Budapest, Hungary

Updated: Mar 9

So we were at our final destination for the 2017 'urban vacation'.

  1. Prague and Czechia

  2. Vienna and Melk

  3. Budapest

Budapest

I am not sure what we expected from Budapest but it was a perfect way to end our European vacation. The city was welcoming, beautiful, easy and safe to walk around; the food and service was great; and the thermal baths/spa were a great way to relax after 2 weeks of walking and hiking.


Referred to as the 'Queen of the Danube', Budapest has long been the focal point of the nation and a lively cultural center. The city straddles the Danube River and consists of two parts, Buda and Pest, which are situated on opposite sides of the river and connected by a series of bridges. Although the city dates back to Roman times and even earlier, modern Budapest is an outgrowth of the 19th-century empire of Austria-Hungary, when Hungary was three times larger than the present country.


The Principality of Hungary was founded by the coronation of King Stephen I around the year 1000. His family, the Arpad, led the monarchy for 300 years. Treaties signed during the 19th and 20th centuries greatly reduced the land mass previously known as the Kingdom of Hungary. Most Americans do not realize the significant role Hungary has played in European history.

map of Principality of Hungary around the year  1000

Buda Castle

Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest. It was first completed in 1265, but the massive Baroque palace as seen now dates back to the 1750s and the reign of Queen Maria Theresa, the only female to rule the Hapsburg Empire (1740-1780).

Buda Castle located in Budapest was completed in 1265 and was the home to Hungarian Kings

The communist government of Hungary in 1948 considered the Royal Palace a symbol of the former regime. Therefore, Hungarian leaders chose to thoroughly modernized the interior and exterior of the palace. During the 1950's the palace was gutted and all the remaining interior, including the rooms and halls that were undamaged, were destroyed.


Important exterior details, such as the main entrance, the Habsburg Steps, the dome, the Royal Stables, etc. were demolished, and the remaining facades were simplified.

Buda Castle was gutted by the Communists during the 1950’s because it was a symbol of royalty

King Matthias fountain depicts a hunting party led by Matthias Corvinus, the king of Hungary.

King Matthias fountain depicts a hunting party led by Matthias Corvinus, the king of Hungary.

Bronze equestrian statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1900), a hero who was responsible for defeating the Ottoman Army and liberating Budapest.

Bronze equestrian statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1900), a hero who was responsible for defeating the Ottoman Army and liberating Budapest.

The Lions Gate.

The Lion’s Gate at Buda Castle in Budapest

The coat of arms for the Kingdom of Hungary.

The coat of arms for the Kingdom of Hungary.

Greek god statues have recently uncovered in Buda Castle.


Matthias Church

The first church on the site was built by King Stephen in 1015. This building was destroyed in 1241 by the Mongols; the current building was constructed in the late 13th century. It was not until the 19th century the church was renamed the 'Matthias Church' after King Matthias.

Matthias Church in Budapest at night

Following the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867, Matthias Church was the scene of a big coronation ceremony when Franz Joseph and his wife Elizabeth (Sisi) were crowned, and thus the Austro-Hungarian Empire was established.

The first Matthias Church was built by King Stephen in 1015 but the current church dates to the 13th century

Bust statue of Princess Elizabeth of Austria (Sisi) sits in the Matthias Church.

Bust statue of Princess Elizabeth of Austria (Sisi) sits in the Matthias Church in Budapest.

The church underwent major restoration in the late 1800s under the direction of Frigyes Schulek. He conducted meticulous research in his effort to revive the original Gothic style and return the church to its former splendor.

The golden high altar area of Matthias Church underwent major restoration  in the late 1800s

The beautiful stained glass windows encircling the main altar.

Beautiful stained-glass windows encircling the main altar at Matthias Church in Budapest.

