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Built on the site of a former Austrian barracks, this vast square has a certain appeal despite its slightly ostentatious nature.

Name: Freedom Square
Category: Architecture, castles and historic districts
Location: 1054 Budapest, Szabadság tér.

Description

Szabadság Square (Szabadság tér) is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful squares in Budapest. The buildings, events and emotions of history and present day coalesce in such a way that olden times are summoned in front of your very eyes. The Stock Exchange Palace (Tőzsdepalota), once operating as the center for goods and valuables in Budapest, the Hungarian National Bank (Magyar Nemzeti Bank) and the building of the American Embassy are all to be found here. The Soviet monument, a subject of fiery debates, is worth a visit, not unlike the House of Hungarian Art Nouveau (Magyar Szecesszió Háza) nearby.

Freedom Square
Freedom Square

 

Built on the site of a former Austrian barracks, this vast square has a certain appeal despite its slightly ostentatious nature. It is fitted between two buildings with majestic façades, attributed to Ignác Alpár: the State Television, former Stock Exchange and the Hungarian National Bank. The collection of coins and notes must be seen. To the North, an obelisk is the only monument dedicated to the Soviet Russians which still survives, not far from .... the American Embassy.

Walk around the square and admire the remarkable buildings: the Us Embassy, the Art-nouveau National Bank and the former building of the Hungarian Television. Do not miss the Memorial of the Russian Army.



Good to know about Szabadság square

  • Szabadság square is a grand and spacious square in central Budapest. It was laid out in
    1886 at the site of the former Neugebäude (1789-1886), an evil repute fortress-like building
  • Now grandious buildings surround the square such as the Hungarian National Bank and the former building of the Hungarian State Television
  • The Art-Nouveau building of the National Bank was built in 1905 as the Budapest Headquarters of the Austro-Hungarian Bank
  • The impressive building that dominates the west side of the square first housed the stock exchange. From 1955 till 2010 it gave home to the Hungarian Television
  • Hungary's first prime minister, Lajos Batthyány, was executed in the Neugebäude on 6 Oct 1949.
  • A memorial commemorates his death at the corner of Bathory utca and Hold utca
  • The memorial in the middle of the square is the Memorial of the Russian Army paying thanks to the Soviet forces for liberating Hungary from the Nazis
  • Another highlight is the interactive fountain. When the hidden vertical fountain nozzles are turned on they create an exciting water wall around the square shaped area

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Freedom Square on the map

 

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While peace and quiet is harder to find in Pest than it is in leafy Buda, you don’t have to trek out to City Park or Margaret Island to experience what is known as "park life" as a secluded spot is often never more than a few corners away.

The cute park at Honvéd tér with its trimmed lawn and neat flowerbeds is tucked away close to the busy Pest thoroughfare of Szent István körút but is totally peaceful, bar the sounds of kids playing. There’s also concrete ping-pong tables with iron nets that may be an unglamorous hangover from Communism but they can stand all weather and make for a good game.

Honvéd tér
Honvéd tér

 

You’ll run into English speakers here and also on the playgrounds of Szabadság tér. Although Szabadság tér, literally Freedom Square, may be synonymous with the violence after the riots of 2006 and repression in the form of the Soviet War Memorial, this big open space, surrounded by colossal buildings that serve to block out the bustle, is a superbly relaxing place and you can contemplate the awesome aspect of the city’s biggerthan- thou architecture.

Freedom Square
Freedom Square

 

Still on the Pest side, Károly kert also belies its central location close to hectic Astoria, transcending metropolitan modernity and transporting you back to Budapest’s early 20thcentury heyday.

Károly kert
Károly kert

 

Step through the wrought-iron gate and feel at the center of a living bastion of old-world charm.

If you only have 1 day in Budapest, you’ll want to see a bit of both Buda and Pest, and this tour lets you do both. You’ll start off with a cultural and historic tour of Pest, then you’ll cross Chain Bridge (an attraction in itself) for a brief tour of the Castle District in Buda, where you can enjoy a meal and a stop in a pub.

 

Start: Inner Pest.

