If there’s one thing that struck me about Budapest the most, it’s the beauty of its buildings. They’re fraught with unimaginable detail and showcase an array of eclectic styles.
The various architectural forms provide tell-tale signs of Budapest’s rich and turbulent history, sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, for centuries wandering tribes and invading armies have swept through Hungary and its capital city.
Invaded by the Romans, Mongols, Turkish, Germans and Russians; it’s easy to say Budapest has not had it easy. Yet moving forward, its these hints of the past that make the city so memorable and intriguing for visitors.
Although much of Budapest has been rebuilt after the Second World War in 1945 and again in 1956 after the Russians wielded more devastation, some buildings did survive while others were thoughtfully reconstructed.
There are few cities in the world where you can see Turkish buildings, mosques, baths, houses of Eastern characters appear harmoniously beside buildings of Gothic, Art Nouveau or Renaissance style. But maybe this shouldn’t be so surprising after we consider how Budapest has managed to shift and adapt to its political environment time and time again, especially when we consider the city used to be originally separate cities – Buda and Pest – divided by the river only 150 years ago before they united.
Here are some of Budapest’s most beautiful buildings:
Sitting picturesquely on the foot of the Danube River, I must have spent over two hours just marvelling at this building and watching people pass by. The Budapest Parliament is the third largest Parliament building in the world, with 691 rooms and a whooping 20 kilometres worth of stairs! Said to be inspired by London’s Westminister, it’s easy to see the resemblance only it manages to visually surpass its British counterpart by quite a stretch.
If you have the time you could always book a guided tour of the Parliament, see this website for times and prices (ensure you select the English guided tour).
Saint Stephen’s Basilica
I stayed just steps away from the Basilica and I recommend this location to anyone visiting Hungary’s capital. The construction of Budapest’s largest church was started by Jozsef Hild in 1851 and finished by Miklos Ybl in 1905. By the time of its completion, its original neo-classical style had been changed into Eclectic (Ybl was also responsible for the State Opera House, another impressive building in the city). Make sure you leave enough time to go inside the Basilica and head up to the top for panoramic views of the city, in a place so beautiful it’s only natural that it has inspired a few proposals over the years.
Interesting fact: The dome is the same height as the Parliament, but current legislation forbids anything higher so Budapest isn’t going to get its own version of the Empire State any time soon.
Museum of Applied Arts
Housed in a marvellous Secessionist building, this museum is a feast for the eyes both inside and out. Built in 1896 by architect Ödön Lechner, who was given the nickname the ‘Hungarian Gaudi’. The most striking thing about this building is its startling green and gold roof made from Zsolnay tiles, a famous Hungarian manufacturer traditionally of porcelain, tiles and stoneware. The company also introduced the eosin glazing process and pyrogranite ceramics into their product range for more durability.
The interior doesn’t disappoint, in fact I prefer the interior design of the building more than the exhibitions!
Sometimes there’s just no escaping the rain….
One of the most unique buildings of Budapest, the Fisherman’s Bastion was built in neo-Romanesque style by Frigyes Schulek between 1899 and 1905, as part of the ancient castle wall behind Matthias Church. In front of the bastion is an ornate equestrian monument of St Stephen by sculptor Alajos Stróbl.
Its lookout towers, terraces and passages are perfectly positioned for taking panoramic photographs of the Danube and Pest.
Rebuilt a number of times after multiple invasions, Matthias church has had a tremulous history, even transforming into a mosque during the Turkish occupation. In its current state it was rebuilt in neo-Gothic style by Frigyes Schulek between 1874 and 1896, before he built the Fishermen’s Bastion.
From the tiled roof to the detailed architecture, and from the stained glass windows to its ornate interior, Matthias Church is easily one of the most beautiful and ornate buildings in Budapest.
Great Market Hall
A place where local food and architecture meet is always worthy of one’s attention. The metal roof structure that can be seen from inside is still in its original 19th century form, and the roof is covered with decorative Zsolnay tiles like you can find on Matthias Church and the Museum of Applied Arts.
Tip: Great Market Hall is located near Liberty Bridge (you can’t miss it), if you walk across you’ll have easy access to Gellért Hill where the Citadel resides at the top.
Regrettably I didn’t visit these baths during my trip since I’d forgotten to pack a costume. However, I’ve been told by enough friends that I shouldn’t have missed this attraction, so I’m urging you not to as well. This brightly painted yellow building of Neo-Baroque design is rich in water metaphors, aqua motifs, statues related to water mythologies and water gods and goddesses. After a long day of sightseeing dipping yourself in Europe’s largest medicinal baths is perhaps the best way to unwind. Next time I’m in Budapest I won’t miss this place I assure you…
For opening times and address visit their website here.
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