Aug 29

The Hungarian State Opera House (Opera Nationala din Budapesta)

The Hungarian State Opera House is located in the central of the Hungarian capital city, Budapest, and it is hosted by an artistically crafted edifice, whose architecture is representative for the Neo-Renaissance style.

The architect behind the Opera House was Miklós Ybl, a representative figure in the Hungarian architecture of the 19th century, who had supervised the project until its completion in 1884 (after 9 years of work).

The institution had the pleasure of counting quite a handful of important figures of the cultural life of Hungary as part of the performing artists going on stage. Among these, Gustav Mahler and Otto Klemperer, the great composers and conductors of their generation (late 19th century – early 20th century) are worth mentioning.


The passage of time had left its imprint on the edifice in as much that in the ‘70s, the Hungarian officials had decided to begin a restoration project which would retrieve the former glorious appearance of the Opera House. The renovation lasted for 4 years, from 1980 until 1984, and the refurbished Opera House was revealed to the public on  the 27th of September, 100 years after the original opera house was inaugurated.

The Hungarian State Opera House is not mentioned on this page solely because it is relevant in defining the state and its cultural life, but also because it is a beautiful edifice, which, while architecturally designed in the Neo-Renaissance style, it also consists of Baroque influences. The decoration involves magnificent sculptural work, as well as paintings, signed by major artists such as Bertalan Szekely or Karoly Lotz.


The magnitude of the building as well as the number of people it can fit within its walls is limited so these are definitely not the characteristics which impress the public. However, there are other elements which contribute to the name the Opera House has gained: the architectural detailing and the quality of the sound. These precise characteristics are the ones to place the Hungarian State Opera House among the greatest opera houses in the world.

In front of the opera house stands erect the statue of Ferenc Erkel, the composer of the national anthem of Hungary together with the sculpture representing Frantz Ritter von Liszt, the great Hungarian composer, pianist and conductor.


Besides the opera recitals held at this specific institution, the Hungarian State Opera House also shows ballet performances. This specific institution is not opened throughout the year. Thus, if you happen to arrive in Budapest sometime between July and August, you will not have the opportunity of visiting the opera house as it is closed in this interval.

Besides the main building, the Opera House consists of an ancillary edifice, the Erkel Theatre, which is actually much larger than the principal building.


In terms of decorations, the opera house stands out due to the impressive mural work which covers the arched ceiling of the hallway. This segment of the edifice is covered with the Greek mythological figures – the Nine Muses (the goddesses of inspiration of literature, science and fine arts). But, besides the murals, the hallway is also noteworthy due to its structure which consists of a dome and marble pilasters, at which are added the luxurious chandeliers, thus the edifice conveying a feeling of lavishness. Just to make an idea of the richness of the details and of the luxuriousness of the ornaments, it should be mentioned that the main hall is adorned by means of a massive chandelier made out of bronze which reaches an impressive weight – 3050 kg.

Aug 22

St. Stephen’s Basilica (Basilica Sf. Stefan)

Among the must-see tourist attractions in Budapest, you will undoubtedly find St. Stephen’s Basilica, a Roman Catholic basilica which was erected in the honor of King Stephen, the first king of Hungary. The relics of the king, or more precisely his right hand, are still preserved in the reliquary of the basilica. The importance of the relics is known throughout the Hungarian territory, if not beyond its borders. King Stephen I was an honorable man who could have never been corrupted, and his right hand is mean as a reminder of the dignity with which he conducted himself as well as of the importance of ethics in a world prone to moral degradation.

The basilica is the third largest construction in Hungary and it measures 96 m. There is an important aspect worth mentioning at this point and that is that St. Stephen’s Basilica has the same height as the Parliament Building. This characteristic is definitely not dictated by chance and there is a symbolism in the matter. The parliament is in charge of administering the worldly matters concerning the Republic of Hungary, whereas the basilica is meant to look after the spiritual life of the Hungarian citizens. The fact that the two buildings have the same stature can allude to only one thing: that one is not superior to the next, but that they are equally important and should be looked upon with the utmost reverence.

St. Stephen’s Basilica, which measures 55 meters in width and 87.4 in length, took 54 years to be erected. The construction work was not finished earlier than 1905, but there is an explanation for the extensive timeframe in which it was built. In 1868, the basilica suffered a terrible fate, as the cupola collapsed. While in many cases, this part of the edifice can be reconstructed as such, the structure of the basilica did not allow for the dome to be added at a later time. The fact was that the remaining part of the structure had to be completely demolished and reconstructed from scratch.

