Budapest » Budapest Sights
Summary of Budapest’s most famous sights
Specific Information on Sights
Summary of Budapest’s most famous sights
In 2002 the UNESCO World Heritage committee enhanced the capital's standing among the already existening eight World Heritage locations in Hungary (Hollókő, Budapest, Pannonhalma, Hortobágy, Pécs, Tokaj, Aggtelek, Lake Fertő). This means that now Andrássy Avenue and its historical environs join the Castle district and Danube embankment as holders of the prestigious World Heritage award, although it is true to say that local residents and visitors consider the award fully deserved, Budapest being - in their eyes - one of the most beautiful capitals in the world.
The Castle quarter represents the core of the ancient town and an area guarding some of the most important historical monuments in the country. And although in the 800 years since its foundation it has been hit by virtually every disaster imaginable - earthquake, fire, siege and world war - its beauty continues to shine through and its medieval monuments are a delight. On entering the quarter visitors generally get the impression they have travelled back in time to a completely different, calmer age, where the gateways of Baroque houses reveal Roman-age stones and finely carved sedilia from the age of chivalry. Underneath the feet lies a vast labyrinth of caves, which served as a military station for no less than 20, 000 German soldiers during the Second World War. One of the defining buildings of Budapest, the over 700-year-old Matthias Church, stands in Szentháromság (Holy Trinity) Square. Its Gothic tower and the backdrop of Fishermen's Bastion make this one of the most commonly photographed monuments. Over the course of centuries the church was the scene for many coronations, then it served as a Turkish mosque from 1541 before being re-consecrated. Inside, the earthly remains of King Béla III and his wife lie in a carved sarcophagus. The rich collection of ecclesiastical art attracts many visitors each year. Fishermen's Bastion was raised in neo-Romanesque style on the foundations of the medieval castle walls; it affords a superb viewpoint over the city. Right alongside, and happily alloying the old with the new, stand the luxury Hilton Hotel built over 25 years ago. The hotel courtyard encompasses the cloister of a medieval monastery, inside which are the remains of an ancient church; theatrical performances are held here each summer.
The former Royal Palace and its attendant buildings represent an organic, and yet at the same time a separate, part of the Castle quarter. The several historical sections, which were severely damaged during the Second World War, have over the intervening years found new functions. Most wings of the palace have been tumed into museums, and the National Széchényi Library is also here. Sándor Palace, once the residence of the prime minister, is now the office and residence of the president of the republic.
The Royal Palace and its fine buildings form a single entity with the rows of Danube embankment houses under Castle Hill, with Rudas Baths, builts in 1566 by Pasha. Sokoli Mustafa and once a cultic centre due to its proximity to a nearby Dervish monastery, as well the cliffs of Gellért Hill and the bridges spanning the Danube. Among the latter, the oldest is Chain Bridge built in 1849, the most graceful is Elizabeth Bridge, one of the earliest suspension bridges, and the newest bridge on the scene is Lágymányos, which diverts a considerable amount of traffic away from the inner city. The century-old building of Parliament built by Imre Steindl in neo-Gothic style, defines the view on the opposite side of the Danube. Behind this one can see the dome of Budapest's largest ecclesiastical building, St. Stephen's Basilica. Not far from this stands the dignified edifice of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on the Pest end of Chain Bridge, and beside in the Art Nouveau Gresham Palace which has been completely renewed to function as a Four Seasons luxury hotel. The marvellous panorama is rounded off by the line of hotels on the embankment and the grand old Vigadó.
Andrássy Avenue and environs make up a unified architectural form dating from the late 19th century, despite which there are still clearly defined sections to it. It was named after the former prime minister who had done much to make Budapest a true metropolis. The cream of Eclectic architecture is to be seen along the Avenue, including the outstanding Opera House and many beautiful tenement blocks with intimate inner courtyards, statues and fountains. But it is not only these buildings which are worthy of attention; the Avenue's environs boast a huge variety of architectural styles and interesting sights. The near 2,5-km-long Avenue was inspired by the boulevards of France, and it originally had a separate lane reserved for gentlemen out riding.
One of the special features of Andrássy Avenue is barely visible on the surface. The only give-away is the occasional wrought iron balustrade leading underground...
Continental Europe's first sub-surface railway was built under the road, and the more than 125-year-old underground is still carrying passengers today along a line only slightly longer than the original. There is a stop at the Opera House, the creation of Miklós Ybl in Italian Renaissance style. The building's exterior is imposing, the interior is breathtaking, and its rich decoration and superb acoustics attract the greatest singers, dancers and conductors from all over the world. After Oktogon the museum visitor comes across a vast grey edifice, the House of Terror Museum set up in the former headquarters, of the dreaded state police. Inside is a permanent exhibition dedicated to the many victims of fascism and communism in Hungary.
Villas along the Avenue are named after their onetime owners of designers. This is where you'll find the East Asiatic Art Museum, established in the former home of Ferenc Hopp who collected most of the works on display, and then bequeathed them to the nation. The embassies have residences in equally imposing villas. A fine Bauhaus building stands at the corner of Munkácsy Mihály Street; this is the recently renovated Hotel Andrássy, designed by Alfréd Hajós, Hungarian swimming champion at the 1896 Athens Olympic Games. The neo-Renaissance Hungarian College of Fine Art also stands on Andrássy Avenue; a memorial museum established in the former flat of Zoltán Kodály, one of the greatest Hungarian composers of the 20th century, can be accessed from Kodály Circus.
Andrássy Avenue terminates at the Millennium Monument erected to mark the thousandth anniversary of the Magyar Conquest, Archangel Gabriel stands atop the huge column, at the foot of which are sculptures of the seven tribal chieftains. The semi-circular pantheon surrounding this ensemble has depictions of famous kings, generals and great historical figures. In the foreground is the memorial to the Unknown Soldier. Most visiting heads of state and government pay their respects at this monument. On one side of the square stands the Museum of Fine Arts with a Spanish collection unrivalled outside Spain, and opposite the Palace of Arts, home to temporary exhibitions.
City Park Lake behind Heroes' Square tempts the visitor to take out a boat in summer and skate in winter. The entertainment and cultural centres in City Park (Zoo, Funfair, Municipal Grand Circus, Széchenyi Spa, Vajdahunyad Castle built on a mini island, the museums of agriculture and transport as well as Petőfi Hall) are the capital's favourite tourist destinations.
In Budapest call +36 1 266 78 68