Danubius Hotel Gellért is one of the oldest and most famous hotels of Hungary. Set in picturesque surroundings, it lies on the bank of the Danube at the foot of Gellért hill, that make its location exceptionally advantageous. Easily accessible, downtown area is just across the beautiful Szabadság (Liberty) bridge.
St. Gellért Bishop
Encyclopedia, travel and history books, as well as prayer-books commemorate the bishop who suffered martyrdom in 1046 AD. The Gellért Hill and the hotel was named after him. Since 1904 the bishop’s statue overlooks Erzsébet Bridge from above the well-known waterfall.
He was born to a rich family around 980 AD in Venice, Italy. The Benedictine monk obtained great knowledge in sciences of that time. According to some sources, he was bound the Holy Land, when to an invitation from a Hungarian Benedictine he decided to stay here. Other sources claim that he was invited by King Stephan I to facilitate conversion to Christianity. Later he became the mentor of the king’s son, Prince Imre. In 1030, then as the bishop of Marosvár (Csanád), he founded the Cathedral and Monastery there. After the death of Stephan in 1038 Gellért lived a retired life. Legend holds that pagan Hungarians revolting against the institution of Christianity locked him up in a barrel and threw him off the by-then Kelen Hill to the Danube. Along with Stephan and Imre, Gellért was canonized in 1083.
The Gellért Hill is one of Budapest’s most commonly known sights, offering spectacular views over the capital. The 778-feet high hill appealing to hikers and rich in both history and natural habitat is located in district 11th. Often referred to as the ’Gem of Budapest’ the hill and the adjoining areas of natural preservation are parts of the Unesco World Heritage.
The Citadella is also to be found here, which is an important historical and touristic site for Hungary. The fortress was built between 1850 and 1854, after the repression of the Hungarian revolution against the Habsburg rule in 1849. Construction was ordered by Haynau, an Austrian general, to provide oversight to the potentially uprising Hungarians. The Statue of Liberty by sculptor Zsigmond Kisfaudy Stróbl, commemorates the end of the Nazi rule and the ’liberation’ of Hungary by the Red Army.
Gellért Hill is home to a great amount of natural values. It has geological significance, as tectonic lines by its foot are responsible for thermal water springs found throughout Buda, such as springs Árpád, Rákóczi and Mátyás. Caves in the Gellért Hill are subject to national preservation, including Cave Iván and its chapel, as well as the spring caves of Gellért and Rudas spas.
Saint Gellért Cave Chapel is a national sanctuary. It consists of two parts: the ancient upper cave (Iván Cave or Lourdes Cave) and the lower artificial caves found further inside the mountain. Temperature is 21 degrees Celsius all year round. The Cave Chapel was built to the natural caves by the one and only Hungarian-founded Pálos order (Order Of St. Paul, the First Hermit).
It was turned to a temple in 1926 by Kálmán Lux and was designed after the Lourdes Cave. By the end of the 1950’s the communist regime dismissed the Paulian order and walled up the entrance. Later the temple was used as an observation site for karst topography, while the cloister served as a dorm for students of the Hungarian State Ballet Institute. The complex was reopened on August 27th, 1989. The cloister can be accessed through the St. Stephan Chapel. Fretworks decorating the walls
were carved by Béla Ferenc. The most valuable artifact of the Paulian order is also kept here: the shinbone of St. Paul the First Hermit. The altar is from the Zsolnay factory, Pécs.
Gellért Hotel and Spa
Bathing culture of the ancient Hungarians is unrevealed. According to some chronicles, thermal springs of Buda were recognized by the kings of the Árpád dynasty (1000-1301). Data from 1178 implies that the Johannite Order established a hospital by the foot of Gellért Hill. Bathing culture in Buda was blooming during the Turkish era. The bath was called Adzik Ilidza, Open Spa in Turkish. Other sources refer to the site as Aga’s Bath or Spa of Virgins.
After the Turks were expelled from the country, the bath had many different owners. In a German travel book from 1827, it is mentioned that there were accommodations built to the spa, and later in 1832 constructions of a greater hotel and bath began.
In the 19th century it was referred to as Sárosfürdő, and was considered a pleasant bath and hotel. Its name ’Muddy Spa’ comes from its exceptionally healthy mud, exceeding all other springs in quality. Due to its popularity, mud reserves of Sárosfürdő were depleted.
In 1894 construction of Szabadság Bridge, along with the re-construction of Gellért Square was under way. The building of St. Gellért Hotel and Spa started in 1911, but WWI delayed the works. The hotel, built in Art Nouveau (secessional) style of the palace-hotels of the turn of the century was finally opened in September 1918.
