on August 27, 2010
Even from behind the shabby swathes of netting that currently conceal the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal's impressive facade from the street, there's little disputing the extent to which the hotel lives up to its promise: "the grandeur of the old ... the luxury of the new". Marketing itself as a luxury spa hotel, this pleasant offsetting of old and new works well in helping the Corinthia stand apart from its competitors in Budapest, a city with plenty of spas on offer, and growingly, plenty of luxury.The hotel's facade looks on onto busy Erzsébet körút, but behind the imposing original exterior, the Corinthia boasts a vast, quiet lobby with towering glass ceilings and acres of space. Staff are attentive and keen to help, and are without apparent exception comfortable in a variety of European languages; English-speakers being typically much harder to come by in Hungary than German. Throughout the hotel, the sense of space and light is maintained, even if the decoration takes blandness to muddy heights of ambivalence. My girlfriend felt the Corinthia had a somewhat masculine atmosphere, and was peeved to find no hairdryer in the room (a Superior Guestroom), but for me it was just a little clinical and grey. The room itself was spacious and well-equipped, with the luxury aspect of the hotel best demonstrated in the bathroom, with a large bath and shower. In this room and throughout the suite, lighting was a bit intense; in the bathroom, it's full-glare, wake-up-the-city headlamps or nothing, and in the rest of the suite, only a couple of the lamps worked. Not a big deal, but in a room that's supposed to cost £300, some lower-level lighting would help with the atmosphere.We paid £80 a night (various reduced rates can be found online), which represented excellent value for what you get ... which, in all honestly, isn't any more than the room, but this in itself is sufficiently high-end and comfortable to justify the reduced outlay at least. Breakfast comes at an extra £20 per person, per day, a price which'll wake you up in the morning if the coffee fails to do its thing, while the minibar is as expected, the welcome bottle of water on the desk is £6 (made from virgin unicorn's tears, I hope, at the price), and the on-site spa offers a range of pocket-busting treatments. The swimming pool and sauna are free, however. In all honestly, the Corinthia is probably out of my price-range - although anyone's value-for-money sensibilities are likely to be tested during a stay.Still, as a base for exploring a fascinating city, it's an excellent one. Located five minutes' walk from Oktagon metro station (tickets 340 Forint/£1), and fifteen minutes from Nyugati station (with twenty-minute connections to the airport (360 Forint), you're the shortest hop from anywhere in central Budapest, and tree-lined Liszt Ferenc square, just around the corner, represents a fine alternative to the hotel's offensive breakfast prices (and underwhelming options). Numerous cafes here serve up appetising breakfasts for less than £5; Cafe Vian is especially good.So then, an extremely comfortable, convenient base - but one that falls short of the kind of luxury and attention-to-detail I'd expect if I was going to spend £300 a night on the Corinthia. It's plenty nice enough, but the rather sterile environment and clenched-buttocks atmosphere would stop me from showering praise on the hotel.
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