For more than 120 years, the Matild Palace has stood over the Elisabeth Bridge, welcoming those who cross the Danube River from Buda to Pest – the two halves that make up Hungary’s capital city.
Built in 1902 when the Austro-Hungarian empire was economically strong, the palace was erected as a symbol of strength and success.
From its golden era in the early 20th century to the present day, the Matild was a place where people came to be seen and to bask in the glory of its luxurious surroundings.
Before the realm broke up in 1918, Europe’s rich, imperial and popular would rush here to associate in the royal residence’s public café, which in those days was a star of Hungary’s well known café culture.
In any case, regardless of enduring two world wars and partaking in a 1950s renaissance, the Matild Palace declined under communist rule and post-Soviet era revival attempts never quite restored its former glory.
Following a five-year change led by widely acclaimed interior designer Maria Vafiadis and local modelers Puhl Antal and Péter Dajka, the Matild Castle has by and by recovered its status as a gem in Budapest’s social scene.
The Palace reopened its doors as a 130-room, luxury five-star hotel in 2021 – the Marriott-branded Matild Palace, A Luxury Collection Hotel – marking the latest chapter in its rich and vibrant history.
The Matild Palace’s story started in the late nineteenth century when Princess Marie Clotilde of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the Archduchess of Austria, who lived in Hungary, was pushing to bring some western European Beauty Époque culture to the country.
She charged the Matild, and a sister who built, the Klotild Royal residence, to remain on one or the other side of the Bug side access to the recently developed Elisabeth Scaffold over the Danube. Matild Castle was one of the main, meaningful royal residences at the centre of Pest.
According to Professor József Laszlovszky, director of the cultural heritage studies program at Central European University, it was seen as a symbol of the 1873 fusion of three urban centers – Buda, Pest and Óbuda – into a new city.
“This fast urban development resulted in a new big, cosmopolitan city at the end of the 19th century, and new avenues and streets were created in this period, together with impressive public buildings and palaces.”
Completed in 1902, following plans delivered by architects Flóris Korb and Kálmán Giergl, Matild Palace quickly became the toast of Budapest. Royalty, presidents, prime ministers, and even international celebrities were all regulars. Not only were they greeted by interiors holding intricate Zsolnay ceramics, but also stunning stained glass works by famous Hungarian artist Miksa Róth.
Noteworthy methods utilized in the royal residence’s unique development were a portion of the first to be found in Hungary. The center iron design embellished with cut stone was a demonstration of the structural resourcefulness of the time.
The Otis Elevator Company installed the very first elevator system seen in Hungary within the Matild Palace. The property also included delicate moldings and artworks by an array of local craftsmen. These have all been lovingly restored and reimagined by artisans within today’s luxury five-star Matild Palace hotel.
During the last two decades, various attempts had been made to recreate the splendor of the original building and the café house of the palace. However, it was only fulfilled in the last five years following the construction of the Matild Palace hotel which returned the building to its original glory. Therefore, this represents a unique example of built heritage, as well as of intangible heritage, and one of the best examples of the café house culture in Budapest.
After the devastation of the First and Second World Wars, culminating in the 1944-45 Siege of Budapest, the legendary Belvárosi Kávéház café situated inside the Matild Palace remained open, playing host to socialites, artists and writers who were regulars in Hungary’s famous café culture.
Post-war, the Matild Castle was reestablished in 1956, agreeing with the Hungarian Upset – the fleeting uprising against Soviet control. The reopening of the castle’s café at the time was an image of a fresh start, a commitment of expectation and restoration for people of Budapest. The café by and by became a center point of travel, and the palace was immediately placed into full use, though under stricter control.
As a result of the communist system change, the café house was nationalized and it was the start of a long period, when various functions were found for the building. However, these new roles often resulted in neglect of the building’s architectural and artistic assets and wore away at its café culture.
The café house was, for example, a student canteen, or later a nightclub, with significant changes made to the decoration without restoring the original architectural design. And it wasn’t enough to completely undermine the irrepressible elegance of the Matild Palace. In a testament to the resilience of this historic architectural masterpiece and, most importantly, the Hungarian human spirit, the palace was placed under UNESCO protection in 1977.
In 1984, following another extensive refurbishment, the Belvárosi Kávéház reopened with a new name, Lidó.
The Lidó became more than just a café for the people of Budapest during this time. It became a cultural hub, offering a lunchtime folklore show with dance and music as well as live jazz, cabaret shows and other entertainment.
$80 Million Transformation:
As Hungary entered the new thousand years, the Matild Palace proceeded to adjust and develop with the times. The Lidó took on various new pretenses. It was initially a disco club, then later a gambling club and presently the Matild café and Nightclub which has been affectionately reestablished to honor its Belvarosi Kávéház days.
The most striking change occurred in 2017, is when a significant redesign project said to be valued at $80 million started off to transform the Matild Royal residence into a lavish hotel.
During the renovation and refurbishment of Matild Palace, the designers and owners paid particular attention to reconstructing the historic spaces in their original form, recreating the atmosphere of 120 years ago, according to Péter Dajka, one of the architects behind the latest Matild Palace renovation projects.
Today, the Matild Palace has been reestablished to its unique magnificence, bringing the façade, section, flights of stairs, interiors, and verifiable café back to their unique Beauty Époque style.
The ‘world’s most expensive wine’:
According to Selim Olmez, the General manager at Matild Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, all of their guestrooms – featuring unique and delicate detailing such as headboards with Hungarian handcrafting, Hungarian style fishbone-design parquet floors and artwork referencing Budapest literature – were designed to honor their incredibly rich past.
The award-winning apartment suite has crystal chandeliers, handmade glass mosaics and bespoke furniture, from marble-clad electric fireplaces to gilded bathrooms.