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.

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55 thoughts on “Budapest: Basilica to Parliament

  1. Mohamad Al Karbi April 24, 2017 / 10:58

    Wow, I’m starting to love this place. Hops to see more… There are a lot of similarities with Rome!

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  2. Donna April 24, 2017 / 14:09

    Thank you again for guiding us through more virtual travel. Your photos are stunning.
    The vandalism of personal items left at the Holocaust memorials is very disturbing.

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    • Anabel Marsh April 24, 2017 / 14:46

      It is. There were a couple of notices which detailed what was going on and it was shocking. Unfortunately, the Far Right are still around.

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  3. Suzanne et Pierre April 24, 2017 / 14:59

    Beautiful pictures and it certainly brings back lots of memories from our own stay in Budapest. Such an interesting city. (Suzanne)

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    • Anabel Marsh April 24, 2017 / 15:46

      It was very interesting, and varied. Glad the post brought back some memories.

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  4. Liesbet April 24, 2017 / 15:16

    Wow. This part of the city is extensive and elaborate with its monuments, statues and architecture. Quite spread out and big when looked at from above. I hope to visit one day. Budapest seems to hold many wonders. Your photos remind me a bit of St. Petersburg. A lot of Eastern European cities or capitals appear quite grotesque!

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    • Anabel Marsh April 24, 2017 / 15:47

      Not quite as grand as St Petersburg maybe, but yes, I see the comparison. I said it reminded me of Paris and now we have Rome and St Petersburg in the comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ellen April 24, 2017 / 16:35

    I have always wanted to go to Budapest! Interesting to read about the comparisons to St. Petersburg, Paris and Rome. I’ve been to those cities so would love to get to Budapest one day and make my own comparison 🙂

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    • Anabel Marsh April 24, 2017 / 17:47

      I hope you can do that! Much more to come, some of it with a very different character.

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  6. susan@onesmallwalk April 24, 2017 / 23:04

    So informative, Anabel – and I love the photos of you in all those monumental places!

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  7. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy April 24, 2017 / 23:05

    I never get tired of hearing about the strange relics that are all over the place. At least, they strike me as strange, and I’m Catholic, so in theory I should not find them strange/creepy. But they are fascinating. They strangeness and fascination probably go hand-in-hand.

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    • Anabel Marsh April 24, 2017 / 23:41

      I’ve seen a few odd ones too – St Catherine’s head in Siena for example. Having been brought up a Methodist they seem even weirder to me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sarah Ferguson and Choppy April 25, 2017 / 16:55

        The church I grew up in was very modern (in a whole lot of ways), so we didn’t have anything like stained glass in the building, let alone body parts from long-dead saints.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Retirementallychallenged.com April 25, 2017 / 01:27

    So beautiful! Also, disturbing to know that there are those who would vandalize a memorial site (although that behavior is certainly not unique to Budapest).

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    • Anabel Marsh April 25, 2017 / 07:35

      No, unfortunately it isn’t. It was a very sobering site to look at, just as poignant as the shoes by the river.

      Like

  9. restlessjo April 25, 2017 / 08:15

    I like the sound of thrifty bees, Annabel! 🙂 It’s a good looking city, isn’t it, and I can’t say I’ve heard anyone say anything bad about it?

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    • Anabel Marsh April 25, 2017 / 08:32

      It is very beautiful – before we went I only knew of one person who’d been (a long time ago, just after the fall of communism) but since we came back I’ve heard a lot of positive stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ishita April 25, 2017 / 15:26

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

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    • 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

  11. 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.

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    • Anabel Marsh April 25, 2017 / 20:37

      Yes, the veneer of civilisation is quite thin sometimes.

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  12. 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

  13. 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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  14. 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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  15. johnmarkmiller April 27, 2017 / 17:49

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

    Like

  16. 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.

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  17. BeckyB April 29, 2017 / 15:50

    What a lovely city . . . .and even though his face looks a little bit odd here think I prefer this Ronald to the McDonald one who seems to get everywhere!!

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  18. Birgit May 2, 2017 / 05:25

    When I watched Going My Way with Bing Crosby and Rise Stevens talks about reading his letters when she tours Europe. She says Budapest and lingers for a second or 2 remembering that city. At that moment, I knew I wanted to visit there and when I was 18, I did and loved it! This was in 1982 and it was behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War but I still loved it even though my mom was scared to death. I took a 4 day tour with a group of Austrians and I and a 16 year old were the only 2 young girls on this trip. The rest were married couples at least 60 years old and up. I remember seeing St. Stephen’s Hand and visiting that Cathedral and visiting the Fishermans wharf and the nearby church also. There were the communist statues there as well that are now gone and in some area where these statues go to “die” as it were. This brings back fond memories plus a want to revisit this great place. Hungary suffered at the hands of Stalin where 7 million died in one year from 1932-33 so it wasn’t too hard for them to lean towards Hitler unfortunately. The shoes are sobering and reminds me of my dad in law who was a soldier in WW2 and was part of helping one camp. He remembered seeing a huge pile of shoes and that image never left him.

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    • Anabel Marsh May 2, 2017 / 07:50

      That sounds quite an adventure! We went to Fisherman’s Wharf too but didn’t make it to the communist statue park which was outside the city. The shoes were poignant – I’ve seen pictures of the piles of shoes and clothes, but it must be far more awful to see them in real life.

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  19. jazzfeathers May 6, 2017 / 09:18

    I’ve never been to Budapest, but I know it is a beautiful city.
    Loved the pictures, but what touched me the most were the little info about WWII. It was a horrible time, but I thnk it’s right to remember. We need to remember. However controversial it may be, forgetting is even worse.

    Like

    • Anabel Marsh May 6, 2017 / 09:35

      Totally agree, there is more horror to come – though I admit i haven’t actually written any more posts yet. Too busy!

      Like

  20. www.hannacocoa.com May 10, 2017 / 11:38

    Great pics . You have a good eye on this. Here is a nice thing to do with your photos or selfies in Budapest: https://www.hannacocoa.com

    Thanks for coming and sharing experiences.

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  21. rosemaylily2014 May 30, 2017 / 09:12

    Fascinating insights Anabel. We were struck on our own visit by how much suffering the people of Hungary had endured over the centuries – they truly must be so resilient! Very proud of their heritage too and yes we noticed the large numbers of monuments!

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    • Anabel Marsh May 30, 2017 / 10:15

      Exactly. I think that’s probably true (the suffering) of a lot of Central Europe which has been constantly fought over.

      Liked by 1 person

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