This is usually disappointing to reconnect with a longtime love. Moreover after three decades. But, when age hurts human beings, it didn't spoil the “old lady” of Bucharest hospitality. Our rekindled romance with the first five-star luxury hotel in Romania made my heart beats as fast as in the yesteryears when, a young student at the University of Bucharest Summer School, the InterContinental Bucharest was my daily escape to western luxury and modernity, in the middle of Ceausescu's depressive Romania.
Checking-in, a few weeks ago, into what remains the first hotel in town, but also an architectural and historic landmark, was a soft transition from the 1980s to the 2020s. The building is still arrogantly dominating the city. The doorman, who impressed me quite a lot (he was, in my too rich imagination, a major of the communist secret police, the dreaded Securitate...), has been replaced long time ago; but the three-band uniform remains as ornamented and formal as the one worn by his spooky predecessor.
The lobby is more lavish and warm than before, but the Intermezzo Bar and two restaurants are still here: one of them, the chic Madrigal, has been rebranded into Modigliani: one of the most acclaimed Italian trattorias in a country where Mediterranean cuisine is very popular. Corso Brasserie remains a well patronized coffee shop, reputed for its yummy breakfast with a lot of Romanian dishes. I felt astonished to see so many guests. After visiting empty hotels during the period of COVID, that was the first fully booked grand hotel that I inspected.
A bit of culture and history. At the time of its opening, in May 1971, the 90 meters InterContinental, with its three banana-shaped wings divided into 22 floors, was the tallest building in town. It is still. The “Brutalist” architecture (influenced by Le Corbusier) makes this landmark the modern symbol of Bucharest, as far an ideal point of orientation. Romanian architects Dinu Hariton, Gheorghe Nadrag, Ion Moscu, and Romeo Belea, designed it so nicely that many InterContinental hotels in the world have been inspired by this masterpiece of contemporary architecture.
InterContinental representatives decided that University Square was the center of the city. Which wasn't evident in 1966, when the project was decided. That was a brilliant idea, as it participated in the legend of the first premium international hotel in Romania. With its prime location, close to the Communist Party headquarter, it was the favorite informal meeting place for the nomenclature, patronizing actively its three restaurants and piano bar. Nicu Ceausescu, the dictator's son, haunted the former “Balada” panoramic restaurant with his gang of inebriated buddies, flanked with a cloud of bimbos.
His father had his secret cinema in the Intercontinental Bucharest, and not at home as many people believed: this is now the “Ronda” meeting room, which we could visit between two conferences. It remains totally unchanged, in its sober yet elegant. That's one of the few “blind” meeting rooms in the hotel; most of them have tall panoramic windows and much light. “Ronda” is in permanent high demand for balls and projections.
The InterContinental Bucharest was a heaven of peace when dramatic events occurred nearby. Like the "Vrancea" 1977 earthquake, which killed 1570. Particularly in the neighboring Uranus discrict. The structure resisted the violent vibrations, and it took only a couple of days to fix the degradations. It witnessed the 1989 anti-Ceausescu riots. And also the 1990 anti-Iliescu demonstrations: when dozens of people were severely hurt (7 -and maybe more- even died). International political and economic summits have been organized here.
Naturally, this is where the most famous statesmen and artists are being hosted. Most of the presidents and ministers on an official visit liked to stay in the InterContinental. They still do, despite the addition of international hotel brands since the Revolution. Lenny Kravitz, Bill Gates, Luciano Pavarotti (a XXL tub has been installed for him in the Presidential Suite...), and further members of the 1% elite systematically book here, due to the legendary discretion of the staff and high security of the building.
The rooms and suites improved a lot since our last stay in 1990. They were comfy then, but not as fancy as now. All have plush carpets, according to the US hotels standards. That's maybe not the trend, with the new generation of travelers, but it gives some pleasant warmth to the spacious rooms. All are decorated in a fine classicism, which doesn't make us feel staying in a chain hotel. The bathrooms are awesome. All have a marble sink, Agraria / L'Occitane toiletry, and some are equipped with a Jacuzzi: this was the case of my stunning Club Suite, and I did appreciate this bonus.
I also liked the gliding door, separating the living-room (with a second bathroom for the visitors) from the bedroom. Bedding in all IHG hotels is always five-star, whatever their category: making guests feel like sleeping on a cloud. Bedroom and living-room are equipped with Smart TV. The Imperial Suite is famous all over Romania: this is where Nea Marin Miliardar, the best-loved Romanian comedy film of all time, has been shot. The panorama from the extra-large balconies (all categories of rooms have one) is amazing, and makes a stay in the InterContinental Bucharest unique. It has no competitor on this.
It has no competitor neither on the quality of the Club InterContinental Lounge, regularly voted as the best in the country, and as one of the Top 5 in Europe. It offers much space for relaxation. The light boost from everywhere, and the view from the 21st floor is breathtaking. The access is exclusively limited to those who booked a Club Room / Suite, or paid the extra for enjoying its privacy, and services: like the complimentary use of the large and pleasant Club meeting room.
A VIP breakfast is served here, and there are happy hours in the evening: featuring an appealing buffet, wine, liquors, and cocktails lovingly prepared by the anticipating and friendly Alexandru. The lounge manager, and also an experimented barman, he mixes "Brandy Blazer" as skillfully as in the Ritz Paris!
The sherry on the cake is the exclusive Health Club 22, on the 22nd floor. It carefully preserved its 1960s design, which makes it the fanciest place to exercise, swim in the sky of Bucharest, relax in the Jacuzzi with a view, or enjoy the sun at the large panoramic terrace. That was such an emotion to jump in the pool after so many years...
There is a sauna, and a beautiful bar in its original design, with a samovar and a complimentary selection of the best tea blends. Nicole, the manager, is the charming hostess of the most nostalgically glamourous gym in Romania. Even if you stay elsewere during your visit, pay the access fee to experience this iconic SPA: it will give you the envy to book in the definitely unforgettable InterContinental Bucharest on another trip to amazing Romania.
INTERCONTINENTAL BUCHAREST: Bulevardul Nicolae Balcescu 4, 010051 Bucharest, Romania
PHONE: +40 21 310 2020 TOLL FREE: +888 233 9450