Backyards in Pest
When wandering along the streets of Pest don't hesitate to walk into one or another of those backyards. Mostly they are entered through a narrow and rather dark passageway. Typically these backyards have little shops or restaurants, sometimes they are for housing/offices only. Almost always the balconies are decorated with beautiful wrought-iron banisters, sometimes you see a fountain in the middle of the backyard.Related to:
Hungarian National Bank
One of the magnificent buildings at Szabadsag ter is home of the Hungarian National Bank. It was opened 1901, architect was Ignac Alpar. The style shows influence of Art Nouveau/Secession but is mostly Neo-Renaissance. Unfortunately tourists cannot see much of the beautiful interior but at least they opened a visitor centre in 2004.
The visitor centre is open 9 am to 4 pm on weekdays and free of charge. You must put your belongings in a locker (which can be a tricky thing to do, and end up in an embarrassing request to the guards for help, believe me! LOL). The exhibit is very informative. It is mostly about money in general, how it works, the history of money from ancient to modern times, with an extensive part on the Forint. You can also read quite a lot about the building itself, the design and construction etc. Funny thing was for me that the original plans are all labeled in German.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Imre Nagy monument
Imre Nagy was one of the leading figures in the Hungarian revolution 1956. Born in 1896 he has been a communist all his life. Rumour is he even had a career in the Soviet Secret Police in the 1930s. However, in 1953 he became prime minister of Hungary, was forced to resign in 1955 and again took the job of the prime minister during the revolution of 1956.
After the revolution was defeated by military actions of the other communist countries under Soviet leadership he was urged to go into exile to Romania. The worst was yet to come, though. In 1958 he was sentenced to death and executed in Hungary. It is remarkable that he could have saved his life if he had collaborated with the communist regime. He was buried with his face down in an undesignated grave and it was forbidden to say his name until 1988.
In July 1989 he was re-buried in place 301 of the Rakoskeresztur cemetery under the great monument by György Jovanovics. The monument I am talking about here is a different one, though. It was erected on the occasion of Nagy's 100th birthday. The bridge is supposed to symbolise the transition from totalitarism to democracy. The figure of Imre Nagy is idealizing, not true to life. He was short and stocky, didn't look like the intellectual coffeehaus-type guy of the monument.
Location: southeast of the parliament building, Vertanuk tere.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Erzsebet ter (square)
Just a few steps from Deak Ferenc ter, the metro hub in the centre of Pest, is the Erzsebet ter, a nice oasis in the busy city. I thought it has a beautiful design with lawns, trees, the Danubius fountain in the middle (by Miklos Ybl, built 1880-83, destroyed in WWII so you see a copy, on top (male) Danube, the other three (female) figures depict the rivers Theiss, Drau and Save).
The square is surrounded by interesting buildings. The southern side is occupied by two fancy hotels: the Kempinski Corvinus with post-modern design and Le Meridien. Only a few steps from Le Meridien, on Deak Ferenc ter, are the Evangelic-Lutheran church and the Evangelic museum of Hungary. Worth to mention is that the museum owns the original testament of Martin Luther. No idea how they got it.Related to:
- Luxury Travel
This is the most important Hungarian theatre for plays and musicals. It was built by Fellner & Helmer (who else? LOL) 1895/96. It was destroyed in WWII but rebuilt right away. The interior is (as I heard) very beautiful - just like the exterior. The stage has seen the greatest Hungarian actors.
Be prepared that they perform in Hungarian. Don't expect to understand anything, even if they play a piece by Tennessee Williams. It's probably best to attend a musical. I tried, but it was sold out.Related to:
- Theater Travel
The name is misleading. Nyugati pu means Western Railway station. But the trains that leave from here run towards North and East. See my transportation tip also.
However, what's remarkable is the architecture of this train station. Gustave Eiffel's company (yes, the same guy who designed the Eiffel Tower!) built it 1874-77. Nowadays most of the cast-iron construction is new - due to its bad shape it had to be replaced during the restoration of the building some years ago. The other parts of the train station are still original. It's also worth to have a look at the MacDonald's at the right side: probably the most beautiful place of the fast food chain (see pic #5).
At the back of the station a modern shopping mall was built. I didn't bother to go there.Related to:
Palais New York
Originally built after plans by Alajosz Hauszmann 1891-95 for the American insurance company "New York" this splendid neo-Baroque palais was turned into a luxury hotel a few years ago by the Italian-based hotel group "Boscolo hotels". It looks quite fancy, a bit stiff and snobby, but since I didn't stay there I cannot really comment.
What's to note about this place is the cafe at the left corner (main facade). The "Cafe New York" was *the* place for writers, artists, poets in Budapest until the 1930s. The legend goes that writer Ferenc Molnar threw the key into the Danube right on the opening day so that it should never close. I only had a quick look inside. A waiter welcomes you right behind the door and asks for your wishes. Normally I am not opposed to having coffee and cake in upscale coffeehouses or restaurants but in this case ... The interior of the cafe is VERY opulent. Too much for my taste. And total lack of patina. It's polished. With the renovation they also wiped the history out it seemed to me. But to each their own ...
