Located a short stroll away from Dohány utca’s Great Synagogue, Continental Hotel Budapest has a history that’s just as rich and bitersweet as that of Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest – you can read about the latter and the tale of our visit to Four Seasons’ presidential suite right here. As for the treasured site of Continental, it first gave home to Gamperl-féle Vasfürdő (roughly Gamperl’s Iron Bath, a name fitted for a heavy metal band or The Lord of the Rings), which opened its gates on 23 May 1827. The bath’s time on Earth was cut short by the Great Flood of 1838, which completely wiped it off the face of Budapest. The rebuilt construction was bought by the Ringer family in 1897, and soon blossomed into a state-of-the-art institution. In 1910, it was enlarged by the addition of a multi-storey, Viennese Secession-style house and a swimming hall crowned with an openable glass dome. The 1920s were full of changes: Continental Hotel began to operate in the building’s Nyár utca-wing, the public bath facing Klauzál utca was demolished, and a six-storey block of art deco flats were erected in its place.
The still-intact parts of the Viennese Secession-style building were taken over by Kamara Mozgó Filmszínház (Kamara Movie Theatre); and, later on, these premises also provided a venue for the performances of Bányász Színház (Miner’s Theatre), Fővárosi Nagy Varieté (Budapest Grand Vaudeville), and Tarka Színpad (Colorful Theatre). Continental Hotel was shut down in 1970, and, by 1980, the building’s status was well worthy of the life-threatening epithet. The interior’s priceless pieces were stolen, the glass dome disintegrated into shreds, and recurring guests were replaced by the homeless. Following the real estate turmoil of the 90s – the investor who bought the bath’s and the now non-existent hotel’s premises has failed to oblige the condition-preserving rules, moreover, due to demolitions orchestrated by said investor, the swimming hall collapsed – it was officially declared hazardous to life and safety in 2002, then, in 2005, it was elevated to monument-status.
After the building was completely demolished in 2008, new life blossomed from the ruins, and Continental Hotel Budapest, offering a wide variety of A-plus services, opened its gates in the summer of 2010. As for the panorama, the rooftop terrace opening from the wellness section and crowned with an outdoor pool would have offered a crystal clear view on a less foggy day; although we have absolutely no reason to complain, since Buda Castle's lights shined through the fog, and the bulbous domes of the Great Synagogue lit up the night sky like a pair of comet trails.