Alongside being lucky enough to have such a unique and diverse cityscape with hilly Buda and flat metropolitan Pest, separated from each other by the River Danube along which numerous islands are dotted, Budapest has an architectural face best described as an eclectic melting pot of styles! Picture this: Romantic Buda with its medieval town plan of cobble stone streets and alleys lined by colourful Baroque buildings, facing glorious Pest with its 19th Century infrastructure of boulevards, ring roads and parallel streets all lined by grand buildings ranging from Classical to 20th Century modern, diluted by not-so-elegant rectangular socialist-realist architecture.
But how did Budapest acquire such face? It all boils down to the different occupations Hungary suffered throughout history, whereby different styles were introduced to our humble home. The 19th Century, looked back upon as a golden era of the country when Budapest flourished like no other time in our history, was when 80% of Pest as seen today came into existence. Most architectural styles present throughout the centuries have been preserved, and incorporated into newly introduced ones.
Hungarian land was first inhabited by the Romans around the 1st century AD, leaving behind Classicist architecture, elements of which can still be spotted on many buildings around the city. A great example is the Neo-Classical building of the National Museum and main entrance of the St. Stephen’s Basilica with its huge Tympanum held up by grand Corinthian Columns.
The stylistic pluralism of Historic architecture is present all around Budapest. Neo-Gothic, Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque to name but a few decorate the streets of the city ever since the late 19th Century, giving Budapest its eclectic appearance.
Conversion to Catholicism at the turn of the millennium brought Romanesque and Gothic architecture, though most of this was later destroyed by the Mongols, Turks and Habsburgs. Examples of these have therefore become rather scares, but can still be found on the streets of Budapest, especially along Úri Utca in the Castle District, and preserved in Neo-Gothic buildings such as the Matthias Church and Houses of Parliament.
Renaissance architecture flourished in the 15th Century under King Matthias, whose wife happened to be Italian helping Italian art stream into the county. Its products were, however nipped in the bud by the Turks, but Neo-Renaissance buildings such as the Academy of Sciences still decorate the streets of the city today.
Baroque influences came flooding in under the Habsburgs with the St. Anne’s Church along Main Street and the Citadel on top the Gellért Hill being amongst the many posing fine examples of this ornate style.
Art Neuveau and its Viennese variant Secessionism, which came to be known as the signature style of Budapest was also introduced in the 19th Century. Art Neaveau – spreading across Europe like wild fire in direct opposition to the monotone buildings built under the Industrial Revolution – was adapted to include Hungarian folklore elements and motifs to create a whole new style unique to Hungary. It adapted and incorporated the curvy, flowing forms using the Hungarian-made colourful Zsolnay tiles amongst other materials. A monumental example is the former Gresham Palace now functioning as the Four Seasons Hotel on Széchényi Square. The Geological Institute and the Hotel Gellért and Bath are also unmatchable works of art.