Kozmo Luxury Hotel has been lucky enough to have attention lavished on it by two great teams of architects: first by Hungarian virtuoso Ray Rezső, who dreamt up this turreted, extravagantly decorative urban castle – far too pretty for its purpose as a telecommunications centre – in the early 20th century. Fast forward, and Spanish firm GCA Architects brushed up the building’s most baroque parts – a spectacular main staircase, storytelling reliefs, intricate ceiling decals – and moved in sleek custom furnishings, a burnished-gold bar and dramatic artwork to harmoniously bridge eras. And, with a champagne and caviar bar, indulgently equipped spa and other affluent touches it now seems far more comfortable in its ornate skin.
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability and on request. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £175.20 (€207), including tax at 5 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast (€30 a person), a selection of cheeses and charcuterie, freshly baked breads and pastries, natural juices and hot à la carte dishes. Guests are welcomed with a free drink.
Kozmo has an eye for artwork, and of the notable works hung throughout, you’ll notice Spanish photographer Carlos Cánovas shots of Budapest’s sites, both famous and less so. They’re a vivid intro to the city in both a visual and literal sense, as the hotel has used them to map out a guided tour.
The hotel has taken the necessary Covid-19 precautions. Staff wear PPE and have had extra health and safety training; and meals can be taken in-room if you wish (on request).
At the hotel
Spa with a sauna, gym, Jacuzzi, interior courtyard, lounge with pool table, free WiFi. In rooms: LED TV, free high-speed WiFi, minibar, Nespresso coffee machine, tea-making kit, hair-straighteners, Penhaligon's bath products, bathrobes and slippers, and individually controlled climate control.
Our favourite rooms
Even the Standard rooms here have an air of refinement, with subtle panelling, high-spec custom furnishings and statement artwork. But some rooms have a touch more personality than others; say, Suite 603, set in a Rapunzel-style tower at the top of the hotel and offering 360-degree views of the city. Or the space-blessed Junior Suite 42, which has a private terrace and an extensive library, plus a fireplace and squishy leather chairs to complete your reading setup. Book the adjoining suite and you can have the whole floor to yourself. Or opt for Presidential Suite 51, which lives up to the gravitas of its name with sultry hues, serious large-scale artworks and an entertainment area an entire government could let loose in, including a bar, personal sauna and terrace.
You’ll find the 16-metre-long, slender heated pool in the spa, fitted with soothing massage jets. It’s softly lit for meditative laps and there’s a bank of white cushioned sunloungers along the side.
A modern haven for massages and more – solo or with your beloved – using indulgent Maison Valmont products, the spa has a sauna lined in dark alder wood and a Jacuzzi too, promising a full circuit of pampering, plus finishing-touch beauty treatments. And here you'll find one of the eye0catching assets of the former building: interlocking glass bricks by architect Gustave Falconnier. It's usually €35 a guest to enter, but Smith members enter free. And there’s a 24-hour gym with sleek equipment too; yoga classes and personal trainers can be arranged on request.
Bring your hustling skills for the pool table, a cleansed palette for caviar tastings and a raffish attitude for late-night champagne sipping sessions.
Public areas are wheelchair-accessible, and there are dedicated rooms with adapted bathrooms.
This sophisticate doesn’t scream ‘family holiday’, but those with not-too-rambunctious children will feel welcome in one of the interconnected rooms. Extra beds (for over-3s) range from €90 to €130 a night depending on the dates of your stay.
Kozmo’s interior courtyard is more polished than the capital’s famous ruin bars, but when the trees and original redbrick architecture are lit up at night it conjures up plenty of old-school romance.
Deck yourself out like an Alphonse Mucha muse and go as ornamental as Budapest’s grandest buildings.
