by Lucas Aresin
Budapest is a historical city. During its long life, it has seen many different eras, emperors, country borders, wars, conflicts, and styles of architectures come and go. It's often referred to as the Paris of Central Eastern Europe, and it should not come as a surprise to anybody that it is stock-full with historic buildings and sites.
For all the history-nerds (we mean that in an entirely positive way), geeks, enthusiasts of architecture, art, and bygone eras, these buildings should all be no less than awe-inspiring. Stepping into each of them is like stepping through a portal into another period. When you can hear your own steps echo back and forth between stone walls and marble floors, or when you smell the old, dark wood of the wall panels, then you can close your eyes and imagine you're living as a royal in 1850.
With that said, let's get started.
At the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, Hungary was celebrating 1000 years of existence, and Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph I had set his mind to making Budapest into a modern reflection of this rich history. One of the projects supporting this vision was the Danube Palace, which opened its doors in 1885 – 11 years before the anniversary. It has undergone some changes since then, particularly in the Second World War. Today, the palace hosts literary and artistic events. The building contains a restaurant, the Brown Salon, which is now a conference hall, the Theater Hall – a magnificent domed hall with gold ornaments – and the Széchenyi Room, which was created in honour of the 'Greatest Hungarian', politician and writer István Széchenyi.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
In 1825, Count István Széchenyi gave money for the development and propagation of language and science. The result was the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which is the most important academic society in Hungary today. Set at the bank of the Danube, it's an impressive building on the outside, with an even more impressive inside. And while it certainly looks great, what truly counts here are the thoughts and ideas circulated. From linguistics over philosophy, mathematics, engineering, and physical sciences, here's where Hungary's mental elites push science and progress further. (Check out our the article on Hungarian inventions.)
Sándor palace is the official place of residence for Hungary's president. The construction was started in 1803. It was commissioned and named after Count Vincent Sándor, a philosopher and aristocrat of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It says a lot about Hungary that this impressive residence is only the 37th biggest palace in the country today. Groups can enjoy the interior of the palace and see, for example, the Blue and Red Salon, two exquisite examples of baroque interior design, complete with golden ceiling murals and portraits. The salons were visited by world leaders from all around the globe. There's much more in this most stunning 'small' palace than can be described here. If you want to find out about who and why used to walk around in the house on a horse, come on our Buda tour!
Ervin Szabó Library
Not far from the Danube riverbank, we find the amazing Szabó Ervin library, a magnificent piece of the past, preserved in the shape of shelves and books. It was built between 1842 and 1912 by Count Frigyes Wenckheim, a Hungarian nobleman, and today its neo-baroque architecture makes it an unmissable gem in every historian's journey through Budapest. Dark wood stairs and walls, chandeliers, candle-light – but see for yourself. The main attraction are of course the myriads of leather-bound books, which are part of Budapest's largest public book collection. The library can house over a million books.
Buda castle towers in the Buda hills over the city and is one of the most impressive and largest landmarks in Budapest. It has historically been the place of residence for Hungarian kings, and it was completed in the year 1265, making it the oldest building on this list.
The building itself it massive, and there are so many rooms, wings, and apartments, yards, modes of entry, and more, that it is quite difficult to know where to start. To not overwhelm you, let's just say this. From afar, you will see a terrace-like arrangement with stairs and pillars set into the mountain, with a huge dome-shaped roof on top. You can walk up towards it, or take an escalator that conveniently elevates you into the halls of regency. The inside is huge and beautiful. There's magical ballrooms, majestic throne rooms, a sacred chapel, murky cellars and much, much more.
But once you're up and inside, try to look back occasionally – the view is amazing, and you'll get a good feeling for the feeling of elevation the emperors of old must have felt.
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