Forrest Mallard- April 24, 2021
How do you define Budapest? What are the iconic traits of this capital city that make it unique? It is the many picturesque bridges that cross over the Danube River? Is it the soft shores of Pest facing the imposing cliffs of Buda? Maybe the massive thermal baths buzzing from morning to night, and the ruin bars, buzzing from night till morning. Could it be the unique aroma coming from the bakeries using the local cinnamon called kürtöskalács? Each of these things, singularly or collectively, could bring up romantic memories from times spend in the Hungarian capital.
However, there is no singular element that defines Budapest as distinctly as its architecture. Besides ancient ruins and medieval castles, it is the Hungarian Secession architecture that richly decorates the historical streets of this city.
Hungarian Secession is the local interpretation of the better-known style of Art Nouveau. In the old part of Budapest, this style can be seen on nearly every corner, represented by stunning buildings decorated with flamboyant patterns, curved doors and colorful tiles. The shapes and details of Hungarian Secession can turn an ordinary house into a masterpiece. But where did this style come from and what are the buildings to look out for in Budapest?
I’ve done my best to not only answer all of these questions here, but also I have created three distinct walking maps to help you in exploring Budapest. These walking routes will not only take you to the most beautiful Art Nouveau locations in the city, but if you follow these trails, you will see so much more.
Art Nouveau flourished in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, under the influence of eastern art. Initially, the unusual products of this style were used in interior design. Wealthy European families purchased luxurious ornamental textiles, graceful vases, lamps and sculptures, using the Art Nouveau style to bring more nobility and modernity into their houses.
Over time, similar shapes and details started appearing in architecture too, although named differently across Europe. This architectural style is known as Jugendstil in Germany, Stile Liberty in Italy, Modern Style in the United Kingdom, or as Modernismo Catalán in Spain with the work of Antoni Gaudí as a leading example. In Hungary, but especially in Austria, the style appeared under the name Secession (or Szecesszió in Hungarian). What bound all these styles together is that they entered the world of art in an effort to replace the strict academicism that had reigned for centuries.
Szecesszió – (English: Succession) the unique, darker variation of Art Nouveau that is closely associated with Central Europe. The word Secession, which means ‘to withdraw’, was not chosen randomly. In 1897, a group of Viennese artists refused to participate in an exhibition organized by the Vienna Academy of Arts, after the Academy refused to accept their innovative works. The artists banded together and formed what then became known as the Vienna Secession.
Withdrawing from the Academy of Arts was the impetus for the name in Vienna, but in Budapest, the word Secession has an even deeper meaning.
At the turn of the century, the process of Magyarization had been intensifying in the Austro-Hungarian empire. This process refers to the fight of Hungarians to separate their culture from the influence of the Habsburg monarchy. Thanks to this process, the Hungarian language started spreading to all spheres of life and wasn’t considered just a language of peasants anymore. This new trend in arts and architecture came in very handy, as it provided a new opportunity to express the identity of the Hungarian people.
Before we dive into the awe-inspiring art and architecture of Hungarian Art Nouveau, there are some names and terms to become familiar with. This will make it much easier to visualize how important these people were in the growth and popularity of this artistic style. You will see their names many times throughout this article, associated with many buildings.
Ödön Lechner – the ‘father of Hungarian Art Nouveau.’
Stop any local on the street, ask them to name three Hungarian architects, and Ödön Lechner is bound to be on the list. He takes his place alongside Alajos Hauszmann (archetect of the Buda Castle) and Miklós Ybl (archetect of the Royal State Opera House), as a genius of Magyar architecture, and it is he alone who helped the whole country embrace that special brand of Hungarian Art Nouveau known as Szecesszió.
Lechner was an architect who drew some of his inspiration from Hungarian folk art, but he also included strong elements from many of the exotic countries he had visited on his travels, including as India and Syria. The Institute of Geology, the Török Bank and school on Dob Utca are typical of the merging of the sinuous early art nouveau with Hungarian national romantic traditions.
Miksa Róth – the foremost Hungarian master of mosaic and stained glass design.
Imre Zsellér – protégé of Miksa Róth. Also an amazing mosaic and stained glass designer.
Béla Lajta – an architect ahead of his time. This man designed several Art Nouveau buildings in Budapest decades before Art Nouveau was even a thing.
Miklós Zsolnay – The owner of Zsolnay Porcelain Manufactory located in in Pécs, Hungary. Miklós was friends with Ödön Lechner, so this company’s ceramic tiles and porcelain figures became a heavily featured design element in Lechner’s creations. Zsolnay tiles can be found all throughout Budapest used in a vast majority of Hungarian Art Nouveau buildings.
In the summer of 2019 I decided spend the tail end of a six-month European backpacking adventure in Budapest. This was a city that was in my budget with one night in the hostel costing less than $10, and a huge plate food at the Greek restaurant downstairs costing less than $3. A month in Budapest meant that I could approach my site-seeing there in a non-aggressive manner. I could learn from the city and absorb the daily life and culture around me in a more organic manner, no forced to devour everything in a frenzy of flash-tourism. Well… that was the plan.
On my first few random walks through Budapest, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the various forms of Art Nouveau architecture. I would stop in front of these buildings and just stare, like some kind of Art Nouveau pervert. Some of these buildings had been restored to perfection, and some almost in ruins, and could only stare in awe at the artistry of each one. Having had no expectations for Budapest, I was completely blown away with how much beauty was at every turn.
