The 84 Must-See Buildings in Budapest For Architecture Fans

Be it an Ottoman-era thermal bath or a sleek contemporary subway station, Budapest offers plenty of eye candies for fans of architecture.

Budapest's diverse architecture spans Roman ruins and award-winning contemporary buildings, with plenty of treasures in between. I've grouped chronologically the below list and this map will help you find them. The Walter Rózsi-villa, home to the Hungarian Architecture Museum, is located inside a stunning modern building from the 1930s with original Marcel Breuer furniture on exhibit.

Budapest has an excellent architecture center, Fuga, also selling English-language books about Hungarian architecture. Finally, if you're interested in a thematic architecture tour of Budapest, the Center of Contemporary Architecture (KÉK) offers various walking tours led by competent local architects.

Roman ruins

In the 1st century CE, the Roman Empire expanded to the Danube, with the river serving as its eastern border. Aquincum, situated in the northern part of today's Budapest, was the capital of Lower Pannonia province with a population of 40,000 people in its heyday. While Budapest's Roman ruins are relatively small, they're accessible for free, easily reachable from downtown by public transport, and usually deserted, so you can have these two-thousand-year-old remains to yourself.

#1 - The two best-preserved Roman ruins in Budapest

thermae maiores roman thermal bath budapest
The Thermae Maiores with a concrete overpass running above it. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

No rival to the baths of Caracalla, but Thermae Maiores, pictured above, was a vast public bath in Aquincum complete with steam rooms and a gym (and today with a concrete overpass running above it). A 15-minute walk from here is the Aquincum Military Amphitheater, once a 13,000-capacity stadium — again, no Colosseum — used for gladiator combats and chariot races. You can visit Thermae Maiores for free from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (it's closed on Mondays); the amphitheater is accessible at all times. The nearby Aquincum Museum has more Roman ruins. Location.

Middle Ages to the early 19th century

Few buildings in Budapest predate the 19th century for three main reasons. First, new constructions weren't a priority when Ottoman Turkey occupied the city (1541-1686) since Hungary was on the western fringes of the empire. Apart from putting up a few hammams, the Ottomans simply converted the existing housing stock to fit their needs, for example churches into mosques.

Second, many medieval buildings were destroyed during the 1686 siege of Buda when the Christian Holy League clashed with the Ottomans to retake the city. For example, both the Gothic-Renaissance Buda Castle and the Gothic synagogue of the Castle Hill were demolished.

Third, as part of a massive urban development program in the 19th century, whole downtown neighorhoods were reduced to rubble to make way for grander buildings and a more systematic urban environment (similar to Haussmann's remake of Paris). Unfortunately, many Baroque and other historical homes were knocked down along the way.

#2 - Church of Mary Magdalene (mid-13th century)

maria magdolna templom budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

One of the first Gothic buildings in Budapest, Béla IV of Hungary commissioned the Maria Magdalena church to serve Budapest's Hungarian community (the German residents attended the nearby Matthias church). In 1792, for the coronation of Habsburg Francis as king of Hungary, they added an entrance portal in the classical style. After WWII bombings damaged the church, the hardline and anti-religion Communist regime of the early 1950s decided to tear it down instead of renovating it. Only the late-Gothic, four-story tower has remained, soaring above the city and offering stunning views. Location.

#3 - Residential homes on the Castle Hill

castle hill budapest medieval streets tancsics mihaly utca
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Budapest's Castle Hill is split between the royal castle and the civilian quarters lined with residential homes. The countless battles waged on this small piece of land — most recently WWII — left many of the original buildings damaged, but the Baroque and in some cases modern facades stand on medieval walls. The neighborhood's winding streets still exude a charming, historic air. Location.

#4 - Király Baths (1565?)

kiraly baths budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Built by Sokollu Mehmed pasha in the 16th century, Király Baths is one of the few remaining buildings in Budapest that dates back to the city's century-and-a-half Ottoman occupation. The small openings on the dome admit little daylight, lending a mysterious ambiance to the hammam beneath. Of Budapest's thermal baths, this one is popular among local residents, too. Location.

#5 - Tomb of Gül Baba (1548)

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Gül Baba, "father of the roses," was a muslim spiritual leader (dervish) who died in 1541, when Ottoman Turkey occupied Budapest. His octagonal limestone tomb (türbe) is set on a scenic and peaceful area with sweeping views of the city. For the best experience, climb up on Mecset Street through the rose garden and exit on the other side down the winding Gül Baba Street. Location.

