The Aria Hotel Budapest sings with excitement the moment you pass through the door of the original 1880s exterior into its modern decor. No doubt the tone is the result of its inspiration and musical concept by master designer Zoltan Varro. The luxury boutique hotel followed his passion to “simultaneously recreate the rich, lavish atmosphere of a historic Hungarian palace while also embracing visitors in the warmth and comfort of a private residence.” All I can say is the lobby wraps you in music and surrounds you with delicate notes of beauty.
Follow the keyboard tiles snaking through the lobby to the centerpiece, a grand Boganyi piano, only one of three in the world. The free form, carbon fiber instrument is the work of famed Hungarian pianist Gergely Boganyi. He occasionally comes to play, but guests are also welcome to sit down and let their own fingers fly over the keys. And–they often do during the complimentary wine and cheese socials every afternoon. The atmosphere is fun, something rather unusual for a five-star hotel, and the bright grass green furniture and skylight covering the entire lobby make the space feel more like an outdoor garden party.
The boutique hotel opened in March 2015, a member of the Library Hotel Collection, which includes New York City’s Hotel Giraffe and Library Hotel, along with Toronto’s Hotel X. Each of the four hotel wings is dedicated to one of four major genres of music: Classical, Opera, Contemporary and Jazz. Each room and suite features caricatures by internationally acclaimed artist Joseph Blecha to celebrate the world’s musical legends such as Maria Callas, Count Basie, Bob Dylan, James Brown and Hungary’s own and beloved Franz Liszt.
Guests are asked to name their favorite composer and musician at registration. By the time they get up to their room, the flat-screen TV/media center contains a digital music library with those pieces. However, any and all musical recordings can be selected and you don’t need to be afraid to blast out Bach or the Beatles; all rooms are triple soundproofed.
Outside each guestroom is a keypad screen that wakes up when you and your key are in proximity. No need to hunt for your key, your room door will open when you wish to enter. This high-tech system can also post “Do not Disturb” messages and more.
I stayed in the Vladimir Horowitz room honoring the Russian-born American classical pianist and composer. The teal and cream oversized room included an even more oversized marble and chandeliered bathroom. All guests receive free high-speed wireless Internet, an i-Pad for use in the hotel, complimentary bottled water plus a scrumptious breakfast cooked to order every morning. (I loved the fresh baked bread with hints of paprika.) The Aria makes such discerning choices that even the cheese offered at breakfast comes from a shepherd who plays jazz to his goats. Imagine that!
During my stay, I was lucky enough to meet owner and President Henry Kallen. He said the hotel’s goal is ”to give something non-expected to each guest. To lead them from one WOW to another.” The investors spent $48 million on a total of 53 rooms (49 are guest rooms, the rest are offices), so no corners were cut. Yes, I was wowed by the original art, extravagant details and an aura of abundance.
I didn’t have time to indulge in the pool, steam or sauna (also complimentary), but took a quick look at its unique, award-winning décor. A mural of the Count Basie band stands as a backdrop to a statue of Ella Fitzgerald as she belts out a tune at the edge of the pool.
I did manage to venture up to the High Note Sky Bar, a landscaped rooftop garden, for an after dinner drink. The heavenly 360 degree views of Budapest and St. Stephen’s Basilica (just a stone’s throw away) are enough to ensure you hit your high note. Locals who have discovered the Aria vibe frequent the rooftop arena and the Satchmo Bar at street level.
Have you ever heard of a hotel hiring a music director? The Aria Budapest employs one. He acts as the concierge of sound, available to answer any musical needs from obtaining concert tickets to assisting through the soundtrack library.
Budapest is a city that buzzes with architectural wonders, cultural heritage and all sorts of lively activities. By evening I was exhausted, but I still appreciated Parliament’s golden glow at night. The Aria became my retreat at the end of the day. A turndown service with fine chocolates is just another of the gifts this hotel showers on its guests. I loved staying there and will return if ever I make it back to Hungary.
Aria Hotel Budapest
5 Hercegprimas Street,
Budapest 1051, Hungary
All photos @Debi Lander.
Disclosure: I stayed at the Aria for three nights while exploring Budapest. Two of my nights were complimentary. I promise that the high praise in my above review is honest and true; I would have said those things had I paid for all nights. I adore this hotel and all the extras it provides for guests.