If you head to one of Budapest’s many great view points, you’ll notice something a little bit uniform about the city’s skyline. Buildings seem to stand at the same height, with two spires rising above the rest. There’s not a skyscraper in sight and the tallest buildings don’t seem to be more than eight stories high. The lack of ultra modern high rise buildings allows the city to retain a historic appearance and, if you ignore the hustle and bustle of modern city life you could be forgiven for thinking you’d gone back in time as you look out over the metropolis.
The reason for this is simple. No building in Budapest can stand at over 96 metres (314.9 ft) tall. This is thanks to regulations which restrict building height, and the fact that number 96 has symbolic value in the country. It was in 896 that Hungarian Magyars first came to the area, and the first stages of the Hungarian Kingdom were born.
Two buildings in the city set the precedent for the legislation in place today: St Stephen’s Basilica and the Hungarian Parliament Building. Construction of the former was completed in 1905, while the latter was finalized in 1904 (and is the largest building in Hungary). However, both stand at the same height – 96m – and represent religion and government respectively. Their equal heights are no coincidence. The fact that one is not taller than the other is significant, as it shows that neither religion nor government is more important than the other.
Debate is ongoing as to whether higher buildings should be allowed around the city: currently, the only structures which have been able to exceed the 96m rule are those used for industrial purposes. For now, the city remains devoid of high rise architecture, but what the future holds, remains to be seen.