Advantages Location, helpful staff, great rooms, good value
Disadvantages No air-con in rooms
|Value for Money|
|Quality of Rooms|
|Standard of Service|
|Quality of Food & Drink|
|Quality of Facilities|
Last time we stayed in Budapest, back in 2003, we left the hotel arrangements to the friend of a friend who had set up a hotel booking service, primarily for Prague but also for a few other central European cities. At the time we were travelling by train through the region and were pleased to let the agency make the arrangements and in the process earn a little commission for the booking; in 2011, though, we had only one hotel to book and so we made our own search, eventually booking Hotel Panzio Matyas through hotels.com.Budapest has an enormous range of tourist accommodation, which means that prices are competitive and even in the four and five star categories you can get good deals. The city’s attractions are quite spread out, public transport is good and cheap and there’s no obvious “centre” so it can be difficult to know where to start looking unless you want to be in a specific location. Matyas is in Pest, the “city” side of the Danube, where you’ll find such sights as Heroes’ Square, the Hungarian Parliament building and St. Stephen’s Basilica.
We paid approximately £39 for one night in a twin room with en suite; breakfast was not included but was available at an extra cost of €7.50 per person (we didn’t take this option as we knew we could get breakfast elsewhere for two people for the price of one breakfast taken at the hotel). The hotel looked to be in a decent location just off Vaci utca, close to the Metro station Ferenciek ter and a stone’s throw from the Danube. The photographs showed pleasant, light and apparently spacious rooms and we felt that the deal appeared to be very favourable.We arrived well before the check in time of 2.00pm but we were happy enough to leave our bags at the hotel even if we couldn’t get access to our room. After a minor false start when we mistook the adjoining restaurant for our hotel, we managed to find the entrance to the “panzio” (the Hungarian word for a pension). First timers in this part of the world may find the initial appearance of the hotel a little disconcerting; while the building was once grand it could have done with a quick sandblasting to clean up the exterior stonework and the dark entrance beyond the wrought iron and wooden front door could have been prettified. Once inside, however, a modern and well maintained interior reflected the hotel we had expected. Admittedly the overall look was bland and boring and within the lounge/reception area at least any trace of the former grandeur of the building had been removed. There are a couple of low steps into the foyer of the building and a couple from reception to the lift (the lift is fine for people who may have mobility programmes who can walk, but it’s too small for a wheelchair user.
The receptionist was a friendly middle aged man who spoke impeccable English. He telephoned the chamber maid and advised her that we’d be leaving our bags in our room, but she should work around them and prepare the room as usual. Although we had not booked breakfast, we were informed of the cost and the time it was available. There were no problems with our reservation and as we had paid in advance, we needed only to leave our passports with the receptionist for a few minutes to complete the check in paperwork.As directed we took the lift to the third floor. The building is a typical old Budapest apartment building, arranged around a courtyard (here’s a tip for a really hot day in Budapest – if you want to stop for a beer or a coffee, don’t stop at a pavement café, find one that’s situated in a courtyard, some of them are really lovely with lots of flowers and plants, and all of them are wonderfully cool due to the clever design). It wasn’t immediately obvious where we should go after exiting the lift but, having first gone in the wrong direction, we doubled back and found the door to the accommodation. The hotel does not own the entire building, just parts of several floors, so effectively one corner of it. The section where our room was located was accessed using our room swipe and we were in the fortunate position that there were only two bedrooms in this little part of the hotel so we knew it should be fairly quiet (assuming our neighbours weren’t rowdy).
It’s a little unfair to judge the room on immediate impressions because it had not yet been prepared. However, we could see it was airy and spacious, nicely decorated (bland but inoffensive and definitely well maintained) and, best of all, we could see that we not only had a balcony (something we had not expected) there was also a terrific view of the Erzsébet Bridge and the Royal Castle on the Buda side of the Danube. We also had the traffic noise that accompanies the busy dual carriageway that is carried over the Danube by the Erzsébet Bridge, but it was worth it for the view.When we returned the room had been cleaned and the beds made with fresh linen. It was spotlessly clean, as was the bathroom. The rooms here are very simple but with, satellite television, data ports and fridge, comfortable beds, a usable desk space and an immaculate shower/toilet as well as plenty of space to move around, you do feel that you are getting a really good deal. It was a little disappointing that there weren’t chairs on the balcony but it was possible to drag the two comfortable chairs from the room onto the balcony although with the traffic noise you probably wouldn’t want to sit out for too long. Once the door was closed there was only minimal noise from outside. As is often the case in this part of the world the curtains were not so much a “blackout”, more of a device to block out the sun if was shining directly into the room; fortunately we are early risers so the fact that the curtains did not fully cover the window was not a problem for us.
We were pleased to find that the towels were a sensible size – a hand towel and bath towel for each person – and there was body-wash and hand-wash provided in wall-mounted dispensers, so no freebies but what was provided was gentle and nicely fragranced (we recently stayed in a hotel where I suspect the maid refilled the shower gel dispenser with a pine disinfectant gel). Another plus point was an excellent, easy to adjust (in terms of temperature and height of shower head) shower that did not flood the bathroom floor.As we'd anticipated we had a good night's sleep and it was a rare thing to stay in a hotel where there was no noise from other guests. If you're a light sleeper I'd suggest ear plugs to block the traffic noise if you want a lie in as a lot of vehicles use the bridge in rush hour but, surprisingly given the promiximity of the major route between Buda and Pest, the noise is not a major intrusion.
Having declined the chance of breakfast in the hotel I can’t comment on that offering, or on the breakfast room. The facilities are limited but this is a good option for people looking for simple accommodation without resorting to Budapest's hostels - the city is a firm favourite with backpackers and even if you use hostels in other cities, I would suggest that you can get a decent hotel room and avoid the hustle and bustle of hostels for roughly the same price as a private double in a hostel. There is no wi-fi but there are data ports in the rooms and there is a free high speed internet terminal in the reception area.Matyas is located close to a Metro station (Ferenciek ter) and is also near a series of useful bus stops. Although it's in Pest, it's in an ideal location for easy access to Buda with both the castle and the famous Gellert baths being a fifteen to twenty minute walk away. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the area and the brilliant central market is a five minute walk away. The Danube is just across the road.
The only issue I have with the Matyas is that it only has air-conditioning in public areas. We visited in mid-May and the temperature was soaring. We didn't find the room hot or stuffy but, should the temperature get much higher, it would be useful to have air-con in the rooms.We paid a shade under £40 for our twin room (we requested a double but got a twin, I'm sure that we could have swapped if we'd have asked at reception) and a quick look at hotels.com shows you'd pay £42 for a room tonight. I think that's an excellent price for what you get.
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