A dream of mine in recent years was to stay at The Grand Budapest Hotel... an ambition doomed to failure, it being a fictional establishment.

Alas, it existed only in a quirky film of the same name directed by Wes Anderson and starring Ralph Fiennes.

That was that, I thought, until a friend came back from Budapest raving about the grand hotel he stayed in.

So the next time he headed back, I tagged along for the weekend and I wasn't at all disappointed with what I found.

The Gellert Hotel – or the Danubius Gellert Hotel to give it its full name – stands on the banks of the Danube on the Buda side of the Meccano-like Liberty Bridge.

It sits majestically at the bottom of Gellert Hill, where high above sits the Citadel – a fortress built by the Hapsburgs in 1854 to mark the 1848-49 War of Independence – and the Liberty Statue, one of the symbols of the city.

For anyone who has seen the film – and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't – the Gellert sits somewhere between the fictional hotel's glory days as a watering hole for the super wealthy – all uniformed bellboys, lavish decor and air of decadent opulence – and its rundown later years... but thankfully closer to the former than the latter.

The grandeur is certainly there, it's just a little faded round the edges, which somehow makes it better, not worse.

And while the 221 rooms and 13 suites may be dated there's all the mod cons of cable TV and free free WiFi throughout the hotel.

The impressive Art Nouveau building has large, light corridors, wonderful stained glass windows, ornate staircases... and oozes with character.

It shares its building with the Gellért Spa, one of the city’s most beautiful thermal baths – it's accessible without going outside and the first visit is free for hotel guests (subsequent visits are 50 per cent off).

The inside is impressive with a main pool for swimming and several others for just sitting around in; the main outside pool was closed – it was January when we visited – however there was a large thermal pool with the steam rising off it where you could comfortably sit in the open air, as a light snow dusted the ground... before taking a brisk walk back to the changing rooms.

For sightseeing, it's just down the road from Buda Castle and 10 minutes’ walk from Great Market Hall and the downtown shopping area with a Metro station and tram stops almost literally on the doorstep.

The city boasts museums and galleries galore and just wandering around marvelling at the architecture is a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

A weekend definitely wasn't long enough... it's a city I'll be revisiting. Dreams CAN come true.

Danubius Gellert Hotel, Szent Gellért tér 1, 1111 Hungary, +36 1 889 5500/danubiushotels.com/our-hotels-budapest/danubius-hotel-gellert

Room prices can vary considerably, a quick look at an online booking site for this weekend had a single at £73 and a superior double at £126 but look out for deals, my friend stayed there last summer at around £40 a night for a single room.

Some highlights

*The view from our room in the hotel. Watching the ice flow down the Danube was mesmerising.

*Drinking Hungarian "champagne" in a "ruin bar". The wine was surprisingly good and the city's ruin bars – where people have taken over derelict buildings and turned them into tatty but ultra trendy hangouts – are a fantastic anarchic alternative to the UK's bland chain pubs.

*Eating a delicious pastries and sipping excellent coffee in one of the many charming coffee shops.

*Visiting Shoes On The Danube – a sculpture of 60 pairs of footwear in 1940s style – which commemorates Budapest Jews who were shot and thrown into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen between 1944 and 1945. They had to take their shoes off, as they were valuable belongings at the time.

Budapest Card

If you're thinking about buying a Budapest Card, pick it up before you leave the airport.

As well as giving a free admission to St Lukacs Thermal Baths, entry to the permanent exhibitions of 12 museums, two walking tours and discounts on many other attractions and services, it also includes public transportation, so you won't pay anything when you hop on the bus to get into the city.

You get a card, a handy map and a small book giving details of free or discounted attractions and ideas – arranged in to districts – of where to go and what to see.

There are three versions: 24 hours at 4900 HUF; 48 hours, 7900 HUF; 72 hours, 9900 HUF. At time of going to press £1 was 357 Hungarian Forint.

See budapestinfo.hu for tourism information and a link to the Budapest Card where you can order online to pick up at the airport.