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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 August 2018

Executive travel: Grand old dame of Budapest still a cut above rivals

Hilton Budapest, opened some four decades ago, remains the city's top business hotel

Hilton Budapest. Courtesy Hilton Budapest
Hilton Budapest. Courtesy Hilton Budapest

The 1977-vintage Hilton Budapest is tucked alongside the UN World Heritage listed Buda Castle on a hill overlooking the Hungarian capital, and features some of the best views of any city hotel in the world.

Yet, oddly, it is also the up and coming city’s top business hotel with 24 meeting rooms as well as 298 bedrooms and 24 suites. This spring a four-year refurbishment programme was completed.

Visiting CEOs and company chairs will enjoy the newly renovated Presidential Suite. I could still smell the paint drying.

Naturally it has the very best views, taking the spectacular Hungarian Parliament, Buda Hills and the neo-gothic Fisherman’s Bastion overlooking the river Danube.

My only quibble was difficulty finding the right light switch, although the room was spectacularly beautiful at night with just the lights of the city as illumination.

I also could not find the electric plug on my large desk with a perfect panorama; actually you pushed a button and two continental plug sockets appeared in the desk top; the Internet clocked an impressive 29.9 Mbps and the safe big is enough for any laptop.

Hilton Budapest. Courtesy Hilton Budapest
Hilton Budapest offers amazing city views. Courtesy Hilton Budapest

For Dh8,800 per night this 160 square metre suite is value-for-money, though you can get a 32 square meter standard room with a Danube view from around Dhs1,050, or one of the 50 per cent of rooms without a view for Dhs700.

Unlike most Budapest hotels this is in a very quiet location with no traffic noise. For longer stays some of the 11 double-height Loft Suites even have kitchenettes as did the Presidential Suite.

Room service is also inexpensive: Dh58 for a club sandwich or premium Scottish beef burger, Dh12 for a coke and Dh15 for Aqua Panna or Pringles.

Dining in the Icon restaurant is another chance to savour the amazing cityscape. But this lavishly refurbished modern salon is not an intimate place and can seat 200, ideal mainly for corporate events.

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Its cuisine currently features Hungarian classics but will be changed to a steak grill concept from the autumn. There’s also a spacious lobby lounge and bar, and another huge cafe.

The hotel was keen to show me the brand new entrance and reception for coach parties and VIPs who can now arrive via a hidden road and take a private panoramic elevator to a second reception area. The Buda Castle district can get crowded, so this is luxury indeed.

There is no swimming pool. The gym is fitted with brand new LifeFitness equipment: two walking machines; two bikes; and a stepper, of course featuring a view.

So, too, does the smart Executive Lounge with all-day food presentations that would allow you to survive on its light meals alone. It has two Microsoft computers and a printer, while there is also a separate Business Centre with four Microsoft computers and several printers.

The preserved remains of a 13th century Dominican cloister and monastery have been incorporated into the hotel and can be an open-air venue for up to 300 guests.

Hilton Budapest. Courtesy Hilton Budapest
Hilton Budapest has undergone a refurbishment. Courtesy Hilton Budapest

Still, rooms for meetings and other events are not in short supply. Where the Hilton Budapest really comes into its own is as a business hotel with the most versatile convention facilities in the city: from the 600-seat re-designed conference and ballroom down to the Visegrad boardroom for 12.

Only completed last year the meeting rooms have 60-inch Samsung Smart TVs and the latest audio-visual equipment including a Bose audio system.

There are conferences and business meetings year round in this hotel, which was the first Hilton in the Eastern Bloc when it opened 41 years ago under a communist regime.

The Global Audit 2018 conference was in progress during my visit, and a large gathering of accountants massed in the lobby ready for a night on the town.

Despite its location in a tourist hot-spot the Hilton Budapest has more corporate than leisure guests and is really a quintessential modern business hotel that just happens to be sat in the middle of a UN World Heritage site with jaw-dropping views.

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