One of the buildings that set my heart racing was the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. There were many times I would make a detour, adding several blocks to my route, just so that I could look at the stunning facade. If I had time I would enter the building and talk briefly with the guards about the mosaics and art nouveau light fixtures inside.
When I started researching Art Nouveau in Budapest, I rarely saw the Franz Liszt Academy of Music included in the articles. How could this be? Perhaps it is left out because it is not an example of the Hungarian Secession style of Art Nouveau.
So the idea to catalog all of the notable Art Nouveau sites in the Hungarian capital was born.
The map below includes all of the top Art Nouveau sites in Budapest. There are also three custom-made, Tramposaurus walking tours that focus on Art Nouveau, complete with individual maps for those routes, that are included further down in the post.
After plotting the top Art Nouveau sites on a map, I was able to create three walking tours. Each one of these tours is a major workout and I advise you to start early, wear comfortable shoes, take breaks, and remember to drink lots of water. If you happen to finish all three of these routes, you will not only see the vast majority of Art Nouveau sites in the city, but you will have seen more of Budapest than most tourists. It isn’t recommended that you do more than one of these trails per day, even if you are a fast walker.
Central Budapest Art Nouveau Trail – This is the longest of the three trails, covering 14 of Budapest’s most iconic Art Nouveau sites. Only 5-miles in length through the urban center of the city, but be sure to get an early start and plan on being on your feet for more than 8 hours. The trail ends at the stunning Franz Liszt Academy of Music, and when you are done taking in the beauty of that building, there is a row of restaurants with outdoor seating on this charming street that will be a great opportunity to rest your feet.
Park District Budapest Art Nouveau Trail – There are less Art Nouveau sites to see on this route, but don’t think that this is going to be a short day. If you follow this route, you will spend most of the glorious day walking through City Park, the Budapest Zoo, and passing directly through castles and many monuments. There will be much to see that is not Art Nouveau-related, so give yourself plenty of time to explore.
Buda Castle Art Nouveau Trail – This trail includes only 5 Art Nouveau sites, but do not let this fool you into thinking this is going to be an easy day. Begin the day with two quick stops on the Pest side of the city, then cross Liberty Bridge and spend the rest of the day on the Buda side of the city. After checking out the Gellért hotel and thermal spa, there is quite a bit of distance to the final site at Buda Castle. On this route I encourage you to leave the route on the map, climb Gellért Hill, take in the panoramic views from the citadel. Then when you finally get to Buda Castle, you’ll need time to explore that as well.
Central Budapest Art Nouveau Trail
Start: Kossuth tér
Start GPS: 47.507007, 19.047189
End: Franz Liszt Academy of Music
Distance: 4.14 miles
Time: 8+ hours
Start on Kossuth tér (square), outside the national parliament, construction of which began in 1884, and do not be surprised if it reminds you of the Houses of Parliament in London. Both had the same architect, Imre Steindl.
The House of Hungarian Art Nouveau (Magyar Szecesszió Háza) welcomes visitors every day, except Sunday. The gallery/museum and a café reside in a house built in 1903 by Emil Vidor, a leading light of the Art Nouveau style. This building is known locally as Bedö House, it was named after its first owner, Transylvanian copper tycoon Béla Bedö. When it was completed in 1903, it incorporated a ground floor apartment for the Bedö family, as well as office space for his business and accommodation for some of his employees.
Over the years the building has survived through a variety of catastrophes, and at one point not long ago was in a horrible state of disrepair until it was renovated in 2007. The original peacock tail arched wooden portal had been removed and replaced by a number of unattractive square windows. In recent years the building underwent extensive restoration, the peacock tail portals were remade, and it has become a place of homage to all things Art Nouveau. The ground floor is today occupied by the Art Nouveau Café where patrons can sit in Nouveau splendor while enjoying their coffee and pastries.
Taking into consideration the painstaking amount of work and dedication that has been invested in the renovation of the building, its interior is quite disappointing.
The ground floor and the basement look more like a storage unit for an art nouveau hoarder. If you descend down to the basement, you are likely to be the only person down there, roaming through literally thousands of art nouveau pieces, none of which have any signage explaining what you are looking at. There are priceless and stunning pieces of furniture intermingling in clusters with pieces of furniture that are far beyond repair.
The entrance ticket price of 2000 HUF ($6.50) gives you access to the museum’s three levels, crammed with furniture, porcelain, ironwork, paintings and objets d’art. If you are a lover of Art Nouveau, it is still absolutely worth the 2000 HUF. Just know what you are walking into so you are not disappointed when you get there.
House of Hungarian Art Nouveau
Address: Honved utca 3, Lipótváros
Phone: +36 1 269 4622
GPS: 47,505506, 19.050383
The route crosses through Szabadság tér (Freedom Square), before arriving outside the State Treasury of Hungary, also known as the Royal Postal Savings Bank. This former Post Office Savings Bank was designed in 1900 by the golden boy of Hungarian Art Nouveau, Odön Lechner, and is first of many Odön Lechner buildings we will see today. A fusion of Art Nouveau and Hungarian vernacular style. The ornaments on the roof are hard to see from the narrow streets, but try to check out the bees crawling up toward the beehive, which symbolize the wisdom of saving money, and the winged dragons and serpents on the roof, which symbolize volatility.
Inside Tip: Passing by iconic building on the street, you might not realize that it is something special as the trees on the street block your view. The streets are also very narrow, not allowing you to back up far enough to get a good look at the upper floors and roof. The best chance you have of viewing this building properly it to visit the roof terrace of the President Hotel, just across the street.
