Photo: Buda Castle © Dorottya_Mathe/iStock/Thinkstock
As one of the most stunning cities in Europe, Budapest is far from camera shy. Its Art Nouveau buildings, cobbled medieval quarters and dreamy pastel-coloured boulevards seem to have been created with the intention of being photographed for years to come.
When it comes to the best of Budapest architecture, the city is speckled with several locations waiting to be discovered. From the world famous Gellért Baths, the impressive Széchenyi Chain Bridge, all the way to the beautiful Heroes’ Square, here’s what struck us most during our last Hungarian adventure.
Buda Castle and the Castle District
Standing proudly around 170m above the River Danube, Buda’s internationally renowned Castle Hill is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site, and houses some of the most prominent buildings in the city. The area itself dates back as far as the 13th century, with several houses from later years being currently occupied by Budapest’s residents. Several classic examples of Budapest architecture may be admired within this district, such as the towering Matthias Church located along the Fisherman’s Bastion and the gorgeous Royal Palace, which today is home to Budapest’s National Gallery.
Enjoying a majorly pedestrianised layout, this site offers ample photographic opportunities as well as some of the most extraordinary views of the city.
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Considered one of Budapest’s most iconic landmarks, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (often simply referred to as Chain Bridge) brings the districts of Buda and Pest together by connecting them over the peaceful Danube.
Representing the oldest stone bridge in Budapest, this bridge was designed by Count István Széchenyi in the 18th century and eventually brought to life by Adam Clark, a Scottish engineer. The bridge suffered extensive damage during WWII and was eventually rebuilt and opened for the second time in 1949.
Two famous stone lions guard each end of the bridge, which according to local legends have no tongues. It is rumoured that János Marschalkó, the sculptor commissioned to create these remarkable cats, threw himself over the bridge during the opening ceremony when a spectator remarked about this oversight. This myth has however been debunked – the artist lived for several years after – and both lions do have tongues; they’re just not immediately visible from street level.
No Budapest architecture tour would ever be complete without a trip to the famed Gellért Baths. This distinctive Art Nouveau building has become one of the city’s most popular sites, with visitors flocking daily to take a dip in its thermal waters, and admire its lush interiors; which also happens to be a brilliant way to spend the afternoon.
Make sure to check out the main bath hall that includes a beautiful fusion of stone-clad pillars and mosaic tiling, along with a gorgeous curved glass ceiling.
As charming in bright daylight as it is at dusk, Heroes’ Square is one of the most visited tourist attractions, as well as being the largest square in Budapest. Adjacent to City Park, beside the Museum of Fine Arts and the Kunsthalle, Heroes’ Square was established in honour of Hungary’s 1000-year anniversary in 1896. It also houses the oldest metro stations in the world, and today the Millennium Underground station also enjoys its own museum.
If you’d rather not go underground, we recommend taking a walk along Andrássy Avenue and admiring the several beautiful residences, or enjoying a cold beer or a cup of coffee at one of the several pavement cafés in this area.
Inspired by London’s Westminster Houses of Parliament, Budapest’s state building offers a similar Neo-Gothic style of architecture, with a dash of Baroque and Renaissance references for good measure. Perched along the Pest banks of the Danube, this building is slightly over 100 years old and yet, still one of the most significant stops of any Budapest architecture tour. The best views are achieved by boarding one of the river boats and admiring it from the opposite bank, however the more inquisitive are also able to take a guided tour of the building, where you’ll even be able to catch a glimpse of the Hungarian empire’s crown jewels.