We as a traveler have a fascination with history and architecture of a place we visit. We love to explore buildings with unique and unusual architectural styles. When curating the ‘things to do in a city’ list we always look for historical and architectural gems of the destination. And in Budapest, our major draw was the magnificent Hungarian parliament. We were in awe of pictures of the parliament building dominating the Budapest buildings along the Danube and it is even more magical after dusk when it wears its golden dazzle.
During our 2 days in Budapest, we came across several exceptionally beautiful buildings in Budapest City. Though is no dearth of wonderful buildings in the Budapest City, here are our top favorite buildings which you should definitely add to your list of places to visit in the Hungarian capital.
Budapest Parliament Building
The Hungarian Parliament building completed in 1904 is a prominent landmark and a popular tourist destination of Budapest. The colossal edifice is built in a Gothic Revival architectural style with a mix of Baroque and neo-Byzantine for interior embellishments. The most interesting feature of the parliament is the symmetric facade, the interior is symmetric as well with two identical parliament halls, 10 courtyards, and 691 rooms.
While the exterior is adorned with statues, sculptures and more than 300 Gothic turrets the interior is richly decorated with sculptures, frescoes, stained glass windows, mosaics, and lots of gilded ornamentations which used 40 kg of 23-carat gold.
Guided tours of the Parliament are available when the National Assembly is not in session. The 45 minutes walk through the opulent rooms, staircases, and halls of the parliament. A visit to the Hungarian Crown Jewels is also part of the tour. You can book the Budapest parliament tours here.
Interestingly a model of Crown of Hungary sits atop the spire of St Martin’s Cathedral in Bratislava where the Hungarians ruler were crowned for more than 300 years.
The best view of the parliament is from across the Danube on the opposite bank or from the terrace of the Buda Castle.
The Great Market Hall or the Central Market Hall of Budapest is the oldest and largest indoor market in Budapest built in 1897. The three-story market hall spread over 10,000 square meters is one of the best markets in Budapest and a popular tourist attraction. The market is located close to the city center on the Pest end of Liberty Bridge which is one of the famous Budapest bridges.
The ground floor of the market is the busiest part of the market selling a wide assortment of products like fresh vegetables, fruits, cheese, spices, meats, and candies. The top floor mainly has stalls selling handicrafts and souvenirs along with eateries selling Hungarian specialties. The basement sells seafood and Hungarian special pickles vegetables. The shops in the basement have fish tanks where one can buy some fresh catch.
Though the market building interior is plain lined with stalls the neo-gothic exterior looks spectacular with the colorful roof decorated with beautiful Zsolnay tiles. The market is open all days except Sundays. You can check the open times here. You can join a guided tour of the market for more insightful information along with tasting session or even join a cooking class and learn some Hungarian local delicacies.
The Fisherman’s Bastion completed in 1902 is a panoramic viewing terrace surrounding the Matthias Church on the Castle Hill. The towers and the terrace offers a wonderful vista of Danube bank, Margaret Island, and the magnificent Hungarian parliament building. The terrace built in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style features stairs and turrets and is built in the place of the former 17th-century castle walls. Fishermen’s Bastion is said to be named after the fishermen who lived in a small town between this stretch of castle walls and the Danube banks, they are said to guard this part of the castle wall in the Middle Ages. The seven towers of the bastion represent the seven Hungarian tribes who settled in the land of Hungary in 895.
The Square between the Matthias Church and the Fishermen’s Bastion is dominated by an equestrian bronze statue of King Stephen I the first Hungarian king. One of the turrets houses a cafe and there is the St Michael’s Chapel which can be accessed through the Fisherman’s Bastion.
The terrace is open to the public all the time. There is no entrance fee to access the lower part of bastion but there is a fee to access the top turrets.
Right next to the Fishermen’s Bastion on Castle Hill is the striking 13th-century Matthias Church or the Church of Our Lady. The Roman Catholic church originally named as the ‘Church of Our Lady’ was later named after the Renaissance King Matthias, an art patron following his contributions to the church renovation.
The Gothic church features baroque elements with the roof adorned with colorful Zsolnay ceramic tiles similar to the Central Market. The interior is a breathtaking sight to behold decorated with stained glass windows, beautiful motifs and painted with rich frescoes all over by some of the prominent Hungarian painters. The Church can be accessed with an entrance fee. You can climb up the bell tower for wonderful views over the city.
The church has an intriguing history where it was restored and refashioned several times and has also served as a mosque when the Turkish conquered in the mid 16th-century. The church today is a popular venue for concerts and weddings.
The church stands in the Trinity Square which is dominated by the Trinity column a large Baroque plague column erected to commemorate the end of a plague outbreak in the 1700s. The pillar is adorned with statues of angels and saints.
The imposing UNESCO World Heritage site of Buda castle complex overlooks the city of Budapest and the Danube perched on the Castle Hill. The Buda Castle comprises the National Library, two major museums the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum and several gorgeous statues and fountains.
The terrace in front of the Hungarian National Gallery building offers wonderful views of the Danube and the Pest side of Budapest and the picture perfect view of the Hungarian Parliament building.
The terrace overlooking the Danube is dominated by an equestrian statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy. There is also a lovely fountain of the Fishing Children. On the other side of the building is the famous Matthias Fountain. The monumental Lions Gate flanked by four lions stands next to the Matthias fountain. The Lions Gate is the entrance to Lion’s courtyard which houses access to the National Library and the Budapest History Museum.
