The night before we docked in Budapest, someone at our dinner table told us that although he had loved the rest of the countries we visited on our trip, he had decided to book Passage to Eastern Europe for one very specific reason: to watch the city of Budapest emerge from the fog in the early morning on our last day.
“It is,” he said, clearing his throat, “without a doubt, the gem of the Danube.”
His wife poked him in the shoulder. “And the Hilton Budapest the icing on the cake.”
Ryan, my husband-in-tow, and I smiled at each other. We decided that with all these wonderful American cliches, there had to be something pretty extraordinary about the city of Budapest.
And, of course, the Hilton.
We were scheduled to sail into Budapest at around 6:30 in the morning, so by 6:00 a.m. I was up and pacing around my room, as excited as if it had it been Christmas morning. There is something so mesmerizing, something so full of promise, about the moments before arriving in a new city. I’d felt those feelings many times over the past two weeks, as we’d sailed from Romania to Bulgaria to Serbia to Croatia….and now, to Hungary. So much had happened during those days, as we sailed in and out of some of Europe’s most astonishing post-Communist countries, and now, three days before we were set to sail back to the United States, we were about to reach the destination I’d been looking forward to for months.
Budapest….the only city I know that is, itself, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a gorgeous city on a hillside, split into two by the Danube River. As our small 170-passenger ship rounded a corner and we could begin to see the tall spires of the Parliament Building, I knew our stay would be phenomenal.
The Hilton Budapest, a 331-room hotel located on the remnants of a 13th century Dominican church in the city’s classy Buda Castle district, was just one part of that phenomenal stay. For one thing, though the hotel cultivates all the upscale, 5-star style and luxury amenities that the Hilton brand is known for, the Hilton Budapest opted for a baroque facade for its exterior, in much the same architectural style as the buildings that surround it. It doesn’t feel fabricated, either; in fact, it feels entirely flawless, as if its triangle spires and white-washed brick walls have always been there. From what I understand, they did this to ensure that their hotel was tastefully well-integrated into the baroque city streets, rather than detracting from them or from the beauty of the nearby Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion. The classy black awning over the revolving doors, stamped with the sophisticated serif used by the Hilton for decades, is really the only indication you’ve reached your destination.
To be honest, I absolutely loved the hotel, the way it seamlessly blended with Buda Castle’s medieval and 19th century cobblestone streets, how it was literally steps from the stunning Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion, and how we could easily walk to all the restaurants and boutiques we could imagine. But what I loved even more was waking up in the morning, pulling the dark curtains apart, and looking across the river as the bright sun washed over the Danube River–and all of Budapest’s rooftops.
The rooms are clean, modern, and sleek in their design with a nice neutral color palette–grays, blues, beiges, and blacks. Each room is furnished with both a king-sized bed, a comfortable chaise lounge, and a round table and chair The walk-in glass showers, granite-topped vanity, and mirror lighting complement the room’s aesthetic of modernity, which, when you look outside at the majestic Danube River and the magnificent Parliament Building, is a downright striking contrast.
Breakfast–a full-service buffet spanning the entire length of a large conference room–is wonderful. Each morning, we could choose from a vast selection of pastries, eggs, omelets, waffles, and local specialties. The coffee, too, was just the way I like it: a full-bodied dark roast, with sweet notes.
So, was Budapest the gem of the Danube, the icing on the cake?
Would I recommend it?
Yes, by all means, yes. Go to Budapest. Stay at the Hilton. Walk around Buda Castle Hill. Visit all the And if you can, splurge for a room with a river view. I promise it’ll be worth it. Book your room with a view at the Hilton hotel’s website. You can also compare rates and book through the many booking sites such as Hotels.com or Priceline.
At the time of this review, prices for the Twin Superior Room start at 161 euros (for the discount advance purchase) and go up from there. The King Hilton Executive Room with Danube River View, which we stayed in, is currently priced at 259 euros per night (with advance purchase).
Prices may vary depending on date or time of year and reservations can easily be made online. It might be worth noting that the hotel will be undergoing some renovations from November 2016 to April 2017, but all daily operations, hotel services, and Superior Rooms will not be affected.
Hilton Budapest Hotel
Hess Andras Terr 1-3
Most gracious thanks to Viking River Cruises for hosting our recent stay at the Budapest Hilton. If you’re interested, check out the itinerary. Budapest is the last stop in a nine-day cruise through Eastern Europe.