New era for historic hotel


Bucharest’s Athénée Palace, which featured in Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy, has become an InterContinental. Designed originally in Art Nouveau style and opened in 1914, the property, which was remodelled following World War II bomb damage was immortalised by Manning, who vividly described the gathering of locals and expats in its so called English bar. Her work – based on her own experience in Bucharest at that time - was later adapted for television as “Fortunes of War”, starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson.


At the Athénée, as Romania moved towards full alliance with the Axis powers in 1940, intrigues were hatched and secrets exchanged between spies on all sides. Under Communism the hotel was bugged throughout as it became a listening post for the secret police (Securitate). It survived a massive earthquake in 1977 and was pockmarked by bullets during the 1989 revolution that brought the overthrow of Ceausescu.


In 1997, after another manor revamp, the 272 room property became a Hilton. Now, set to open in its new guise in January next year, the Athénée is undergoing a guest room facelift that will be completed shortly. Public areas and those used for food and beverage will be refurbished by the end of the year and some time in 2023 respectively. The move come in partnership with Romanian partner ANA Hotels, which already owns and operates InterContental’s Crown Plaza in the capital.