Perhaps the best thing you can say about a hotel is that once you arrive, you don't really feel like leaving the property.
Meaning, it's a destination in itself.
I stayed at Aria Hotel Budapest and honestly felt the tug to spend all my time relaxing in comfort and enjoying the full range of amenities at this luxury boutique hotel.
Believe me, that's saying something because the great capital city of Hungary offers travelers so much to see and do.
Obviously, I'm not the first person who has fallen under the spell of Aria Hotel Budapest. The property opened in 2015, and by 2017, it was rated the top hotel in the world in the annual TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards.
The music-themed hotel is part of the Library Hotel Collection that includes the Hotel Giraffe, Hotel Elysee, Hotel Casablanca and Library Hotel in New York City; Aria Hotel Prague and Hotel X in Toronto.
Aria Hotel Budapest hosted me for a three-night stay during my time in Budapest and simply asked that I give an honest review of my experience. Let me tell you all about what I found.
Aria Hotel Budapest hits all the right notes for music fans, with decor that immediately immerses guests in a vocal, visual and aural journey into the art form. Approaching the entrance of the hotel -- which has breathed new life into a refurbished 1870s bank building in the Pest side of the Danube River -- I am greeted by a doorman, who helps me quickly check in, get my key and escorts me to my room.
But first, we go through the Music Garden, an under-glass courtyard area that features a modern-classic Boganyi grand piano as its centerpiece, sitting at the end of a winding ribbon of black and white keys on the floor of the garden.
The space is filled with shiny green cushioned chairs on which to sit and relax. Off this courtyard area is the Stradivari Restaurant and the concierge office (which features a music library of more than 100 CDs to take to play in your room).
Satchmo's Library (a quiet space to sit and read or have a couple drinks), Satchmo's Bar and the guest reception desk are located off the front lobby.
The Music Garden is indeed a focal spot, where hotel guests and non-guests gather for meals and music in a casual environment.
Each corner of the ground floor is home to one of the four themed wings of the 49-room hotel. Aria Hotel Budapest boasts a "thematic" for each of its four towers: classical, opera, contemporary and jazz.
One floor below is the serene Harmony Spa, and I find myself blissfully alone many of the times I decide to head down. The gym is small, so your workout options are fairly limited. But there is enough in there to work up a bit of a sweat using the dumbbells, treadmills, bikes and ellipticals.
The pool area is a work of art. Dimly lit and featuring music-themed art (of course), this space has canopied beds, loungers and chairs to use while taking dips in the pool and hot tub.
The spa offers a range of massages and other treatments, and I enjoy a 30-minute head and neck massage shortly after check in to help unwind after my airplane flight. I also make several trips to the saunas during my three days in the hotel.
The High Note Sky Bar is the signature destination for visitors, guests and Budapest residents. This spectacular rooftop space was one of the first in the city, and it certainly might be the best. Aria Hotel Budapest and its rooftop bar are so well-regarded, in fact, that many celebrities make it a point to stay at the hotel or at least swing by for a night at High Note Sky Bar.
I checked in just a few days after Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and members of their family had stayed. Check out Will Smith's Instagram post just below here to see them enjoying the rooftop scenery.
Also, Arnold Schwarzenegger had just arrived in Budapest to shoot his next "Terminator" movie, and staff said they expected he would be coming by during his time in the city.
"We call it fine drinking," says Katalin Moor, director of sales and marketing for Aria Hotel Budapest. "All of our bartenders and bar managers come from Michelin-star restaurants, so they have high expectations.
"They really do cocktails as an art."
High Note Sky Bar is the only year-round rooftop bar in the city, and it changes its decor to host events with specific themes throughout the year, such as in the wintertime last year using the theme of "The Forest." This year, the winter theme will be "Classical Movies," which also offers good tie-ins with the music stylings of the hotel because of some great soundtracks to choose from.
Our room was in the Jazz wing and is themed for Nat King Cole. Every room throughout the property features a music artist or group of singers. Fans can book rooms that honor the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Mozart, B.B. King, Frank Sinatra and Irving Berlin, for several examples.
See the full list here: Spend your nights with a music legend
Rooms might have either street views or views of the courtyard. We were on the sixth floor and overlooked the courtyard and could see up to the rooftop area. A small balcony features outdoor seating with tables. Inside, the large, comfortable bed is the centerpiece of an open-room concept. Our room also had a desk, deep soaker bathtub (yes, right in the bedroom space), a two-seater couch, a small lounger, large TV (housed smartly within a marble fireplace mantle) and a mini-fridge.
The Nouveau-style furnishings fit nicely with the jazz vibe in our room. Our brick-look ceiling was in keeping with the original construction of the building. The room also offers a standalone wardrobe closet next to a sink; this area is divided from the main space by a small wall. A separate bathroom is adorned by a chandelier and features a large walk-in shower.
Amenities include an entertainment system run through the TV that contains a library of thousands of songs. You can build playlists and search for your favorite artists and styles. The hotel also has a resident music concierge to help with all your music needs, whether at the property or for booking a concert.
Rooms also provide Molten Brown toiletries, as well as iPads and Handy phones for use during your stay. These devices offer an incredible added value for guests, who can load apps onto the iPad or phone. The Handy phone also allows you to make calls to more than 40 countries without incurring any charges.
After all was said and done for our stay in Budapest, I really wish I had more time to fully enjoy the awesomeness of the room. One more time soaking in that tub. A few more hours listening to Prince, Tom Petty or Beethoven with the speakers on full blast.
Video Tour of Aria Hotel Budapest: Our Room and All the Spaces
Even with all the conveniences and extras that come with your room rate, the best part of the stay for me was the friendly service and attention I enjoyed and witnessed as an ongoing practice throughout Aria Hotel Budapest.
Each guest is greeted cheerfully and asked whether they need anything or told to "Have a great day" as they head out the door to explore Budapest.
The hotel lulls you into a calm state, and I found myself often just plopping down for a spell in the Music Garden to listen to the music, read the newspaper or enjoy a drink in peace. The hotel's music theme is excellently executed, with design that is attractive but not too "in your face."
Songs and sounds are ever present. Even the elevators in each wing feature the appropriate music to match your room's theme. On the way up to our Nat King Cole suite in the Jazz wing, we would be accompanied by classic tunes from Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald or Dave Brubek.
Music fans visiting the city will certainly want to consider Aria Hotel Budapest for their accommodations.
The location is within two blocks (about a 7-minute stroll) to the Danube River right by the Chain Bridge. You also are located close to the start of the popular pedestrian way, Vaci Street, which is filled with shops, restaurants and bars and leads right to the Great Market Hall.
It's also within 15 minutes of the Opera House and Dohany Street Synagogue.
Wi-Fi is included and strong, and the hotel is smoke-free. Room rates average about $350 a night.
If you find a good price that fits your budget through a hotel booking site, I don't think you will regret treating yourself to a stay at Aria Hotel Budapest. You might even find that your cruise line offers a pre- or post-cruise night at the hotel before Danube voyages.
Thanks for reading, and happy travels.