#6 - Inner City Parish Church in Pest

belvarosi templom budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Built on the remains of a Roman fortification, this church is a palimpsest of architecture, reflecting two thousand years of history: the external buttresses and the arched windows with tracery — on the sides and in the back — come from the Gothic era; the 16th-century mihrab (prayer niche) bears witness to the Ottoman rule; the steeples and the curvilinear facade date to the Baroque period. There's a lookout point in the tower with dramatic views. Location.

#7 - University Church (1723-42)

budapesti egyetemi templom
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Budapest's Baroque treasure, the Roman Catholic University Church, was built on the site of a mosque after the Ottoman occupation of the city. Most captivating is the building's richly decorated interior, especially the dynamically shaped main altar, the crowded pulpit, and the pews made from carved oak. The church initially belonged to the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit, Hungary's only monastic order, but today it's part of a seminary. Location.

#8 - Budapest City Hall (1727-35)

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

It's fascinating to picture what this huge building, which is still one of the largest in the city, looked like in the village-like, 18th-century Budapest surrounded by a few dozen flimsy houses. It was built as a hospital and rehab facility for wounded soldiers, later became a military barrack, and today is home to the City Hall and the Mayor's Office. A sweeping renovation is long overdue. Location.

#9 - Hungarian National Museum (1837–47)

hungarian national museum budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Mihály Pollack's National Museum harks back to the time when the buildings of ancient Greece and Rome inspired architecture (Neoclassicism). Hence the classical temple portico supported by giant Corinthian columns with the rotunda behind it, bringing to mind Rome's Pantheon. The center figure of the pedimental sculpture represents Pannonia, evoking the Roman-era province that later became Hungary. Today, the building is home to a comprehensive permanent exhibit about Hungary's history. Location.

#10 - Széchenyi Chain Bridge (1839-49)

chainbridge budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Those two triumphal arches soaring heroically from the Danube? They're part of the Chain Bridge, a major Budapest landmark and the first permanent connection to span the Danube between Buda and Pest. When it opened in 1849, the iron chain suspension was considered to be modern and technologically advanced. As with the city's other bridges, German soldiers blew up the Chain Bridge in 1945 to slow the advancing Soviet army (it was rebuilt by 1949). Location.

Revival Architecture (second half of 19th century)

In 1867, Budapest became the joint capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire alongside Vienna. The next half a century marked Budapest's golden era, when, inspired by Paris and Vienna, grand boulevards, monumental plazas, and eye-catching revival architecture sprung up across the city at a head-spinning pace. Today, still, these buildings — a kaleidoscope of Neoclassical, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque Revival styles and combinations thereof — dominate Budapest's urban landscape.

#11 - Dohány Street Synagogue (1854-59)

dohany street synagogue budapest facade
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Europe's biggest synagogue, in Dohány Street, anchors Budapest's old Jewish Quarter. When it was built, people believed that a national Jewish architecture should feature Moorish elements to evoke Jewish people's eastern origins, hence the yellow-maroon bands and decorative motifs on the facade. Commissioned by the reform community, the inside so much resembles a Christian church, for example the bima is placed at the front where altars tend to be, that orthodox Jews avoid the building to this day. On the rear side, there's a smaller, modernist synagogue from 1931 wrapped in travertine that honors Jewish-Hungarian soldiers who died in WWI. Location.

#12 - Vigadó (1859-65)

vigado budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Romanesque, Gothic, and Moorish details mix with Hungarian folk motifs and historic figures on the facade of this downtown concert hall. Frigyes Feszl's building is regarded as the first attempt by an architect at establishing a Hungarian national architecture style. Liszt, Brahms, Debussy, Dvořák, and Bartók are among the notable composers who performed at the Vigadó over the years. Location.

rumbach street synagogue
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#13 - Rumbach Street Synagogue (1870-72)

An important early work of Viennese starchitect Otto Wagner, the synagogue in Rumbach Street was built for Budapest's orthodox Jews who considered the nearby Dohány Synagogue too modern for their taste. Here, the Moorish elements are even more dominant: the slender cast iron frame is filled with thin masonry that's clad in Alhambra-like decorative motifs, inside and out. The building currently functions as a museum and there's a fee to enter. Location.

#14 - Andrássy Avenue & the Grand Blvd. (1876, 1896)

andrassy avenue budapest
Budapest's Andrássy Avenue seen from above. Photo:

Inspired by Haussmann's Paris and the Viennese Ringstraße, these two major thoroughfares have profoundly shaped the city's fabric. The stately Andrássy Avenue, often referred to as Budapest's Champs-Élysées, stretches from downtown to the City Park, while the Grand Boulevard is Budapest's main artery, connecting five neighborhoods. The rows of Renaissance Revival apartment buildings lining them were homes to the rising bourgeoisie and the old aristocracy. Location.

