Old Apr 1, 09, 1:29 am
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DavidO
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Berkeley, CA
Programs: Virtuoso, FSPP, STARS, MO FAN Club, PEN Club, Bellini Club, Dorchester Diamond Club, Travel Leaders
Posts: 1,643
Prague and Budapest - hotel site inspection report

Though I've given a brief summary of Budapest properties in another thread, this is my complete site inspection report from Prague and Budapest.

PRAGUE

Four Seasons Prague

Fans of Four Seasons hotels will not be disappointed by this property. The hotel has a prime location on the Vltava River, just a block from the Charles Bridge. Existing Baroque, Renaissance, and neo-Classical buildings have been joined by new construction that ties together the three historic buildings. The design motif of each "section" of the hotel is intended to reflect each of these historic periods as well as the cultural context of the destination.

Lead-in rooms (Superior and Deluxe) are standard Four Seasons rooms - sizable, well furnished, with predictably comfortable and large bathrooms with separate walk-in showers and soaking tubs. It is when you get to the more upscale rooms that the character of this hotel really becomes apparent. Premier Rooms look out across the Vltava River, and at night the lighted Prague Castle high on the hill across the river provides a stunning view. Rooms in the Renaissance wing are immense with 12-foot high ceilings with a beautiful crystal chandeliers. For a really special WOW, book a Premier One Bedroom Suite.

The hotel's restaurant features cuisine that has won the first Michelin star ever awarded in Eastern Europe. We enjoyed a meal prepared by Chef Andrea Accordi that was both creative and exquisite.


Mandarin Oriental Prague

This small luxury hotel with only 99 rooms opened in the past few years and features the contemporary Asian styling that Mandarin Oriental is known for. First built as a monastery in the 14th century, the property has a superb location in the "Lesser Village" of Prague (the oldest part of the city). It is just a two minute walk from the Charles Bridge.

Rooms are attractively decorated and have beautiful bathrooms. However, as only 75% of the bathrooms have both a tub and a walk-in shower, it is essential to make your preference known so that you can be blocked in the appropriate room. Deluxe rooms seemed a bit cramped. I would recommend that most guests book at least a Deluxe Mandarin category ... and ask to be blocked on a floor with higher ceilings. The rooms in this property do not have the exceptional views that some of the FS rooms enjoy.

I very much enjoyed my meal at the MO's restaurant, Essensia. Serving Asian-European fusion food, each course was superb.


Pachtuv Palace

A member of Mamaison Hotels and part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the world, Pachtuv Palace is a solid 4-star hotel housed in a Baroque mansion. It offers large rooms, some of which offer laundry facilities and kitchenettes. Guest rooms offer a lot of local character, some featuring vaulted chapel ceilings, frescoes, and sculptures. Bathrooms are large and modern with single vanities and shower/tub combinations. This is a good value in a good location, on the river and a short walk from the Charles Bridge.


Kempinski Hybernská Prague

This brand new five star hotel at the edge of the Old City features stunning contemporary styling within a neo-Classical building. Most of the property's rooms are suites that include a kitchenette, providing residential accommodations for families staying in Prague. Rooms feel a bit cramped, however. Even though there is adequate square footage in the suites, their design divides them into discrete sleeping and living areas, each of which is a bit too small. Rooms on the top floors have dormer windows, and the slanted ceiling (following the roofline) cuts into the cubic space of the room.


BUDAPEST

Four Seasons Gresham Palace

The Four Seasons deserves its reputation as one of the finest hotels in the world. Originally built in 1906, the Gresham Palace was a magnificent art nouveau masterpiece built for the Gresham Life Assurance Company. It suffered serious damage at the hands of the German Army in 1944. Later nationalized by the government of Hungary, it was turned into an apartment house. Over time, however, the building fell into a state of disrepair. Finally, in 1998, Four Seasons was hired to oversee the conversion of the palace into a hotel; $110 million dollars and six years later, the hotel was unveiled in 2004. The glass domed roof of the lobby was restored, as were stained glass windows throughout the building, the mosaic lobby floor (with over 1 million tiles), and the the wrought iron peacock gates.

Lead-in rooms (Superior, Deluxe, and Gresham) do not have a river view, but they are generously sized guest rooms (from 345 to 506 square feet) with all the comforts you would expect of a Four Seasons. Danube rooms (Superior, Deluxe, and Premier) face the front of the building, overlooking the Chain Bridge and the Royal Palace. Lit up at night, views from these rooms are spectacular.

During my site inspection, I saw a Gresham room (very comfortable but with no view), stayed in a Deluxe Danube room (a large, high ceilinged room with the view described above), and was shown a Junior Suite (very large and impressive) and the Royal Suite (book this for a real WOW!).


Kempinski Corvinus

Although this hotel is just 16 years old, it is feeling very dated. There was a black Mercedes SUV on display in the hotel lobby. Granted the hotel industry is facing some hard times, luxury hotels usually do not double as new car showrooms. It takes away from any ambiance that the hotel might have offered.

I felt claustrophobic just walking through the hallways of this property. Long, winding corridors decorated in shades of yellow and pale green (yuck), no natural light, no decorations or anything else to take away from their plainness. The air was stale, and I was happy just to get out of the hotel at the end of the site inspection. Given these feelings, it really doesn't matter what the rooms were like.


Le Meridien

This property should replace the Kempinski as the other Virtuoso offering in Budapest; it is a member of FHR. Right next door to the Kempinski and facing Elizabeth Square, the lobby offers a classic European feel. Next to the lobby is a large, round room in which guests have breakfast; the ceiling of this room is a large, round stained glass dome - very impressive.

Originally built in 1914-1918 as the office of an insurance company, with some shops and luxury apartments, the building suffered damage during World War II. At the end of the war, it became the police headquarters and, following the fall of Communism, was converted into a luxury hotel with 218 rooms, opening in 2000. We were shown a Superior Room (one window with adequate space), a Deluxe Room (two windows with very nice space), a Junior Suite (corner rooms with three or four windows), as well as an Executive Suite and the Diplomatic Suite. Free internet is provided in the Deluxe category and higher. Bathrooms are of moderate size with separate tubs and walk-in showers. The Diplomatic Suite on the top floor of the building is a very impressive apartment.


Andrassy

Andrassy is a part of Mamaison Hotels and the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. A very nice four star hotel with 68 rooms, it is well located near the Opera, the Budapest Art Museum, the Zoo, and the Thermal Baths. This property does a good job of providing exactly what a four star hotel should. With a clean and interesting Bauhaus-style interior design, guestrooms are visually appealing and appropriately sized — Superior at 270 square feet, Deluxe at 375 square feet, and Junior Suite at 430 square feet. Attractive tile bathrooms have tub/shower combinations. The hotel's restaurant, Bakara, features the cuisine of its young Hungarian chef. Though not luxurious at the level of the Four Seasons, Andrassy provides exactly what it promises, attractive accommodations at quite affordable rates.
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