Hungarian National Gallery houses exhibits, paintings, and sculptures of prominent Hungarian artists and sculptors. The Budapest History Museum displays artifacts and information on the intriguing history of the city. A walk through the Castle District of Castle Hill is worthwhile for the impressive medieval Baroque houses and churches dating back to the 19th-century.
The Buda Castle, Matthias Church, Fishermen’s Bastion and the Castle District all are located on the Castle Hill which can be reached by the Funicular in Adam Clark Square near the Chain Bridge or by public bus called Varbusz (Bus no 16 and 16A ).
St. Stephen’s Basilica
The St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic church named after Saint Stephen I, the first King of Hungary. The Basilica was completed by 3 architects including Jozsef Hild who also designed the majestic Basilica of Eger. The church was completed in 1905 after 54 years of construction. The facade of the basilica is flanked by two bell tower, one of the towers houses Hungary’s biggest bell weighing over 9 tonnes and the other tower houses the other five church bells. The St Stephen’s Basilica is one of the tallest buildings in Budapest along with the Hungarian Parliament building with a height of 96 m. The top of the Dome can be reached by climbing the 364 steps or by an elevator for wonderful views of the city. The observation deck of the Dome is open only in summer.
The church originally designed in Neo-Classical was completed in Neo-Renaissance style. The church interior decorated with frescoes and mosaics features marvelous stained glass windows and beautifully carved wooden pews. The church is large enough to house 8500 people at a time.
Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest is located in City Park behind the popular Budapest landmark the Heroes Square. The castle was built for the Millennial Exhibition which commemorated the 1000th birthday of the Hungarian State in 1896. The castle was originally a temporary structure built of wood but was later rebuilt as a permanent structure due to its popularity in 1908.
The castle is named after and inspired by the Castle of Hunyad in Romania. The castle features an eclectic mix of different architectural styles like Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque of the popular historical buildings of Budapest. You can visit the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture housed in the castle. Also look for the famous statue of Anonymus can be found in the castle courtyard.
Synagogue in Dohany Street
The Dohany Street Synagogue or The Great Synagogue in Budapest is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. The synagogue built in the Moorish Revival with Byzantine and Gothic features was completed in 1859 by the Jewish community of Pest. The facade is flanked by twin octagonal towers topped by onion domes and features a beautiful rose stained-glass window. The ornate interior embellished with Torah-arks, frescoes and huge chandeliers can seat up to 3,000 people with separate seating for women in upper galleries.
The Jewish Museum located in the same complex next to the synagogue was built in 1930 on the site of the house of Theodor Herzl’s the popular political activist and writer. The museum displays artifacts and information on Jewish traditions and history of Hungarian Jews. The Synagogue complex also consists of the Heroes Temple built to commemorate the Hungarian Jews who lost their lives during the WWI and a cemetery for the people who died in the Jewish ghetto. The Raul Wallenberg Memorial Park has a Holocaust Memorial, a weeping willow tree with its leaves inscribed with the names of the victims of the Holocaust. Check for the open times of the synagogue before you plan your visit. You can also explore the Jewish Heritage on a walking tour or learn more about the history of the Jews in Budapest on a guided tour.
Unlike other synagogues, the Dohany synagogue houses a huge organ and is a popular venue for concerts. It is interesting to know that the Central Synagogue in Manhattan, New York City is built as a copy of the Dohany Street Synagogue.
Budapest Opera House
One of the famous buildings in Budapest, the Hungarian State Opera House located on the popular street of Andrassy ut was completed in 1884 in neo-Renaissance style adorned with baroque elements. The facade of the building is decorated with numerous statues including the statues of popular Hungarian composers Franz Liszt and Ferenc Erkel in niches on either side of the entrance. The interior is richly decorated with frescoes and sculptures on walls and ceilings and beautiful mosaics tiles on the floor. The three-story horseshoe-shaped auditorium is said to have the third best acoustics after Milan and Paris and seats 1300 people. You can join the 45 minutes guided tours of the opera held daily at 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm in different languages which also includes a mini concert.
Museum of Ethnography
The Museum of Ethnography is a grandiose building opposite the Hungarian Parliament in Kossuth Square. The Eclectic building built by Alajos Hauszmann with Baroque and Neo-Renaissance features was originally designed as the Ministry of Justice. It is interesting to know that the building is one of the runners-up designs which competed for the Parliament Building the other being the Ministry of Agriculture built adjacent to this building.
The building has an imposing facade adorned with columns and sculptures. There is a sculpture of a three-horse chariot with the statue of Lady Justice atop the facade. The interior is equally beautiful embellished with marble, stucco work and rich frescos on the ceiling.
The Museum of Ethnography houses permanent and temporary exhibitions. The permanent exhibition ‘Folk Culture of the Hungarians’ provides insight into culture and traditions of the Hungarian peasantry from the 18th century until the WWI displaying exhibits in 13 rooms. You can get more information on open times and tickets here. The museum is said to relocate to the city park (2017) and the building will be reoccupied by the Supreme Court.
These amazing buildings are our personal favorite do you have a favorite building in Budapest to add to this list? Share with us in comments.
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