Mystery Hotel Budapest: The hotel for likes

(CNN) — One of the first things you will notice upon entering the Mystery Hotel Budapest is the Aladdin-style magic carpet that “floats” above the reception.

It’s the first hint that there’s a lot more to this boutique hotel than meets the eye.

There are also countless light boxes on the walls with animated pictures that change several times a day and the elevator, which is partially covered by velvet curtains.

Depending on which room you’re in, you might find yourself on a headboard with a version of Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” where the “girl” is holding an iPhone, or a “party girl.” Interpretation of Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” with VIP passes for the Budapest Sziget Festival.

And if you happen to book a visit to the “secret” Pythagoras meeting room, you’ll have to figure out how to open it yourself (hint – there’s a nondescript box).

Located in the Terézváros district of Budapest, the Mystery Hotel is arguably one of the most exciting hotels in the city, thanks to the intrigue lurking within its walls.

It can be seen in the former headquarters of the symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungarian Freemasons and provides the inspiration for its enigmatic theme, along with films such as The Da Vinci Code.

Instagram friendly

Courtesy of Mystery Hotel Budapest

The Mystery Hotel is located in the former headquarters of the symbolic Grand Lodge of the Hungarian Freemasons.

Courtesy of Mystery Hotel Budapest

Though it lacks the dramatic city views and central location of some of Budapest’s more famous hotels, the property, which opened in May 2019, is quickly becoming one of the most Instagram-friendly places to stay in Budapest.

This is certainly no coincidence. In fact, the hotel’s designer, Zoltán Varró, admits that he designed the property with “preferences” in mind.

“Instagram has really changed the hotel industry,” Varró tells CNN Travel. “About 20 years ago, people wanted big names because they felt safe with them.

“Now the most important thing is to stand out. Everyone is looking for something special. Social media is essential.

“When a guest sees something amazing and takes a picture, it can be shared with the rest of the world in seconds.”

Viktória Berényi, business development director at Mystery Hotel, says social media has helped drive a large number of bookings.

“The first impression is everything,” says Berényi. “There is a lot of competition in Budapest. We initially had some difficulties with getting people involved.

“But we had a lot of guests who came here because they saw the pictures on Instagram.”

One of the hotel’s many fascinating areas is the Great Hall, which serves as a dining area, bar and lobby.

Varró decided to make it the main focus of the building after seeing photographs showing the space’s importance in the 1890s, when Hungarian Freemasons regularly congregated here.

past of Freemasonry

Courtesy of Mystery Hotel Budapest

The grand staircase is one of the preserved elements of the old building.

Courtesy of Mystery Hotel Budapest

One of the most influential and well-known secret societies, Freemasonry was founded in Britain but quickly spread to Europe and the rest of the world.

The secular movement is modeled after the fraternities of medieval stonemasons, who used secret words and symbols to recognize the legitimacy of the other.

After the then Soviet Republic of Hungary and the later Hungarian Interior Minister Mihály Dömötör had banned the activities of the Freemasons in 1920, the building continued to serve as a military hospital.

It was also used by the Hungarian National Guard Association before being used again for Freemasonry after World War II. But during the communist era it was home to the Interior Ministry until the regime was overthrown in 1989.

Needless to say, the building changed significantly during its many different incarnations and its Masonic elements were concealed.

“After communism, space was destroyed,” says Varró. “The Masonic aspects were completely covered because no one wanted to talk about it.

“I did not want that [the Great Hall] be hidden. That’s the heart of the building.”

Its vaulted ceiling, fully restored, is decorated with beautiful motifs, while the walls are adorned with luminous columns and light boxes.

Though the entire hotel is filled with chandeliers, the largest hangs just above a marble checkerboard floor in the Great Hall.

At the other end of the room, two spiral iron staircases lead up to the gallery, where there is a private dining area for larger groups.

The candlelit grand staircase is one of several features remaining from the original 1896 building, along with the main doors.

From the sixth floor upwards, facade elements of the old building and the new building can be seen side by side.

Varró has preserved various motifs used in Masonic symbolism around the buildings, along with sculptures of a sphinx, a square and a compass.

Even the paintings in the corridors are linked to Freemasonry, some being the work of Freemasons while others are by artists from countries with strong ties to the secular movement.

However, Berényi emphasizes that the Mystery Hotel represents far more than just Freemasonry, noting that the organization, which has been plagued by conspiracy theories, may have negative connotations for some.

“As proud as we are of the story, we can’t say everything about Freemasonry because it represents different things to different people,” she says.

Unique suites

Courtesy of Mystery Hotel Budapest

Some of the suites have headboards with a modernized version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”.

Courtesy of Mystery Hotel Budapest

There are three different suite styles, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Overlooking the hotel courtyard and the Secret Garden Spa, the Doric rooms feature English Victorian elements and are decorated in shades of green.

The Ion rooms are located on the upper floors of the hotel and have a French mansard style, while the Corinthian rooms have baroque-style furniture such as burgundy velvet curtains.

Located on the sixth floor, the Atelier Suite is the most unique suite in the building. Designed to resemble a painter’s studio, it contains a marble staircase, brick walls, huge paintings, and dozens of rugs. Even the TV stand takes the form of an art easel.

“Originally, this room was planned as a storage area because it only has two small windows,” explains Varró.

“When I decided to make it one of the largest suites, the owner thought I was crazy. But it was very popular.”

The suite is often requested for private gatherings, and luxury Italian fashion house Dolce&Gabbana rents it for private events.

Impressive spa

Courtesy of Mystery Hotel Budapest

The Secret Garden Day Spa, located in the courtyard, is one of the highlights of the hotel.

Courtesy of Mystery Hotel Budapest

While it’s difficult to follow the Great Hall, let alone the Sky Garden rooftop bar, which offers views of the Royal Palace, the hotel’s spa is another standout spot.

There are many beautiful thermal baths in Budapest, which means any hotel spa here has to be pretty impressive to attract visitors.

However, the Secret Garden Day Spa definitely does not disappoint.

Located in the hotel’s gated courtyard, it has a baroque garden vibe with dramatic palm trees and a beautiful fountain.

Guests have the option of relaxing on day beds, slipping into the sauna and steam room, or opting for some of the many beauty, body and massage treatments on offer.

The lighting in the spa is also fantastic given its courtyard location, along with an array of crystal chandeliers.

“It was an empty place,” says Varró. “I wanted to create something different. I think that [the courtyard] is the perfect place for a spa. Budapest is not a very sunny city, but it’s always summer here.”

Its heart is undoubtedly the magnificent whirlpool, which offers a fantastic view of the facade of the building.

“We don’t have thermal water here, but we have this,” says Berényi. “This hot tub is very popular on Instagram.”

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