Reborn Drechsler Palace Promises ‘Originality and Curiosity’


Igor A. Buercher, general manager of W Budapest.

Igor A. Buercher, general manager of W Budapest, is busily preparing the much-anticipated Andrássy út hotel ahead of its summer opening. The building will, he promises, embrace “originality and curiosity.”

Originally from Switzerland, Buercher speaks German and English fluently and has more than 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Having lived in multiple countries, including 12 years in the United States, he brings a wealth of luxury knowledge from GM and leadership roles in New York, London, Greece, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Stockholm. Most recently, he was the opening GM at two W Hotels in Ibiza and Amsterdam.

“I am excited to be opening the first W Hotel in Eastern Europe along with my team. W Hotels embraces originality and curiosity, much like the spirit and character of this beautiful city,” Buercher says.

“W Budapest is set to be an authentic destination for locals and visitors to connect and be inspired, and we can’t wait to welcome you all this summer.”

Located on the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Andrássy Avenue, directly across from the State Opera House, the W Budapest will re-open its doors in July. The original Drechsler Palace was built between 1883 and 1886 to the designs of Ödön Lechner and Gyula Pártos. The Drechsler Café was home to the Institute of Ballet and the State Artistic Institute.

Part of the Marriott International stable of brands, the hotel promises “visionary design, eclectic gastronomy, and a socially driven spirit drawn from the cosmopolitan capital.”

Exciting Chapter

“The arrival of W Hotels in Budapest will offer an unexpected, captivating hotel experience and an exciting next chapter for the iconic Drechsler Palace,” says Jenni Benzaquen, SVP for Europe, Middle East and Africa Brand Portfolio at Marriott International.

W Budapest will have 151 guestrooms and suites, including one so-called “Extreme WOW” presidential suite. Nightingale, the hotel’s destination restaurant, a bar, and W Lounge will be open to locals and travelers as a place to connect. It will also offer three meeting and event spaces, including a “Great Room” for larger-scale celebrations, alongside a spa, fitness center, and pool.

The original inner courtyard at the heart of the Drechsler Palace is newly enclosed by glass to protect the space from the elements. The fifth floor’s unique wooden-centric design is sympathetic to the original roof that has been restored.

The ornate building has been restored and transformed by interior designers Bowler James Brindley of London and the Hungarian Bánáti + Hartvig. According to the hotel’s publicity team, the studios drew inspiration from the palace’s rich cultural history and multiple identities as a café, social hub and former Hungarian State Ballet Academy.

The designers talk of a “Loire Valley-inspired French Renaissance architectural aesthetic” that features throughout the hotel, mirroring icons from the city, such as the Hungarian State Opera House, the Széchenyi Baths and neighboring buildings on Andrássy Avenue.

“When we started the project, we were presented with a rich feast of inspirations from which the various narratives were born, one of which was Hungary’s famous export, Harry Houdini, and his life’s work inspired our ‘grand illusion’ design narrative,” explains Bowler James Brindley.

Optical Illusions

“We have used mirrors in creative ways throughout the hotel to create optical illusions on ceilings, walls and floors, allowing Harry Houdini’s legacy to live on through W Budapest’s illusionary aesthetic.”

Houdini was not the only Hungarian celebrity from whom the interior design draws inspiration, however.

“Zsa Zsa Gabor, another celebrated Hungarian who was at the vanguard of introducing European sophistication to Hollywood in the 1940s, has also been celebrated through playful touches of retro glamour.” 

The interior also celebrates the building’s past associations with dance through soft pink hues and curved lines “inspired by graceful fluidity.” The “ballet etoile” aesthetic is celebrated in the all-black Extreme WOW suite and all-white WOW suite, taking inspiration from Swan Lake.

The hotel also nods to the city’s love of chess throughout its “Budapest Gambit” design. Chequerboard patterns make unexpected appearances, including monochrome tiled marble flooring, a chess board-inspired ceiling mirror in the W Lounge (a signature feature of W Hotels across the world), guestrooms that feature black and white tiled walls and recesses, and lamps that emulate chess pieces to bring soft lighting throughout the hotel.

Artwork throughout the hotel that intends to “spark conversations and connections” has been created by Adam Ellis Studio. Highlights include a tapestry trio of Hungarian mythological creatures made from grasscloth and a welcome area dressed in green and gold metallic artwork detailing Houdini’s famed aviary of tropical birds suspended from a chandelier chain.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of June 30, 2023.

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