Budapest is a hot destination right now. Not only is it one of the most affordable destinations in Europe but has a fantastic nightlife – from the famous ruin pubs to the current trend in craft beer bars – and a gourmet uprising that is seeing standard Hungarian cuisine creatively reinvented from reasonably-priced bistros to food trucks. While the city boasts a host of budget hostel accommodation, there is also a selection of stylish hotels where a stay costs well under £100 a night.
This discrete design hotel looks more like an anonymous apartment block from the street. But walk inside and the soaring entrance lobby doubles as an elegant cocktail bar, and on the first floor, a smart restaurant offers creative local cuisine with dishes like duck breast with sour cherry and rhubarb sauce or roasted goose liver on a ragout of apricots and apple. By July, a brand new elevator will open just by the Lánchíd to whisk visitors straight up to the Royal Castle, while a romantic walk across the grandiose Chain Bridge brings you straight into downtown Pest. Rooms have been decorated by local artists and graphic designers, many have big bathtubs, but if you want a panoramic view over the Danube rather than looking out over the Castle at the back, then that will add £20 a night to the bill.
Double rooms from £67 not including breakfast
Hotel Palazzo Zichy
As you walk into the imposing marble entrance hall of the Palazzo Zichy it seems that little has changed since it was built in the 19th century for an Hungarian nobleman. But this is an hotel that mixes ancient with modern, and the reception lobby, in comparison, looks almost space-age, with a vast glass ceiling above and an open view on to the breakfast room a floor below. As is often the case in Budapest, the standard rooms are large, including the bathrooms, that have walk-in showers. Guests have free use of the sauna and fitness room, while during the day, free tea, coffee and snacks are served in the lounge bar. The Palazzo is located in the lively Palace neighbourhood, looking out over a leafy square with a Russian restaurant, while two minutes’ walk away, Mikszáth Kálmán square is brimming with bars and bistrots.
Double rooms from £74 including breakfast
An apartment building dating back to the communist era of the 1930s has been cleverly converted into a retro-style address whose vivid psychedelic colours look more Carnaby Street than Budapest. Prices are very reasonable, but bear in mind that this is more basic B&B than boutique hotel, with small rooms – albeit decorated with graphic pop art prints – and no extras like gym and spa. A generous buffet breakfast is served in a striking orange and green dining room, and there’s a popular lounge bar for hanging out before hitting the town’s nightlife. While the famous ruin bars of the Jewish quarter are all around, such as the anarchic Fogasház, you can also splash out on a Martini at the opulent belle époque New York Café, right on the main road by the Soho.
Double rooms from £120 (£60 for last-minute offers) including breakfast
The Castle District looks like one of the most touristy parts of the Buda side of the city, but once you leave behind the crowds at the Fisherman’s Bastion and Mattias Church, the narrow cobbled streets lined with pastel cottages and grand mansions rapidly become quieter, more like a village. Eventually you reach the city’s latest hotspot, Baltazár, a winebar and bistro on the ground floor, with 11 rooms upstairs that opened in July 2013. Each room is individually-themed, with decor inspired by Warhol and Keith Haring alongside vintage furniture and comfy leather armchairs. The restaurant specialises in charcoal grill cooking, and is the perfect place to discover Hungary’s surprising wines, such as the crisp white Furmint or pinot noir from Transylvania. The 16a bus stops almost outside which whisks you over the Chain bridge and into the heart of downtown Pest.
Double rooms from £84 not including breakfast
Lavender Circus Hostel
It is worth staying at the eccentric Lavender just to meet the bohemian owner, artist Adam Szarvas, who doesn’t just make guests feel welcome but part of the family, cooking together with them some nights, organising a trawl of the latest clubs, such as Akvárium, and offering free wine and ‘pálinka’, Hungary’s lethal fruit brandy, that he brings back from his village in the countryside. He may call it a ‘hostel’ – ‘because we are neither a hotel nor B&B, as we don’t serve breakfast’ – but Lavender consists of 15 unique double rooms (seven with their own bathroom), decorated with flea-market furniture, the walls covered with Adam’s witty line drawings, and bathrooms that have a goldfish tank embedded in the window. Located right opposite the National Museum, room rates have to be the best deal in town, with one drawback, a steep slog up three flights of stairs.
Double rooms from £27, no breakfast but free use of the kitchen
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Mirage Fashion Hotel