Why book Matild Palace?
To step back into the resplendence of Belle Epoque Budapest brought cleverly up to the minute.
Set the scene
Full-height wrought iron gates bookend a sweeping lobby, where suited and booted Europeans march from the Danube riverfront into the lounge, sidestepping curious foodies at new-for-2021 Spago. A recent restoration – lengthier than the building’s original fin de siècle construction time – has peppered the building with snazzy golds and greens intended to emulate the city’s rooftops, traditional metalwork art and a reverence for the Palace’s heritage.
This grandest of grand dames was originally intended as a social hub for Budapest’s 20th-century artists and academics. Her Royal Highness Maria Klotild oversaw the creation of Matild Palace and its twin just over the road, commissioning the pair as a landmark for those crossing the Danube into Buda from Pest. At the time, it was a boundary-pushing example of modernism – the lobby featured Budapest’s first lift, for example. But after a prosperous few decades, the building suffered significant damage in the war and was left to gather dust. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Marriott have taken the reins and overseen a five-year painstaking renovation that culminated in the grand reopening in 2021.
The soaring ceilings and jewel-toned velvets in the 130 rooms should come as no surprise after the grand Art-Nouveau-meets-Baroque public spaces. MKV Design, the team behind several of the planet’s smartest properties, including the hotels at Costa Navarino in Greece, have kept things simple. Arty touches nod to the Palace’s bohemian former life – Art Deco panelling behind squishy beds, ginormous mirrors and marble coffee tables are in most rooms. The views across the river threaten to be the star of the show – we recommend opening the drapes from bed for a smug early morning view of Pest waking up – until you spot the bathroom. Inspired by Hungary’s well-documented spa culture and Zsolnay tiles, they’re bigger than most London flats, with a bath huge enough to submerge in separated by glass doors. Heaven.
Food and drink
Crowd-pleasing. The ground floor restaurant Spago is a Beverly Hills to Budapest transport from Wolfgang Puck. The slick dining room is at street level, spilling onto the patio outside in warmer months, and perfect for people gawping. Menus are fairly typical of the master chef, but foie gras pizza and huge steaks are joined by traditional Hungarian dishes such as goulash and steak tartare for a local feel. Breakfast is also served in Spago and is a notably more casual affair than supper. Rooftop bar The Duchess is dark and sexy, although it’s worth noting that the outside areas with the best views aren’t open in winter. Most excitingly, as of spring 2022, the building’s original café will reopen as the reimagined Matild Cafe and Cabaret. It’s a gorgeous two-level, panelled space with live performances on the original stage – unearthed when a local gentleman alerted workers to its existence beneath the concrete during construction.
Plenty of people come to Budapest primarily for a hit of spa culture and the Palace taps into that. The Swan Spa is a classic bath experience – with a Hammam, thermal therapy, steam rooms and saunas. Afterwards, you can wander in a dream-like state back to the cocoon of your room without having to trek across the city.
Budapest is easily one of Europe’s prettiest cities – all romantic architecture, much of it thoughtfully restored and rebuilt, spread across the hills and river. The foodie Jewish Quarter is within walking distance of the hotel and our top tip for seeking out lunch or supper.
Light-hearted and smooth – staff are well-practised at navigating guests’ requests, however demanding, while remaining warm and congenial. A sommelier is on-hand in the restaurant to talk you through the lengthy wine list, and mixologists will happily mix you an off-menu cocktail or swap your table for one with a better view.
As with many Marriott properties, careful thought has been taken throughout to ensure appliances and procedures use as little energy as possible. Here, that looks like minimised carbon emissions (no gas or fuel), an irrigated area on the rooftop, sustainably-sourced fish and produce in the restaurants and regular sustainability council meetings to keep on top of levelling up the hotel's green credentials.
Accessibility for those with mobility impairments
There are a number of accessible guest rooms with roll-in showers, hearing-accessible kits, lowered vanities and more.