Anantara’s New York Palace in Budapest Returns to Its Glory
By Steve Jermanok
On the edge of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, a 10-minute walk from the historic Doheny Synagogue, is the latest Anantara property to open in Europe, the Anantara New York Palace. Making its debut in 1894 as the headquarters of New York Life Insurance, the building was bombed in World War II and soon became a boarding house under Communist rule. The Italian hotel company, Boscolo, took it over in 2001 and poured millions of dollars into the space. This included transforming its signature restaurant, the New York Palace, back to the glamour of yesteryear. Once the meeting spot for literati and artists, it is now one of the most popular restaurants in the city, where both locals and visitors wait on long lines to get inside and take that winning Instagram shot.
Guests staying at the Anantara have first dibs on tables at the New York Palace and we took advantage of that opportunity to dine on a balcony overlooking the restaurant while listening to a piano player. We sampled tasty Hungarian specialties, served on small plates to share, like goulash, chicken paprikash, trout, and aubergines.
Live music at the restaurant and in the large atrium that serves as a grand lobby are a few of the elegant touches Anantara has implemented since taking over the property last November. They recently opened a spa with large indoor pool and revamped the rooms in the Crystal Elevator side of the building where we stayed. Our spacious room came with an oversized tub, the perfect place to unwind after long days of walking the broad streets of Pest and hills of Buda. Our room overlooked an inner courtyard that was peaceful at night.
Anantara always seems to offer one unique activity at each of its properties. At the Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort, we rode a tuk-tuk with a chef to the large city food market, where he showed us all the exotic vegetables, fruit, and seafood. Then we went back to the resort to cook a memorable 3-course lunch.
Here, as in Bangkok, the Anantara is offering a 3 to 4-hour guided tour of the city in a 1962 VW Samba Camper Van. There’s no better way to grasp the vast size of Budapest and see many of its monumental architectural feats, like one of the largest Parliament buildings in the world, on a driving tour through the city. We made stops at Heroes’ Square, the fascinating Museum of Ethnography, the 691-room Parliament Building, Doheny Synagogue, a 500-year-old Turkish bath, and a glorious overlook of the entire city from atop Buda.
We ended with a pilsner at one of Budapest’s well-known Ruin Bars, Szimpla, once an abandoned building left to decay after World War II, now a thriving cosmopolitan hub packed with people exploring the many rooms, stairwells, and other nooks and crannies, drinks in hand and music blaring. Afterwards, we walked back to the hotel and checked out the spa, where only the sauna and steam room were open. After a good schvitz, we drank lemon-cucumber water and floated in the spa’s bird cage chairs. A surreal ending to our time in the city.
Visit Anantara New York Palace
Steve Jermanok has explored close to 100 countries and written over 2000 articles on a broad range of subjects, from food to art to adventure. He has worked as a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, contributing editor for Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, and guest editor for The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. In May 2012, Steve and his wife launched ActiveTravels, a new type of travel agency where your travel advisors have more than likely been to that one country that entices you. Since ActiveTravels opened their doors, Steve and Lisa have booked over 1,000 trips to all corners of the globe. Steve has been blogging daily at ActiveTravels.com since 2009.