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Why Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel is a great city break

From beautiful breakfasts to Belle Epoque palaces, Carolynne Dear soaks up the sites of Hungary's capital city from the comfort of the newly launched Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel.

Heading down for breakfast in Budapest's sumptuous New York Café.

Waking up to breakfast in the ‘most beautiful cafe in the world’ was quite the contrast to my usual hurried ‘grab and go’ morning routine. But as a guest at Anantara’s latest European hotel opening I was more than happy to forgo my habitual slice of Vegemite on toast for a sumptuous smorgasbord of eggs, pastries, charcuterie, cereals and viennoiserie - and, it turned out, a decadent glass of sparkling wine and slice of cake from the 'special' breakfast trolley. These Hungarians certainly know how to break their fast I mused, digging into the sweet apple torte and somewhat guiltily sipping my wine. Let's just say the sun had a long way to go before hitting the yardarm.

Anantara is an established hotel brand amongst Asia’s well-heeled travellers. Head-quartered in Bangkok, the group has established itself as a high-end destination solution for holidaymakers throughout the Asia Pacific region. Think sprawling, five-star resorts in beach-friendly locations such as Thailand, Dubai, Maldives, Bali and Malaysia. But what the group is perhaps less well-known for are its recently acquired city-centre locations outside of Asia Pacific.

Late last year, the group further cemented its European project with the launch of the rather grand Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel. It followed the opening last June of Anantara Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky in the heart of Amsterdam.

Breakfast buffets Hungarian-style.

Both hotels are housed in opulent historic buildings. Facilities and service levels are what you would expect of a higher-end hotel collection and common Anantara threads have been woven into the new-launch properties, including Anantara Spas and the group’s traditional evening ‘lighting ceremony’, which will be familiar to guests of Anantara’s Asian resorts.

Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel is located in the city centre and around 30 minutes from the airport. The beautiful building dates back to the nineteenth century when it was commissioned by the New York Insurance Company. The crowning jewel of the building, its café, was opened, rather appropriately, by coffee baron Sandor Steuer. The New York Café’s lavish decor was designed to attract the cream of Hungarian society - think swathes of silks, velvets, marbles and bronze with Venetian chandeliers hanging from the towering ceilings.

At the beginning of the twentieth century it became renowned as a literary café and one of the centres of intellectual life in Budapest, attracting writers, journalists, artists and actors.

Two world wars and an economic crisis ensued and the building, along with the café, was reconstructed in 2001. The New York Café reopened as ‘the most beautiful café in the world’ in the spring of 2006. Today, a whopping 2,000 guests a day pass through its doors.

Each evening a lighting up ceremony takes place in the elegant hotel lobby.

If it’s glamour you’re looking for, Anantara New York Palace Budapest has it in spades. The hotel rooms are set over four floors around a stunning courtyard lobby which is topped with a glass-domed roof.

The service is second-to-none, the staff attentive and regularly going the extra mile to ensure you have everything you need. My breakfast server rushed off for maps of the city when I explained I was going to spend the day exploring. Nothing, it seemed, was too much trouble.

On the first evening I enjoyed dinner at the newly opened White Salon Restaurant, overlooking the stunning New York Café. The service was attentive; I was recommended superbly executed modern Hungarian dishes, from a paprika ravioli with sausage and sour pepper starter to a rib eye, spinach, nettle and pine main course, washed down with a Hungarian red pulled from the cellar by the informative sommelier. The surroundings were grand, the ambiance hushed, and I was glad I’d dressed accordingly.

The Christmas market outside St Stephen's Basilica won best in Europe last year.

The main hotel has 185 rooms and suites, including a presidential suite and a New York suite complete with vast, Venetian chandeliers. The rooms are plush and generously sized, as you would expect of an Anantara, and suites come with complimentary Nespresso machines. The rooms are large enough to comfortably accommodate cots and extra beds for children.

Further facilities include a gym and a large Anantara Spa on the basement level. The pool was sadly shut for maintenance during my visit but I did enjoy a massage on my second evening.

The hotel is located on the Great Boulevard and walking distance from tourist attractions including St Stephen’s Basilica and the Opera House. After a wander around the Pest side of the city, I crossed the Danube and caught the Castle Hill funicular train on the Buda side. The views here are spectacular, even on a grey January day, and well worth the trip up.

Also worth visiting is Heroes Square next to City Park on the Pest side, as well as the nearby Szechenyi Thermal Bath.

Funicular train carriages wait to ascend Castle Hill.

The city is reasonably compact, flat (on the Pest side, at least) and easy to get around. Children’s attractions include the Budapest Zoo and the City Park ice rink during the winter months. Budapest is also hosting a Lumina Park light exhibition for the first time this winter, a one-and-a-half kilometre illuminated multimedia walk which is open until the end of February. During the run-up to Christmas, the city hosts some of Europe’s most popular markets, including Advent Basilica outside St Stephen's which has won best Christmas market in Europe three years running. It's something to bear in mind and well-worth timing a visit for.

Of course no trip to Hungary is complete without a warming bowl of goulash and the hotel was more than happy to oblige after a chilly day walking the sites.

January is not a time of the year many of us look forward to, but as I tucked into a cosy slice of apple cake on my final morning it was apparent that a mini-break to an interesting city with the most beautiful café in the world had more than taken the edge off the year’s gloomiest month.

Anantara continues its European expansion this month with the opening of Anantara Plaza Nice Hotel on the Cote d’Azur. The Belle Epoque building has undergone a two-year restoration to open with 151 rooms and suites overlooking the Promenade des Anglais and a rooftop restaurant with views over the Baie des Anges and Nice’s Old Town.

Asia Family Traveller was a guest of Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas.

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