Royal Postal Savings Bank
Address: Hold utca 4, Lipótváros
GPS: 47.504295, 19.051973
Pass the neoclassical Szent István tér (St. Stephen’s Basilica) on the way to the stunningly beautiful Gresham Palace, built in 1907, which is one of the largest art nouveau buildings in the world. After years of neglect, it has now been restored to perfection by its current owners, the Four Seasons hotel chain.
This iconic building is decorated with the most characteristic elements of the Hungarian Art Nouveau style including wrought iron, flowing floral ornaments, bright ceramics, and symbolic figures. Inside the building everything is in harmony, with mosaic floors, stained-glass windows, flowing lines and ceramic parrots. Even if you are not staying at such a luxurious place, you can always go inside for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and enjoy the dazzling beauty.
The portrait on the façade of the building is that of Sir Thomas Gresham, a 16th century British tradesman and founder of the London Royal Exchange. The building originally consisted of luxury flats and was commissioned by the Gresham’s insurance company to provide a steady income, since insurance companies of the time were not allowed to participate in stock exchange deals or other risky investments. The architects Zsigmond Quittner and József Vágó were pretty much given free-reign in their design process, and exploiting that power, they assigned the most prestigious artists of the period to the ornamentation of the building.
The above mentioned bust was made by Ede Telcs, the ornaments on the façade are the creations of Géza Maróti, and the wrought iron gate decorated with peacock motifs is the handiwork of Gyula Jungfer. Inside, the T-shaped ground floor passage under the glass dome is lined with shops and is open to the public. Its tiles were produced by the Zsolnay factory, while the Venetian mosaics and the stained glass windows are by Miksa Róth.
The building was famous for its numerous technological innovations, like the central heating and the built-in vacuum cleaner. Before the Second World War, it was home to the popular Gresham-Venezia Café. Then, the Communist government confiscated the building in 1948 and divided what were spacious apartments into smaller flats. What were once the offices of Gresham’s insurance company when suddenly occupied by companies that had close Communist ties, and the building went practically to ruin within a few decades.
Its management hired the local architects Zsigmond Quittner and József Vágó amongst others, to redo the design of the building and bring it once more in line with the fashionable architectural trends. The Gresham Palace in its present form was delivered in 1906, whereas its Secession interiors have been left untouched up to today.
The ground floor passage and the lobby are open to the public.
Address: Széchenyi István tér 5-6, 1051
Phone: 36 (1) 268-6000
GPS: 47.499751, 19.04776
The Turkish Bank House, designed by Henrik Böhm and Ármin Hegedüs in 1906, is one of those great reminders to embrace the spirit of discovery and pay attention to details on your random walks through the city. If you don’t look up while crossing the nearby intersection, you could completely miss it.
The Turkish bank House is a fine example of the Hungarian Szecesszió, although the influence of French Art Nouveau is particularly evident in its forms and patterns. Using very modern techniques for the time, the building includes a glass and iron facade with a monumental mosaic of the renowned Miksa Róth far overhead. The mosaic is named Patrona Hungariae, and it depicts Hungary as a woman, surrounded by great figures in Hungarian history such as Ferenc Rákóczi, István Széchenyi and Lajos Kossuth.
Turkish Bank House
Török Bank House
Address: Budapest, Szervita tér, 1052
GPS: 47,49539, 19.052621
If it hadn’t been for some serious funding from international investors, this truly extraordinary building from 1912 wouldn’t be the magnificent gem is it today. A crazy amount of money was spent on bringing this diamond back to its former glory using only the best materials. Renowned Hungarian mosaicist and stained glass artist Miksa Róth designed the stained glass windows, and the unique crystal dome was pieced together with so many fragments that it took a full year and a half to assemble. The fusion of gothic and Moorish-inspired details paired with exceptional quality and no-expense-spared attitude towards renovation makes this space one of the brightest diamonds in the world of Budapest Szecesszió.
Parisi Udvar translates to ‘Paris Courtyard’ and it was originally designed as a covered, Parisian courtyard with open entrance for pedestrians. Those entrances have now been shut with glass doors, making it less accessible yet more comfortable, as the former arcade has been transformed into a rectangular café at street level. The upper floors are now a luxurious 110-room hotel managed by Hyatt.
Address: Budapest, Ferenciek tere 10, 1053
Phone: +36 1 576 1600
GPS: 47.493392, 19.054924
The Rumbach Street synagogue was designed by Austrian architect Otto Wagner, who was only 27 years old at the time. Otto was a pioneer of the Viennese Art Nouveau which explains the Moorish style and its minaret-like towers and octagonal structure. The design was created using the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem as inspiration.
The synagogue was used in 1941 as a collection point for some of the 16,000 Jews who were deported to Southern Poland and massacred in Kameniec-Podolsk by the SS. In 1944 the upper floors of the street façade were hit by a bomb but the synagogue was still used for services when the Budapest ghetto was set up (late November 1944 – mid-January 1945).
It was re-consecrated in 1947 but as the members of the synagogue declined in numbers and the building was literally falling apart, it was not used for religious purposes from 1961 on. In 1979 the roof collapsed and the building was bought by a state construction company in 1988 that did some conservation work, mostly outside and in the office areas. It was never finished and in 2006 the synagogue was returned to the Greater Hungarian Jewish Community.
And now, the synagogue is fully restored and had its official re-opening in 2020. The building serves as an open synagogue, welcoming all branches of Judaism with a moveable Bimah and it also hosts concerts and other events. The completely rebuilt women’s gallery hosts an exhibition on the famous Hungarian Pulitzer family. Other parts of the vast complex function as a Jewish museum educating the visitor about the history of Jewish life in Budapest The restoration also includes lecture halls, a café and gift shop.
