Danube River

Ritz-Carlton, Budapest

The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest hotel is located in the heart of the bustling 5th district overlooking Erzsebet Square with a view of St. Stephen's Basilica and walking distance to many of the city's historic sites as well as restaurants, cafes, boutiques and galleries.

In a city known for architecture ranging from Roman and Gothic to Baroque and Art Nouveau, the 20-century facade of the hotel is a modern standout. Its exterior reminded me of a stately jewel box with its clean lines and ornate marble statues original to the building erected in 1914 as a headquarters for an Italian insurance company. 

Inside, the hotel is both modern and classic. The design concept was inspired by the nearby Danube river in both color and movement.  Shades of blues and greys create an elegant tone and the curves and swirls incorporated into the design of furniture, patterns on the carpet and custom lighting give the interiors a fresh and contemporary look.

The hotel features 170 rooms and 30 luxury suites.  Ours was a deluxe room on the sixth floor overlooking the park with a view of St. Stephen's Basilica. It was a comfortable-sized room with a dreamy, king-sized feather bed dressed in luxury linens, a writing desk and sitting area with sofa. The large marble bathroom had a walk-in shower and separate tub and was stocked with bath amenities from the London luxury label, Asprey.

I like to hit the gym when I travel to help with jet lag and the fitness center at the Ritz-Carlton was efficiently laid out with treadmills, elliptical and recumbent bike machines as well as a mirrored area with benches and free weights.  It also had yoga mats, bottled water, towels and fresh fruit. The adjacent spa was still under construction but is scheduled to open in January 2017.  The plans for the spa area call for a thermal bath, swimming pool, sauna, relaxing areas and treatment rooms.

The hotel has two restaurants - Deak Street Kitchen (DKS) and the Kupola Bar and Lounge.  The DSK appears to be a standalone restaurant with its own terrace and entrance off of Fashion Street but it can also be accessed from the hotel lounge.  It's a clever design feature which creates the illusion of "dining out" even if you're staying at the hotel.  The restaurant serves Hungarian dishes as well grilled meats, salads, burgers and sandwiches.  It is quite popular with locals and was very busy the day we had lunch during the first weekend of the Christmas Market which was staged just outside the restaurant. Daily breakfast was included in our reservation and was served in the Kupola Lounge. We had our choice of the extensive buffet or ordering off the menu or both.  

The service throughout our stay was impeccable from check-in and the plate of cookies delivered to our room upon arrival to the attentive concierge team who assisted us with restaurant and transportation reservations. The doormen were helpful and engaging and I felt bad every time I used the revolving door forgetting they were standing by poised to open the swinging door for us. And it was nice to return to the Kupola Bar on our second night and have the hostess and bartender greet us by name.

Larry squeezing in a quick nap on the sofa.  

Larry squeezing in a quick nap on the sofa.  

The location was perfect as we like to explore on foot and almost everything we wanted to see was within walking distance.  As much as we tried to see everything beautiful Budapest has to offer we still didn't see enough of it. We plan to visit again and would definitely stay at the Ritz-Carlton. 

12 Reasons Why We Think You'll Love Budapest

Budapest is perhaps the most stunningly beautiful, yet overlooked city in Europe.  It's grand and majestic but almost in a demure way, waiting politely and patiently to be discovered.  And when you do discover Budapest you'll fall in love with the city like we did. There is so much history and tradition here, yet the city feels very modern and romantic too.  It's a first-class music destination boasting one of the premier opera houses in Europe and its local wine, Tokaji is world renown.  Its traditional Hungarian dishes are ever popular but Budapest's restaurant scene has been upping its game to include more sophisticated and internationally-inspired menus and it hasn't gone unnoticed.  The city currently has four Michelin-rated restaurants. 

The city has two sides divided by the Danube River - Buda and Pest.  Buda is the hilly and historic castle district and Pest is the more bustling business area.  There are 23 districts laid out and numbered very much like Paris' arrondissements in a widening circular fashion.  Budapest is very walkable but we did take Bus #105 which was a great way to get an overview of the city.  The route connects Hero's Square on the Pest side to the Buda side of the city and travels along elegant Andrassy Boulevard before crossing the Chain Bridge into Buda.  Andrassy Boulevard is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is lined with neo-Renaissance mansions once owned by the city's most wealthy families and the impressive Hungarian State Opera House. Today, those historic mansions are occupied by business offices, cafes, luxury boutiques, theaters and restaurants.

