Mystery Hotel Budapest: a hotel designed for likes

(CNN) – One of the first things you notice upon entering the Mystery Hotel Budapest is the Aladdin-themed flying carpet floating above the reception desk.

This is the first sign that there is much more to this boutique hotel than meets the eye.

Then countless light boxes on the walls with animated pictures that change several times a day, and an elevator partly hidden by velvet curtains.

Depending on which room you’re staying in, you may find yourself lying at the head of your bed with a version of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, where the “girl” is holding an iPhone, or the “party girl.” interpretation of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa with VIP passes to the Sziget festival in Budapest.

And if you happen to visit the “secret” Pythagoras conference room, you’ll have to figure out how to open it yourself (hint – a modest box is involved here).

The Mystery Hotel, located in the Terézváros district of Budapest, is arguably one of the city’s most exciting hotels thanks to the intrigue that lurks within its walls.

It is located inside what was once the main headquarters of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Hungarian Freemasons, which was the inspiration for its mystery theme, as well as films such as The Da Vinci Code.

instagram friendly

Courtesy Mystery Hotel Budapest

The Mystery Hotel is located on the grounds of the former headquarters of the Grand Symbolic Lodge of the Hungarian Freemasons.

Courtesy Mystery Hotel Budapest

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

This, of course, is not accidental. In fact, hotel designer Zoltan Varro admits that he had “like” in mind when designing the hotel concept.

“Instagram has really changed the hotel business,” Varro tells CNN Travel. “About 20 years ago, people wanted to play with celebrities because they felt safe with them.

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

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

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

“First impressions are everything,” Berennyi says. “There is a lot of competition in Budapest. At first we had difficulty in attracting people.

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

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

Varro decided to make it the main focus of the building after seeing photographs showing the room’s significance in the 1890s, when Hungarian Freemasons used to gather here regularly.

Masonic past

Courtesy Mystery Hotel Budapest

The main staircase is one of the elements that have been preserved from the old building.

Courtesy Mystery Hotel Budapest

One of the most influential and famous secret societies, Freemasonry was founded in Britain but quickly spread throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

The secular movement models the brotherhoods of medieval stonemasons who used secret words and symbols to recognize each other’s legitimacy.

After the former Republic of Soviets in Hungary, and then the Minister of the Interior of Hungary, Mihaly Dömötör, banned the activities of Freemasons in 1920, the building began to serve as a military hospital.

It was also used by the Hungarian National Guard Association before returning to Freemasonry after World War II. But during the communist era, it housed the Ministry of the Interior until the fall of the regime in 1989.

Needless to say, the building has changed significantly over its many incarnations, and its Masonic elements have been hidden.

“After communism, the room was destroyed,” says Varro. “Masonic aspects were completely closed, as no one wanted to talk about it.

“I didn’t want this [the Great Hall] be hidden away. This is the heart of the building.”

Its vaulted ceiling, which has been completely restored, is decorated with beautiful motifs, while the walls are decorated with colorful columns and light boxes.

Although the entire hotel is filled with chandeliers, the largest one hangs directly above the marble chessboard in the Great Hall.

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

The main staircase, lit by candles, is one of the remaining elements from the original building, built in 1896, along with the main doors.

Facade elements of the old building and the new building can be seen next to each other from the sixth floor.

Varro preserved various motifs of Masonic symbolism around the buildings, as well as sculptures of the sphinx, square and compass.

Even the paintings in the corridors are associated with Freemasonry, some of them are the work of Freemasons, while others are by artists from countries closely associated with the secular movement.

However, Bérenyi emphasizes that the Mystery Hotel represents much more than just Freemasonry, noting that the organization, tainted with conspiracy theories, may have a negative connotation for some.

“As proud as we are of history, we can’t do everything about Freemasons as they represent different things to different people,” she says.

Unique suites

Courtesy Mystery Hotel Budapest

Select headboards feature a modernized version of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Courtesy Mystery Hotel Budapest

There are three different styles of suites: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Overlooking the hotel’s courtyard and the Secret Garden Spa, the Doric rooms are decorated in an English Victorian style and decorated in various shades of green.

The Ion rooms are located on the top floors of the hotel and feature a French attic style, while the Corinthian rooms feature baroque furnishings such as burgundy velvet curtains.

The Atelier Suite, located on the sixth floor, is the most unique suite in the building. It is designed to resemble an artist’s studio, with marble stairs, brick walls, huge paintings and dozens of carpets. Even the TV stand is made in the form of an art easel.

“The original plan was to use this room as a warehouse because it only has two small windows,” explains Varro.

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

This suite is often booked for private meetings, such as Italian luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana renting it for private events.

Impressive spa

Courtesy Mystery Hotel Budapest

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

Courtesy Mystery Hotel Budapest

While the Great Hall is hard to follow, let alone the Sky Garden rooftop bar that overlooks the Royal Palace, the hotel’s spa is another standout.

Budapest has a plethora of beautiful thermal baths to choose from, meaning any spa hotel here has to be pretty impressive to draw in visitors.

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

Situated in the hotel’s enclosed courtyard, it resembles a baroque garden with spectacular palm trees and a beautiful fountain.

Guests can relax on the couches, visit the sauna and steam bath, or choose from the many beauty treatments, body treatments and massages on offer.

The lighting in the spa is also fantastic due to its location in the courtyard as well as the many crystal chandeliers.

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

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

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