#15 - Hungarian State Opera House (1875-84)

hungarian state opera house andrassy
The Hungarian State Opera House is a jewel of Budapest's Andrássy Avenue. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Erected during the great wave of opera-building across Europe in the second half of the 19th century, the Hungarian opera house anchoring Andrássy Avenue and designed by Miklós Ybl is a stunning venue of its kind. The exterior evokes classical details and features statues of famous composers, including the Hungarian-native Franz Liszt. The inside is rich with marble columns and elaborate gilded and mahoganied fittings. Location.

#16 - Batthyány Palace (1884)

batthyany palace budapest grand boulevard
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

If you have a hunch that you've already seen this heavily rusticated building somewhere else, you're correct: the Batthyány Palace is a near-faithful replica of the Strozzi Palace in Florence, which was built in the 15-16th centuries. The fact that people saw fit to erect an actual duplicate of a Renaissance building shows the extent to which historicism in architecture engulfed Budapest (and the whole of Europe) in the 19th century.

#17 - Wenckheim Palace (1886-89)

The 4th floor of the Szabó Ervin Library, which was formerly the Wenckheim Palace, has retained its aristoractic splendor. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

In the second half of the 19th century, wealthy Hungarian aristocrats drove a building boom in what's called the Palace Quarter today. When not in their countryside estates, they entertained lavishly in the fast developing capital city. A good example is the sumptuous Baroque Revival palace of the Wenckheim family (for more eye candies like this, visit the nearby Pollack Mihály Square). Today, the building belongs to the Szabó Ervin Library but some of the upper floors have retained their original splendor and can be visited. Location.

#18 - New York Palace (1891-94)

new york palace budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

The colossal New York Palace embodies the harsh eclecticism that reigned supreme in Budapest's architecture in this time: strong central axis, giant Greek columns, rooftop cupolas. The New York Life Insurance Company commissioned starchitect Alajos Hauszmann to design this representative building, which still dominates the Grand Boulevard. An iconic Budapest coffeehouse, New York Cafe, is on the ground floor and loaded with classical ornaments. Location.

#19 - Supreme Court Building of Hungary (1893-96)

igazsagugyi palota hauszmann alajos budapest 2
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Regarded as the main work of Alajos Hauszmann, the facade of the Supreme Court of Hungary (until 1949) shows more restraint than the New York Palace, above. Inside, there's a striking entry hall adorned with frescoes and grand staircases and gilded marble columns. Until recently, the Museum of Ethnography occupied the building, which is currently under renovation. Location.

#20 - Matthias Church (1255; 1896)

matthias church budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Little has remained of the modest medieval church that once stood on the Castle Hill and where Austrian emperor Habsburg Franz Joseph was crowned king of Hungary in 1867. A couple of decades later, architect Frigyes Schulek reimagined the building into this exuberant Gothic Revival structure with colorful roof tiles soaring over Budapest (kind of how Viollet-le-Duc "extended" the medieval Notre-Dame de Paris in the 19th century). The dim and quiet inside offers a respite from the throngs of tourists (though there's an admission fee). Location.

#21 - Great Market Hall (1894-97)

great market hall budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Architect and university professor Samu Pecz dreamed up several romanticized Gothic Revival buildings across Budapest, the most famous of which is the main market hall of the city. Steel frames provide and airy inside and structural support, the thick brick walls exude a sense of medieval craftsmanship, and Zsolnay's colorful glazed ceramic roof tiles bring it all together. Location.

#22 - House of Parliament (1885-1904)

hungarian parliament building
Built between 1885–1904 based on Imre Steindl's designs, the imposing building of the Hungarian Parliament stretches along the Danube's bank. It was meant to symbolize the country's newfound prestige. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

This Gothic Revival extravaganza stretching along the Danube's bank is Hungary's biggest building. The Hungarian Parliament's resemblance to the Westminster Palace is no coincidence — architect and university professor Imre Steindl was an expert of Gothic architecture and the design was meant to lend authority to the building in the eyes of the people. Parts of it are open to visitors, including the hall with the holy crown of Hungary, and what used to be the Upper Chamber. Location.

#23 - St. Stephen's Basilica (1851–1906)

saint stephens basilica budapest back facade
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Towering over Budapest, the St. Stephen's Basilica is another statement-building conveying the city's rising status at the time. The construction works lasted for more than half a century, outliving two of the building's chief architects. Behind the collage of limestone classical details hides a dim central space where the supposed hand of St. Stephen, Hungary's first king, is also on display. The church's dome offers sweeping views and is open to visitors. Location.

