Andi Swain, CEO of Evolution International, talks about his time discovering the city of Budapest as a guest of Hilton Hotels:
“As part of our mission to discover new and unusual destinations for our incentive travel and overseas events, we’ve been looking at different places around the world that people may not have ventured to before, especially on a business rather than leisure basis.
To some, Budapest can have a bit of a reputation as a stag and hen-do city as it’s quite a lively place, great value and only a short flight. It’s not been recognised so much from a business perspective, so I thought I’d go and see what Budapest had to offer.
Budapest is the capital and most populous city of Hungary, and one of the largest cities in the European Union. It has an area of 525 square kilometres (203 square miles) and a population of around 1.8 million. Budapest became a single city occupying both banks of the Danube river with the unification of Buda and Óbuda on the west bank, with Pest on the east bank in 1873.
Travelling as a guest of Hilton Hotels, I stayed at the Hilton Budapest City which is located in the heart of the city, only a 20 minute drive from the airport. It’s a very modern hotel, with lovely rooms and extremely friendly staff.
During the three day trip, Hilton and their local partners put on a jam-packed programme allowing us to visit lots of fantastic places and try unique experiences, for us to recommend to our clients.
Our first day of exploring the city began with a city tour in a classic ‘Trabant’ with a local guide – the car I was in was an old taxi and it was a really fun way to get around. The Hungarian Parliament Building and Castle Hill are just two of the many beautiful sights we saw and learnt about during the tour.
Before coming to Budapest, I had imagined buildings would be pretty grey and not particularly attractive, but the first thing that hits you is Budapest is centuries old, some of the buildings look medieval, it’s absolute classic architecture, it’s beautiful.
Another terrific activity we tried featured a cookery class at a cooking and pastry school. We began the experience by spending time visiting a farmer’s market to buy fresh ingredients from a list that we were given, then with help of a local chef, we prepared and cooked a traditional Hungarian lunch. Between the 15 of us, we made a 5 course lunch, which we then ate – and it was delicious! My group made Goulash stew seasoned with paprika and other spices. Other teams made pea soup, sour cherry strudel – all sorts of different dishes!
We visited some great restaurants, clubs and bars during our stay. A highlight was the unique ‘ruin bars’, these are the city’s social hubs, where dilapidated buildings have been reinvented into quirky watering holes where furniture picked off the street is mixed up with modern pieces from local artists, festoon lights and props.
Discovering the city on the water is a must. We were taken on the beautiful Danube river for a high energy tour on a speedboat, then returned to discover Pálinka – the local spirit. At the tasting session in a specialist Pálinka bar, we tried many flavours of this traditional Hungarian fruit Brandy, all accompanied with a selection of various meats and nibbles.
Amongst the many highlights of my stay was a “must-see” up to the hills of Gellért and the old castle, with it’s beautiful views back down across the Danube and the whole of the city.
For our larger groups and events, we looked at quite a few different venues and spaces which could comfortably accommodate 100-300 delegates, all with a wide range of accommodation available. Some of the exclusive venues that we can hire for you are truly spectacular.
Budapest is a fantastic place with so much to do – a morning conference with the afternoon out exploring the city would work well. It is also a great incentive travel destination, and would equally work for both small and large groups.
If you are looking for somewhere short haul, great value for money with masses to do, Budapest really is a good quality, eye opening, friendly and unexpected destination for your event or incentive.”
Evolution can work with you to help coordinate all aspects of your events including conferences, awards ceremonies, team bonding / building experiences and incentive travel programmes – across the world.
Contact us today for more information.