To Buda or To Pest – that is the question? And badly misquoted Shakespearean references aside, that actually is the question for most travellers planning accommodation for a first visit to Budapest (or a second one in my case). A little introduction for those of you who have never been: the composition of the city of Budapest reflects that of its name, a comfortable jigsaw pairing of two distinct sides – Pest and Buda, divided by the undulating grandeur of the majestic Danube.
Staying on the Buda side enables hilltop, panoramic vistas across the city and a more sleepy and mellow ambience by night but of course, as a staunch urban girl and a devout Londoner, my inclination naturally fell within the boundaries of Pest, the side of the city pulsating with opulent coffee houses, renowned tourist attractions, easy transportation (and no hills to climb!)
And with the decision made to base ourselves in Pest, the Prestige Hotel became our home for our long weekend.
The older I get, the more aware I become about my hotel and accommodation preferences. I always embrace variety within my travel accommodation choices, sampling everything from cosy bed and breakfasts to lavish luxury hotels. But for short European city breaks, I love nothing more than a chic, boutique hotel that marries together elegance, personalised service and individuality with convenience and comfort. And dare I use the F word but I think Prestige Hotel Budapest may actually be my favourite ever European boutique hotel.
My inbuilt compass is so malfunctioning that it barely recognises the north from the south but even I could have found this hotel if struggling given its undeniable location just a two-minute walk away from one of the most striking attractions in the city – St Stephen’s Basilica in the heart of downtown Budapest.
And its positioning right within the hub of the Budapest tourist scene is one of the primary reasons it appealed to me. Aside from the Basilica, we were within a short walk of the Hungarian Parliament, Chain bridge, the Danube riverside and we chose to head to the Buda side of the city on foot as well.
As we walked into the hotel lobby on the morning of our arrival, the squeaky clean, mosaic-adorned floors gleamed so flawlessly that we could just about see our pores in the reflection but then what else would you expect from an establishment that opened only a year ago, the newest addition to the Zara Hotel Group.
An unexpected offer of an upgrade on arrival meant that we found ourselves in a deluxe room on the 6th floor with a view of an open courtyard style setting beneath us.
The gilded and velvet-effect, soft furnishings splayed across the bed and sofa went a long way towards making us feel like royalty.
However, when we found the karaoke service on the hotel smart TV and started competing childishly with each other, we quickly realised neither one of us purport ourselves with the decorum required by royalty! And yes, I am just a smidgen embarrassed that this photograph serves as evidence of me singing along to N-Sync.
The deluxe rooms had many of those small touches that help guests to feel pampered even amongst the hustle and bustle of a city. There is a lot to be said about the de-stressing properties of a hotel lie in on a pillow of your choice, an all-encasing soft, white robe and a cup of fresh brew. And yes, for those of you who know me well, I am not a seasoned coffee-consumer but if a hotel is generous enough to provide in room Nespresso machines, then I am certainly happy to dabble in a sip for good measure.
And the finer, logistically important details are not forgotten either – the plug points are well located, the bedside night lights have a moveable and flexible reading light for those of us who feel most awake the later the day progresses.
As practical and necessary as the plug points and lighting options are, let’s be honest, these are not the parts of a hotel stay that make a stay exciting. For that, they provided us with a bar of dark chocolate and a separate selection box of three gourmet chocolates encompassing traditional Hungarian flavours.
Even if you are residing at Prestige Hotel during a winter Budapest break rather than the summer months, don’t make the same mistake I did by not bringing a swimsuit.
For one, you need it when visiting one of the many famous thermal baths in the city and for another, the hotel has a tasteful jacuzzi, which Pumpkin loved soaking in at the end of a long day of mileage and sight-seeing as well as a sauna and gym area.
Breakfast at Prestige Hotel
My definition of what constitutes a “convenient” location for a hotel usually focuses on proximity to the sights I want to see and rarely stretches to incorporate anything else but from now on, I shall start looking at proximity to dining spots. We were utterly inundated with restaurant options within just a five to ten minute walk from the hotel, avoiding the tourist traps immediately outside the Basilica and walking just a few hundred yards away on the side streets to discover gourmet Hungarian cuisine. Prestige Hotel itself though has an equally tempting dining option if you want to stay in for the night.
The Costes Downtown restaurant based at Prestige Hotel earned itself a Michelin star just the month after we left! Hotel guests are served breakfast at that very restaurant and unlike many hotel breakfasts I have experienced, even at some internationally renowned 5 star hotels, the breakfast here for all guests is a welcome and very tasteful combination of buffet offerings and table service.
The table service menu offers a selection of dishes included within the hotel bed and breakfast package, such as Eggs Benedict and waffles but also has a more expansive selection of breakfast and brunch options available at a small additional cost for those wanting to order from the Costes Downtown menu.
Even if you aren’t staying at Prestige Hotel, I would highly recommend booking in for a breakfast or brunch here (as indeed I saw a few local businessmen doing), as the food quality and casual chic vibe of the restaurant almost left me feeling like I was brunching at a swanky New York City hot spot.
When a hotel brands itself with the name, Prestige, it automatically sets itself the challenge of delivering the pinnacle of service and quality (and dare I say it, perhaps even sets itself up for a fall) but the way in which they have combined classic Hungarian elegance with modern amenities, fine food and extremely friendly service prove that it is more than living up to its title.
Disclaimer: We received a reduced media rate stay at Prestige Hotel but I was taught many moons ago that liars end up with pants on fire. All views, good or bad, are entirely my own.