When it comes to air travel, people know where my loyalties lie. Hotel brand are a bit of a different story though. The benefits of hotel loyalty simply don’t fit very well with my travel goals and style, which means I’m much more likely to “sleep around” at various chain and non-chain properties over the course of a year. I’m certainly a member of several hotel loyalty programs because if you’re going to stay at one there’s no reason not to collect the points, but I don’t agonize over being able to stay at a chain of my choice every time I’m booking a trip.
This really comes to the forefront for me when I’m traveling overseas because many of the perks of hotel loyalty, such as free breakfasts or complimentary internet, are easily obtained by booking with a quality local establishment. I faced this dilemma in Budapest as there were quite a few local hotels that looked appealing to me as a visitor and were priced at rate that were even more attractive than the rooms they featured. I spent a much longer time than usual narrowing down my options but finally decided on a boutique property near the banks of the Danube. I fired off an email asking them to confirm my stay only for them to reply later in the day that they had just confirmed the last available room to another traveler. Womp womp.
Rejected from my attempt to stay at a non-chain property, I decided that the price at the Hilton was actually pretty good for the dates I was visiting (approximately $115/night) and noted it was located in a fantastic spot on Castle Hill. This is a prime tourist site for visitors and the hotel’s website promised picturesque views from many rooms. I poked around for another few hours looking at other non-chain hotel options but decided that the Hilton was actually offering a good deal for this trip, and with my mid-tier elite status with the Hilton group I could enjoy complimentary internet and a few other perks.
As I mentioned above, the Hilton Budapest has a phenomenal location next to the historic Fisherman’s Bastion at the top of Castle Hill. As a visitor intent on sightseeing, it’s very appealing as you can literally walk out the front door of the hotel and be less than a minute’s walk from multiple “hot” locations. The fact that Castle Hill oozes old school European charm is definitely a boon to its location, not to mention being perched high above the city at all times provides for ample opportunities to enjoy the vastness Budapest.
One of the big downsides to the hotel’s location is access to public transportation. While Budapest has a network of trains, trams, and buses crisscrossing the city, none of those is particularly convenient or efficient for accessing the hotel from the train station. It’s also rather inconvenient if you’re coming from the airport. Budapest is fairly walkable but as the name implies, Castle Hill can be a bit of a work out to get up and down from. I enjoyed the neighborhood around the hotel, but if I returned to Budapest I would make sure to locate myself elsewhere and focus on seeing sights a bit further from the Hill. If having a hotel in a beautiful location was the goal though, Hilton would be a top contender.
SERVICE & STAFF
My experience with the Hilton Budapest’s staff started off on a very positive note. If you have read my previous entry about my struggle with food poisoning on this trip, you’ll know that I had requested the hotel send a driver to meet my train from Berlin. Originally I had planned to take public transit close to the hotel and then simply walk the remainder of the way, but with the illness ravaging my body I had decided that was not a solid plan. The driver helped me fight off a group of angry Hungarian transit employees and delivered me to the hotel in no time flat, which essentially made him my Travel Lord & Savior for the remainder of my stay in Budapest.
Also on the path to sainthood would be the friendly check-in agent who went through the entire process of notifying me of my elite benefits, briefing me on the layout of the hotel, and handing me my room key so quickly I hardly stressed about the fact that I was about to collapse into a pile of disease and illness on the hotel’s marble-floored lobby.
Sadly from this point forward I was only able to interact with staff on the last day of my stay, but again, I was very impressed with their focus on being friendly and service-oriented. When I ordered room service and requested that they bring me yogurt at 10PM at night, they didn’t miss a beat and simply brought it up along with a hot bowl of chicken broth. No qualms about yogurt only being served during breakfast hours. They aimed to please.
Similarly, the agent in the hotel’s lounge agreed to allow me to retain access to the facility during the day even after I had checked out. I was taking another night train to Munich late that evening and feeling a little less than stellar after wrestling with the demon in my belly, I wanted the safety of having a place to retreat in case things suddenly went south on my road to recovery. She had no problems allowing me to hang out there for a part of the afternoon, leave for the remainder of the day to do some sightseeing and enjoy an authentic Hungarian meal outside of the hotel, and return later that night to catch up on email and snack on the treats they’d laid out.
Other than the spectacular view you get from your room (I’ll get to that later), the service provided by the staff was the highlight of my stay. Friendly to a fault and more than willing to go out of their way to make sure you’re happy during your stay. Top marks in this department.
The lobby of the hotel and most of the common areas definitely felt a bit dated when compared to other hotel chains and even other Hiltons that I’ve stayed at in the past year. Regardless, it was sufficiently elegant enough for my tastes.
Due to my illness, I can say that I became intimately familiar with the room at the Hilton. This will happen when you’re physically unable to be more than 10 feet from a bathroom without risking the UN declaring your personal space a threat to human health across the globe.
Much like the lobby, the room felt a bit dated. It had the slightly musty scent of aging carpet wafting about and the furniture appeared a bit worn and scuffed. The room is laid out just like the majority of hotel rooms across the globe – bathroom located adjacent to the entrance with the living space located in a single room at the end of a short hallway.