#24 - Millennium Monument (1896–1906)

heroes square budapest
Heroes' Square consists of two sets of colonnades containing statues of Hungary's historic figures. In the center, Archangel Gabriel tops the triumphal column, whose lower part is crowded by statues of Hungarian chieftains. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Hungary's national monument on Heroes' Square was built to celebrate in style the country's thousand-year history (thankfully, it's less bombastic than Italy's national monument from around the same time). Two sets of curved colonnades enclose bronze statues of Hungary's key statesmen. In the middle of the square rises a Corinthian column surrounded by equestrian statues of ancient chieftains and topped with archangel Gabriel. Location.

#25 - Buda Castle (1896-1905)

royal palace budapest 2
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

It was only in the early 20th century that the impressive Buda Castle took its final form (its last resident was Miklós Horthy, Hungary's leader between the world wars). The building was badly damaged during WWII and stood empty for decades before a low-budget reconstruction took place (it's easy to tell from the outside the sections that were rebuilt). Today, the Buda Castle is home to the National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, and the Széchényi Library. Below the building hide the remains of the original Gothic-Renaissance palace that can be accessed through the Budapest History Museum. Location.

#26 - Museum of Fine Arts (1900-06)

museum of fine arts budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Yes, it sprung up way past the peak of the Neoclassical period, but I’ve always been drawn to this giant museum whose collection of porticoed and pedimented basilicas bring alive the buildings of ancient Greece and Rome (the inside is a mix of styles). It’s worth walking around it to take in Albert Schickedanz’s creation in its fullest. Inside, a wonderful collection of Renaissance and Baroque masters (El Greco, Rembrandt, Velázquez) await visitors. Location.

#27 - Vajdahunyad Castle (1904–08)

vajdahunyad castle budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

What seems like a fairy-tale castle inside Budapest's City Park appeared as a temporary object in 1896 for an event celebrating Hungary's millenium. It incorporated dozens of famous buildings from across the Hungarian Kingdom, including the Romanesque church in Ják, the fortified tower of Segesvár, and the Castle of Vajdahunyad. The structure turned out to be so popular that they decided to keep it, rebuilding everything with lasting building materials (instead of wood). The Museum of Agriculture occupies parts of it today. Location.

Art Nouveau and pre-modern (late 19th and early 20th centuries)

By the end of the 19th century, new influences in architecture gained ground and it was Ödön Lechner who pioneered Hungary's unique brand of Art Nouveau: Using folk art motifs as inspiration, Lechner wanted to create a distinct Hungarian national architecture. Some call him the “Gaudi of Hungary,” as Lechner's playful and brightly colored glazed ceramic decorations and expressive shapes loosely resemble those of the Spanish master.

Architects of the next generation took Lechner's approach in different directions. Some of them, like Károly Kós, further explored the frontiers of a national Hungarian architectue. Others, most notably the brilliant Béla Lajta, left behind the sinuous shapes of the Art Nouveau altogether and designed some of the first pre-modern buildings in Europe in the early 20th century.

#28 - Museum of Applied Arts (1893-96)

Photo: indafoto / Anna Schwelung

The decorations of Ödön Lechner's Museum of Applied Arts pay homage to ancient Indian and Persian art. Lechner's inspiration came from Hungarian ethnographer József Huszka, who wrongly believed that Hungarian tribes were previously exposed to these cultures. Apart from the decorations, also novel were the spatial flow of the connected open spaces and the enormous steel-framed sky window. The building is currently undergoing renovation and can't be visited. Location.


#29 - Postal Savings Bank (1900-01)

odon lechner postatakarekpenztar budapest art nouveau
The Postal Savings Bank building (1900-01) shows off Ödön Lechner's unique brand of Hungarian Art Nouveau. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Lechner's Art Nouveau masterpiece, the Postal Savings Bank, nestles on a quiet downtown street. Take a close look at the facade: the floral patterns appearing throughout, the subtle vertical partitions of pale yellow brick, the battlement motifs topped with glazed ceramics, and an endless collection of symbolic creatures (the bees signal industry and hard work). Even today, the building has a fresh, novel appearance. For a better view of the vivid green and yellow roof tiles, walk to the nearby corner of Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Road and Nagysándor József Street. Location.

#30 - Kőrössy Villa (1899)

korossy villa budapest 2
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

While Lechner's style was most unique to Hungary, other strands of Art Nouveau also popped up across Budapest. This richly decorated family home lining the elegant Városligeti fasor pays homage to the French and Belgian Art Nouveau (architect Albert Kálmán Kőrössy, who studied in Paris, built it for his own family). The building's facade features omega-shaped windows and a parade of plant and animal motifs, including a pair of peacocks flaunting their feathers. Location.

