Glass visits the Ritz-Carlton Budapest for Trey Ratcliff’s photography exhibition

WHEN the Ritz-Carlton opened their Budapest destination in September 2015, one detail in particular was at the forefront of their mind − the customer experience. Synonymous with luxury, fine dining and the sort of service that can only be called world-class, the Ritz-Carlton set out to make their mark on this beautiful and vibrant, yet slightly overlooked city.

The Ritz Carlton Budapest ExteriorThe Ritz Carlton Budapest

And make their mark, they have. What strikes you most about staying in the Budapest Ritz-Carlton is the true pleasure that the staff derive from delivering excellent hospitality. From your very first step into the building, you are aware of something extra special in the atmosphere. With over 200 rooms, the hotel is vast, occupying a grand former bank built before the first World War in the heart of Budapest.

Aside from the usual rooms and suites on offer, visitors also benefit from access to a 24/7 gym, as well as a beautiful spa, built into the roof so that while swimming, you can gaze up at the skylights and float in serenity.

The Ritz Carlton Spa Budapest Swimming Pool DaytimeThe swimming pool at the spa

But it is the distinctive Club Lounge, a feature that many of the luxury hotels in the area lack, that helps set the Budapest Ritz-Carlton apart. Described as a “hotel within a hotel”, the Club Lounge features a dedicated concierge, complimentary food and beverages, an executive meeting room and more. Accessible to guests of the higher grade rooms and those who choose to pay additionally for the privilege, I found it to be one of my favourite aspects of the hotel, and a wonderful place to wind down before leaving for a flight.

The Ritz Carlton Budapest Club Lounge Dining AreaThe Club Lounge at the Ritz Carlton Budapest

While I was there, the Ritz-Carlton played host to world-renowned photographer Trey Ratcliff as he paused on his whistle-stop tour of Europe. His photo-walk tour has been a huge success − fans from all over the world come out to join him as he walks each city, stopping every now and then to offer insight into how he creates his iconic artwork. Some dedicated admirers have even followed him along the entire tour, joining him for what has been an incredible partnership of art and luxury between Ratciff and the Ritz-Carlton.

Trey RatcliffTrey Ratcliff

When I meet Ratcliff in the Kupola lounge of the hotel, I am instantly struck by his generous energy. The Texan native, now living with his wife and three children in New Zealand, is one of the most successful photographers in the world. Ratcliff’s photos have been collectively viewed a staggering 140 billion times, through his website Stuck In Customs as well as his social media channels.

The Ritz Carlton Budapest Kupola LoungeThe Kupola Lounge

His unique use of photo filters and processing give his artwork a signature look, one that has inspired Hollywood; JJ Abrams, director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Super 8 and Star Trek is a fan, along with composer ’, who even joined us on the Budapest photowalk. On Ratcliff’s website Stuck In Customs, Abrams says of his friend, “Trey’s images are other-worldly, mind-blowing creations that, at first glance, appear to be some digital trompe l’oeil. But no, Ratcliff’s photographs are inspiring and real. Something which makes them all the more incredible.”

The Ritz Carlton Budapest Club Junior Suite LivingroomThe Club Junior Suite Living Room

Ratcliff is warm and friendly, greeting me with typical Southern hospitality. His work with the Ritz Carlton began on social media, as most 21st century stories do, when the hotel approached him on Periscope to offer their support after he was kicked out of a hotel in Dubai for taking photos of the lobby. “It was the director of social media herself who sent that message. We ended up having a long phone call and our first partnership was last year when we did a bus tour of the USA, stopping at 13 cities, staying at Ritz-Carlton’s and doing photo-walks along the way to San Francisco,” he says.

The Ritz Carlton Budapest Chairman Suite LivingroomThe Chairman Suite Living Room

The tour allowed fans to meet up in each city and join Ratcliff as he walked around, capturing the landscapes and learning tips and tricks from Ratcliff himself. It was so successful that they quickly made plans for a tour of Europe, and 80 Stays Around The World was born. As it happens, Budapest is his favourite city so far on the tour, “and I haven’t said that about any other city,” he confirms. “I knew I’d enjoy it here because I love Europe, but I’m surprised by the architecture, the energy, the people on the streets, I’m just surprised by the city.”

The Ritz Carlton Budapest Carlton Suite BedroomThe Carlton Suite Bedroom

It’s a sentiment he reflects in how he talks about the Ritz-Carlton. For a man who openly admits feeling very much at home sleeping in a bus, Ratcliff acknowledges that the Ritz-Carlton isn’t necessarily on-brand with his adventurer lifestyle. “I always expect beautiful service, but I’m continually struck by how genuinely nice every single person working at every Ritz-Carlton hotel is, and even though I expect it, I’m still always pleasantly surprised. I think that that serves both my audience, who are very varied in their age and income, and the hotel’s audience very well.”

The Ritz Carlton Budapest Lobby LoungeThe Ritz Carlton Budapest Lobby

After the photowalk (which goes spectacularly well − no one can quite believe the presence of Hans Zimmer) I am delighted to discover the culinary pleasures of the hotel’s restaurant, Deák St Kitchen. In keeping up with the modern spirit of the city, the Ritz-Carlton were eager to embrace the cities younger residents. Enter, Deák St Kitchen. Designed to exude a rustic, warm and inviting atmosphere, the restaurant showcases an accessible menu that features Hungarian food with a twist. It’s frequented both by hotel guests and city residents keen to experience the culinary delights of expertly prepared, locally sourced food.

The Ritz Carlton Budapest Deak St Kitchen RestaurantDeák St Kitchen

It’s the perfect end to a wonderful stay. When visiting Budapest, a city whose beauty, peacefulness and hospitality truly left me awe-struck, it seems clear that the Ritz-Carlton is the ideal place to call home, if only for a few days. But be prepared − when your visit ends, you’ll be loath to leave.

by Thomas Marrington

Book your stay at the Ritz-Carlton Budapest here now, or call on +3614295500

View more of Trey Ratcliff’s work at Stuck in Customs

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