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Elegant spa opens in Budapest inspired by the River Danube and its native swans

21 Sep 2021
A new spa has opened in Budapest, with design influenced by the city’s historical links to thermal bathing and the graceful forms of swans.

The wellness facility is accommodated within Matild Palace – the latest addition to Marriott’s Luxury Collection portfolio and its first location in Hungary.

The 130-room luxury hotel is the culmination of a five-year project to convert a neglected UNESCO World Heritage Site into a grand European hotel.

The transformation was led by Maria Vafiadis, founder and managing director of interior architecture and design practice MKV Design, in collaboration with local architects Péter Cajka and Puhl Antal.

Completed in 1902, Matild Palace was originally a retail and apartment property owned by and built for Princess Klotilde of Saxe-Coburg and Archduchess of Austria. In due course, the building became home to a grand café in the central European tradition that became a haunt of famous artists and musicians in the mid-twentieth century.

From the days of the Roman Empire, Budapest’s reputation for thermal bathing was second to none, and numerous bathhouses remain in the city today.

In line with this, MKV felt Matild Palace was always destined to have its own spa inspired by the local bathing culture and re-interpreted into a soothing sanctuary where the graceful forms of the swans which inhabit the River Danube are infused within the design.

Vafiadis explained: “The narrative of the Swan Spa is of light and dark, alluding to the mysterious depths of the River Danube which flows so near to Matild Palace and is where the swans make their home.”

On entering the facility, guests are met with an all-white marble reception before they retreat into the 250sq m subterranean spa’s deep petrol blue spaces, as if descending into the healing waters of the river.

Doors have been designed to resemble the swans’ soft white plumes of feathers while ornate metalwork screens depict their elegant motions.

Vafiadis also chose to create an ethereal relaxation room that hints at traditional bathhouses as well as a deep-water pool into which swans may dive.

This is one of two distinct relaxation rooms, where visitors rest their minds and drink tea before and after their treatments. The second room is more private and is a designated space for guests to lie down, rest and totally let go.

The wet area includes a spacious hammam entirely clad in white marble, as well as a salt room, steamroom and sauna.

Two treatment rooms – one of which is for couples – combine a palette of crisp white shades with blue details.

The spa menu includes a host of rituals supplied by Espa.

Vafiadis added that lighting is key throughout the Swan Spa and is subtly integrated to wash upwards over the walls, to enhance a sense of serenity.

“Reimagining Matild Palace as one of the finest hotels in central Europe was an extraordinary experience,” she said.

“We were fortunate in a client who was passionate about the project, a hotel brand that was a strong partner for our aspirations, the property’s location in a city which loves its palaces, and historical context.

“While clearly a new hotel, Matild Palace feels as if she’s been there forever.”

Wellness suppliers who helped realise the spa's final details include German-based luxury bathroom specialist Dornbracht, robe supplier Frette and spa contractor Finn Wellness Kft.

Additional facilities at the hotel include a coffeehouse and social hub, rooftop bar and a contemporary dining experience by Wolfgang Puck.

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