Inner City & Central Pest

Budapest is a city where wide boulevards intersect with some really narrow streets. It is a reminder that it was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Wide boulevards were especially well suited for accommodating the carriages of royals and others of wealth. This is definitely a city to be walked, so start in the center, wander the grand boulevards, and admire the architecture. Make sure you look up. So many interesting features on buildings are not at eye level.

Central Pest
Central Pest

 

Depending on your travel tastes, you may want to visit a few museums and highlights of the area. You may find the Greek-looking

  • Hungarian National Museum, the
  • Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center, or the
  • Inner City Parish Church

to your liking.

As you wander through the area, remind yourself of two facts: unlike Prague, much of Budapest was bombed during World War II; and the Communist regime only ended in 1989. In a relatively short time, the city has made tremendous strides, although it still has far to go. Many historic buildings have been torn down to be replaced with modern conveniences such as boutiques, apartment complexes, or restaurants. Others have been renovated to their former glory, but in my opinion, certainly not enough. History is being replaced by sterility of the new and modern.

Váci utca is the perennially favorite shopping and walking street of Budapest. Developed after the regime changes in 1989, it has blossomed with many international stores and some Hungarian ones as well. For examples of Hungarian crafts, visit the Vali Folklór folk craft shop, the VAM Design Gallery, at Váci utca 64, and various clothing stores (avoid the touristy cafes here).

Váci utca
Váci utca

 

Walk from Váci utca to the Danube Promenade and stroll along the river. Following the No. 2 tram line, you will be making your way to Kossuth tér for:

Parliament

Budapest’s exquisite Parliament building is the second largest in Europe after England’s Westminster. The main facade faces the Danube. Designed by Imre Steindl and completed in 1902, the building mixes neo-Gothic style with a neo-Renaissance dome reaching 96m (315 ft), significant as the country’s millennium was 1896 and the conquest of the kingdom of Hungary was 896. St. Stephens is also 96m (315 ft) high for the same reasons. It is by far one of our favorite buildings in Budapest. At the top of a grandly ornamented staircase, there is a hexadecagonal (16-sided) central hall that leads to an impressive chamber. The fabled Hungarian crown jewels of St. Stephen are on display.

Parliament
Parliament

 

Unfortunately, you can enter only on guided tours (the 45 minutes tour is worth the chance to go inside).

Szabadság tér (Freedom Square)

This beautifully maintained park is the home of a large obelisk statue that commemorates when the Soviet Union liberated Hungary at the end of World War II. It is the last remaining memorial to the Soviet Union in the city.

Liberty Square
Liberty Square

 

Walk back to Parliament and then south about 0,25 km (0,15 mile) toward the historic Chain Bridge, which you will see in the distance:

Chain Bridge

Known as the Széchenyi Bridge or the Chain Bridge, this bridge holds the distinction of being the first permanent crossing to link Buda and Pest. The idea for the bridge was instigated and funded by 19th-century Hungarian reformer, Count István Széchenyi. Legend has it that due to storms, he was not able to cross the river to be with his dying father. While Széchenyi waited 8 days for the storms to subside so he could cross the river, his father died and he missed the funeral. Designed by William Tierney Clark, an Englishman, the bridge was also one of the largest suspension bridges of its time when it opened in 1849. According to legend, the omission of sculpted tongues on the lions, which guard the bridge at either end, caused the sculptor to drown himself in the river out of shame; however, the lions do have tongues, just not visible from the ground.

Chain Bridge
Chain Bridge

 

Walk across the Chain Bridge, and take the funicular up to the:

Castle District

Castle Hill, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, consists of two parts: the Royal Palace itself and the so-called Castle District. Most of this area is a reconstructed medieval city, but the original castle was destroyed in World War II and replaced with the current Royal Palace. For a detailed 3-hour itinerary of this area, see  post “Walking Tour 2: The Castle District,” and “Strolling Around Budapest.”

Castle Hill
Castle Hill

 

This is an interesting area for walking and wandering. There are many cobblestone streets, so choose your shoes carefully. You might also wish to stop and visit the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.

The best of Budapest in two days

SMELL THE FLOWERS IN BUDAPEST

 

Margaret Island (Margit-sziget)

Sunrise to sunset, you can find a number of garden areas on the enchanting island in the Danube. During the summer months, the whimsical fountain, set within one of the beautiful garden areas, plays classical music while spraying water in time to the music.