#31 - Gresham Palace (1904-06)

four seasons gresham palace budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

With prime views onto the Danube, the Chain Bridge, and the Castle Hill, downtown's Gresham Palace stands on what's arguably the most valuable piece of real estate in Budapest. Originally built for the British Gresham Life Assurance Company, an army of Hungary's top craftsmen worked on this Art Nouveau landmark. The rich decorative details — glass mosaics, immense ironworks, wall reliefs — are impossible to take in in their entirety. The building, which is currently home to a Four Seasons hotel, evokes Budapest's golden age. Be sure to also peek inside. Location.

#32 - Török Bank Building (1906)

torok banhaz art nouveau budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

The outsized glass mosaic panel — the biggest in Budapest and made in the renowned atelier of Miksa Róth — depicts Saint Mary, Hungary's patron saint, surrounded by prominent Hungarian revolutionary figures. Architects Ármin Hegedűs and Henrik Böhm designed the facade with great steel-framed vertical windows that tastefully counterpoint the rich mosaic tiles. Location.

#33 - Modern & Breitner Building (1910-12)

modern and breitner building budapest jugendstil
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

In the first years of the 20th century, at the peak of the Art Nouveau in Hungary, all sorts of striking architecture appeared in Budapest. This immense downtown building was inspired by the German Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) and is the work of the prolific architect duo, Sámuel Révész and József Kollár. Luxury apartments, including an artist's studio inside the corner tower, were on the upper levels while stores occupied the lower floors. Location.

#34 - Calvinist church, Budapest Dist. 7 (1911-13)

calvinist church budapest district 7
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Ödön Lechner's legacy and the desire for a national architecture spawned a new vernacular style in the early 20th century. Rather than simply applying folk motifs as wall ornaments — as Lechner did — architects turned to stronger expressions of native forms (the Arts and Crafts movement and Lars Sonck's Finnish national architecture were sources of inspiration). Case in point is the Calvinist church of outer District 7 designed by Aladár Árkay, where archaic shapes, rough-textured stone, and mythical motifs appear throughout the building. Location.

#35 - Adria Palace (1912-18)

adria palota budapest ritz carlton
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

This polished limestone-clad building smack in the middle of Budapest once belonged to a Trieste-based insurance company, later became the headquarters of the Budapest Police, and today houses a Ritz-Carlton. The symmetrical layout and the subtle French balconies bring an old-world elegance to the otherwise light and plain modern facade. The building, which was designed by Emil Tőry and Móric Pogány, took so long to build because of the ongoing World War I. Location.

#36 - Parisiana (1907-09)

parisiana bela lajta budapest uj szinhaz
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Designed by Béla Lajta, the Parisiana was originally an upscale cabaret venue (today it belongs to a theater company). The plain facade of gray marble slabs — each with a slightly different shade and level of marbling — juxtaposed with small openings exudes elegant, understated luxury. Note the row of gilded copper cherubs perched atop the building and holding stained glass letterings. The building, completed by 1908, is among the first of its kind in Europe, bearing pre-modern and Art Deco characteristics. Location.

#37 - District 8 High School of Commerce (1909-13)

bela lajta commerce school budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

This high school building, also by Béla Lajta, emerges unexpectedly on a narrow Budapest side street. Lajta was plugged into the latest architectural developments in Germany and Austria and sometimes this showed in his works. The vertically repeating walls, oversized windows, and the folksy-industrial feel of this high school hark back to the AEG Turbine Hall in Berlin designed by Peter Behrens, the grandfather of modernism. Don't miss the Hungarian folk art motifs crowding the entry doors. Location.

#38 - Béla Lajta's bank building (1911-12)

bela lajta rakoczi ut erzsebet bank
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

This beautiful red-brick building by Béla Lajta demonstrates how far some of Ödön Lechner's disciples steered from their master's path. While the delicate terracotta folk art motifs still hark back to the Art Nouveau, the horizontally grouped windows, the largely blank exterior, and the flat roof call Art Deco and modern buildings to mind (decades before they started appearing en masse). Location.

#39 - Czech-Hungarian Industrial Bank (1912-13)

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

A student of both Lechner and Lajta, Béla Málnai was a protean architect and among the first to design pre-modern buildings in Budapest. The elegantly pared down Czech-Hungarian Industrial Bank in downtown showcases Málnai's talent and penchant for novel solutions like the steel-framed bay windows that accent the plain stone walls. There are beautiful Art Nouveau decorations made from mahogany (!) on the ground floor. Location.

