My wife and I stayed at the Buddha Bar Hotel during the recent new year period, and I'd have to say that overall, this Hotel, and Budapest in general is an amazing place.
The staff greeting you at the door are polite and courteous, and always willing to help, although as I found, that help can be flawed.
As previously reported, this is not a 'usual' hotel. The lighting is dim and the hallways and rooms dark and moody. This makes for a fantastic ambience, far different from the bright lighting offered by most other hotels. The black and red decor adds to the effect, and hotel makes wide use of small spotlights to pick out key areas such as doorways, and even the obligatory Buddha Bar logo above the beds. Clearly a great deal of careful thought and design went into this lighting scheme. The overall effect is dramatic and certainly very different, but if you have poor eyesight you might well find it infuriating and frustrating, drop somethimg on the floor in your room and you'll have to wait until daylight to find it again.
The hotel facilities are as exotic as the decor. The Klotild bar on the 6th floor is especially nice. Split over two levels it offers a wide range of drinks at prices that seem in line with previous experience in say, London, a place universally seen as an expensive place to stay. Don't expect to see a fantastic view of the budapest skyline from here though. The view outside is very limited.
The Buddha Bar lounge on the first floor is larger, and is also a nice place to spend some time, the DJ there playing music in the Buddha Bars signature style. The entrance from the hotel across a small bridge is particularly stylish. The drinks are good, the local Dreher beer is of high quality, and the cocktails such as the Raspberry Saketini both innovative and tasty. Sadly, I found the attentiveness of the waiting staff in the lounge was severely lacking. Even in a near empty bar, the speed with which menus were delivered, drinks brought to the table, and a bill received and paid could be measured against continental drift. To say the service was slow would be an understatement. Glacial would be a better description. Perhaps the staff were new or having a bad week as the service level in the top floor bar, which was operated by a single hostess, was infinitely better.
We didnt bother with the spa at this hotel, since the prices for treatments offered were breathtakingly expensive. Compared to offerings at hotels we have stayed at in places like London, Sydney, Singapore, Bangkok and New York, the Buddha Bar spa looked to be hugely overpriced. In fact, many of the extras on offer followed this same theme, the minibar for instance, was easily the most expensive such facility I have ever experienced, surpassing even my stay at the Hotel Kamp in Helsinki for the breathtaking levels of optimism displayed in the pricing. To me the minibar should be a feature of the room, where a fair price is paid to reflect the convienience offered. In this case it looked like a Pandora's box of goodies set out to trap the drunk and unwary with markups that make loansharks look reasonable. Hotels must surely realise this outdated business model promotes only distrust and makes them look like a bunch of grasping money grabbers? Price the minibars so they actually sell stock, and you will increase turnover and maintain profit, whilst improving your customer image. Simple economics that will do wonders for your customers experience. Minibar aside, there was a free issue Nespresso coffee machine in the room, which makes a suprisingly good cup of coffee. Far better than the instant coffee usually offered in hotel rooms at this price point, and a welcome addition that I hope other hoteliers start to offer. What was missing though, in common with many establishments in mainland Europe, is a kettle. The British visitor likes a cup of tea, and as odd as our continental neighbours find it, they like a strong English blend of tea with a splash of milk. I can't help feeling that continental hoteliers are missing a trick when they fail to offer this. The UK market would quite literally drink it up. There are even posts in the trip advisor forums in the impossibility of getting a decent cup of tea in Budapest. Still, this is not a specific criticism of the Buddha Bar Hotel, more a critique of Continental establishments in general, who seem to think that the British all drink Earl Grey with a slice of lemon and a touch of honey..
The rest of the room was comfortable and well equipped. Much has been made of the high level of installed technology in each of the rooms already. Its fantastic. You can connect via RCA, HDMI, USB, PC VGA, or even Bluetooth, but it is not without its issues. My TV had an infuriating habit of simply turning itself on at random times, and the Internet radio was a complete washout, playing 5 or 6 minutes of content before the sound degraded to such a poor level that you were forced to turn to off. Of course it would then turn itself back on moments later.