Location: on the Grand Ring, close to Blaha Lujza ter.Related to:
- Food and Dining
Szabadsag hid (Freedom bridge)
This bridge that spans the Danube downstream from Chain bridge and links Gellert square (Buda) and Fövam square (Pest) was the third bridge in the city, opened in 1896. Its original name was Franz-Josephs-Brücke, named after the Hapsburg Emperor.
The bridge has a gracious appearance despite the overload of decoration. The architects' motto was "beauty, simplicity and economy". Especially by night (see pictures) it is a very romantic view. Just imagine the traffic wasn't there ;-)Related to:
Corvin ter (square)
This little square in the Vizivaros district, below Buda's old town is a real gem. It would be jewel if there wasn't so much car traffic in Fö utca that runs along the square's Eastern side.
Anyway, the dominating building is Budai Vigado from 1900, the Buda Redoute (concert hall), home of the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble. Opposite to it is a former Capuchin church, now parish church of the Italian Catholic congregation. You can still see two Turkish windows from the 14th century when it was turned into a mosque on the outside, but the church was redesigned in the 19th century.
On the hillside of the square is a very beautiful Baroque house with balcony and over and over decorated with ornaments. On the opposite side is a row of three small colourful houses that are restaurants, now part of the ArtHotel.
The square itself is beautifully designed with benches, a cafe, lawn, flower beds and trees. The Lajos fountain from 1904 depicts an unknown Hungarian man in the year 896 - at least as they imagined one.
Truly a place to recover from sightseeing!Related to:
Protestant (Calvinist) church
The protestant (Calvinist) church is due to its location (right on the bank of the Danube on the Buda side) and its colourful roof a landmark of Budapest. Not that it is spectacular architecture in some way, but it is a dominating part of the panorama seen from the Pest side.
The church was built 1893-96 by architect Samu Pecz whose monument is right next to the church. Since he was an admirer of medieval architecture (the church was built in a mix of neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic styles) he is depicted in medieval clothing.Related to:
Maria Magdalena church tower
The tower is basically all that is left of the former Maria Magdalena church in Buda's old town at Kapisztran ter. The Franciscan church from 1276 had served as the parish church for the Hungarian citizens of Buda in medieval times (the choir for Catholics, the nave for Protestants) - with permission by the Turks who later turned this church also in a mosque.
In WWII nave and choir were destroyed, only the tower survived. One typical Gothic window was reconstructed and you can also see the bases of the church walls. It seems the place has nowadays become a popular place for the younger locals to hang out.Related to:
- Religious Travel
Yeah, I know, I never thought I would recommend a Hilton as "Off the beaten path" tip. LOL
But it is true. This hotel was built in 1976 and was the best hotel in Budapest back then. In the meantime other, better hotels were built, especially those in restored old buildings are now top of the rank. However, the Hilton is special: It occupies the grounds of former monasteries. Old structures are preserved and can be visited. The facade to Hess Andras ter is that of the former Jesuit monastery in beautiful late Baroque style. To the left of that facade is the Gothic tower of the former Dominican monastery to see, at the facade the monument of King Matthias Corvinus - which, btw, is modelled after the monument in Bautzen, Germany (see my Bautzen page) - and behind that tower relics of the cloisters are also preserved. To the two remaining wings of the Gothic cloisters were two wings in modern style added, forming a nice courtyard where open-air events take place in summer. Entrance is left of the tower through the shopping arcade.
Location: Buda old town on the hill, next to St. Matthew churchRelated to:
Get Your Laundry Done
Traveling light always involves getting laundry done on the road. The best (an one of the few) coin laundromats in Budapest is not far from the Gellert Hotel. From the entrance of the hotel proceed down the driveway to the right. Cross the street to where the bank is and go past the ATM/Bankomat toward the water. Turn the corner to the right staying on the right side of the street. Go about 4 blocks and look to the right for the sign. The place does have a web site as well and touts theuse fo American machines.
It is pretty reasonable and there is an attendant to assist. The dryers are very low heat so expect to take a long time and extra money or let some things hang out later.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Doors & Windows
We love to look for architectural detail, especially doors and windows. Budapest and Szentendre both had scores of interesting doors, windows, and tile patterns. I've given the location as close as we remember them, but you don't have to look far - just look closely and you'll find all kinds of intersting things.
See more in "More Doors and Windows"Related to:
The newest and already quite popular park in Budapest is on Kopaszi-gát in south Buda. The area used to be a dingy industrial zone, but has now been transformed into a beautiful green park. Inside you can find a restaurant, a café, playground for children, benches to relax and grass to sunbathe.
It is located just south of Lágymányosi bridge, on a peninsula between the river Danube and a small bay. The entrance is right at the bridgehead.
The park is open from 6:00 until 22:00 every day.
By public transport, the best option is to take trams 4 or 6 to the Buda side of Petőfi bridge, and then walk south towards Lágymányosi bridge along the Danube (1 km, about 15 minutes). After you walk under the bridge, the entrance to the park is straight ahead.
If you're coming by car, cross the Danube to Buda on any of the bridges, and then follow the road along the river (Budai alsó rakpart) heading south until you get to Lágymányosi bridge. After the road passes under the bridge and turns right, the entrance to the park is straight ahead.
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