“ Address: Kossuth Lajos street 2 / 9700 Szombathely / Hungary „
With only twenty four hours to spend in Szombathely we didn't want to waste time in looking for a hotel when we arrived so we took the unusual (for us) step of booking a hotel in advance. The choice was quickly whittled down. There are no commercial hostels and although the student halls all offer accommodation, the websites of all were in Hungarian only and I could not decipher whether any offered term time accommodation to tourists. Searches of booking websites suggested several hotels outside of the city, mostly the spa type that are common in the area, and only two - one a ritzy hotel housed in a former palace - came up in the city centre.
The only one that met our requirements was City Cafe Hotel and a quick look at its own website showed a rather smart looking place, so smart and stylish in fact that we could scarcely believe the Euro40 price tag for a one night stay for two adults, including breakfast and taxes. We booked immediately.
City Cafe Hotel is situated on a quiet street that runs off Szombathely's handsome main square. There is private parking in a courtyard at the back of the hotel; it is not locked but guests should not expect any risk in parking there. On foot it's a ten minute walk from the main train and bus stations, which are situated beside one another; if you don't want to walk you could take a cab or a bus from the station. Szombathely's main tourist attractions are within walking distance of the hotel and you are ideally situated for shops, restaurants and cafes.
The ground floor of the hotel houses a cafe/restaurant which is open daily except for Sundays (of which more later). This is open to non-residents. The bar of the cafe doubles as the hotel reception though this is not obvious on arrival and we only knew by asking. The friendly young lady who checked us in (under the supervision of the manager who spoke German but no English) was friendly and efficient. She read out from a list of useful information and instructions that had been written in English - whether that was because she was new or because they knew that some English people were arriving that day I couldn't say (I suspect the latter) - and I got the impression that although she said she spoke English, she didn't know very much and while she was fine reciting parrot fashion, she struggled with unexpected questions.
The price we were asked to pay did not match the amount on our email confirmation but when we presented the paperwork, the receptionist agreed immediately to charge us the lower amount we were expecting to pay. On the way to our room she showed us the door we should use when the restaurant was closed; an electronic key fob is given to access this door.
Our room was on the first floor, along a rather dark corridor which was never sufficiently lit but first there was the large landing space which was home to a few sofas and the open office of a Remax real estate agent (not since our travels in Russia and Ukraine have we seen such a use of space by an unrelated company within a hotel premises but I suppose it helps increase income). The walls of the corridor are decorated with very colourful photographs of men wearing reproduction Roman soldier outfits, which seemed rather incongruous until several days later when, having left Szombathely long behind, I read that a festival is held in the town every year to celebrate the legacy of the Romans in the region.
The room we went into did have some of the elements we remembered from the hotel website but it was obvious that a) a clever photographer had been employed to take the publicity pics and b) they were taken a while back. There were twin beds, with black leather effect sleigh bed headboards (but not footers, this was appreciated by Himself who, at six feet two, usually finds beds with footboards too short). The paint work was in need of refreshing and although the room was superficially clean, a more detailed inspection showed a thick layer of dust on picture frames and balls of dust in the corners of the room. Slats from the vertical blinds had become separated from the blind and dumped on the window sill; there were bulbs missing from the main light fitting and the bathroom lacked a bathmat; these might seem like petty gripes but when added together they suggested a lack of attention to detail, or at worst, a general apathy.
In the bathroom there was a Palmolive hand-wash bottle on the side of the washbasin but the contents were definitely not Palmolive, in fact they were something you might be tempted to clean the bathroom with. The towels were tiny and there was no bathmat. The shower cubicle was small and had two sliding doors that met at one corner; they didn't open very far and squeezing through the gap and trying to step down the rather high drop to the bare floor tiles was a bit of an ordeal. At least the water was hot!
There were no conventional curtains that block out the light so if you are sensitive, a sleep mask might be a good idea to prevent you from waking up extra early when the sun starts pouring in.
It's a shame there were these faults as the hotel does have a lot going for it. The location is excellent for a start, and it's one of the two most central hotel in town (the very nice-looking Hotel Wagner is just over the road though this failed to appear on any web searches). There is free wi-fi throughout the hotel; connection was easy and the speed was excellent. Our room had a large flat screen television with countless channels, many in English and other European languages besides Hungarian.
On the ground floor for there's a restaurant and café-bar which is open daily except for Sundays. Breakfast was served in the restaurant, a buffet affair with mostly cold items such as cereals, bread, cheeses and sliced cooked meats, hard-boiled eggs, the ubiquitous (in Hungary and Serbia) sliced peppers (the ones known locally as Serbian peppers, long and a very pale yellow, be careful they can pack a punch) and yoghurts. There was what I at first took to be a Clairol facial spa but which turned out to be for steaming the most obscenely vile sausages in central Europe. I'll admit that I only had one because I wanted to try the steamer; these horribly insipid pink sausages had a kind of film wrapper emblazoned with the logo "Spar budget" which should be enough to warn anyone away. Would you really serve that up in a hotel? Wouldn't you at least try to give the impression that what you're serving isn't completely awful?
Mostly the breakfast was pretty good, if you don't count those sausages. The butter was in a single serving dish on the main buffet table. You had to stick your knife in while standing at the table with your plate and I thought that was hardly an ideal way of providing butter. The juice wasn't great either, but the coffee was excellent and there was a good selection of herbal and fruit teas.
We didn't use the café-bar as we spent very little time in the hotel except for sleeping. It is open to non-residents, however, and seemed quite pleasant though on a lovely summer's day I'd recommend one of the nearby cafes on the square instead. As with the hotel rooms there were minor issues with scuffed paintwork, missing bulbs and the like. It's a shame as it could be very nice if only a little effort was made.
City Café Hotel is not a bad hotel but it could be much better if someone made a list of all those niggly little things and worked through it. I daresay they might even be able to charge a little more if they made those improvements (though I was happy enough with the price we paid).
The beds were comfortable, the bedlinen was crisp and fresh, the bathroom was clean and there was a good breakfast. For the Euro40 we paid (including breakfast and local taxes) I was not exactly disappointed, but I could have been more impressed.
And, in case you're wondering, Szombathely is pronounced "Tsom-bat-aye"