In terms of structure, the Basilica is shaped as a Greek cross, whereas in terms of architectural design it is representative for Neoclassicism. The bell towers which limit the fascia are quite large and the cupolas which cover them are identical to the larger one of the basilica, only that they are miniature representations of this one.

The southern bell tower stands out because it holds within the largest bell found on the territory of Hungary, which weights more than 9 tons. The Great St. Stephen Bell, as it is known, has been constructed in the ‘90s and measures 240 cm in diameter.

The northern tower, on the other hand, comprises five bells, each bearing a specific name, so as to differentiate among them. Thus we have the Bell of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Henry II Bell, St. Emeric’s Bell, the Bell of the Blessed Gizella, and St. Elizabeth’s Bell. Each carries a specific significance, but probably the most important one is the first one listed as it is the second largest bell after the Great Bell, but it is also the oldest one in the basilica.

The dome is accessible to visitors who can climb the tower either by means of the elevators especially designed for this purpose or by going up the 364 stairs. Upon reaching the top, you will comprehend why it was a good idea to ascend to the cupola. The view you are presented with is impressive as you have the opportunity to look at Budapest and at the life it shelters within its limits.

The Basilica fulfills an important role in the community as it organizes on a regular basis various cultural events. Each Sunday is dedicated to music as concerts are scheduled in the evenings. Visiting the basilica on such a day will give you the opportunity to listen to gospel, classical and contemporary musical compositions.

Jul 31

The Great Synagogue (Marea Sinagoga)

The Great Synagogue, or more accurately the Dohany Street Synagogue (named after the street it is located on), can be found in Budapest. This is the largest synagogue located on the European continent and it occupies the fifth position among the largest synagogues of the world. The edifice can hold within its walls an impressive number of people – there are approximately 3.000 seats available, divided more or less equally among women and men (the seats available for men outnumber those available for women by 20).

The synagogue, which is affiliated with the Neolog Judaism movement, has been constructed in the 19th century (between the 1854 and 1859) in the Moorish Revival architectural style. The embellishments used were of Islamic inspiration, in combination with elements of décor based on the architectural design used in medieval Spain.


The architect that undertook the construction of the synagogue was Ludwig Forster, but the interior decorations were signed by Frigyes Feszl.

The Dohany Street Synagogue comprises various edifices: the Great Synagogue (whose name has been extended to encompass the whole complex), the Hero’s Temple, the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial, and a graveyard.

The history of the synagogue was quite tumultuous. In 1939, the edifice was bombed by the Hungarian supporters of the Nazis, and it had changed its destination. It was no longer used as a place of worship but underwent various transformations, so as to fit the purpose for which it was intended at that particular time: a center for a German radio and even a stable during the second world conflagration. But the most devastating alterations it underwent took place when the Nazis occupied the city, but more so near the end of the Second World War, during the Siege of Budapest.


Under the communist regime, the edifice had been re-established as a religious site, only that this time the Jewish community it addressed to was far too diminished. The restoration work was initiated in 1991, but it took seven years to be completed, until 1998.

The synagogue measures  75 m in length and 27 in width. While the prevalent style is Neo-Moorish (or Moorish Revival) as it has been mentioned previously, there are other architectural elements as well which can be depicted. Thus the visitor will be presented with an assortment of architectural details pertaining to the Romantic, Gothic and Byzantine styles.  The structure of the synagogue comprises two identical towers which are completed by means of two onion-shaped domes. The towers are meant to represent the columns of Solomon’s Temple.


The interior is similar to that of basilicas, having 3 aisles elaborately adorned, 2 balconies and 1 organ. The women and men who attend the religious service are not seated together: the seats for men occupy the ground floor, while women are seated in the upper gallery.

As it was aforementioned, the synagogue also comprises the Jewish Museum, an edifice erected in 1930 in the same architectural style as the house of prayer. The collections encountered here are representative for the Jewish religion (objects used in various rituals, documents, relics, etc.). Within the museum, tourists will also find a Holocaust room which recaptures the tragic destiny the Jewish community had under the Nazis’ reign of terror.


If ever in Budapest, it is advisable to make time and visit this specific house of prayer. Not only that it is an important tourist attraction, known throughout the world, but the architectural design and the interior decoration of the synagogue are definitely worth your time – you will be looking at an impressive work of art.

Jul 20

Gellert Hill and the Citadel (Citadela si Dealul Gellert)

Gellert Hill is situated in Buda, right near the Danube River, and measures 140 m. The name was given after St. Gellert who had arrived in Hungary at the request of King Stephan, his purpose being to convert the Hungarian population to Christianity. But he was not welcomed with open arms. On the contrary, several heathens did not approve of his religious beliefs and his intent to change their ways so they put him into a barrel and threw him down the hill into the Danube.

