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Chain Bridge | © Blizniak / Pixabay
Chain Bridge | © Blizniak / Pixabay
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An Architecture Lover's Guide to Budapest

Picture of Alex Mackintosh
Updated: 20 March 2017

Budapest is bursting with architectural landmarks of various styles, from Gothic Revival to neoclassical. Join us as we explore Budapest through its architecture.

Western Railway Station (Nyugati pályaudvar)

Budapest’s Western Railway Station, known as Nyugati, serves a number of national and international destinations as one of the city’s primary transport hubs. Beyond practicality, the station draws a number of visitors thanks to its architectural significance. Designed by August de Serres, the station was built by the Gustave Eiffel Company – just 12 years before the Eiffel Tower itself was constructed. Similarities between the two structures can be seen in the station’s iron structure, which was originally cast in Paris. There’s also a large glass façade, as well as three domes – two small and one larger.

Nearby Food/Drinks: Bite Bakery (pretzels, hot and cold drinks, and a range of baked goods); Café Frei (known for its wide variety of coffees).

The Hungarian Parliament Building

The Hungarian Parliament Building stands on the banks of the Danube on the Pest side of the city and is notable for its huge scale – it’s the third largest parliament building in the world. Built primarily in the Gothic Revival style, with a symmetrical façade, the building also features a Renaissance Revival-style central dome and is composed of bricks, precious stones, and gold, adding to its opulent feel. Its architect was Imre Steindl, who got the gig after winning a competition to find a design for the building. Construction began in 1885, and the building wouldn’t open until 1904, by which time Steindl had passed away.

Nearby Food/DrinksSzamos Today (breakfast, baked goods, and views over the Parliament Building).

The Hungarian State Opera House

Designed by Miklós Ybl, who also contributed to the creation of St Stephen’s Basilica, this neo-Renaissance Opera House was built between 1875 and 1884, and can be found on the UNESCO-listed Andrassy Avenue. The symmetrical limestone façade is decorated with musical references: on the upper terrace, statues of 16 composers can be seen while statues of Hungarian composers Ferenc Erkel and Franz Liszt, built by Alajos Stróbl, stand either side of the entrance. The interior is decorated with marble and gold accents, while a fresco by Károly Lotz can be seen on the ceiling. Its horseshoe-shaped auditorium is able to seat over 1,260 spectators; however, those not wishing to attend a performance can book a place on a guided tour of the building.

Nearby Food/DrinksMuvesz Kavehaz (a traditional coffeehouse serving authentic Hungarian cakes and drinks), Pizzica (quick and delicious homemade pizza to eat in or takeaway).

St Stephen’s Basilica

This Roman Catholic Basilica in downtown Budapest was completed in 1905 and is one of Budapest’s tallest buildings, with a height equal to that of the Hungarian Parliament Building. Built in the neoclassical style, the interior is rich in marble and gold, while its façade is built from stone. Three architects oversaw the building of the Basilica: these were József Hild, Miklós Ybl, and József Kauser respectively. There are two bell towers and a central dome, which collapsed during construction in 1868, contributing to the lengthy 54 years it took to build the Basilica. Today, visitors can explore its interior and visit a panoramic viewing tower for sweeping views over the city.

Nearby Food/Drinks9bar (specialty coffee, snacks, and drinks); Inez Bagels (some of Budapest’s finest bagels as well as coffee and raw juices).

Dohány Street Synagogue

The largest synagogue in Europe, The Great Synagogue was designed by Ludwig Förster, a Viennese architect who – unable to identify any specifically Jewish architecture – drew influence from Islamic decoration features in North Africa and medieval Spain. Built in the Moorish Revival style, the synagogue also features Byzantine, Romantic, and Gothic elements. Inside, frescoes by Hungarian architect Frigyes Feszl can be seen, while outside the building features two domed towers and ornate decoration. The building was badly damaged in World War II and, while it resumed its original function as a place of worship for Hungary’s Jews during the Communist era, it wasn’t until the 1990s that it was able to be restored to its former glory.

Nearby Food/DrinksSocks Coffee (specialty coffee, cakes, and snacks, catering to a range of dietary requirements).

The Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd)

Budapest’s oldest permanent bridge is also one of the city’s most iconic; built between 1840 and 1849, it was the first permanent crossing over the Danube. English engineer William Tierney Clark was responsible for the design of the bridge, with construction overseen by Scottish engineer Adam Clark (the two were not related). Connecting Buda and Pest, carved stone lions guard either end, while wrought iron chains link two 48-meter-tall river piers, built in the classicist style – giving the bridge its name. In 1945, the bridge was blown up during WWII, with only the pillars surviving. Fortunately, it was rebuilt in 1949 and acts as an integral part of the city’s landscape today. It’s possible to walk across the bridge thanks to a pedestrianized section on either side: if you look up at the lions, you’ll notice the don’t appear to have tongues. In fact, they do – but these can only be seen from above.

The Fisherman’s Bastion

Built between 1895 and 1902 to celebrate the 1000th birthday of the Hungarian state, the Fisherman’s Bastion – as well as nearby Matthias Church – was designed by architect Frigyes Schulek and was intended as a viewing terrace, hence its decorative appearance. Inspired by the neo-Romanesque architecture of early Hungary, seven stone lookout towers each feature one of the seven Hungarian chieftains who were instrumental in the creation of Hungary and settled there in 895. Urban air pollution during the late 20th century saw the walls of the Bastion turn grey, however they – along with a number of the statues – were restored and today form part of one of Budapest’s most popular attractions.

Nearby Food/DrinksRuszwurm (one of Budapest’s oldest cafes serving traditional cakes in a cosy environment).