Lining the Pest bank of the Danube, the Hungarian Parliament is one of Budapest’s most arresting works of architecture. A striking Neo-Gothic building whose turrets and spires puncture the skyline, it’s the third largest parliament in the world – and one that commands attention. Inside, it’s home to some of the city’s greatest treasures and cries out to be discovered. Here, we look at some of the Hungarian Parliament’s most show-stopping sights.
Construction on the Országház (or House of the Nation) started in 1885 to commemorate a millennium since the country came into being. Possessing 24 towers, palatial arcades, 90 statues, ornamented corbels, 242 allegorical statues, 691 rooms, 10 courtyards and 29 staircases, the Hungarian Parliament is a grandiose work of wonder. 88 pounds of gold were used to decorate the staircases and halls alone and over 500,000 precious stones were incorporated into the building. Costing 38 million crowns to construct, no expense was spared to create this architectural masterpiece.
Located in Dome Hall, the dazzling “Szent Korona” (Holy Crown) is possibly the most important symbol of Hungarian sovereignty. The upper section of the crown was sent by Pope Sylvester II to Stephen I for his coronation in AD 1000. Whilst the lower section was a gift from the Byzantine Emperor (later added to the Pope’s crown by Geza I) and very much looks the part with its Byzantine ensemble of enamel, pearls, gems and gold. Given to the Americans in 1945 who stored it in Fort Knox to stop the Soviets getting their hands on it, the crown was later returned to Budapest by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.
Home to powerful works of art, the Parliament’s Upper House is graced by Mihály Munkácsy’s monumental painting, The Conquest. Depicting the AD 896 Magyar Conquest in which Hungarians entered the Carpathian Basin, it was originally on display in Paris before moving to the parliament. The building’s ceiling features three stunning frescoes by Károly Lotz illustrating a thousand years of the rule of Hungarian law.
Possessing over an astonishing 700,000 books (of which 60 per cent are in foreign languages), the library also acts as a full depository for UN documents. Its most impressive room is the large Reading Room, which contains giant chandeliers, scarlet carpets and a gallery, as well as the secret ingredient that almost all libraries crave: absolute silence.
Framed by statues, stained glass windows, marble columns and miles of gold-leaf, the Grand Staircase – sweeping up from the sumptuous entrance – can’t fail to make an impression and offers beautiful views of Kossuth Square.
The final stop on the tour of the Hungarian Parliament is the Old Upper House Hall. Once the Upper House’s chamber, the Hall radiates 19th century opulence. The aroma of timeworn oak permeates the air while paintings of royalty and murals that recall key moments in Hungarian history adorn the walls.