All the walls and columns of the church were painted by hand. The shield of Matthias from 1470, which was originally placed on the tower, shows the King’s portrait, and today it is hanging on the inner wall of the bell tower, between two frescos of black knights

The shield of Matthias from 1470 shows the King’s portrait and is hanging on the inner wall of the bell tower between the black knights

The most significant monument in the church is the sarcophagus of King Béla III and his wife Anne de Châtillon. The 12th century king was originally buried elsewhere but in 1848 archaeologists found their remains in a ruined cathedral and transported them to the Matthias Church for burial in 1860.

Inside Mattias Church is the sarcophagus of the 12th century King Béla III and his wife Anne de Châtillon.

The Matthias Tower constructed in the 15th century was named after the king at the time.

The southwest bell tower of Matthias Church built by King Matthias Corvinus collapsed in 1384 and was rebuilt in 1470

The Holy Trinity column finished in 1709 commemorates the people of Buda who died from two outbreaks of the Black Plague.

The Holy Trinity column finished in 1709 commemorates the people of Buda who died from two outbreaks of the Black Plague.

The roof is covered with 150,000 of the famous Zsolnay ceramic tiles. The colorful roof tiles were originally added to the church at the end of the 19th century.

The roof of Matthias Church is covered with 150,000 of the famous Zsolnay ceramic tiles that were installed in late 19th century

Parliament Building and 1956 Uprising Memorial

The Hungarian Parliament Building is the largest building in Budapest and the third largest parliament building in the world. Construction of the building started in 1885 and was completed in 1904 (the architect of the building went blind before its completion). The Holy Crown of Hungary is on display in the central hall.


The Hungarian Crown Jewels were lost and stolen numerous times. After World War II, they were transported to Western Europe and eventually given to the American Army for safekeeping from the Soviet Union. For much of the Cold War, the Crown Jewels were held at the United States Bullion Depository (Fort Knox, Kentucky) alongside the bulk of America's gold reserves. They were eventually returned to Hungary under the presidency of Jimmy Carter in 1978.


Hungarian Crown Jewels
By SzentKorona_elől.jpg: hu:Szerkesztő:Tolfavi (a kép szerzője; feltöltő a magyar nyelvű Wikipédiában)derivative work: CSvBibra (talk) - SzentKorona_elől.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9547234
The Hungarian Parliament Building is the largest building in Budapest and the third largest parliament building in the world.
The Hungarian Parliament Building is the largest building in Budapest and the third largest parliament building in the world.
The main entrance of the Hungarian Parliament Building is the largest building in Budapest and the third largest parliament building in the world.
The domes and spires of the Hungarian Parliament Building at night

Assembly hall of the House of Magnates.

Assembly hall of the House of Magnates. In the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest

The Kossuth Memorial was officially inaugurated on November 6, 1927 before a crowd of 100,000 people. The group depicted the members of the first Hungarian parliamentary government: Lajos Kossuth (in the middle), Pál Esterházy, Gábor Klauzál, József Eötvös, István Széchenyi, Prime Minister Lajos Batthyány, Bertalan Szemere, Ferenc Deák and Lázár Mészáros.

The Kossuth Memorial located outside the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest

Count István Tisza was a Hungarian politician and prime minister. The prominent event in his life was Austria-Hungary's entry into the First World War when he was prime minister for the second time. He was assassinated during the Aster Revolution on October 31, 1918, the same day that Hungary terminated its political union with Austria.

The statue of Count István Tisza was a Hungarian politician and prime minister located outside the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest

The Hungarian Uprising of 1956 was a nationwide revolt against the Communist regime governing Hungary and its Soviet-imposed policies. The revolt lasted from 23 October until 10 November 1956. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees. Mass arrests and denunciations continued for months thereafter. Below is the comemorative plaque in the 1956 Memorial Museum.

The memorial to the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 was a nationwide revolt against the Communist regime governing Hungary and its Soviet-imposed policies.

St Stephen's Basilica

It took more than 50 years to build the Basilica. Construction began in 1851, and the inauguration ceremony took place in 1906. In 1868 during its construction, the dome collapsed and rebuilding the Basilica had to start almost from scratch; this explains the delay in its completion.