In order to commemorate the death of the bishop, a statue was erected in his honor on the north-eastern side of the hill. The statuette is enormous and illustrates a man holding a cross in his right hand, a clear symbol of the bishop’s scope in Hungary: that of spreading the Christian religion in these lands.


Besides the cultural and historical significance, the Gellert Hill is also important due to its hydrologic characteristics: an important part of Budapest’s clean water reserve is located in a tank inside the hill.

Gellert Hill also bears an essential strategic position, and the Habsburgs had no trouble in noticing this truth. As a consequence, they have erected a fortress on top of the hill right after managing to suppress the revolution of 1848 and the independence war. The purpose of the citadel was obvious – the Habsburgs wanted to remind the rebels that they were in power and that nobody could overthrow their ruling. It is no wonder that at that particular time the citadel was one of the most hated places in all of Budapest.


At the end of the 19th century, the citadel was no longer in the hands of the Habsburgs, having been now administered by the local council. In order to mark this moment, several sections of the citadel have been destroyed, symbolically representing the fall of the Habsburg dynasty.

From then onward, the citadel has changed its scope several times. It has been a prison, a temporary shelter for the homeless, and the base for air defense artillery. But from the 1960’s onward, the citadel has become one of the most important tourist objectives in Budapest. It is definitely worthwhile to climb up the Gellert Hill and visit the citadel.


If you are not that into historical facts, which is definitely a shame since the place carries historical importance, you will at least appreciate the impressive scenery, and the breathtaking image you are bound to gaze upon from atop the hill. There is a museum located within the citadel, but there is a tax that you ought to pay in order to get access within. The ticket is of 300 Hungarian forints, but exchanging this amount into euros you will find out that the tax is a little over one euro.

In front of the citadel one will encounter the Statue of Liberty, a female statuette of immense proportions which can be seen almost from every part of the city. This has become the symbol of Hungary as it commemorates the moment when Hungary had free itself from under the Nazi oppression.


Apparently, the initial design of the statue was quite different. This was intended as bearing a sword in its arm but during the construction work the Nazi regime had been substituted by Communism. As a consequence, the design of the statue was changed so that the sword was transformed into a palm leaf, and an additional element was used: the statue of a Soviet soldier was placed at the base.

But when the communist regime fell, all of the statues which commemorated that period were removed – they were either destroyed or transferred at the edge of the city, in the Park of Statues. However, the Statue of Liberty was preserved in its original position. Only the Soviet soldier and the names of the soldiers from the Red Army who had perished in the Siege of Budapest were removed.

Nowadays it is impossible to think how Budapest would look without the Statue of Liberty. This goes to show that the monument is an important part of the city, which contributes to the defining of Budapest.


Gellert Hill is also home to a little church which was constructed in a natural cave in 1926. The church functioned until the 50s when the Communists had arrested the Magyar monks located here and had executed their leader. The result of this ‘intervention’ was obvious: the church was closed.

And it remained as such up until 1989 when the wall which had concealed the cave was torn down. Since then and up until the present-day the church has been opened for visitations. In the central chapel of the church, one can notice the statue representing Saint Paul with a raven on his shoulder. The reason for which this statuette exists is that the Saint is said to have lived in the cave for a number of years, with only a raven as companion.

Tourists can visit the church from 8:00 to 19:00, regardless of the day of the week and entrance within the church is toll-free.

Jun 12

The Heroes’ Square in Budapest (Piata Eroilor din Budapesta)

The Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere, in Hungarian) is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Budapest. The Square is located in front of the Central Park, at the end of the Andrassy Bulevard – this being one of the most important streets in the Hungarian capital city, and is a monument which has been inscribed in UNESCO’s Universal Patrimony. The square bears high political and historical meaning, having been constructed in 1896 in order to commemorate 1000 years since the Magyar population had migrated in the Carpathian Basin.


The monument is formed of two semicircles which are adorned from above with various symbols – for peace and war, for work and wellbeing, for knowledge and glory. On the sides, the Heroes’ Square is decorated with sculptural representations of some of the most relevant figures of Hungarian history: kings, governors and other famous personalities.

The reason for which those people had been included in the monument in the form of statues is presented by means of a small slate situated at the bottom in which the most important moment from that person’s life (relevant for the Hungarian history) is described.


In the middle of the square stands erect, on a tall column of 36 meters, the statue of Archangel Gabriel. At the bottom, surrounding the column, tourists will gaze on equestrian statuettes. These are meant to honor Árpád Göncz, the former President of Hungary (who had played a major role in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956), and the seven leaders of the Magyar tribes. It should also be noted that the descendants of Árpád were the ones to institute the royal dynasty in Hungary.