Rumbach Street Synagogue
Address: Budapest, Rumbach Sebestyén u., 1074
Phone: +36 1 343 0420
GPS: 47.497892, 19.058908
An orthodox synagogue built by Béla Loeffler and Sándor Loeffler in 1911-13, in the Art Nouveau style. Kazincay Street Synagogue bears the influence of Vienna Secession and of Ödön Lechner’s Hungarian Secession, fusing Hungarian folk motifs and oriental motifs.
Kazinczy Street Synagogue
Address: Budapest, Kazinczy u. 29-31, 1075
Phone: +36 1 351 0524
GPS: 47.498575, 19.0622448
This hotel is built on the site of the former legendary Hungária Spa and the historical Continental Hotel in Budapest’s city centre. The Hungaria Spa, which were the first baths at this location, were built in 1812. One century later, The Hungária Bath and Continental Hotel, designed by Emil Ágoston was built between 1908 and 1909. The building soon became the centre of social life with its swimming pool, steam bath, theatre with auditorium, and flats with en suite bathrooms. The swimming pool was transformed into a cinema in the 1920s, but the building was so dilapidated by 1963 that the whole thing had to be closed and with the exception of the façade, the entire building was dismantled.
Then in 2010, the hotel was rebuilt from the ruins of the former Hungaria Spa. All of the former details, were brought back including the Zsolnay tiles, lamps and friezes, the bronze adornments of the revolving door, and the luxurious foyer.
According to the owners: “Our aim in developing Continental Hotel Budapest Superior was to create a green oasis for guests where the stress and the noise of the big city can be totally left behind the minute they enter the hotel, completed with relaxation and entertainment possibilities. Our hotel, which blends art nouveau, art deco and modern design, is entirely unique, while reflecting the distinctive style of Hotel chain.”
Some parts are open to the public.
Continental Hotel Superior Budapest
Address: Budapest, Dohány u. 42-44, 1074
Phone: +36 1 815 1000
GPS: 47.49688, 19.06701
The building designed by Marcell Komor and Dezsö Jakab on Rákóczi Road was built in 1910. There are Lechner-style motifs as well as ‘Palace Hotel’ written in harmonising typography among the ceramic adornments on the façade. The top-floor wooden veranda suggests the influence of Transylvanian architecture. The most impressive part of the interior is the restaurant, bolstered with ceramic adornments. Following a complete renovation, the building re-opened in 2002. Today, it is home to the Hotel Novotel Budapest Centrum.
Address: Budapest, Rákóczi út, 1072
Website: Novotel Budapest Centrum Hotel
GPS: 47.49685, 19.06942
Some parts are open to the public.
Perhaps the most unique public school in Budapest, built in the Szecesszió style. Several renowned architects and artists played a part in designing this stately school. It was constructed between 1905 and 1906 according to the plans of Hungarian architect Ármin Hegedűs, whom you might remember from Török Bank House.
The façade is enhanced with mosaics designed by Hungarian painter Zsigmond Vajda and implemented by stained glass master Miksa Róth. These colorful mosaics depict motifs that are appropriately childish, such as a globe, a ruler, toy soldiers, floral design, embroidery, and singing.
Dob Utca Primary School
Erzsébetvárosi Kéttannyelvü Általános Iskola, Szakiskola és Szakközépiskola
Address: Budapest, Dob u. 85, 1077
GPS: 47.50058, 19.06655
Behind this dark Szecesszió facade, with a heavy flavor of brutalism, lies the Parisiana Club built between 1908 and 1909 as an exclusive night club. The façade is dominated by the greyish marble covering, crowned by a parapet ornamented with cherubs and bronze reliefs. All this was senselessly destroyed in the 1960s, then reconstructed between 1987 and 1990. The building is now home to the Új Theatre (‘New Theatre’).
What makes this Art Nouveau building so remarkable though is when it was built. It was designed by one of the greatest talents of period architecture, Béla Lajta.
It was designed by one of the most important Hungarian architects at the turn of the century, Béla Lajta, and completed in 1909. As a style, Art Deco only popped up in the 1920s, which makes this building all the more exciting as this was an Art Nouveau design before Art Nouveau was even a thing. The building’s stylized, geometric design and its modest ornamentation (at least compared to the later interpretations of of Art Nouveau) anticipated the arrival of Art Deco well over a decade and a half before it was born, which only proves the genius of Béla Lajta.
The foyer is open to the public during box office opening hours.
Address: Budapest VI,35 Paulay Ede Street
Phone: +36 1 269 6021
GPS: 47.50151, 19.05946
Make your way to the Muvesz Coffee House near the opera house. Here you can sit in a charming art nouveau cafe for a short rest, use their wi-fi to post your Art Nouveau photos, and recharge with some caffeine.
Művész Kávéház és Cukrászda
Muvesz Coffee House
Address: 1061 Budapest, Andrássy út 29
Phone: +36 1 343 3544
GPS: 47.502677, 19.059934
After his shop on Rákóczi Road burned down in 1903, tradesman Sámuel Goldberger decided to build a French style department store that was significantly larger than his previous shop. The building, designed by Zsigmond Sziklay, was constructed on the prestigious Andrássy Avenue between 1909 and 1911.