The main entrance to St Stephen's Basilica in Budapest main dome and towers

The basilica center is crowned with a majestic cupola, which reaches a height of 96 meters, exactly the height of the Parliament Building. The height refers to 896, the year of the settlement of the Magyar tribes in the Carpathian Basin, which led to the foundation of today's Hungary.

St Stephen's Basilica center is crowned with a golden majestic cupola  with a height of 96 meters

The main altar with the statue of King Stephen, who was the first Christian king of Hungary.

The main altar of St Stephen’s Basilica with the statue of King Stephen, who was the first Christian king of Hungary.

Special papal permission had to be granted in order to place the statue on the altar.

The main altar of St Stephen’s Basilica with the statue of King Stephen, who was the first Christian king of Hungary.
Entering the transept of St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest

Behind the main altar and to the left is the basilica’s main attraction: the chapel and the display of St. Stephen’s mummified hand. It was restored to Hungary by Habsburg empress Maria Theresa in 1771 after being discovered in a Bosnian monastery. The right hand of Saint Stephen is the most revered relic of the Hungarian Catholic church. The hand is one of the Basilica’s treasures and each year on the 20th of August it is ceremonially paraded through the city.

On display in St Stephen’s Basilica is the mummified hand of St Stephen

Beautiful stained glass windows (left to right) Saint Margit, the daughter of King Béla IV of Hungary and Maria Laskarina; Saint Laszlo, King of Hungary, the son of King Bela of Hungary elected King of Hungary by the nobles in 1077; Queen married King Stephen I of Hungary in 996; and the Hungarian Crown Jewels.

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary.

The status of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary in St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest

Standing in front of the wooden doors to St Stephen's Basilica in Budapest

Rudas Baths

Budapest is known as the city of Spas, a name it earned due to the numerous spas located in and around the city. Bubbling underneath the city is a massive reserve of spring water that produces 70 million liters of thermal water a day. Intrigue for Budapest's thermal water supply dates back to the first century AD when the Romans took interest in the city's unique features.


After walking all day long, we ended up going to the Rudas Baths, a Turkish bathhouse that was built in the 16th century during the Ottoman Empire. The bathhouse features a cold plunge pool, thermal pools, and a rooftop hot tub with a panoramic view of the city.

The hot spring of the thermal bath is radio-active, rich in calcium, magnesium, fluoride ions, hydrogen-carbonate, sulphate, and sodium. The water temperature in the different pools range from 82-107 F.


Random Locations in Budapest

One of the things you can see just outside St. Matthias Church is the equestrian statue of St. Stephen, founder of the Magyar state and the first King of Hungary (1000-1038). This bronze statue was created Hungarian sculptor, Alojs Stróbl in 1906 and features St. Stephen as an old king, mounted on a war horse, holding a reign in one hand and a staff in the other. There is a gold ring around his head, indicative of his saintliness, having been canonized in 1083.

The equestrian statue of St. Stephen, first King of Hungary (1000-1038).
The equestrian statue of St. Stephen, first King of Hungary (1000-1038).

The Statue of Independence War was built in 1893, by Zala György. This bronze statue celebrates the freedom fighters, who fought, and in many cases also died, in one of the most important battles of The Independence War - the battle at the Buda Castle in 1848.

The Statue of Independence War in Budapest was built in 1893

The statue of Attila József was a Hungarian poet. He is one the most prominent figures of Hungarian literature and his poems are taught in every Hungarian school.

The statue of Attila József, a Hungarian poet, located in Budapest
Lions standing guard at the entrance to the Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest

Fánk is the Hungarian version of this centuries-old deep-fried pastry traditionally eaten in the days of Carnival. Besides fruit jam, fánks also come with a chocolate or a vanilla custard filling. Most bakeries and grocery stores in Hungary serve them year-round.

Pieces of fank, the Hungarian desert

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest was opened in 1849. Designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark and built by the Scottish engineer Adam Clark, it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary.

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest was opened in 1849
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest was opened in 1849
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge over the Danube River in Budapest at night
Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion from across the Danube River

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