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My own grand Budapest hotel

by Bernard O'Shea

It can be fun acting out someone else’s travel fantasies, especially if it involves staying in a palatial hotel in Budapest.


“I’m putting you up in my favourite hotel in Budapest,” my travel agent said. “But you’ve never been to Budapest,” I protested. He and I had swapped travel tales and we knew each other’s territory.

“Yes but if I was going to Budapest, this is where I would stay – look.” He turned his computer monitor around to show me. “It’s like a palace.”

I took one look at the building. It was lit up at night and looked elegant and grand. The exterior was a splendid mix of Greek, Roman, Baroque and Renaissance architecture. The interior was pretty plush too, in a more modern fashion. “The price is pretty good, considering,” he said. Considering what? Easy for him to say. He wasn’t the one paying!

The hotel's stylish atrium.

The hotel’s stylish atrium.

I had to make a quick decision. I should really say no – it was too extravagant. Luxury hotels are usually out of my price range. But you have to treat yourself every now and then, and staying at a palatial European building would be a new experience for someone who has lived all his life in parts of Africa and Australia. Sometimes you should let fate – or its agents – decide these matters. “Okay,” I assented. “Book me in.”

And so I went off to Hungary to live out my travel agent’s fantasies.

A cafe like no other

The hotel in question was the Boscolo Budapest (which has recently been sold by Boscolo and is now the Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel). I really enjoyed staying there, even though it is in quite a busy part of Pest, about two kilometres from the Danube river. After a long day’s sightseeing, returning to its sumptuous comforts was a real treat.

Even if you’d prefer to say in a hotel with river views, you should visit the Buscolo/Anantara because it has one of the most beautiful cafes in the world, the New York Café.

The cafe  is open daily from 8am to midnight and has a comprehensive menu – currently 36 pages (browse it here). If you are with someone special, come for the New York Afternoon Tea For Two (a three-tier tray of finger sandwiches, mini cakes, bonbons and macarons) or the Franz Joseph Experience For Two, which offers a similar selection of cakes and pastries, plus a beef goulash soup.

The frescoes on the ceiling date back to the mid-1800s.

The frescoes on the ceiling date back to the mid-1800s.

Cafe patrons at night.

What’s the New York connection? The building was once the offices of the New York Life Insurance Company, and it had other incarnations. Being a journalist, I like the fact that it also housed the offices of an important, but now defunct, literary magazine, Nyugat. I wish my office looked like this.

Downstairs from the cafe is the breakfast room.  As you can imagine, for hotel guests it feels pretty good starting your day with a buffet in this setting.

Budapest is a big city, busy and noisy, and exploring it usually involves a lot of walking. Returning to this elegant haven after a hard day out and about is bliss.

A note to my travel agent: when you eventually get to Budapest, you know where to go. TTW

Bernard O’Shea travelled to Hungary and stayed at the Boscolo at his own expense. Photos © Bernard O’Shea.

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