Between the World Wars (1918-45)

Thanks to Hungarian students and teachers at Germany's Bauhaus school — including some well-known figures such as Marcel Breuer and László Moholy-Nagy — modern ideas in architecture spread to Hungary relatively quickly. Especially notable is the work of Farkas Molnár, a star student who worked at the architecture practice of Bauhaus Director Walter Gropius.

In 1925, Molnár returned to Hungary to advance the cause of the modern movement; as the head of the local International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM), he laid out ways to improve public housing and city planning, practicing together with Breuer for a short period. Molnár also designed more than two dozen buildings in Budapest — pioneering residential homes and small apartment complexes — before he was tragically killed during WWII.

Modern architecture had its adversaries at the time. The political establishment and the conservative middle class favored the traditional Baroque Revival style, which meant that modern buildings in the 1920s were relegated to small-scale, private commissions. In this environment, truly modern houses — like those designed by Molnár — became status symbols for the urban, cosmopolitan elite that viewed the Baroque Revival as politically and socially outdated.

Naturally, most buildings from this time fell some way along the spectrum, between the rigidly historical and the experimentally modern. By the 1930s, the modern movement became more accepted.

#40 - Cistercian High School of Buda (1927-29)

szent imre walder gyula budapest
Designed by Gyula Wälder, the Cistercian high school building from 1929 is a good example of the Neo-Baroque architecture that reigned supreme in post-Word War I Hungary. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

The robustly ornamented yellow facade of this Cistercian secondary school wouldn't feel out of place in 18th century Hungary, and yet the building was erected in 1929, providing a good example of the Neo-Baroque architecture that resurfaced in Hungary between the world wars. The church, next to the school and also designed by Gyula Wälder in a similar manner, is from 1938. Location.

#41 - Electrical Distribution Station of Lipótváros (1926-31)

marko utca transzformator budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

This former electric power distribution station — designed by Ernő Román and Dénes Györgyi and today used as an office space — is among the top Art Deco buildings in Budapest. Delicate brick buttresses decorate the walls, which are lined with steel-framed thin, vertical windows. Carved in limestone, the seal of the city of Budapest appears above the entry door. Location.

#42 - Napraforgó Street Housing Development (1930-31)

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

In 1930, a renowned real estate developer, Fejér & Dános, commissioned a motley crew of 18 top architects to design model homes for middle-class families in the modern style of the day (similar to the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart). The result is the 22 single-family houses on the leafy Napraforgó Street in Pasarét, a Budapest suburb. The roster of architects included heavyweights like Lajos Kozma, László Vágó, Gyula Wälder, Farkas Molnár, and József Fischer. Unfortunately, some of the buildings have been neglected or rebuilt since, but the overall modern look of the street is still visible. (Note that Pasaréti út provides a view of the other side of the buildings.) Location.

#43 - Dálnoki-Kováts Villa (1932)


This award-winning villa perched above its residential neighborhood is the most celebrated building of Farkas Molnár, the Bauhaus-graduate who led the modern movement in Hungary in the 1920s and '30s. Even today, the gleaming white walls, the oversized rooftop terraces, and the cylindrical forms feel so contemporary that it's hard to believe the building is almost a hundred years old. Unfortunately, it's privately owned and difficult to access even for a glance (the best view is from Apor Vilmos Square). Location.

varosmajori templom budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

#44 - Városmajor Roman Catholic Church (1932-36)

The eye-catching classical modernism of Mussolini-era Italian architecture rippled out to Hungary, too. But instead of going for the bombastic, the Városmajor Church impresses with less: The arched colonnades, the sleek walls clothed in travertine, the standalone bell tower, and the ambient quiet of the area have a haunting presence. Architects Aladár and Bertalan Árkay commissioned contemporary modern painters and sculptors, including Vilmos Aba-Novák, for the interior decorations. Location.

#45 - Dunapark Apartment (1935-36)

dunapark apartments budapest ujlipotvaros
The marble-clad staircase of Dunapark Apartments, one of the modern luxury buildings that sprang up in Budapest in the late 1930s. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Parts of the Újlipótváros neighborhood sprang up as a result of a sweeping real estate development between 1933 and 1943. Thanks to zoning laws that regulated the new buildings' appearance, today the highest concentration of modernist apartment complexes is found here. The most spectacular is a Danube-facing luxury building at 38 Pozsonyi Road: the limestone-clad facade hides a dramatically exclusive lobby with a spiral staircase featuring marble finishes and custom blue-rubber floors. It's worth waiting for a chance to sneak in for a glance. The historic Dunapark Café is located on the ground floor. Location.

