From the Gellért Baths to Castle Hill, these are the must-see stops on any Budapest architecture tour
Deemed one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Budapest is not exactly camera shy. From cobbled medieval quarters to ornate Art Nouveau buildings and pastel-coloured boulevards, this city will stop even the most experienced traveller in their tracks. And when it comes to Budapest architecture, there are plenty of scenic locations to discover, whether wondering around the famous Gellért Baths, traversing the beautiful Széchenyi Chain Bridge, or taking a turn around Heroes’ Square. Here are a few of the most alluring spots in the city, to kick-start your Hungarian architecture tour.
Set 170m above the River Danube, Buda’s Castle Hill is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the most historic buildings in the city. The district itself dates back to the 13th century and many of the 14th and 15th century houses here are still in use as residential homes. Examples of medieval Budapest architecture can be found at Castle Hill’s famous monuments, including the Royal Palace and the Matthias church. Most of the area is pedestrianised (save for a few cars owned by local residents) so the best way to explore is by foot, taking full advantage of the winding alleyways – many of which offer wonderful views over the city.
A symbol of Budapest architecture recognised the world over, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (or the Chain Bridge, for short) connects Buda and Pest above the calm waters of the Danube River. The first permanent stone bridge in the Hungarian capital, it was masterminded by Count István Széchenyi in the 18th century and built by Scottish engineer Adam Clark –¬ almost entirely destroyed by German troops at the end of WWII, the bridge had to be rebuilt, finally reopening in 1949. Each end of the bridge is guarded by the famous stone lions, which according to local legend have no tongues. It’s said that the sculptor János Marschalkó (who carved these impressive cats) threw himself in the river at the opening ceremony when a spectator pointed out this oversight. The myth is untrue however; the artist lived long after, and the lions do indeed have tongues, they’re just not visible from street level.
No Budapest architecture tour would be complete without a trip to one of its famous thermal baths. One of the most remarkable, the Gellert Baths’ distinctive Art Nouveau architecture has made it something of a local landmark, with visitors donning their finest swimwear just to take a look (a dip in the thermal pools also happens to be a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon). Make sure to check out the main bath hall, a beautiful blend of mosaic tiling and stone-clad pillars, crowned by an impressive glass ceiling.asis.
As alluring in glistening daylight as it is at dusk, Heroes’ Square is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Budapest and the largest square in the city. Located beside City Park, with the Museum of Fine Arts and the Kunsthalle as its nearest neighbours, Heroes’ Square was founded in honour of Hungary’s 1000th birthday in 1896. It’s also home to one of the oldest metro stations in the world, The Millennium Underground station, which even has its own museum. If you don’t want to spend your time submerged in the underground, take a stroll down Andrassy Avenue and admire its attractive turn-of-the-century houses, or drink in the view, along with a strong coffee, at one of the many pavement cafés.
Inspired by London’s own Houses of Parliament in Westminster, Budapest’s government buildings offer a similar example of Neo-Gothic architecture, with a smattering of Baroque and Renaissance references. Set on the banks of the Danube – on the Pest side – the building is little over a century old, yet it’s still one the most important stops on any Budapest architecture tour. For the best view, jump on a riverboat cruise and admire it from the water. Or for the inquisitive, take a guided tour of the building when the National Assembly is not in session – you’ll even get a chance to admire the famous Hungarian Crown Jewels.