This gorgeous music-themed hotel joins a host of palatial 5-star properties in Budapest--but it might just outplay almost all of them (apologies, we promise not to continue to make music puns for the entire review). The public spaces are gorgeous, the spa is wonderful, the rooftop bar and restaurant are absolutely top-class and there's a real sense of fun, personality and individuality about almost every element of the hotel, from the playlists in each room to the piano key tiles and violin lights in the central Music Garden--the heart of the hotel and where breakfast is served. And if you don't believe us, ask Tiesto, Placido Domingo or Sting, all of whom have stayed here.
Rooms are bright and welcoming, in a 'new Baroque' style and themed around different musical genres and by wing--classical, jazz, contemporary and opera. Each is dedicated to a musical legend, including a caricature of them on the wall. But all of this doesn't get in the way of the key elements of a brilliant hotel room (comfort and convenience) from large soft beds to multiple plug sockets. All are very quiet.
YOU SHOULD KNOW There's no mini-bar, because it is all accessible from room service. But there is an iPod dock, an iPad and a mobile phone with local 4G access all for guest use.
The onyx bathrooms are also luxuriously designed and appointed. Most feature a shower and bath, and some have standalone baths. Music buffs can choose to get their tunes of choice pumped out of speakers in the bathrooms as well as the room itself--a nice touch.
The hotel's reception desk is to the right as you enter, and staffed by unendingly friendly and enthusiastic staff, some of whom occasionally take a turn playing music for guests. There's a music concierge, too, who can help with all the normal requests as well as any musical questions you may have about the hotel or city--or beyond. But the real wow factor is the covered glass courtyard just beyond reception, which houses the hotel's peaceful Music Garden.
Don't miss the complimentary wine and cheese reception from 4-6pm in the beautiful Music Garden - a mix of bright modern furniture and the historic courtyard buildings - and obviously accompanied by great musicians.
A lovely, chilled out pool that is large enough to swim laps in, if you want, but also comfortable enough to just float around in.
Harmony Spa is gorgeous, all soft pink lighting and four-poster beds for relaxing on post-jacuzzi, sauna or seasonal treatment.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Not all wings of the hotel can get direct access to the spa - some have to walk through reception and the Music Garden to change lifts in their bathrobes, which feels a little awkward.
The fitness offer is pretty impressive--not just a fitness room but rooftop yoga, aqua bikes, and more.
Stradivari Restaurant serves up top-notch Hungarian classics and international food in a swanky atmosphere. Breakfast, in the Music Garden, is a delight: The buffet is comprehensive, with lovely fresh fruit, and eggs are cooked to order.
In the High Note rooftop bar, the Aria plays its trump card: rooftop views, including of St Stephen's Basilica, combine with comfortable yellow chairs, twinkling fairy lights, and a stylish crowd to make for a memorable evening. Cocktails are often themed--around films in the winter, or the forest in summer, for example--meaning that they are endlessly inventive, and delicious.
You could hardly be closer to St Stephen's Basilica, with the hotel well-located - although surprisingly easy to miss - on the street leading to the church. It's also within walking distance of most other sights, or right by the public transport hub around Deák Ferenc tér.
Borkonyha Winekitchen Restaurant (3-minute walk), a smart dining room with mirrored walls and over 200 Hungarian wines, also has solid contemporary cuisine. Or try Aszú Étterem (6-minute walk), an attractive dining space serving delicious, high-end Hungarian food.
A drink on a boat with the architectural beauty of Pest laid out before you - and you don't have to leave until 4am if you don't want to. Pontoon (6-minute walk) is our kind of place. Or take a slightly longer walk and check out the Budapest institution, ruin bar Szimpla Kert (20-minute walk) - a large, good-natured drinking hole in a crumbling old courtyard that kicked off an entire movement of similarly scruffy outside/inside bars.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The Aria Hotel Budapest is a stellar example of a luxury boutique hotel, with bags of personality and charm via its scrupulously observed musical theme as well as properly top-end facilities and rooms. What else can we say? Bravo!