Everyone has their dream travel destinations, and visiting certain hotels is often part of that dream. The palette of unique hotels is vast these days, from ice hotels to underwater resorts and glass igloos offering a high level of luxury, in the most different parts of the world. On the other hand, the chance of finding a really extraordinary fivestar hotel in the middle of a European capital city is relatively low. However, in Budapest, where tourism has been booming in the past few years, there are nearly 20 five-star hotels offering their services to international travelers. There is one among them that is more special than any other in the Hungarian capitol, due to its pristine and unique location within the UNESCO World Heritage Castle District.
The Hilton Budapest, part of the Danubius Hotels Group, opened in 1977 as the first Hilton hotel behind the Iron Curtain. It was built literally to reflect the fascinating history and ambiance of the surrounding area through its mirrored windows. The property incorporates the Gothic ruins of a 13th century Dominican abbey and cloister, in addition to a baroque façade of a 16th century Jesuit College. “Here, history is touchable,” General Manager Zoltán Árvai says. “In fact, history is happening right now,” he continues, referring to the hotel’s top-to-bottom renovations, which started in November 2014, and continued until this spring, remodeling and refurbishing all of the 322 rooms and suites as well as the public areas and meeting rooms. The interior was designed by luxury interior design specialist Goddard Littlefair, who used a wide range of bespoke furniture and soft colored fabrics as well as a number of stunning art installations, commissioned from local Hungarian artists, for a contemporary and elegant finish. In the final stage, the hotel’s restaurant will be completely redesigned and open with a brand new concept this fall.
“Prior the construction, a very strict permitting process kick-started the planning,” the GM notes, revealing that the biggest challenge was the creation of an entirely new entryway. “The Castle District is basically built on an underground cave system. Bus traffic is therefore limited, in order to protect this natural system underground. But then how could we handle and further enhance our ability to receive guests who arrive by coaches? To solve this problem, we finally made the building accessible not only through the main entrance via Hess András square, but also through a new entrance, from outside the castle wall, which can be reached via the road beside Fisherman’s Bastion. This project required the help of several experts and resulted in an entrance that looks as a mouth of a natural cave, beautifully integrated into a glass pavilion, from where guests arrive to the new check-in area in state-of-the-art glass elevators which enable them to admire the panorama of the Parliament. Our goal was to create a memorable first impression for our guests. Because, as Andrew Grant smartly put it, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I’m really happy to see that these renovations are beneficial to local residents, too, in addition to our own guests. It is important for us, to serve the local community, and any tourists, who arrive to the Castle Hill. Anyone can now freely access the Dominican Cloister and we encourage everyone to pop in to our Lobby Café and Bar, have a brunch with us on Sundays and enjoy the stunning view from our restaurant’s windows.” According to the GM, his further plans targeting tourists and Budapest residents alike is the revival of the traditional open-air concerts in the court of the Dominican church.
One would say that following such large-scale renovations, which brought a healthy mix of cutting-edge technology and breathtakingly beautiful interior design to every corner of the hotel, the GM may want to lay back a little, but Árvai thinks differently. “A new era has just begun. Hilton Budapest is reinventing itself,” he says, adding that this sort of dynamics and attitude isn’t new to Hilton Hotels & Resorts which is one of the most recognized names in the industry. “Built on its legacy of innovation by developing products and services to meet the needs of tomorrow's savvy global travelers, the brand remains synonymous with ‘hotel,’ and stands as the stylish, forward thinking global leader in hospitality,” Árvai notes. “We receive plenty of support from the global brand whose loyalty program generates a lot of traffic, especially from the U.S. and the U.K.” The GM notes that Hilton Budapest is also a popular conference destination, offering 24 event venues on its premises, located on separate floors, so they can serve as precious privacy zones. “This is a great time and place to be a part of the hospitality industry,” the GM states. “An increasing percentage of young travelers and leisure guests are moving around the world, and we’d like to see them choosing the Buda side when they arrive in the Hungarian capitol. To appeal to them, we need to work harder than ever, sometimes shoulder-to-shoulder with the Municipality – maybe bringing down a few walls, and this time, I don’t mean it literally. So, we must not rest – but of course, we can stop, for a minute, and cherish moments such as when, this summer, we were recognized as Hungary’s Leading Hotel at the World Travel Awards Europe 2018. I believe this award is also a testament to the genuine passion and dedication our hotel and my amazing colleagues put into going the extra mile for our guests. We also pride ourselves on maintaining our position in the top 10 (based on customer satisfaction) out of Hilton’s total of 150 hotels in the region, regardless of the renovations.”
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