The traditional, one century-old hotel is still a symbol of Budapest. The building was built by Ármin Hegedűs, Artúr Sebestyén and Izidor Sterk, their style greatly influenced by the works of Ödön Lechner. The characteristic entrance is decorated by Aladár Gárdos reliefs, while the main entrance to the bath holds grand statues representing healing by József Róna.
When the four-storey hotel opened it had only 176 rooms. All suites had bathrooms with the supply of both mineral and thermal waters.
Soon after the inauguration of St. Gellért Hotel and Spa the so-called Autumn-Rose Revolution broke out and the building was utilized for military purposes. Later, consolidation of the political and societal situation enabled the general public to use the hotel and bath to its original function again. The hotel quickly became a hub for social life
thanks to its grand interiors terraces and pools. In October, 1921 the International Convention of Hoteliers was held here. The guestbook was signed by famous individuals. Along with the Governor of Hungary and government officials, European royal families’ dukes, duchesses, mayors, maharajas poets, writers, musicians, aristocrats all stayed in Gellért. Julie, Queen of Holland also spent her honeymoon here.
In 1927 the outdoor wave pool was built by Artúr Sebestyén and in the same year 60 new rooms were added to the hotel. The wave pool produces waves to the cheers of the bath-goers with the original machinery to this very day.
In 1934, the Jacuzzi pool was opened.
Restaurants of the hotel had always been operated by the leading professionals of the field. From 1927 it was Károly Gundel, who rented and run the dining rooms. His professionalism contributed greatly to the rise of Gellért to the levels of international grand hotels. Events in Gellért were included in newspaper articles around the world. Gundel has created his three famous dishes here: the Rothermere Zander, Bakony Mushrooms and Pittsburgh Veal Cutlets.
World War II had severely damaged the building. The Danube wing burned out completely and the Gellért Hill wing partly. Reconstructions began in 1946 on the hill side and in 1957 on the river side. Today’s rooms Duna, Márvány, Gobelin, the Tea Saloon as well as the Eszpresszó were built in 1960.
There are two famous dessert specialities from Gellért. Posztobányi Pudding or Gellért Pudding rich in dried fruits, and the chocolate-filled Gellért Roll, made by the secret recipe which so many tried to find out. The real Gellért Roll can still only be tasted in the hotel.
Until the 70’s, Hotel Gellért represented the frontline of Hungarian tourism. The hotel trained exceptional staff and was a pioneer in numerous innovations in the industry. It was the first hotel in Hungary where guests could pay by their own countries’ currencies, airport taxis were first employed here and Gellért was also the first in putting mini-bars to the rooms. The hotel’s Brasserie Restaurant was the first catering unit to start Swiss plate service, too.
Gellért accommodated world famous guests again. Yehudi Menuhin violin virtuoso was the first among them after World War II. Richard Nixon, Julius Raab and Bruno Kriesky Austrian chancellors, Shah Pahlavi from Iran and his family, King of Nepal, the Dalai Lama, Casaroli, who was Secretary of State for the Vatican, Nobel Prize winner Heisenberg, American Sabin, actors Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Marina Vlady, Alberto Sordi, Jane Fonda, cello virtuose Pablo Casals, Isaac Stern violinist, Arthur Rubinstein pianist, conductors Carlo Zecchi, Gábor Carelli and Roberto Menzi, composer Dimitrij Shostakovich, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Hungarian-born Oscar award winner cameraman Vilmos Zsigmond.
Danubius Hotel Gellért and Gellért Bath today
At present Gellért has 234 rooms out of which 13 are suites, 38 are superior doubles, 94 standard doubles, 49 single with baths, and 40 singles with showers. Part of the rooms are facing the Danube, have balconies with stunning views of Budapest.
Today the bath and the hotel have different owners. Hotel Gellért is a member of the chain Danubius Hotels Group, and operates under the Danubius Classic Collection brand, which guarantees special atmosphere and impeccable service.
The bath is run by Budapest Thermal Waters Co., and had been refurbished lately. The open-air wave pool and terrace is now supplemented by a thermal water pool.
Gellért is one of the most frequented and most well-known touristic sites of Budapest. Beautiful decorations of the hotel include the tiles produced by the Zsolnay factory, the columns in the Jacuzzi, and the colorful statues. In Gellért Bath most healing spa treatments are available such as balneo-therapy, mechano-therapy, electro-therapy, mud treatments, etc). It has a complex physio-therapy department and inhalatorium.
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