The construction work for the memorial under discussion was initiated in 1896, as it has been aforementioned, but the completed monument was to be revealed four years later, in 1900.


When the work began, Hungary was part of the Austrian Empire. This goes to explain why the last five spaces within the row of columns were left unfilled initially. These were designated to hold the sculptural representations of the ones who were to rule the Habsburg Dynasty. Thus, the ones to fill in the spaces were Ferdinand I, Leopold I, Charles III, Maria Theresa and Franz Joseph. But WWII left its imprint on the monument, in as much as it had to be reconstructed after the war. With this occasion, the Habsburg rulers were replaced and in their place were included the figures we can see at present.


Another element of interest in the Heroes’ Square is the Monument of the Unknown Soldier which has been constructed in the honor of the soldiers who had fought and died for the independence of their nation.

The square has on each side an edifice dedicated to art: on the left, one can find the Museum of Fine Arts, while on the right, is the Gallery of Art. Both of them are worth your time, so if you ever go to the Heroes’ Square make sure you do not miss your chance to visit them. Throughout the years, the museum and the gallery had been in competition with one another in their attempt to attract a large number of tourists. The result was that there had been temporary exhibits held here with works of art of renowned painters such as Van Gogh or Rembrandt.


Behind the commemorative monument lies a bronze plate in the exact place that marks the drilling site of an artesian well. This project was undertaken by Vilmos Zsigmondy, who finished the work in the later part of the 19th century (1878). This well is close to 1000 m in depth (971m) and it produces 831 liters/minute of hot water.

May 02

Matthias Church (Biserica Matthias)

Matthias Church is one of the most important touristic attractions located in the Hungarian capital city, Budapest.

Initially, on this site another church was founded (between 1255 and 1269) during the reign of King Bela IV. Throughout time, the church underwent several reconstructions. Different sections of the edifice had been extended; these were developed in a polygonal shape at the end of the 14th century.

The entrance door which contains a beautiful bas-relief that illustrates the Death of the Virgin Mary dates from the same period.


Important events occurred within the walls of the church. For example, Charles Robert of Anjou had been crowned king in this church in 1309, thus becoming King Carol I of Hungary.

The name of the church is given after King Matthias, who had made several modifications to the edifice. He added lateral chapels, an oratory for the royal family and a new tower (to the southern wing). It was in this specific tower that the weapons of Matei Corvin were sheltered in 1470. However, at present, the weaponry is located within the church.


1526 was a fatidic year as the edifice was destroyed in a fire. The edifice shifts “religions” as 15 years later, during the Turkish domination, it is transformed into a mosque. But after the Turks are driven away, the Matthias Church undergoes massive renovation work, conducted by the Jesuits, who rename the edifice The Coronation Church. The building followed the Baroque architectural style.

The church is once again chosen as the site of royal coronation in 1867 when Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and his wife Elizabeth (also known as “Sissi”) have been crowned king and queen of Hungary.


Another reconstruction occurred between 1874 and 1896, this time in a Gothic style. In fact,  the appearance conveyed to the church at that time is still noticeable today, as the church has been preserved as such.

World War II badly damaged the edifice, but Matthias Church was restored, a project that took many years to be completed. The work had to be done attentively and patiently if the former design was to be preserved. On each side of the entrance door, you can notice a statue: the statue of King Stephan I and of King Ladislau I.


The interior design comprises a diversified array of geometrical shapes and floral ornaments which are reminiscent of the former mosque that existed here. The frescoes and the strained-glass windows, together with the neo-gothic altar date from the 1890s.

Matthias Church is also the home of the Ecclesiastical Art Museum where a multitude of objects are on display. Among the most valuable ones, tourists can admire a medieval crypt, the Saint Stephan’s Chapel, royal pieces of jewelry dating from the medieval time, sacred relics, as well as replicas of the Hungarian Royal Crown.


Visiting Hours:

Daily from 9:00 to 18:00


400 Hungarian Forints

Apr 20

The Parliament Building in Hungary (Palatul Parlamentului – Ungaria)

The Parliament Building (also known as Országház) took 7 years to be constructed. It followed the design developed by Imre Steindl, a professor at the Technical University in Budapest, and it ended up measuring 118 m in width and 268 m in length.

The construction is enormous, having 691 chambers, 10 courtyards, 27 gates and staircases which combined measure more than 20 km. The constructors used 40 million bricks, half a million of gemstones and 40 kg of gold in building the edifice.


The Parliament Building is actually the second largest edifice in Europe after the House of Parliament in London. The impressive stature of 96 m makes it one of the highest edifices in Budapest – the other one being St. Stephen’s Basilica.

