Review: Hilton Budapest

Introduction
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Hilton Budapest
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A couple of months ago I earned Hilton HHonors Diamond status through the Citi Hilton Reserve Card, and in Budapest figured I’d choose the Hilton for my first stay as a Diamond. Hotel rates were expensive throughout the city and the Hilton had award availability for just 30,000 HHonors points per night given that it’s a category five property, so it seemed like a no brainer.

The Hilton is located in the Castle District, which boasts amazing views of the Danube River and Budapest.

The hotel itself is rather tired and in need of a renovation, though I knew that coming in. It’s in a very historic part of town so that shouldn’t be a huge surprise either.

When we arrived at the hotel the bellmen promptly offered to help, though we only had carry-ons.

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Hotel exterior

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Hotel exterior

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Hotel exterior

Once in the hotel we headed up to the third floor club lounge for check-in formalities. We were helped there by an exceedingly friendly associate, Petra. She not only thanked me for being a Diamond member, but noted it was my first stay as a Diamond, and therefore offered us a suite on one of the top floors with views of the Danube River. She also offered recommendations for what to do in Budapest, and asked us to let her know if we had any more questions.

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Lobby

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Lobby

We headed to our room on the 5th floor, room 507, and I couldn’t help but think the hallways felt very cruiseshipish.

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Hallway to room

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Door to room

The room had an entryway which led to the living room.

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Entryway

The living room was huge, with a round table near the entrance overlooking the Danube.

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Living room

Also near the entrance were two seats with a table and lamp in the center, which seemed rather awkwardly placed.

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Living room

Then there was a couch with two chairs facing a flat screen TV.

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Living room

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TV

And then by the window was a desk overlooking the side of the hotel.

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Desk

Also in the living room was a minibar, on top of which was a small welcome gift with some chocolate cake, a praline, and some cantaloupe (random, eh?).

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Minibar

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Welcome gift

Then there was the bedroom, with a comfortable king size bed, which even had towel art. Sure doesn’t help with my impression of thinking the hotel feels a bit like a cruise ship. šŸ˜‰

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Bedroom

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Bedroom

There was also a flat screen TV and seat with ottoman in the bedroom.

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Bedroom

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Bedroom

The bedroom looked out over the side of the hotel.

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View from the bedroom

For a suite the bathroom was pretty basic, with a single sink, toilet, and shower/tub combo.

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Bathroom

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Shower

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Toilet

The toiletries were Peter Thomas Roth branded, which seem pretty standard at Hiltons.

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Toiletries

While the room certainly felt dated, I appreciated all the extra space. The highlight of the room, though, were the views from the living room. This hotel literally sits right behind a castle, and at times it almost seems like the only reason it’s there is to make the view even more awesome.

Seriously, take a look at this view:

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View from the room

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View from the room

The view was even more spectacular at sunrise:

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View at sunrise

I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels with great views in my life, and this certainly ranks up there with the InterContinental Hong Kong, Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, Oberoi Amarvillas Agra, and the InterContinental Berchtesgaden, in terms of views.

Anyway, as a Diamond member I had access to the following facilities:

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So we had breakfast at the restaurant, Icon, which was open from 6:45AM till 10:30AM. Admittedly I spend too much time in Asia where breakfast buffets are just excessively ridiculous, so in comparison this wasn’t anything special.

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Icon Restaurant

There was a buffet which was decent by European standards. While I love the “hot” part of Asian buffets, I usually stick to the non-heated options in Europe, since I find the eggs, sausage, etc., to all be far too greasy.

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Buffet

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Buffet

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Buffet

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Buffet

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Buffet

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Buffet

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Buffet

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Buffet

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Buffet

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Buffet

In addition to the buffet, you could order pancakes, waffles, french toast, and porridge.

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A la carte menu

I ordered the french toast, which consisted of a single piece of sad looking toast.

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French toast

While we were only at the hotel for one breakfast, which we ate in the restaurant, I did run up to the club lounge to snap some pictures of their spread as a comparison. It was rather limited, with just pastries/muffins, fruit, meat, cheese, and cereal.

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Club lounge breakfast spread

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Club lounge breakfast spread

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Club lounge breakfast spread

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Club lounge breakfast spread

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Club lounge breakfast spread

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Club lounge breakfast spread

The evening spread, which was available from 6PM till 8:30PM featured an open bar and a rather limited food spread. They had nuts, finger sandwiches, fruit, cheese, a couple of hot options, and dessert.

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Club lounge evening spread

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Club lounge evening spread

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Club lounge evening spread

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Club lounge evening spread

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Club lounge open bar

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Club lounge evening drinks

It’s worth noting that the service in the hotel as a whole — and the club lounge in particular — was spectacular. Every employee was eager to help and friendly, and the club lounge staff were amazing beyond words.