Decadence pervades the hotel’s dining and drinking offerings; after all, the main bistro has a golden bar as a centrepiece and another eatery is dedicated to caviar, oysters and champagne. But, design that leans heavily into luxe minimalism ensures it doesn’t tip over into ostentation. In the bistro, more hifalutin picks such as saffron soup with langoustine and mussels, lobster-stuffed pansotti in a creamy velouté, or a quinoa savarin with gazpacho foam are balanced out by homier dishes, such as pulled-pork and brie sandwiches, samosas with vegetarian curry, goulash and cottage-cheese dumplings with sour-cream foam. On the weekends there’s a bottomless champagne brunch and in the Oyster and Caviar Bar there’s all your fish-egg favourites with a range of classic fixings, plus moreish molluscs soused in Campari and citrus, vermouth and pepper, and other marinades with a kick. The dining rooms are both styled with verve: light fittings hang like Cornelia Parker masterpieces or are enshrouded in ghostly giant lampshades; engaging artworks and cabinets of objets enliven the dove-grey walls; and banquettes are upholstered in navy velvet or dark leather.
Take your drink in the bistro or the lounge where you can nurse it in between potting balls on the pool table. There’s an impressive selection of Hungarian (from a Lake Balaton sauvignon to a toothache-sweet Tokaji) and international wines, and a wide range of gin and tonics, from Búzavirág cornflower gin with orange and lime tonic, to lemony Malfy gin, to Bulldog London Dry with lychee and star anise tonic water. And, there’s always a good reason to pop a cork in the Oyster and Caviar Bar, where the conversation is sparkling and the drinks sparklier still.
From 11.30am to 10.30pm, you can dine in-room on cheese and charcuterie sharing plates and a selection of comfort food: goulash, bagels, pastas, burgers, chicken supreme, chia and chocolate puddings. There’s a slimmer edit from 10.30pm till 6am.
Kozmo Luxury Hotel’s palatial redbrick building sits on elegant, statue-studded boulevard Horváth Mihály on the Buda side of the Danube, just a short walk from the landmark-lined Grand Boulevard.
Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport is the closest, just a 30-minute drive from the hotel. Flights arrive direct here from cities throughout Europe; arrivals from further afield will have to stopover. Transfers can be arranged with the hotel for €80 to €120 one-way.
Interrailers will pull in at Keleti station, a grand saffron-hued terminus built in the eclectic style in the late 19th century. EuroCity and EuroNight trains arrive here direct from Zurich, Prague, Munich, Ljubljana and major cities throughout Hungary. For exploring the capital with ease, Corvin-Negyed is the closest Metro station, just a 10-minute walk away.
It’s unlikely you’ll need a car in Budapest – one of the most pleasant ways to get the lie of the land is to follow the gentle curves of the Danube up and down the Buda and Pest sides of the city on foot, and if you get tired then there’s usually a Metro station or tram stop within easy reach. You might secure some wheels if you plan to explore deeper into Hungary, to see its lakes and vineyards and captured-in-amber Baroque and Neoclassical towns. If so there’s valet parking at Kozmo for €30 a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel’s palatial building overlooks Saint Joseph Church and the wide, leafy, Horváth Mihály square, a quiet residential area; but, you’re just a block from József körút – part of the main drag through the city, nicknamed the Grand Boulevard. Stroll along to see some of the city’s architectural gems: the Comedy Theatre, Western Railway Station (built by the team of Gustave Eiffel), art deco Corvin Cinema, art nouveau Museum of Applied Arts with its glorious gilded green roof and the New York Café, where the more-is-more maxim has been liberally applied: wavy marble pillars, frescoes and chandeliers make this a sight to behold. The Hungarian National Museum has a collection of objects, each with a story to tell, from across the Carpathian basin. Turn towards the river and you’ll reach the bustling Central Market Hall. It’s fascinating enough wandering the cavernous turn-of-the-century landmark, but to get the full sensory experience, book a tasting tour where you’ll be plied with shots of potent East European fruit brandy pálinka, craft beer and regional wines, plus typical Hungarian delicacies. There are plenty of spas with restorative thermal baths in the city, but Gellért Spa might be the fairest, with its colonnaded halls, Moorish tiling and diverting flourishes. On the Buda side of the city, you can also climb up Gellért Hill for panoramic photo opps (you’ll know you’ve reached the top when you see the Statue of Liberty – no, not that one), and stop by Buda Castle, a building that somehow manages to be exceptionally grand in a city of resplendent structures. The Panoptikum experience takes you into the network of caves under Castle Hill, where Vlad Tepes (AKA Vlad the Impaler) was allegedly imprisoned – prepare for vampiric hamminess. Back on the Pest side, the Dohány Street Synagogue is an ornate monument to the Jewish community, where no less than Franz Liszt used to tinkle the organ pipes. It marks the start of the Jewish Quarter, the wartime ghetto is now a happier place with offbeat art spaces (Jancsó Gallery, where you can pick up reasonably priced works by amateurs and professionals and the steampunk-y Metal Art Gallery) and bars (the delightfully dishevelled Kisüzem and Dzzs). The hotel can also help to arrange adventures further afield, say a day trip up and down the Danube to Vienna or a tour of the Tokaj wine region.
