms of the Gresham Palace are spacious, contemporary, and luxurious. Many face the Buda side of the city and offer stunning views of the castle, which is lit up at night, along with the famous Chain Bridge. I also love the hotel’s intimate lobby bar and restaurant. The restaurant has the feel of a grand old Budapest café (which it actually was many years ago). Have lunch or dinner on its lovely terrace. The Gresham Palace also boasts a spa and gym with city views.

And from my experience, the staff, and level of service, is much better than you’ll find at comparable Four Seasons properties in Europe and North America. I was amazed at how many of the staff knew my name.

On this recent stay, I visited and highly recommend two terrific restaurants – Aszu for contemporary Hungarian dishes (truly outstanding fine dining), and L’Occhio di Stille. The latter is on the top floor of a luxe department store and affords incredible views; after being open just a few months, it’s one of the city’s trendiest spots for a full meal or drinks.

My favorite things to do in Budapest, aside from just strolling along its beautiful boulevards and small streets, include a visit to the Szechenyi thermal baths and the surrounding park, a tour of the Opera House, and exploring Monument Park. The park feels a bit like a socialist Disneyland with more than two-dozen sculptures from the communist era.

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