Paris Department Store opened in 1910 and it was the first department store of its kind in Budapest. Its commanding and somewhat ominous facade exemplifies the Hungarian Szecesszió: dark, powerful and brutal. But this is only one of two facades. The back wing of the building also known as Divatcsarnok (Fashion Hall) incorporated Gusztáv Petschacher’s Terézvárosi Casino, so the façade facing Andrássy Avenue is Art Nouveau, while the Paulay Ede side of the building displays neo-Rennaissance elements. The back part houses the famous Lotz Hall that was named after the artist of its ceiling frescos, Károly Lotz.
The innovative solutions like reinforced concrete and the glass-roof atrium made it a state-of-the-art building at the time. In contrast to the neo-Rennaissance façades of the rest of Andrássy Avenue, the department store is ornamented with Zsolnay ceramics. There is also a tiny promenade on the roof that was used as an ice skating rink in winter.
The building today functions as a book store and Lotz Hall has become a famous cafe… or maybe the whole place is shuttered. I have walked by this building many times and I could never figure out if it was just closed at the time, or abandoned and derelict. I’m hoping that if I keep passing by, that eventually I’ll be able to squeeze my way inside and check it out.
Paris Department Store
Address: Budapest, Andrássy út 39, 1061
GPS: 47.503726, 19.06164
The next and final building on this route is, in my opinion, an Art Nouveau masterpiece. Yet shockingly, it has often ignored and not even mentioned in articles featuring the top Art Nouveau attractions in Budapest. Being that it is so often ignored elsewhere, I have taken liberties to fawn over this wonderful building at length here in this article.
This is the last stop on the Central Budapest Art Nouveau Trail, and after you are done devouring the beauty of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music with your eyes, there is an entire street of outdoor dining just next door to the music academy where you can rest your feet and grab a drink.
One of the most impressive examples of Central European Art Nouveau architecture, the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest is the only university of music in the world founded by Franz Liszt. The renowned piano virtuoso, composer, conductor, teacher, author and philanthropist established the institution in 1875. The highest forum of music education in Hungary had a strong impact on the development of Hungarian and international music history.
The stone Atlases above the entrance would be equally at home on any of the Neo-Renaissance mansions lining nearby Andrássy Avenue. At the same time, elements borrowed from Assyrian or Egyptian architecture associate the thinking of Flóris Korb and Kálmán Giergl with the philosophy of Ödön Lechner, who travelled to the Middle East in search of inspiration. It was also an indication of their age that they chose to use reinforced concrete, a relatively little-known technique in Hungary at the time. The engineer Szilárd Zielinski imported the system from France and with it created a cutting-edge structure for its day.
Check their website for scheduled building tours.
Franz Liszt Academy of Music
Address: Budapest, Liszt Ferenc tér 8, 1061
Phone: +36 1 462 4600
GPS: 47.50318, 19.06437
Park District Art Nouveau Trail
Start: Fasor Reformed Church
Start GPS: 47.50758, 19.07367
End: Gundel Restaurant
Distance: 3.86 miles
Time: 6+ hours
Although Fasor Reformed Church was built in 1913 by architect Aladár Árkay, the building displays disatinct characteristics of Lechner’s Hungarian Art Nouveau, along with elements of the German, Scandinavian, and American variations of the style. The artistically executed stained glass windows were done by Miksa Róth, while the interior design and the furnishings do credit to the architect. The church can seat 1000 people for services.
Fasor Reformed Church
Address: 1071 Budapest, Városligeti fasor 5
GPS: 47.50758, 19.07367
The classic building of the Ráth Museum is not Art Nouveau, but everything inside is. The entrance fee is the same (2000 HUF) as at the Magyar Szecesszió Háza, but instead of meandering through Art Nouvea chaos, you will receive a comprehensive catalogue of the extremely well-organized collection. The lady at the front desk told me that I could give back the catalogue after my visit. Or keep it for 1000 HUF.
The Art Nouveau interiors of Villa Ráth provide an authentic environment for the exhibition. The former picture gallery and the reconstruction of the historic dining room remind us of the original owner of the villa, the first director of the Museum of Applied Arts and bourgeois art collector, György Ráth (1828–1905).
As the first director of the Museum of Applied Art, György Ráth was a collector himself, and when he bought the villa in 1901, he and his wife fitted it and filled it with Art Nouveau furnishings and artware. It was eventually bestowed to the the Museum of Applied Arts, who converted it as an Art Nouveau branch of the larger museum. After a tumultuous period and recent renovation, the György Ráth Villa again opened its doors to Art Nouveau aficionados in 2018 and displays the very best pieces from Museum of Applied Arts’ larger collection.
Three distinctive schools of Art Nouveau, the British, the Austrian and the French, are presented in separate interiors. The Art Nouveau dining room and sitting room allow the visitors a glimpse of Hungarian homes at the turn of the century. In the display cases Zsolnay ceramics, glass works by Tiffany and Gallé, and jewellery by Lalique and his contemporaries can be admired. Bugatti’s exclusive pieces of furniture reveal the influence of Oriental art whereas the inspiring role of the Transylvanian roots and of the national past can be seen in the gallery with Hungarian art of the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Villa György Ráth
Address: Városligeti fasor 12, 1068 Budapest
Phone: +36 1 416 9601
GPS: 47.508993, 19.074048
The construction of Szenes House complex was commissioned by Mór Szenes and was built in 1906 based on the plans of István Nagy. This off the beaten path apartment house hides a wonderful Art Nouveau courtyard including one of the most beautiful staircases in Budapest. A dance of flowers, columns and butterfly-shaped bannisters. From the outside, it has some similarity with the Postal Savings Bank except it is decorated with plaster instead of expensive Zsolnay ceramics.
