Hungary has a long, rich history, and it’s capital, Budapest, stirs up visions of mystery and romance on its famous river, the Danube. Nicknamed the “Heart of Europe” this Eastern European city has everything to offer a traveler from gorgeous outdoor spaces to impressive architecture and gives visitors a wide array of cultural experiences and flavors to explore … if you know the right places to look, that is. If find yourself lucky enough to land in this special destination, be sure to check out our top 5 most beautiful buildings listed below. Just grab your camera, your walking shoes and a friend or two and revel in all that Hungarian architecture has to offer.
The Hungarian State Opera House
This Neo-Renaissance opera house was built in 1875 and is located in the heart of Budapest. This ornately decorated building is considered by some to be among the finest opera houses in the world in terms of beauty and acoustics. Its symmetrical exterior was designed to encompass a musical theme, and has statues of two of Hungary’s most prominent composers (Franz Liszt and Ferenc Erkel) in niches flanked on either side. It features a variety of Baroque elements as well, and its foyer is decorated with marble columns, a giant bronze chandelier in the main hall and a variety of art pieces including sculptures and paintings from leading Hungarian figures. A mural of the nine muses by artists Mor Than and Bertalan Székely can be viewed just by looking up at the vaulted ceiling. One of the most breathtaking sights to see in the opera house is it’s sweeping marble staircase which gives the entrance a grand and impressive feel.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
This Roman Catholic basilica was named after the first King of Hungary, Saint Stephen I (975-1038), and was built in the Neo-Classical style, and is currently the third largest church building in Hungary. It is also one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest at 315 feet.
Many travel experts will tell you that this is one of the most significant attractions to visit in all of Hungary, not just for its beauty, but for its historic value. It took more than 50 years to construct this ambitious limestone structure and features two bell towers in a Greek cross ground plan. Visitors can view a variety of sculptures of saints, elaborately decorated domes and stained glass windows. Most intriguing of all is a dimly lit area in the center of the basilica which is said to contain the “incorruptible” mummified right hand of Saint Stephen himself!
Museum of Ethnography
The Museum of Ethnography (or Ethnographic Museum) is another impressive must-see building on our list, and features Hungarian folk objects from the 19th century. Founded in 1872, this museum includes objects that depict everyday life of Hungarian citizens before World War II, like a model of a churches well as a model of a kitchen. Visitors can also view costumes, boats, pottery, furniture and more, with many of these objects coming from Upper Hungary and Transylvania. One of the hallmarks of the interior style of this Neo-Renaissance building is that it boasts beautiful marble embellishments, including marble staircases and spacious galleries. Visitors can also enjoy statues, columns, ornate stain glass windows and breathtaking ceiling frescoes.
The Museum of Applied Arts
The third largest applied arts museum in the world,
The Museum of Applied Arts was constructed in the Art Nouveau style and features a wide array of visual delights. Built in 1896, it features a signature green roof and an eclectic mix of interior decor from Islamic, Hindu and Mogul designs. At the time this building was constructed and decorated, ethnographers wrongly assumed that Hungary shared a common history with India and Persian cultures, and as a result, used motifs found common in these civilizations to ornately embellish the museum. This can also be noted in the entryway, which was modeled after the Taj Mahal, making this a truly unique and must-see building. Other exterior features to note include an ornate rooftop lantern, detailed ceilings and a library. There are also a wide variety of furniture pieces, textiles, metalwork and glass housed at the museum for visitors to view.
The House of Parliament
The House of Parliament is situated along the banks of the Danube, and was constructed in the Gothic Revival style by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl. It is currently the largest building in all of Hungary, and one of the tallest (along with St. Stephen’s Basilica) at 315 feet. Visitors may note its resemblance to Westminster Palace, which should come as no surprise; this nod to the famed British building was intentional, and meant to elevate the building’s importance. Featuring a symmetrical facade and central dome, the exterior boasts statues of national rulers and military figures, as well as a coat of arms.
Two impressive lion statues also flank the eastern staircase. In all, the building contains 242 statues inside and out. Upon entering the building, visitors are greeted by an ornamental staircase, elaborate frescoes, and the bust of the building architect (Steindl) is also on display.
Stained glass mosaics can also be found throughout this massive structure which contains 13 elevators, 10 courtyards, 29 staircases and nearly 700 rooms in all.
If you are a history buff, architecture aficionado or lover of the arts, Budapest and it’s many beautiful buildings has something to offer for every visitor. Whether you want to stroll along the banks of the Danube at night and bask in the reflected glow of the Parliament’s lights, or climb the bell towers of St. Stephen’s Basilica to take in a 360-degree view of the city, our top 5 pick of Budapest’s must-see structures are sure to have something to pique your interest. Picturesque, rich in culture and full of off the beaten paths sights to see, be sure to give these destinations a go on your next trip to the Pearl of the Danube.