#46 - Walter Rózsi Villa (1936)

walter rozsi villa
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

One of the few modern jewels in Budapest that’s open to the public. Local CIAM-member and star modernist József Fischer, a close friend and colleague of Marcel Breuer, designed the villa for opera diva Rózsi Walter and her husband Géza Radó. The gleaming white building elegantly raised on pilotis and with large openings and a free and flexible floor plan evokes Corbusier’s light architecture. While the main attraction is the building itself (be sure to also go to the backyard), there's a short exhibit inside about modern living with a few period design pieces. Location.

#47 - Manfred Weiss Pension Fund Apts. (1937-38)

dugattyus haz budapest
The Manfred Weiss Pension Fund Apartments, one of the crown jewels of modern architecture in Budapest (1937-38). Photo: Tas Tóbiás

This upscale apartment development on the Buda side is also the work of Béla Hofstätter and Ferenc Domány, the architect duo behind the exclusive Dunapark Apartments on the other side of the Danube (see above). The streamlined shapes, high-quality building materials, and sumptuous interior details — the lobby and the staircase are a must-see — show modern architecture at its best. Location.

#48 - Madách Houses (1937-38)

madach houses budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Madách Houses, a group of 11 brick buildings that separate the old Jewish Quarter from downtown, showcase a moderate strand of modern architecture. The arcaded ground floor lined with travertine and the subtle geometric patterns on the brick facade lend the buildings an understated grace. The central arch was supposed to be the grand entry of a boulevard piercing through the neighborhood but its construction was halted during WWII and never continued. Location.

#49 - Postal Office of District 7 (1937-39)

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Gyula Rimanóczy's Postal Office in District 7 is one of the few large-scale modern public buildings of the inter-war period. The pushed-back facade leaves ample space to appreciate its sheer size, which spans the entire block. Rectangular building blocks and stone statues jut out from the travertine-clad walls to brighten up this immense and elegantly reserved building. Location.

#50 - MEZ Building (1941-42)

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

This streamlined building straddling the corner of Párizsi and Petőfi Sándor Streets in downtown is one of the jewels of modern architecture in Budapest. At its opening in 1942, luxury apartments complete with a telephone, dishwasher, and built-in furniture occupied the upper floors, while stores lined the downstairs. The building's architect, Gedeon Gerlóczy, is also known as the rescuer of the avant-garde paintings of Tivadar Csontváry. Location.

Communist-Era (1947-89)

Architecture during the four decades of Communist rule in Hungary (1947-1989) was more varied than most people think. Modern buildings continued to appear initially, but in 1951, as in other Communist countries, Socialist Realism became the state-imposed art form.

In architecture, it combined classical elements with communist ideology — imagine a Doric-columned facade decorated with a relief of joyful laborers. Socialist Realism was painfully out-of-date at a time when sleek modern architecture reigned supreme in the West. Interestingly, some of Hungary's top architects managed to remain within the bounds of state censorship while also remaining faithful to modern ideas (see three exampes below).

By the mid-1950s, Socialist Realism ran its course and architects were permitted to return to modern designs. Since state control of architecture wasn't as strict as of other fields like the fine arts, there exist tastefully modern buildings from this time, especially up to the 1960s.

But overall, due to capital constraints, volume pressures, limited access to construction materials, and an incompetent state bureaucracy, many Budapest buildings from the late '60s and especially the '70s haven't stood the test of time. This period is also culpable for the total neglect of the country's pre-war housing stock.

Apart from Hungarian-born Marcel Breuer (about whom I wrote a longer piece), it's Imre Makovecz whose name might ring a bell for architecture fans around the world. Makovecz created a unique brand of organic architecture in Hungary. He was years ahead of his time: in the 1960s, when unadorned white boxes still defined much of mainstream global architecture, Makovecz was already fiercely pursuing his own aesthetic and intellectual paths, seeking to bridge the built and the natural environments. Makovecz's buildings are mainly in the Hungarian countryside, but both of his main Budapest works are featured below.

#51 - MÁVAUT Bus station (1948-49)

mavaut budapest nyiri istvan
The gracefully modern bus station at Erzsébet Square (then Stalin Square) was completed in 1949, a few years before the state banned modern architecture. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

This landmark-protected former bus station in the heart of Budapest is a real treasure of modern architecture. István Nyiri designed two sleek, light-filled buildings dressed in limestone and fieldstone — departures on one end, arrivals on the other — that are connected by what used to be the loading area. Lined with bars and restaurants, the venue has found a new purpose in the 21st century. Location.