The wrought-iron gate and the stucco decoration create the perfect harmony for the block of flats. Although this is listed as an apartment building there are rooms you can reserve for short stays.
The ground-floor hosted a casino at the beginning of the 20th century until it was acquired by a Count and his wife, who converted it into apartments.
Address: Budapest, Thököly út 46-I/9, 1146
Phone: +36 20 611 1040
GPS: 47.50454, 19.08942
The Hungarian Royal Geological Institute was founded in 1869. Its current building on Stefánia Road was built between 1896 and 1899, according to the designs of the master architect of Hungarian Art Nouveau, Ödön Lechner. The ceramics for the façade and the roof were supplied by the factory in Pécs that created the famous Hungarian Zsolnay ceramics. The most fascinating detail of the edifice however, may well be its blue roof that represents the ancient Tethys Ocean, which existed in the Mesozoic era. On the very top of the roof, you can see a globe carried by mighty Atlanteans.
Everything in this building resembles forms of nature, with ornaments depicting flora and fauna and the shapes of windows mimicking leaves. If you look closely, you will notice blue ceramic decorations that look like fossils, or carved leafy branches made of stone. Inside the building, you will see corridors with painted arches of gentle shapes that remind of water waves.
Franz Joseph I visited the building in 1900 and reportedly didn’t care for the exterior at all. However, the interior managed to appeal even to the ruler’s more conservative taste.
The building is expected to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List soon.
Open: Thursdays 10 AM – 4 PM
Hungarian Royal Geological Institute
Address: 1143, Budapest Stefánia utca 14
Phone: +36 1 251 0999
GPS: 47.505712, 19.097346
One of first institutes for the education of the blind in Europe, was founded in Hungary in 1825, on the initiative of Archduke Joseph, Palatine of Hungary. The building on today’s Ajtósi Dürer Lane was designed by Sándor Baumgarten and Zsigmond Herczegh and built between 1899 and 1904. The architects specialized in school buildings and drew the plans of several hundred educational institutions during that period. The neighboring Blanka Teleki Secondary School is also their work. The building displays oriental and Hungarian Art Nouveau influences.
The concert venue Nádor Hall has retained its original furnishings and decorations. Its huge stained glass window (the largest in Hungary) is the work of Imre Zsellér, apprentice to Miksa Róth, from 1930. It portrays Archduke Joseph among others figures. The first word of the original inscription on the façade, ‘Royal Institute for the Blind’ was at one point changed to ‘National.’ The institute today is called School of the Blind.
Open to the public.
Institute for the Blind
Address: 1146 Budapest, Ajtósi Dürer sor 39
GPS: 47.513497, 19.095144
Stroll through the idyllic city park until you reach the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, opened in 1913 and renovated in 2009. The yellow buildings are primarily Neo-Baroque style, though I saw many Art Nouveau features while I was there. Neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau influences encircle the open-air thermal baths and form beautiful contrast to the Turquoise waters. The healing properties of the mineral-rich thermal waters have been valued through decades by men lounging all day in the healing waters, playing chess at the pool edge.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath
Address: Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146
Phone: +36 1 363 3210
GPS: 47.51843, 19.082249
Not far from the baths is the Budapest Zoo. This may seem like an unlikely location for art nouveau design, but seek out the elephant house and you’ll soon see why this is a popular attraction for architecture fans. Most present-day buildings of the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden were built between 1909-1912. The Elephant House is one of the most well-known monuments of the zoo. Originally, the house, designed by Konrél Neuschloss, was named Pachyderm House. It is an exceptional example of the Art Nouveau style as far as both its exterior and interior decorations are concerned. The remarkable pavilion features Zsolnay majolica roof tiles plus glazed ceramic elephant, hippo and rhino heads.
Elephant House at the Budapest Zoo
Address: Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 6-12, 1146
GPS: 47.519095, 19.080184
The last stop on this Park District Art Nouveau Trail is an excuse for you to sit for a late lunch or an early at Gundel, one of Budapest’s most renowned restaurants, located in an art nouveau palace. Opened in 1894, this historic venue combines illustrious architecture with fine dining. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the spectacular banqueting rooms which feature golden motifs, grand chandeliers and gilded accents. If the banquet rooms are closed and you are dying to take a peek, it never hurts to ask.
Make sure you order the famous pancakes with walnuts and bitter chocolate sauce.
Address: Budapest, Gundel Károly út 4, 1146
Phone: +36 1 889 8111
GPS: 47.51744, 19.07727
Buda Castle Art Nouveau Trail
Start: Museum of Applied Arts
Start GPS: 47.48611, 19.06828
End: Buda Castle
Distance: 3 miles
Time: 4+ hours
Let’s start off the day with one of the most recognizable buildings in Budapest and the first major work of architect Ödön Lechner. It was during this project that Lechner first showcased his unique style, which he considered primordially Hungarian.
The Museum of Applied Arts (Iparművészeti Múzeum), the third oldest applied arts museum in the world, was founded in 1872. The building opened in 1896 just in time to celebrate the thousandth anniversary of the state foundation of Hungary. This masterpiece, designed by Lechner and Gyula Pártos, houses a museum and a school.
