Isn’t it great when a decision you make on a whim turns out to be one of the best decisions ever? Our choice of Continental Hotel Budapest was exactly like that. To cut a long story short, a last minute change of plans meant that we ended up booking this place without our usual in depth research etc. We instinctively knew it was a good hotel, but had no idea that it had such a fantastic history behind it and that it would become such a convenient base for us to explore the city of Budapest.
One of the best things about this place is its statement location – the hotel is situated smack in the middle of the Budapest Jewish Quarter on Dohány Street, which meant iconic sites like The Great Synagogue, New York Café Budapest and Szimpla Kert were a stone’s throw away. This area is rich with historical sites of Budapest’s dark past. In contrast, you can also find some of the best, quirky ‘ruin’ bars and cafés in this area. The Airport Shuttle, very conveniently, stops nearby. It is these little details that meant planting ourselves here was the best decision we made on this trip.
After a fairly smooth check-in, we were shown to our room. Our hotel had upgraded us to the Junior Suite, for which we were grateful. Our tastefully decorated room had a lounge in the front, complete with plush sofas, mini-bar and ample storage. Towards the rear was the spacious bedroom.
Luxurious products by Vittore De Conti ensured we had a comfortable stay.
The cherry on the cake was a welcome message from the General Manager of the hotel. The staff had presented us with a bottle of Champagne upon arrival to mark our wedding anniversary (the reason for the holiday). There really couldn’t have been a better way to start the trip.
Now comes the most exciting part – this whole place was oozing with history. From the moment I entered the premises, I was impressed and intrigued by the jaw-dropping high ceilings, cavernous scale of the interiors and imposing details of the building which had elements inspired from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods.
Turns out that this place used to be the legendary Hungaria Spa and Bathing complex. After multiple owners, it became the Continental Hotel in Budapest in 1920s. In the 1950s, a part of the hotel also housed the Kamara Motion Picture Theatre. Over the next few decades, the building suffered severe damage through misuse by squatters. Cutting to the present time, the owners of Zeina Hotels drew the plans for the modern building that we see today, but preserved some of the original architectural features of this glorious building, such as the main facade and the lofty entrance.
Our hotel stays are never complete without a trip to the Pool and Spa (wherever applicable). Continental Hotel Budapest had an outdoor rooftop pool and an indoor pool, a Jacuzzi and two Saunas (Finnish and Infra). With temperatures soaring above 30 degrees most days, we made full use of the rooftop pool. We also had a very relaxing couples massage and took advantage of the Spring offers at the facility. At 90 Euros per person for two hours, this was a steal.
But perhaps the most memorable part of our hotel stay was the Hungarian Soul Night at their in-house restaurant, ARAZ. The look of this upscale restaurant is modern, plush and swanky. The all-glass frontage means this place is awash with natural light.
Every Friday night at 7 pm, the hotel organises a “Hungarian Soul Night”. There is a lavish Hungarian buffet of dishes that are evocative of the indulgent meals served by upper-middle class restaurants of the past. Here they have taken inspiration, not only from traditional Hungarian recipes but also from French Cuisine.
For people who are apprehensive of buffet meals, you can relax. The food here was superb.
Our evening kicked off with a refreshing welcome drink of Hungarian Sparkling Wine. Throughout the meal, we were offered top-ups on choices of Hungarian red and white wines (included in the price).
We then helped ourselves to rich and satisfying deep bowls of piping-hot Goulash Soup with Homemade Noodles. During our stay in the city, we did sample our fair share of goulash at pretty much every restaurant we visited and I can honestly say this was one of the best.
My fear of mushy and rank buffet salads were quickly dispelled, as the salads here were as fresh as they could get. I highly recommend the Cold Goose Breast Fillet Salad and Cold Smoked Pork Knuckle with Boiled Eggs; both of us went back for seconds. I also loved their Roasted Duck Liver in its fat, but can understand this is an acquired taste and may not appeal to everyone.
Gravitating towards the mains, we had alluring dishes such as the super-comforting and homely Catfish Stew in Creamy Paprika Sauce (served with Ewe’s Cottage Cheese Pasta).
At the other side of the spectrum were full-flavoured meat dishes such as Pork Spare Ribs (with Rosemary Potatoes) and hearty Chicken Stew with Homemade Dumplings. At this point of the meal, I was seriously wishing I hadn’t stuffed myself at the salad bar.
I may not be an expert on Hungarian food, but I am an expert in delicious food and the food here was a feast for the tastebuds. My absolute favourite was the very flavourful Catfish Stew (I went back three times!).
The magic continued with desserts that included Apple-Poppy Seed Cake, Pancakes with Creamy Walnut filling and Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream.
All the food was lovingly prepared and generously portioned. The well-dressed and affable staff (lots of them) look after you well and no detail is spared in terms of service.
The highlight of the evening was of course being serenaded by the folk musicians and dancers of the Hungarian FolkEmbassy. Words cannot do justice to describe just how amazing and emotional the performances were and you have to be there to experience it for real.
I have lots of wonderful memories from my recent trip to Budapest, some of which I will share in my upcoming blogs. For now I would say, whether you decide to be a guest of the Continental Hotel Budapest or not, do make it a point to book their ‘Hungarian Night’ if you are in this neck of woods. ARAZ is a hotel restaurant with a soul and you leave from here truly mesmerised with the delectable food and passionate, heartfelt performances.
Price of buffet including drinks and performances: 10, 490 HUF/£29 per person
More information can be found here.
N.B. All photos and opinions are mine. I was invited to review the Hungarian Buffet Night.