To step into the New York Palace is to step back in time. Built during the heyday of the Habsburg Empire, it overwhelms with its grandeur and opulence. But behind the grandeur lies a fascinating history, one worthy of explanation, and one emblematic of Budapest itself.
The story of the New York Palace begins in 1894, when one of the world’s largest insurance companies, New York Life, commissioned what they envisioned to be an architectural landmark, as well as their European headquarters.
A team led by Alajos Hauszmann, one of Hungary’s most prolific architects, conjured much of what you see today, a stunning and elaborate medley of Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau. While the façade is imposing, with intricate stonework and decorative sculptures, the interior exudes luxe with its opulent furnishings and grand chandeliers.
When they chose Erzsebet Boulevard for their location, New York Life chose the cultural heart of Budapest. Home to the city’s leading theatres and concert halls, multiple coffee houses popped up along the boulevard and its surrounding area, attracting the leading artists of their time for conversations deep into the night. One of these became the most famous of all, the New York Café.
New York Cafe
New York Cafe
The New York Café first opened its doors on 23 October 1894, encapsulating in its design and aura the majesty of the Habsburg era. A gathering place for not only artists, but also politicians and journalists, the coffee house played a quintessential role in daily life, the conversation was lively, and it was shared over newspapers, coffee and exquisite cakes.
The end of a Golden Era
The End of a Golden Era
As war descended on Europe, life changed, and the New York Café with it. It now opened its doors to soldiers in search of a comforting meal during the day, and by night acted as a place of escape, with drinking, dancing and gambling all the way through to breakfast the next day. This all ended with communist rule, and what followed was a period of neglect, and eventually, the café’s closure.
In 2001, the New York Palace was sold to new investors, who brought in a team of designers to restore it to its original splendour. It opened its doors again in 2006 as one of the city’s most luxurious hotels, attracting travellers from around the world in search of the grandeur of days gone by. The New York Café once again became the place to gather, to share, “the most beautiful café in the world”.