Believing that Hungarians had a connection with Islamic and Indian cultures, Ödön Lechner was attracted to some of their architectural concepts. Inspired by the mosaics often seen in the decoration of mosques, Lechner used tiles for depicting his Hungarian ornaments. The multifoil arches and pointed windows inside the museum are reminiscent of palaces in India. The ornamentation displays the influence of Hungarian folk art as well as Asian and Persian elements. The largest and most central hall of the museum reveals an intimate connection to Indian art. The façade and the roof are decorated with Zsolnay tiles.
Franz Joseph I visited the building, but he expressed his dislike of the architectural style. He was not a fan of Art Nouveau, clearly.
Open every day with the exception of Mondays.
Museum of Applied Arts
Address: 1091 Budapest, Üllöi út 33-37
GPS: 47.48611, 19.06828
The Great Market Hall or Nagyvásárcsarnok is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. Despite the dozens and dozens of tourists with their cameras out, this place is a favourite with locals and the best place to come to get fresh produce, Hungarian specialities, a quick meal or a sweet treat. You can also see the great market hall like a local with some of the inside tips I have for you here. If you’re on a budget, the Great Market is the best place to get authentic Hungarian food, quick and cheap. It’s also a reliable place to collect ingredients for the perfect picnic and head out to the Danube to watch boats cruise up and down the river as yoy enjoy your tasty treasures.
As soon as you walk in you’ll notice how enormous it is! There are over 10,000 square meters of space inside the building. Remember to bring cash to pay for all your purchases since most sellers do not have credit card readers.
The building was constructed in 1897 by Samu Pecz and funded by the then mayor of Budapest, Károly Kamermayer, who wanted to give his city a first-class marketplace like the ones he’d visited in Paris and London. It was built next to the Danube river so that ships could dock right next to the market to unload their goods.
There are three floors which make up the marketplace.
GROUND FLOOR – The most interesting if not chaotic part of the market contains the bulk of the daily content brought into the market. You’ll see seasonal produce, fresh meat, pastries, olives, exotic spices, and all of the classic Hungarian specialties.
Hungarian paprika is sold throughout the market. You can find it in the most lovely packages with intricate embroidery or inside retro looking tin cans. Paprika is considered to be the national spice of Hungary, so it’s not just a souvenir but a mainstay of Hungarian cuisine. Hungarian paprika is made from peppers which are toasted and blended into a fine consistency. Some are hotter mixes than others, but most of them have a little bit of heat. Hungarian paprika is also slightly on the sweet side and very dark red. Looks for the words “edes” (sweet) or “erdos” (hot).
Another Hungarian staple which is found hanging throughout the market is Hungarian salamis and sausages. The cured meat contains spices like garlic, peppers, caraway seeds and, of course, paprika. These cured sausages are ideal for picnics, just remember to bring or buy a knife so you can slice it over cheese, crackers or bread.
A sweet treat found throughout the market are Rétes. Rétes are a strudel-like pastry log, filled with fresh fruits such as apple, cherry, or poppy seed and topped with powdered sugar.
If you’re looking for something a little more savoury try the Sajtos Pogácsa or Cheese Scones. These come with cheese or with additional toppings like mushrooms and sausage for added flavour.
Another item, favourited by the locals, are fresh and dried mushrooms found at the north end of the hall. These mushrooms are from all over the world and you can rarely find such a great selection.
UPSTAIRS – Overlooking the market below, are various eateries and souvenir stalls. Many of the souvenirs here are Chinese made knock offs. The embroidered items are the best thing to look for as many of these are handmade and a beautiful keepsake of Budapest. The sad part about this level is that the souvenier vendors are blocking every inch of the railing looking out over the rest of the arket hall. If you are dying to get a photo of the hall from above, you’ll either have to flirt with a vendor, buy something, or give his a small bribe to slip behind their stall and get that photo.
If you feel like a drink, hop into the borozós (cheap bars) where you can have a glass of inexpensive Hungarian wine, beer or the popular Unicum (a Hungarian herbal liqueur).
BASEMENT – This is where you’ll find the “stinkier” items. Fishmongers, butchers and barrels and barrels of pickles cover the entirety of this subterranean level.
Mon: 06:00 – 17:00
Tue-Fri: 06:00 – 18:00
Sat: 06:00 – 15:00
Great Market Hall
Address: Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093
Phone: +36 1 366 3300
GPS: 47.486591, 19.058878
After crossing over the bridge, pop into the this colossal Secession building with stucco on the facade that has been attracting visitors for over a hundred years. Its interior is striking in its magnificence, with stained-glass windows depicting heroes from epic poems, marble columns, bronze statues, leather sofas and fountains with mineral water. All this is pleasing to the eye and creates an atmosphere of luxury.
Danubius Hotel Gellért
Address: Szent Gellért tér 2, 1114 Budapest, Magyarország
Phone: +36 1 889 5500
GPS: 47.48382, 19.052899
Now you are in for a treat. The healing thermal waters of Gellért Hill have been known since the Middle Ages. The infamous Sáros Bath had stood here but was brought down during the construction of the Franz Joseph Bridge and a call for tenders to replace it was announced in the first decade of the 20th century. The late Art Nouveau spa and hotel designed by Artúr Sebestyén, Ármin Hegedüs and Izidor Sterk opened in 1918, while its famous wave pool was completed in 1927.
The Gellért Bath was the 1st luxurious establishment of the capital, and at that time, it was the most modern bath in Europe. Of course, visitors today are also entranced by its design and thorough decoration that contribute to the peaceful atmosphere of relaxation. Zsolnay ceramics and stained glass windows play a central role in the ornamentation. The fountain head in front of the building was added in 2003.The side facade of the Hotel Gellért, facing Gellert Hill, is one of the most magnificent entrances I have ever seen.