The architectural style belongs to the Gothic Revival period but there are Renaissance elements incorporated every here and there. More so, the foundation of the edifice is constructed after the Baroque style while the interior design is representative for the Byzantine style.


The structure is symmetrical, the Parliament having two identical halls – one is used for governmental purpose and the other is used for touristic purpose. The walls of the edifice are adorned with 242 sculptures, both inside and out (90 at the exterior and 152 in the interior).

The ones located on the front of the edifice are representations of the most valuable public figures in the history of Hungary: Hungarian and Transylvanian leaders, as well as important military personalities. The main entrance to the Parliament consists of a staircase limited by two lions made out of rock.


The interior decoration is art in the true sense of the word. There are murals on the ceiling, the staircase is beautifully adorned and the central hall (which has sixteen sides) is impressive. Another point of reference is the glass mosaic work performed by Miksa Róth.

The immense structure and the craftsmanship of the architectural design require constant maintenance work (especially since the rock used in the construction tends to corrode easily), that is why the Parliament Building is in a continuous state of renovation.

At present, the Parliament Building is the place where the National Assembly.

Groups of tourists can visit the Parliament Building only if they have reservation. The reservation can be made during the working hours of the tourist department. Individuals cannot make reservations in advance. The tickets can be bought from Gate X in the Kossuth Square. The ticket booth is opened as follows:

1st of October – 30th of April:

Monday to Saturday: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.


1st of May – 30th of September:

Monday to Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.


UE citizens can visit the Parliament Building free of charge as long as they bring proof of their nationality. Non-UE citizens have to buy tickets as follows:

Adults:  2640 Hungarian forints;

Students: 1320 Hungarian forints.

You should know that the Parliament is closed to the public during governmental meetings and official receptions. If these periods coincide with the reservation date, then the tours are postponed. During the tour, you will receive a guide that will present the history behind the edifice. (This is available in several foreign languages: English, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, Yiddish).


Apr 17

Budvári Palota – The Royal Palace of Budapest (Palatul Regal din Budapesta)

The Royal Palace, also known as Buda Castle, was built in 1265 on the southern slope of Castle Hill. It is important to mention that the castle was rebuilt more than 30 times due to the fact that it suffered immense damages in times of conflagration and invasion.


Budvári Palota, as it is the name in the Magyar language, was erected in the 13th century by the King Béla who, after seeing the results of the Mongolian invasion, decided to transform the castle into a fortified citadel which would stop any future attacks.


The castle was strategically built as anyone who had control over the edifice controlled the entire valley. Because of its position, it was rather difficult to conquer the citadel thus giving the Hungarian rulers the upper hand when it came to military confrontations.

But even so, the castle changed hands quite a lot of times. The original edifice was constructed in the Gothic style, but since its erection, it underwent constant modification – the palace having been extended more than 300 times. It was during the reign of King Mathias that the palace went through its “golden years.”

A complete annihilation of the edifice occurs in 1686 when the Habsburg army decides to free Budapest of its Ottoman occupation. In the fights in which the two armies are engaged, the royal palace fells victim.


But the Habsburgs built another palace on the same place, but smaller than the former, at the beginning of the 18th century. Unlike the architectural design of the previous one, the new castle is representative of the Baroque Style. But this new construction does not hold its ground for long as the 1848 Independence War leaves its mark on the building.

The reconstruction work which took place at the end of the 19th century bought immense modifications to the castle, almost doubling its dimensions. One change consisted of a large wing being added at the back of the construction. During World War II, the German troupes sought cover inside the walls of the castle before being finally defeated by the Allies in 1945.


Another reconstruction takes place after the war and during these works the foundations of the constructions built in the Gothic and Renaissance styles come to light. These elements are incorporated within the Royal Palace upon its rebuilding process. And the result consists of a mixture of architectural styles which transform the edifice into a symbol of the Hungarian history and architecture.


At present, the Royal Palace is the home of three museums: the History Museum of Budapest, the Hungarian National Gallery and the Contemporary Art Museum.


At the National Art Gallery there are more than 100.000 pieces of art on display which track the evolution of the Hungarian people from the Middle Ages and up to the 20th century. The History Museum of Budapest contains archeological evidence dating from the Roman period and up until the 13th century.

The best way for tourists to reach the Royal Palace of Budapest is to take the cable tramway from the Clark Adam Square. On Castle Hill, tourists can also visit the church where Matei Corvin got married and where Franz Liszt sung the Coronation Mass in 1867, as well as the Sandor Castle, which is the Office of the Hungarian President.