Budapest: Basilica to Parliament

St Stephen’s Basilica

St Stephen’s Basilica was a great place to get an overview of the city on our first day in Budapest. Stephen (Istvan in Hungarian) is revered as the founder and patron saint of Hungary. He was crowned king in 1000, but the Basilica is centuries later than that: built between 1851 and 1905.

The interior is beautiful and, in places, quirky – note the reliquary in the gallery below which contains Stephen’s mummified right hand. On the anniversary of his death each year, August 20, this is paraded through the streets.

The highlight, however, was climbing the 302 steps of the tower. Well, not the actual climbing itself, but the views. We could see many of the places we would visit later that day, or over the forthcoming week.

If you spotted a building in the gallery above with a multicoloured roof, that was our next destination. A fine example of Hungarian Art Nouveau, it was formerly the Post Office Savings Bank and is now the State Treasury. The bees on the facade symbolise thrift.

We found Budapest to be a “monumental” city with statues and sculptures everywhere. Here are some favourites from the area between the Basilica and the Hungarian Parliament. Many of the names brought back my school history lessons, for example Kossuth who led the 1848 revolution. Ronald Reagan seems a little out of place! He never visited Budapest but was honoured in 2011, the centenary of his birth, for his role in ending the Cold War.

A couple of monuments merit more detailed attention. The German occupation monument, marking the Nazi takeover in 1944, is controversial. The government insists that it stands for all victims of the occupation while Jewish groups see it as part of an official attempt to absolve Hungary of responsibility in the Holocaust. At its foot, families of those who died have set up a Living Memorial of photographs, documents and belongings which, unfortunately, is frequently vandalised.

The Holocaust Memorial lies on the banks of the Danube and consists of dozens of shoes cast in iron. Hundreds of Jewish adults and children were shot here and their bodies thrown into the river. Before they died they were made to remove their coats and footwear to be used by German civilians. Horrific.

Just upriver lies the Hungarian Parliament Building which makes the Palace of Westminster look rather restrained: Gothic Revival with Renaissance and Baroque flourishes. I’m not sure I like it exactly, but it’s certainly impressive.

By this time it was 3pm and our feet were starting to get sore from tramping the pavements. Before leaving the Basilica in the morning, we had bought tickets for an organ concert starting at 5pm. Just time to go back to our hotel for a cuppa before venturing out again.

Today’s explorations were all on the Pest side of the river. It reminded me a lot of Paris – broad boulevards lined with neo-classical architecture and, when you ventured down the side streets, a slight air of dilapidation. The next day we would cross the river into Buda for the first time (the cities merged in 1873). It was quite different.

61 thoughts on “Budapest: Basilica to Parliament

  1. Blue Sky Scotland April 28, 2017 / 01:58

    Always nice to explore new cities and get up high for a view and Budapest looks a cracking place with plenty to see.

    Like

  2. johnmarkmiller April 27, 2017 / 17:49

    wow – these photos are so gorgeous! I feel like I just went traveling today… thanks!

    Like

  3. Bespoke Traveler April 27, 2017 / 04:23

    Somehow those shoes are so much more poignant than any large monument that could have been built.

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  4. Jessica (Diverting Journeys) April 26, 2017 / 18:59

    I do not like Ronald Reagan, but that is nonetheless a good statue! I went to Budapest about ten years ago, but I don’t remember seeing any of this neat stuff! Maybe it’s time for a return trip.

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  5. Kathleen Jennette April 26, 2017 / 02:37

    It is really beautiful there as you say, and also as you say, Ronnie does seem out of place, but its a nice statute needless to say.

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    • Anabel Marsh April 26, 2017 / 07:36

      Yes, it was very popular for tourists posing with him! We didn’t bother with that….

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ann Coleman April 25, 2017 / 20:20

    The architecture looks beautiful! The Holocaust memorial is just haunting. It’s still hard to grasp sometimes just how cruel humans can be to each other.

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh April 25, 2017 / 20:37

      Yes, the veneer of civilisation is quite thin sometimes.

      Like

  7. Ishita April 25, 2017 / 15:26

    AMAZING!! the details, the pictures, the history. LOVED it..!! I wondered about the Reagan statue too 😉

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh April 25, 2017 / 16:40

      It did seem odd! We had to wait for lots of people wanting their photos taken with Reagan to get out of the way.

      Liked by 1 person

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