Margaret Island
Margaret Island

 

The island did not become a public park until 1908. Before that time only the leaders of the upper classes could set foot on it. Plebeians should take advantage and visit with a picnic.

Szabadság tér

The name is Freedom Square in English. Surrounded by historical buildings, including the U.S. Embassy, this well-tended green space has gardens interspersed with pedestrian walkways.

Freedom Square
Freedom Square

 

There are plenty of benches under shady trees for relaxing and even a small children’s playground for a family rest stop. It is also home to the tall obelisk with a star on top, the last remaining monument to the Soviet Union’s liberation of Budapest after World War II.

Szent István Park

This attractive green park in the XIII district is often overlooked by visitors who don’t even know it’s there. It’s a flowering oasis during spring and summer. To reach it, take tram No. 4 or No. 6 to Jászai Mari tér and walk parallel to Margaret Island three blocks along the Danube to reach it. The gardens are open from 6am to 8:30pm.

Szent István Park
Szent István Park

Kodály körönd

If you take the Millennium walking tour, you will discover the four pleasant garden areas, each with its own statue.

Kodály körönd
Kodály körönd

Jókai tér & Liszt Ferenc tér

Where they are intersected by Andrássy út just past Oktogon, each has attractive flower gardens. The Liszt Ferenc side is always shaped like a giant valentine heart. If you continue down Liszt Ferenc tér, an umbrella of trees will shadow you as you walk along the winding path.

Liszt Ferenc tér
Liszt Ferenc tér

 

For those looking for a quick lunch or a brief coffee and chat in between excursions or sightseeing, here are two recently redeveloped and "cool" locations which come fully recommended: one is Liszt Ferenc Square off Andrássy Avenue not far from Oktogon, the other is Ráday Street which starts from Kálvin Square. Both places are packed with cosy restaurants, bars, cafés and a youthful clientele. From a single star to 4-star, you’ll find every kind of restaurant here serving everything from traditional Hungarian to Chinese and even Argentinean cuisine.

Nagymező utca

Again, just off of Andrássy út in district VI, you will find an extended sidewalk with a planter built up from the ground filled with flowers. Beyond the flowerbeds is a modern, tranquil water fountain. Benches are provided for a rest stop, so give your feet a break and enjoy the views.

Nagymező utca
Nagymező utca

 

Hollán Ernő utca

Just as the street starts off Szent István körút in the XIII district, there is a pedestrian street for one block. Like Nagymező utca, a new pedestrian area has been created complete with flowers and a water fountain decorated with colored lights.

Hollán Ernő utca
Hollán Ernő utca

 

ENJOY A SUNSET IN BUDAPEST

From the Riverside

As the sun sets, you will find many locals and visitors flocking to the riverside to enjoy people-watching, admire the sunset, and just plain relax. Depending on how busy your day was, you may either want to find a bench to sit on and unwind, or take a stroll onto one of the bridges that span the mighty Danube, the second-longest river in Europe.

Sunset in Budapest
Sunset in Budapest

 

Széchenyi Thermals

This thermal is open until 10pm. Relax in the hot spring waters while watching the end of the day’s sun’s rays as they fade into the horizon.

Széchenyi Thermals
Széchenyi Thermals

 

Margaret Island (Margit-sziget)

This island, once called Rabbit Island, was home to the cloistered nuns’ convent founded by Princess Margaret, daughter of Béla IV, who promised his daughter to nunnery. Enjoy the flower gardens or the singing fountain as the sun sinks into the western sky.

Margaret Island
Margaret Island

 

Fisherman’s Bastion

Sip a glass of wine in this romantic sunset spot. On Castle Hill, it overlooks the city on one side and St. Matthias Church on the other.

Fisherman’s Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion

 

Academy of Sciences Park

For a casual place to relax, sit in the park across the street from the academy and take in the engaging architecture, the river view, and a beautiful sunset on Széchenyi István tér.

Academy of Sciences Park
Academy of Sciences Park

 

The Sculptural Grounds at Buda Castle

There is a powerful statue called the Matthias Fountain. It is based on a legend of King Matthias, who, while on a hunting trip through the forest, came across a woman stranger, Ilona; she fell in love with him instantly, not realizing he was the king. He reciprocated the love.

Buda Castle
Buda Castle