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Gresham Palace

Located right the heart of Budapest, next to the river Danube and Chain Bridge Gresham Palace is a perfect example of Art Nouveau architecture. It was built in 1906 as an office and apartment building according to the architectural design of the local architects Zsigmond Quittner and Jozsef Vago.

Gresham Palace, 1907.
Gresham Palace, 1909.
Gresham Palace, 1910.

The site where the Gresham Palace stands today originally housed a neo-classic palace called the Nako House, designed by József Hild and built in 1827 by wholesale merchant Antal Deron. In 1880, the London-based Gresham Life Assurance Company bought the Nako House as its company headquarters on this site but then, in 1903, decided to demolish the Nako House and build from scratch. Gresham Palace was completed in 1906 and opened in 1907.

Gresham Palace, 1910.
Gresham Palace, 1911.

The time of completion occurred during Hungary’s Golden Age and some of the most famous artists and craftsmen of the time worked to make the Gresham Palace one of the most glamorous buildings in Pest, and one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture in the world. The artist Géza Maróti created many original sculptures for the building.

Between the wars, the Gresham Café was the meeting place for the Gresham Circle of artists. The Podium Cabaret in the basement was the place where Bohemian artists rubbed shoulders with fur-clad aristocrats while they watched the risqué and satirical shows. The cabaret was closed for a time in the twenties for being too ‘daring’ but enjoyed a second lease of life between 1936 and the outbreak of the War. In the Café above, famous figures such as István Szőnyei, József Egry, Pál Pátzay, and Jenő Barcsay discussed new movements in art.

Gresham Palace, 1938.

During World War II, the building was bombarded from across the river and seriously damaged. When the Chain Bridge was blown up during the German retreat, the shock waves blew the peacock gates on Mérleg utca right off their hinges. After the War, during the occupation, the Red Army used the building as a barracks. Eventually, it became decrepit and was used as an apartment building during the People’s Republic of Hungary.

The ceremony of handing over the reconstructed Chain Bridge, in the background to the Gresham Palace, 1949.
Gresham Palace, 1975.

In 1990, following the end of the communist regime, the national government presented the palace to the city of Budapest. In 2001, the building was bought by the Irish investment company Quinland Private. They extensively rebuilt the structure as a luxury hotel, restoring such original details as a large staircase, stained glass, mosaics, ironwork, and winter gardens. The hotel reopened in June 2004. In November 2011, the hotel was bought by the State General Reserve Fund of Oman, though Four Seasons continues to manage it. It currently has 179 guest rooms, including 17 suites.