We fell in love with Budapest at first sight and will definitely be going back to see more but here's a list of the not-to-be-missed sites we did visit.


Climb to the top of St. Stephen's Basilica


It's worth the small fee to walk up the 364 steps to the observation deck of St. Stephen's Basilica and take in the panoramic view.


Take a Bath

Pamper yourself with a day at Szechenyi Baths where you can relax in medicinal natural hot springs in 18 pools or book a massage and other spa treatments.  Save yourself time and money by researching discounts, booking online before you go and bringing your own robe and slippers. I'm sure your hotel won't mind if you borrow the ones from the closet just be sure to return them.


Walk Across the Chain Bridge

The most famous of Budapest's eight bridges, the Chain Bridge was the first permanent stone bridge connecting Buda and Pest and is considered one of the city's most iconic structures.  At the end of World War II, the retreating German troops blew up all of Budapest's bridges but the pillars of the Chain Bridge remained intact and so it was decided to rebuild it in the spring of 1947.  It was finally completed in the fall of 1949.


Take a Tour of Parliament

Located on the bank of the Danube River, the Hungarian Parliament is one of Europe's oldest and largest buildings.  The Changing of the Guard takes place at 12 noon and is free.  Tours of Parliament are available and we suggest booking online so you can skip the queue at the ticket office.


Explore the Buda Castle Quarter

The Buda Castle Quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and encompasses the historical Gothic castle and palace complex of former Hungarian kings in Budapest.  Today, you will find two museums within the Royal Palace - the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.  On Buda Hill you'll also find Matthias Church, Gellert Bath, Fishermen's Bastion as well as panoramic views of the Danube, Chain Bridge and the Pest side of the city. 


Ride the Funicular up Buda Hill

There's an easy footpath with switchbacks you can walk up to the top of Castle Hill but taking the nostalgic funicular is a fun, three-minute ride.


Dine in a bistro with Traditional Gypsy Music

Be sure to make a reservation to land a table at the restaurant you desire or ask your hotel concierge for help or suggestions. We dined at Rezkakas Bistro, a casually elegant restaurant in the 5th district serving traditional Hungarian dishes and international cuisine.


Visit the Jewish Museum

The Great Synagogue is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world.  Located in the 7th district on Dohany Street, it bordered the Budapest Ghetto during the Holocaust.  The complex includes the Synagogue, the Heroes' Temple, the graveyard, the Memorial and the Jewish Museum.

Take a Stroll Along Kiraly Street and Visit a Ruin Pub in the 7th district

Kiraly Street is Budapest's lively "design street" with boutiques, home decor and furniture stores, art galleries, cafes and even one of the city's popular "ruin pubs" - Kuplung.  Ruin pubs are old warehouses and abandoned buildings which were turned into rustic drinking places in the early 2000's by clever young men seeking places for cheap drinks.  The bars tend to have rough interiors, mismatched furniture and are decorated with a hodgepodge of found objects.  Kuplung means "clutch" and is housed in a former car repair shop.  There are several ruin pubs in the 7th district including the original one, Simple Kert, which was our favorite.


See the Shoes on the Bank of the Danube River

The "Shoes on the Danube" is a moving reminder of the Jews and others killed between 1944 and 1945.  The 60 pairs of rusty period shoes represent the men, women and children rounded up by Arrow Cross militiamen and shot by a firing squad at close range so their bodies would fall into the river.  The "Shoes" can be found in front of the Parliament building along the river bank.

Get a Budapest card


The Budapest Card gives you free public transportation as well as free or discounted admission to dozens of museums, attractions, theaters, exhibitions, sights, restaurants, theme parks and tours.  Budapest is a very walkable city but it was nice to be able to jump on the metro or a bus anywhere in the city at anytime.


Live in the Lap of Luxury

We splurged a little on our trip to Budapest because we were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary but we found the 5-star hotels and highly-rated restaurants (Budapest has four Michelin-rated restaurants in the city) quite reasonable compared to other European capital cities.