History of the hotel
tHE GRAND STORY OF A GRAND HOTEL
The historical background of the Grand Hotel Royal
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Grand Hotel Royal has been reinvented and rebranded under the careful eye of Corinthia whereupon Corinthia Hotel Budapest was born. Since opening its doors in 2004, Corinthia Budapest has entertained the great and the good but its history as the Grand Hotel Royal goes much further back. So let us take a step back in time and investigate the past life of this Hungarian hospitality juggernaut.
A New Urban Concept
The course of the Grand Boulevard (Nagykörút), upon which Corinthia Hotel Budapest resides, was marked out during the 1870’s together with Andrássy Avenue, Budapest’s most impressive street. The road went through a thinly populated part of suburban Budapest, so its development was rather slow, and only a few buildings were constructed in the 1870’s. The real development of the Grand Boulevard began once Andrássy Avenue was completed in 1884.
The Royal Christening
The Grand Hotel Royal was originally opened for visitors of the highly successful Millennium Exhibition in 1896. A joint-stock company, established by the most important hotel owners of the day, including the chairman Frigyes Glück and the planner architect Rezső Ray, had succeed in purchasing the largest piece of real estate on the developing Grand Boulevard.
By this time the Grand Boulevard had become the main artery of the Hungarian capital and the hotel rooms enjoyed superb views of this most attractive part of Budapest. The official opening ceremony was on 30th April 1896 attracting many visitors and after its opening; the Royal became a regular haunt of contemporary Hungarian writers and journalists, including Jenő Heltay, Sándor Hunyadi, Lajos Nagy, and Gyula Krúdy.
At the time of its opening, the hotel comprised of 350 guest rooms, in the adjacent building and attic rooms for the staff. The architectural style was French renaissance and the latest technology of the era was used throughout. The aim was to create a building equipped for the highest levels of luxury, with high quality services and professionally organised operations.
Besides the facilities (post office, bank, hairdresser, and ticket office) guests and the public had access to two restaurants, a café, a Gerbeaud confectionery and private dining rooms. In the cellar, there was not only a grocery store but also a bar. In the western cour d’honneur a palm garden made the court more attractive.
In 1896, the year of its opening, the Lumiére brothers held the first screening of a motion picture in Budapest at the hotel, an event which would later become a regular exhibition. While also housing a ‘cinema’ of sorts, several classical concerts were held in the Royal Ballroom, and Béla Bartók, the world-famous Hungarian composer, frequently conducted music there.
However, with the growing popularity of the motion picture, the Royal Ballroom ceased to exist as a part of the hotel when it was reconstructed as the Royal Apollo cinema and after the Second World War, it reopened its doors in 1959as the Red Star cinema with its entrance on Hársfa Street. As well as hosting the first motion picture screening in the country, to add to its trove of ‘firsts’ and to show how truly forward thinking they were, in 1909, the first Hungarian airplane was exhibited in one of the hotel’s cour d’honneur.
Decline, Fall and Rise
From the Second World War until 1953, the Royal served not only as a hotel, but also as an office building. In 1953 the building was restored to become a hotel, but just three years later the roof was destroyed by fire. This unfortunate event forced the architects to reconstruct the whole building. The Royal was intended to be a hotel representative of the age, since none of the hotels which now line the Danube bank had been established yet. István Janáky, architect of the reconstruction, reconsidered the building’s interior as the ‘space idealism’ of his age.
Today, no remaining fragments of the original interior can be found as the demolition and reconstruction in 1956 sadly destroyed every trace. In 1961 the Royal was re-opened as a hotel, with 367 guest rooms but over the years the hotel became obsolete and finally, it was closed in the autumn of 1991, although the cinema continued working until the autumn of 1997.
The original visitor’s book contains the signatures of some of the most important people from Europe and the rest of the world. Just a few examples are Max Reinhardt, Asta Nilsen, Saljapin, Valdemar Psylander, Professor Barnard, Roberto Benzi, Mario del Monaco, Anna Moffo, Renata Scotto, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Amerigo Tot and Valentina Tereskova.
In honour of legendary French/American Jazz entertainer Josephine Baker, our culinary team has created the Royal Cake, a glorious gluten-free chocolate and raspberry-based delicacy inspired by her stunning performance at our Orfeum Club in 1928.
The display not only presents the key events of the past decade, but it also takes us on a journey going back in time more than 100 years to reveal the history of the building.
Almost from the moment it opened in 1896, it was attracting the most famous, most creative of Hungarians. Very soon afterwards, the great and the good of the world stage were making their way to the Grand Hotel Royal.
From stunning spa space, to crumbling ruin, to fully-restored glory, discover the story behind our fabulous Royal Spa.
Read the full story of our hotel since 1896 from a view of a great author
Join us on a journey back through History with our living history of the hotel, all the way back to 1896!