Budapest, the 1,000-year-old capital of Hungary, is often called “the jewel of the Danube”, “the Queen of the Danube”, “the pearl of Central Europe” or “Little Paris”. For me, however, Budapest is the city of bridges.
The 3,000-kilometer-long Danube, the lifeblood of Europe, runs through 10 nations and dozens of cities, but the section in the heart of Budapest is the best. Is it because this section of the Danube reflects Hungary’s architectural masterpieces, with the districts of Buda and Pest linked by many legendary bridges?
The first permanent bridge in Budapest
While the oldest bridge in Budapest is officially named Szechenyi Lanchid after the count who financed its construction, Hungarians often refer to it as the Chain Bridge. The count dubbed “the Greatest Hungarian” left a mark on the Danube with the city’s first permanent bridge across this river. To this day, the bridge is honored as a symbol of Hungary. Designed by an English architect, the Chain Bridge was built between 1840 and 1849. Four stone lions with imposing manes stand on each of the abutments. On weekends and during festivals, the bridge is only open to pedestrians and used to host many cultural activities and festivities.
The most charming bridge in Budapest
Like a silk scarf stretching across the river, with its elaborate, classical design, Liberty Bridge is considered the most beautiful bridge in Budapest and among the world’s architectural masterpieces. The three spans have graceful curves, heightening the city’s inherent glamour. The peaks of the bridge are decorated with Hungary’s coat of arms and statutes of hawks from ancient Hungarian mythology. One end of Liberty Bridge leads to Gellert Square, adjacent to a cluster of heritage buildings. The other end leads to the central market. Therefore, this is also the most-visited bridge in Budapest.
The busiest bridge in Budapest
The second-oldest bridge in the capital, after the Chain Bridge, Margaret Bridge connects Jászai Mari Square on the Buda side with the area near the Hungarian Parliament Building on the Pest side. It is built in a French Baroque style and records the victory of a French architect in a bridge design competition. The bridge’s iron components were made in France and transported to Hungary in March 1874. The bridge was opened to the public on April 30, 1876. Its seven pillars feature lively sculptures created by another French artist. At 25 meters wide and 600 meters long with four lanes for traffic, Margaret Bridge is considered the busiest bridge in Budapest. Data shows that its deck has the highest wear rate among the bridges built here around the same era. The middle span has a path that leads to a green island where locals come to relax.
The most delicate bridge in Budapest
In the midst of the monumental ancient buildings on both banks of the Danube, the white Elisabeth Bridge stands out for its slim, elegant appearance. This seems related to the fact that it is named after a beautiful and deeply loved empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, whose statue stands in a park near Elisabeth Bridge. The original iron suspension bridge was destroyed in World War II. While many of Budapest’s other bridges were restored, Elisabeth Bridge could not be saved and was rebuilt. From 1960 to 1964, nearly two decades after its ruin, Elisabeth Bridge was completely rebuilt in a simple, modern, yet attractive style.
Budapest’s bridges are architectural masterpieces. Together with the city’s heritage buildings, they create an aura of gentle but majestic beauty.