The hotel also boasted a gym on the first floor which was rather modern compared to the rest of the hotel.

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Gym

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Gym

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Gym

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Gym

To sum it up, this is an old hotel that could use a renovation, though the location was really cool, the employees were top notch, and the views were amazing. I wouldn’t hesitate to return, though in the interest of variety may try a different hotel the next time I go to Budapest.

As far as Budapest itself goes, I thought physically it was a beautiful city. The people were reasonably friendly and the food was great. There was also quite a bit to do. While we just had one full day there, I couldn’t help but feel like there was some “life” missing from the city. Admittedly we were there on a weekday and the weather wasn’t great so that may have contributed, so I guess I’ll have to return to decide to sure. If you’ve been to Budapest (or stayed at the Hilton), what did you think?

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Comments

  1. Also stayed here last October… loved it! Incredible views… Especially tea and cakes at 3pm in executive lounge…

  2. Budapest was totally happening when Kelley and I stayed at the Hilton in July 2002. The city is a mental memory. We stopped packing electronics in 2002 due to the added security wait time the year following the 9/11 changes to air travel. We have no photos of the trip when we traveled to Belfast, Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna and Budapest.

    Many of the women were scantily clothed in the 95F heat. I was not surprised to read that summer that Budapest was voted sexiest city in world.

    The devastating impact of the real estate crash with loans in Euros and Swiss francs shattered the economy.

    Perhaps that is a factor in the city not happening so much these days.

    We found it to be a romantic experience with our upgrade to the King Duna Suite at the Hilton Budapest on a PointStretcher stay for 18,000 per night.

  3. Went to Budapest last summer and found hotels to be very affordable. It’s hard to believe they were really that expensive (especially considering where you travel and stay throughout the world). But thanks for the report.

  4. @ NYCGuy — I was booking two days before arrival so more accurately I should have said almost everything was sold out. The Le Meridien was going for over 350 Euros per night as they only had premium rooms available, for example.

  5. Marriott has an amazing executive lounge, spent a week there in December and found the city very entertaining.

  6. Was there a charge for taking bfast in the restaurant instead of the club lounge? I didn’t see it on the manager’s letter….

    It may just be a coincidence, but your “cruiseship” comments remind me that Budapest is a major start/end point on the river cruise circuit.

  7. We were in Budapest just after 9/11. We took the night train from Munich (private room — bucket list item). That was pretty cool.

    Budapest itself was wonderful. The highlight was the Heroes Square — massive in scale and the performance of Tosca at the Budapest Opera House. That is a must-see. The inside is like a jewel box, and the small size is acoustically perfect for the opera. You can really hear the singers’ true voices.

    Our hotel was a modern pension near the main train station. Nothing special, but clean, and the staff was wonderful. What I have noticed is that since they have moved to the Euro, the prices in Hungary have skyrocketed. Yeah. That worked.

  8. Stayed here about nine months ago, really enjoyed it. The views are superb and staff were very friendly. I thought the lounge breakfast was pretty good – mot Asian standard, but pretty comprehensive and we’ll presented (plus no expectation of a tip for a self service buffet :D). The hotel has done a very good job of blending old and new parts although agree the decor could do with a wee update.

    Peter Thomas Roth is the brand standard, hence why you’ll have seen them at a few Hilton’s šŸ˜‰ It’s also called an Exec Lounge rather than a Club Lounge in Hilton parlance – gives you away as a not being as frequent a guest at Hilton properties as the staff thought you were šŸ˜›

    I was only there for a couple of days but would definitely return. I’m not a big cruise fan but a Danube one could be interesting.

  9. I loved my stay at the Hilton, about 10 years ago. The recession hasn’t been kind to Hungary, but they found the money for flat screens.

    Budapest was super lively when I was there. Food was awesome.

    By the way, you prefer hello kitties to towel swans?

  10. That’s a sweet 30,000 point redemption (which is only about $1000-1400 in Hilton spend if you use the AMEX Surpass). Amazing views.

  11. Budapest is absolutely happening! (I am from there and just got back.) But I suggest you book the Intercontinental next time. It is centrally located close to many attractions, and nothing beats that view – just make sure you book a Danube-facing room, preferably a deluxe. The Marriott is also good because of the terrace, and I would also try Four Seasons (the Gresham Palace) once for an upscale experience. Both are next to Intercontinental.

  12. About 13 years ago when I was in Bosnia, i rented a car in Sarajevo and drove to Budapest. The countryside was spectacular and had a good time in the city as well. So while your trip reports are urban in nature and much appreciated, getting out in the rural areas can be very special, as you discovered in Bavaria.