But the architecture and design are not the only things about Gellért Hotel, as the main treat here is the baths. The sources of Gellért Hill generously supply its pools with thermal water of temperatures up to 40 °C. According to the legend, the monk hermit Gellért, after whom the hill got its name, was the first to feel the water’s healing effects in the 11th century.
Today you can dive into the thermal waters of Gellért Hill yourself, and bathe amidst the rich Art Nouveau interior. Not surprisingly, Gellért Baths is also one of the more expensive bathing options in Budapest, with an entrance fee of about € 20 (which includes a private cabin).
The public can access parts of the building.
Address: 1118 Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4
GPS: 47.483835, 19.051163
Matthias Fountain is a monumental fountain group in the western forecourt of Buda Castle. Alajos Stróbl’s Neo-Baroque masterpiece is one of the most frequently photographed landmark in the Hungarian capital and it is often referred to as the ‘Trevi Fountain of Budapest.’ When you first encounter it, something inside your head will encourage you to take a seat and allow yourself time to appreciate this beauty.
The monumental facade behind the fountain is where you will find the Art Nouveau elements. The Art Nouveau arboreal decoration of the niche creates an interesting stylistic contrast with the more traditional taste of the fountain. The twisting vines that run up the wall as well as the layers of foliage in the branches over the fountain are actually some of the most breathtaking aspects of this entire attraction.
Address: Buda Castle
GPS: 47.496137, 19039077
The three walking trails above will take to the vast majority of Art Nouveau attractions in Budapest, but there are a few important sites that you may still want to check out. These last few attractions are a bit of a haul to get to, but are worth the effort.
If you are on an extended stay in Budapest, I suggest a day wondering aimlessly around Margaret Island. Endless green space, ruins of convents and churches, a spa, a zoo, a singing fountain, gargantuan trees, and this lovely water tower.
The recently refurbished ferro-concrete water tower on the picturesque Margaret Island is one of the city’s most eye-catching Art Nouveau structures, as well as its most spectacular industrial monument. Situated in the northern section of the island, the 57-meters high tower was built in 1911 and designed by architect Rezső Vilmos Ray and engineer Dr. Szilárd Zielenski. It is the tallest water tower in Hungary.
What makes it even more of an interesting attraction for tourists is the tower’s balconied observation deck that gives you a breath-taking view of the landmarks and hills of Budapest. The tower no longer holds any water, and instead, Nowadays, the romantic tower doesn’t hold any water, and instead hosts various art exhibits throughout the year in its chamber dome. The Margitsziget Open Air Theater has been operating at the foot of the tower since 1938.
Margaret Island Water Tower
Phone: +36 1 340 4196
GPS: 47.530234, 19.050108
The Újpest neighbourhood’s water tower is another Art Nouveau reinforced-concrete gem that began operations just one year after the opening of the water tower on Margaret Island. This tower is only 40 meters tall, but looks much larger due to its imposing shape.
The Újpest Water Tower played an important role in World War II. Explosives were stored within the tower, possibly reserved for its later destruction. In December 1944, Hungarian partisans ambushed the Arrow Cross guards and seized the ammunition, thus preventing the tower from being destroyed. Had it been destroyed, the entire area would have been left without water.
The water tower was in use up until 2003, and ever since then has been silently eroding away, waiting for rescue in the shape of a possible repurposing.
Újpest Water Tower
Address: Budapest, Árpád út 144, 1041
GPS: 47.562412, 19.106429
The Vígszínház was designed by architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer who worked on over 47 state-of-the-art theatre buildings all over Europe. The construction started in 1895 and lasted for one year, finishing on 1 May 1896.
Prior to the building of this theatre and the surrounding neighborhood, the area which it now resides was swampland. However, after the theatre opened, the neighborhood developed into the bourgeois Lipótváros district.
Comedy Theatre of Budapest
Address: Budapest, Szent István krt. 14, 1137
Phone: +36 1329 2340
GPS: 47.51262, 19.051468
The city’s largest Jewish cemetery dates back to 1868, when the land was given to the Jewish community. The cemetery was designed by architect Freud Vilmos and the entry building was completed in 1896. More than a half-million Jews are buried here. Those memorialized include the 10,000 Hungarian Jews who fought in World War I and those who are victims of the Holocaust.
Alfréd Hajós, the Hungarian Olympic champion and architect (the first Hungarian to win a gold medal), made the memorial possible. A set of nine large walls with pillars are inscribed with the names of victims with family and friends having hand-filled in others. About 6,500 names appear including the 2,000 victims of the Klauzál tér ghetto, who perished during the last months of the war.
The cemetery is still in use today, and the many monuments and ornate headstones are worth visiting as a reminder of man’s injustice to man. Situated in the eastern end of the Kobánya District, it is a tram ride away from the center of town.
Free entry and open to the public.
Transportation: Tram 37 from Blaha Lujza tér to Új köztemeto (Kozma utca)
Kozma Street Cemetery
Jewish Cemetery of Budapest
Hours: Mon-Thurs 8AM-4PM / Fri & Sun 8AM-2PM
GPS: 47.480303, 19.184902
Of course this only scratches the surface of the vast amount of Art Nouveau attractions in Budapest, but this is a good list to start from. As far as I know, this is the most complete list of Budapest Art Nouveau sites available online.
If you happen to know a great Art Nouveau attraction that I have missed, please let me know and I would love know about it. If I include your suggestion, I would be happy to give you a shout-out and a link in the post when it is added.