The bathroom featured a small vanity with a bathtub on the right and a separate enclosed shower stall on the left.
Standard Peter Roth amenities were provided by the hotel, which disappointed me a bit because I’ve always found the quality of this line a bit lacking and the scent rather bland. In case you’re a big fan though, note that Hilton will sell you bulk portions of the products for your home. Enjoy smelling like your grandmother’s bathroom air freshener.
In retrospect it’s sad to say that I spent more time sleeping on the tiles of this bathroom than the bed I’m about to talk about, but them’s the brakes when it comes to travel I suppose. Which reminds me – the towels provided were quite clean but had been bleached and washed a few too many times. No longer fluffy or soft, they ended up being quite itchy on the skin, particularly when you’re attempted to make some sort of makeshift nest out of them.
Exiting the bathroom and continuing into the room, the minibar was located inside a cabinet tucked into a corner of the room on the left-hand side. The cabinet was topped with your standard coffee and tea making products and two bottles of water available for purchase (both of which I downed over the course of my camping excursion on the bathroom floor).
On the righthand side of the room was a small chest of drawers topped with a flat screen television. The television was positioned on one end of the chest to be in an ideal location to view from the bed, however that left an awkward open area on the top that I ended up using to hold one of my pieces of luggage. The lay out of the room really would have lent itself toward a wall mounted flat screen, but going back to that issue of being a bit outdated (look at that rockin carpet!) it seems that’s not in the works at the moment.
The bed provided seemed nice enough, though as I’ve indicated I spent very little time actually sampling it. I did lounge about it in on the rare occasion that I felt well enough to get up off the bathroom floor and attempted to contact the outside world on my computer. It was not very memorable as far as hotel beds go, so take that for what it’s worth.
Located next to the bed was a nightstand and a small chair to lounge in. Again, standard issue hotel room furniture and lay out, nothing you wouldn’t see in just about any other hotel room in the world.
Finally, in a corner next to the window, there was a small desk. The desk floated a few feet away from the window, which I found a bit odd and gave the room a disjointed feel. That blank space was screaming out for something to fill it, so I ended up putting the luggage rack there just to make the voice in my head shut up.
Overall a very plain, unexciting room. The reason I was still very happy with this hotel was the view though. My room was located directly above the famed Fisherman’s Bastion, a viewing terrace that provides a sweeping vantage point to see the Danube River and the Pest side of the city.
So the Hilton Budapest doesn’t have much going for it inside the room. But once you open your curtains, you won’t really care much.
I typically don’t have access to hotel lounges, but on this stay I had been upgraded to a club room with lounge access and I made use of the facility on my last day as mentioned above. It was a nice, yet small, location to spend some time in. Food was laid out for the majority of the day, though I’m unsure if breakfast featured different offerings (it’s quite likely) as I only visited during the afternoon and evening.
The lounge was on the same floor as my room and was located in what was essentially the hallway between two wings in the hotel. You could walk in to the lounge from a section of the hotel and by walking through the lounge and exiting on the other side you’d simply pick up a hallway with more rooms. You can see the hallway with hotel room access in the picture below. A very odd location but the lounge attendants were active about keeping folks with no right to access out, so it never felt like you were hanging out in a hallway.
The majority of the seating was small tables with two seats on either side though there were a smaller number of more plush, casual seats and couches tucked away in the corners.
Food and beverage offerings were minimal but sufficient for the act of lounging. If you wanted to use the facility to substitute for meals, you’d be hard pressed to make it worth your while, though.
Beverages offered included a variety of coffees from an automated machine, a handful of teas, and a mixture of soft drinks and liquor available in two small fridges.
During the afternoon the food on offer were small pastries. While at first it appeared that they were all sweets, I quickly learned that the white tendrils stuffed into one pastry were actually a very salty cheese. The puff pastry on the plate next to the cheesy puff was also a savory snack. Later that evening staff set out trays with fruit salad and a warm pasta dish that I wasn’t able to snap a photo of for your viewing pleasure.
The Hilton Budapest isn’t going to win any awards for the most plushy rooms. It won’t be winning any awards for the most cutting edge, modern decor. It won’t be winning awards for most comfortable towels. But none of that matters if you’re looking for a hotel with a killer location and excellent views. While I’m willing to bet there are hotels in Budapest which might cost a bit less and have more updated amenities, the Hilton does have its merits and I don’t regret my decision to stay here one bit.
Location is ideal for those looking to enjoy the old world charm of Budapest
Views from many rooms are simply breathtaking. The tour doesn’t end when you return to your room, you can spend the rest of the night “sightseeing”.
Hotel staff are outstanding – both in terms of friendliness and willingness to help customers.
The hotel is poorly located for access by public transportation making arrival or touring other areas of the city difficult.
The age of the property is beginning to show in both the public areas and the rooms themselves. Hilton may need to consider a total overhaul of this location soon.