Creatures that go bump in the night. For an unusual winter getaway, consider the special vampire package offered at the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace in Budapest. (Four Seasons Gresham Palace Hotel, Roosevelt Ter 5-6, 1051 Budapest, Hungary; 36-1-268-6000, www.fourseasons.com.)
The Gresham offers its guests the possibility of going on a “Twilight Tour,” a half-day tour of the romantic, gothic city. Guests recline in the back of a limousine as they travel through the streets of Pest, winding up the cobblestone hill to Visgrad Castle in Buda, where Vlad the Impaler was kept prisoner for more than ten years. Vlad was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” although Vlad, cruel as he might have been, probably did not drink the blood of his enemies.
To enhance the vampire image, however, the tour includes a glass of bull’s blood, the earthy Hungarian red wine, plus a book or dvd with a vampire theme.
The Gresham is a magnificently restored 1906 art deco “palace,” originally built for the Gresham Life Assurance Co. of London. Badly damaged during the siege of Budapest in 1944, the building had a checkered existence after the war until 1998 when it was transformed into a luxury hotel. Everything in the hotel, from the carpets lining the hallways to the light fixtures and even the copper plaques in the elevators indicting the floors, is true to style. Contemporary Hungarian art blends gracefully with the early twentieth century aesthetic. The building was named for Sir Thomas Gresham, the British 16th century financier who founded the Royal Stock Exchange and coined Gresham’s Law: “Bad money drives out good.”
For guests less inclined to coffin-dwelling creatures, the hotel also arranges tours of artists’ studios or visits to some of Hungary’s vineyards.
Budapest is famous for its baths, and locals and tourists alike visit the thermal baths of Buda and Pest, located sometimes in elegant turn-of-the-century buildings. Budapest has a wonderful covered market, interesting buildings and good food. It’s a delightful place to visit and the Gresham makes it very special.
While there is no non-stop service between Washington, D.C. and Budapest, most airlines serving Reagan and/or Dulles airports offer connecting flights through New York or European cities.