  13. @Lucky,
    Ah, that makes sense. Sounds like it was a good stay. I loved Budapest and it’s fun to read about it. Thanks again.

  14. Besides the great view from the Hilton, another plus is the hotel’s proximity to the CafĆ© Ruzwurm, which has the best pastries in all of Europe!

  15. Stayed at LM Budapest in January. A nice enough property in a quiet city compared to when I visited the previous time just over 10 years ago. I have to agree the economy is bad and things aren’t happening there.

    Looking at the photos, next time I’d recommend you to check out Boscolo Budapest (now a Marriott Autograph), Gresham Palace or Le MĆ©ridien (also a FHR partner).

  16. I’m an Intercontinental fan at Budapest – location, view, everything is just right there. (the Gresham is out of my price range)

    The Marriott is also a very good choice, if you’re more into that group.

    Kempinski, MĆ©ridien – excellent location next to each other, less spectacular views

    Boscolo – downtown business district, beautiful hotel. Even the basic room is bigger than the jr suite at IC.

    Hilton – you saw the pics šŸ™‚ Location is excellent for old town, bit out of the way for downtown. (the other property, Hilton West End is a downtown location adjoint to a huge shopping mall)

  17. In fairness to the hotel (this or any other) an “International Buffet Breakfast” is the most challenging meal that they produce -and the least rewarding.

  18. Do you think you can offer a meaningful critique of the aesthetics, friendliness, cuisine and liveliness of a 1200 year old, 3 million people city based on one full day?

  19. Budapest is a fantastic city. I spent a week there in an apartment, which gave me a great taste of local life, yet was only a minute’s walk from the river and the views of the stunning castle.

    I remember all the local people kissing. It was summer and it seemed like a national pastime. I can why it was voted the sexiest city in the world.

    Almost every street has some architectural delight, even if many buildings feel as if they are on the verge of collapse. And the food was fantastic, and so reasonably priced, that it really polished off the experience for me.

  20. My mom used to do business with Hungary when we lived in Europe — mostly specializing in wine which is very, very good (not very common in the US though). Unfortunately, I’d only been to Hungary once with my parents in ’98 — spent most of the time on Lake Balaton (highly recommended) but made it to Budapest as well.

    Not sure about current situation but back then it seemed that tourism industry was mostly catering to Germans as staff at majority of touristy places spoke better German (or Russian) than English but that wouldn’t be a problem for you šŸ™‚

  21. Ben,
    Have been to Budapest five times (once pre liberation). Stayed at the Gellert the first time, a “trip” laughing looking back. Corvinus IC the second time. Then last three trips at the ONLY place to stay – the Four Seasons Gresham Palace. Always get a Park Suite, actually a very large one room junior suite, with views actually equal if not better than Hilton as one gets the same buildings (form the opposite direction) but also the hills, were the Hilton is. Service, comfort wonderful, but best of all the marvelous front office people and concierge. You should try this marvelous city again, Hungarians are “the Latins” of Eastern Europe, with a zest and love for life and a good time. Also the food if you know where to go is outstanding, and prices are very low, except for the F.S. Best, DG

  22. Hi,

    what you wrote was a castle behind which the hotel was built is actually just a small addition to the edge of the plateau that is the Castle District. Unless the whole Castle around, some parts of which are 600 years old, it is a “brand new” attachment that was only added around the last years of the 1800s. And here comes the real kicker: like you assumed, it was really built just to make the surroundings nicer, decorate the church between it and the hotel, and to serve as an outlook terrace for people that can’t enjoy the sights from their hotel rooms šŸ™‚

    I also think you forgot to mention the 13th and 17th century ruins that were excavated during the construction of the building and because of which the whole house had to be redesigned. Now they are incorporated in the building and they can be seen in the courtyards. Plus, there is also a stone now in the lobby that marks the border of the Roman Empire, also found when they built the hotel. I think these together with the views make it a very unique hotel, and I am saying that because I live in Budapest not because I am financially interested in promoting Hilton.

    If you visit Budapest again and need a private guide to present you the small wonders like this just write me an e-mail. šŸ™‚

    A Tour Giude from Budapest

  23. I just came back from a long weekend trip in Budapest about 2 weeks ago. Stayed at Sofitel and Boscolo. I preferred the Sofitel over the Boscolo which is IMO more style over substance.

    It was a bit too warm for my liking this time of the year, next time I should probably go when it’s a bit cooler.

    Food wise, I had fairly decent food at Four Seasons Gresham Palace, Nobu (at Kempinski) and Paris Budapest restaurant (at Sofitel) which I found reasonably priced.

    I still prefer Prague to Budapest though.

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