The positive steps made are spoiled however, by a lack of content. Music is limited to internet radio or buddha bar cd's. English language TV is limited to news, and most of that is US media. the biggest spoiler though, which is unforgivable considering the technically adept clientele that this Hotel will attract, is the movies. Underneath the veneer of hi-tech smartphone linked wi-if goodness, lies the same old overpriced movie library. Limited choice and priced at stratospheric levels, it's almost an insult that it's even offered at all. In the 21st century, in an age of streaming media that the free wi-if enables you access at your leisure, this feels unforgivably crass. Again, hotel operators seem to be following a business model defined in the 1970's and not changed since that time. They have forgotten that it costs only 3 or 4 GBP at top retail prices to rent a film and stream it over the internet. Why then do they feel justified when they apply a 300 or 400% markup to that cost?
The bed was comfortable, although the seperate duvets on each side were in my opinion a pointless and annoying gimmick. This hotel and its relaxing ambience are custom made for the romantic couples city break market. Why you'd want them to feel like they are in seperate beds is beyond me.
The toilet and shower facilities were beautifully crafted. High quality fittings and fixtures and a rainfall shower are the one thing guaranteed to impress in a hotel room, and the Buddha Bar hotel leaves a lasting impression. The shower cubicle, in common with just about every other "wet-room" style shower in every hotel I've ever stayed in, leaked like a sieve, failing to contain water. Practical needs were sacrificed to the god of style here, which means that this will always be a problem whilst such highly fashionable designs are utilised. It's not a fault the hotel can fix, so just use an extra towel to mop up and get a fresh one the next day. its not that big a problem. The electronic toilet is brilliant. It's the first time I've come across such a design, and from a hygiene point of view, they are unbeatable. I am a sold convert and will be installing one in my own home ASAP. What I will do though, and I advise the Buddha bar hotel to do the same, is to follow a rigorous cleaning and maintenance program on it so that it looks the part when the washer jet extends, and doesn't smell like a sewer when the warm air function is used. These parts are to some extent "self cleaning" but I think the cleanliness of things like filters and the nozzle assemblies of these units may have been overlooked. Easy to do, but thankfully easy to rectify.
The room itself was lacking only one thing. A guide on paper, that explains simple things like the checkout time, or the fact that if you ask, you gan get a proper duvet for your bed and a lead to connect your iPad to the TV and thus rent movies at a more sensible rate. It appears that Buddha Bar rely on their interactive tv service to provide this, but the info is either not there, or not easily located. The lack of such guide means you are reliant on continually bothering the staff in the lobby, and the results there are mixed to say the least. Mostly they are knowledgable and they are always helpful, but there are mistakes. I was told I needed a 10,000 HUF ticket to get into the Buddha Bar lounge on New Years Eve. I didn't. As a hotel guest entrance was free. Fortunately I narrowly avoided paying £60 for these tickets, and the consequent disappointment that the party was, through no fault of the hotel, a bit dead. At 11:30 the bar was almost empty, and yet there was no where to sit as every single table was reserved. I don't know if it got going later, I bailed out to find something a little more lively. In another incident of knowledge not quite matching the undoubted desire to help, I was sold "VIP" tickets to the Gellert Spa without any explanation that I'd need an 8000 HUF cash deposit for towels when I got there. It's disappointing to find this out when you've walked 20 minutes to get there, having only brought 7000HUF with you as you didn't want to leave you wallet in a locker. This key piece of information and local knowledge could have made the experience far nicer.
I should point out that whilst my experience of the Buddha Bar Hotel was not perfect, it does not mean I won't return. Its a thoroughly decent place to stay, uniquely designed and very well situated. It's only been open a few months, and given a year of operation I'm sure all the bugs will be ironed out. It has all the hallmarks of a great hotel, it just needs that final bit of polish, and perhaps a bit of innovation by the management on the way extras are priced, to be truly great.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- "Not just another hotel, it's a lifestyle..." is the motto of the brand new, fantastically located, truly unique 5-star Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace. Dashing luxury and pampering comfort awaits at the 2nd hotel of the world-wide famous, trendy Buddha-Bar concept hotel. It boasts an excellent setting at the foot of the Elisabeth Bridge, in a charming historic building from the 19th century, at the corner of the capital's number-one pedestrian shopping street, Váci utca. Faithful to the brand, a number of exciting dining venues comprehend to the entire Buddha-Bar experience that is a feast for the senses. ... more less
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