Yes, Hungarian cuisine does lean heavily on warming soups and stews (goulash is practically unavoidable, paprika adds a pleasant heat to many a dish and the chilled ‘fruit soup’ is a unique culinary experience), but Budapest’s dining scene is a touch more diverse these days. Take the tasting menu at Michelin-recognised Costes, which stars Mangalica pork with celeriac and apple, spiced cauliflower with dried fruit and dark-chocolate mousse with paprika and raspberry. For handmade pastas, fine Italian produce and some imaginative dishes at the intersection of Italian and Hungarian cuisine (octopus with hazelnut, potato and truffle; carrot cream soup with mango and orange), try slick dining spot Fausto’s. Built on the backbone of a superlative bakery established in 1914, Déryné has earned a loyal following – with many A-list fans – for its comfortingly slapdash interiors, brunch offering and mix of traditional dishes and top-grade steaks. If you’re now a fan of no-expense-spared Hungarian architecture with surprisingly humdrum uses, Felix restaurant will appeal – it was once used for filtering the royal palace’s water, but has a breathtaking Neo-Renaissance façade. It’s part art-space, and the menu has the finer things in life: caviar, Angus beef, lobster rolls.
We like Lumen, whose tables spill out onto charming Mikszáth Kálmán square. They roast a rich cup of Joe and have a selection of local craft beers.
Of all Budapest’s famous ‘ruin bars’, Szimpla Kert is the best known. It’s a fascinating spot for sure, but it’s worth giving some of the lesser-sung hangouts a try. Say, huge dance complex with no fewer than 18 neon-drenched bars, Instant Fogas, or Doboz, which isn’t quite as ‘ruined’ as some bars, and has huge art installations in its courtyard. If you’re not a fan of shabby chic, 360 Bar is a touch more well-heeled, and – as the name suggests – has quite the view.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this regally restored hotel in Budapest and unpacked their bottle of honey-hued Tokaji wine and spicy kolbász sausage, a full account of their haute-bohème city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Kozmo Luxury Hotel in Hungary…
Let us put on our RP accent, because this is an important communiqué for lovers of lust-after stays. What was one of Budapest’s most important telecommunications centres from 1917 – and a remarkable late-eclectic building, to boot – has had the switchboards that served 5,200 users cleared out for the coolly contemporary bespoke furnishings, suites with terraces and dressing rooms, and commissioned artwork by the likes of Carlos Cánovas and Lluís Lleó that make Kozmo Luxury Hotel so seductive. It’s a move that favours form over function (at least when it comes to outmoded ways of phoning somebody), but like most of the city’s grand structures, the past persists: the façade still bears its allegorical reliefs, the grand staircase has been restored along with intricate crown mouldings and antique windowframes, and the hotel’s name refers to ‘közlés’, the Hungarian word for ‘communications’. So, what is Kozmo trying to communicate to its guests these days, you might wonder. The answer: live lavishly, it seems, if the fine velvets, marbles and woods; gilded corners and elevated menus of the bistro; and dedicated caviar and champagne bar are anything to go by. It’s the Magyar Golden Era repackaged for modern travellers in a fairy-tale building close to important sites; and with service and style like this, they won’t need a switchboard operator to spread the word.