#52 - MÉMOSZ HQ (1948-50)

memosz hq budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Once the headquarters of the construction workers union, this characteristically modern building has a number of remarkable features. The slender columns support a glass-clad conference room that juts out of the facade, while circular decorative holes punctuate the flat roof. The building managed to arise just before Communist Hungary banned modern architecture in favor of Socialist Realism. The Minister of Culture at the time was especially irked because it occupied a high-traffic location by Budapest's City Park. Location.

#53 - Pantheon of Labor Movement - Kerepesi / Fiumei Cemetery (1957-59)

labor movement pantheon kerepesi cemetery budapest
The Soviet-inspired Socialist Realism became the mandatory style of architecture in Hungary for a few years after 1951. Shown above is the Pantheon of Labor Movement in Budapest's Kerepesi / Fiumei Cemetery. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Socialist Realism often conveyed Communist propaganda through statues, using straightforward symbolism: self-assured, united, cheerful workers. This exclusive burial ground within Budapest's Kerepesi (Fiumei) Cemetery was reserved for prominent Communist Party members between 1958 and 1988. A group of limestone-covered pylons decorated with labor-themed stone reliefs culminates in three oversized bronze figures and the mausoleum shown above. In a neighboring plot, you'll find the grave of János Kádár, Hungary's long-serving party leader. What follows are three more subtle examples of Socialist Realism. Location.

#54 - Former Communist Party HQ, District 2 (1952-53)

masodik keruleti onkormanyzat budapest korner jozsef
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

In line with Socialist Realism, a colonnade of slender columns, a classical cornice, and rusticated walls decorate the local Communist party's former headquarters, somewhat stangely for 1953. Nonetheless, József Körner's building managed to retain a somewhat modern feel overall — in part by keeping those columns so slender and the classical masonry motifs unpronounced. Before the fall of the regime in 1989, a five-pointed star was on top. Location.

#55 - Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design (1954)

Photo: MOME

Some architects found inventive solutions to bypass Socialist Realism while retaining the required classical elements. Zoltán Farkasdy, a noted architect and theoretician, attached an outsized porticoed entrance with comically thick Doric columns to a taut modern frame. And thus formed a provincial countryhouse villa and a modern box a contemporary new whole. Location.


#56 - University of Technology Building "R" (1951-55)

r building bme budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

This university building perched along the Danube demonstrates yet another approach to circumvent the obsolete architecture demanded by the state in the early 1950s. Under the guise of socialist realism and despite the obligatory decorative elements, architect Gyula Rimanóczy designed a beautiful complex that pays homage to the brick-forward traditions of 1930s Nordic classicism (take a glance at the colossal lobby, too). Location.

#57 - Restored building on the Castle Hill #1 (1957-59)

farkasdy castle hill
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Much of the medieval and Baroque housing stock of Budapest's Castle Hill was destroyed during WWII. Architect Zoltán Farkasdy, who led many of the restoration works, was ahead of his time in 1957 when he emphasized that the renovations had to be contemporary but also respectful of the historical surrounding (instead of simply erecting replicas of the lost buildings). The house at 32 Úri Street successfully accomplished this: it's clearly modern but lets the surviving Gothic details take center stage. Location.

#58 - Restored building on the Castle Hill #2 (1961-63)

janossy building castle hill
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Just around the corner is another remarkable house from the same time (György Jánossy, its designer, was a close friend and contemporary of Farkasdy). The pitched roof, the heavy gable, and the brick walls wouldn't be out of place in medieval Buda, but the steel frames of the windows and their playful composition and the vertical recesses decorating the gable convey that this building is rooted in the present day, paying homage to its surrounding. Location.

#59 - Elisabeth Bridge (1961-64)

elisabeth bridge budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

As Budapest's other bridges, the original Elizabeth Bridge (1896-1903), named after Hungary's favorite Queen, Sisi, was destroyed by the Germans in 1944 to slow the advancing Soviet army. The new bridge, designed by Pál Sávoly, was a masterpiece both structurally (it was the first cable-stayed bridge in Hungary) and visually. The dynamic, gracefully bare white modern structure quickly became a Budapest landmark. Location.

#60 - Telco engineering plant (1961-64)

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Hungary’s industrial architecture was a bright spot in the Communist era, even drawing international acclaim in the 1960s. To appreciate this, head to the Buda side where the sprawling building of a telecommunications engineering plant — designed by Lajos Arnóth and Jenő Szendrői — seamlessly blends into the street view. The flexible interior spaces are clad by a calm brick exterior brightened up with delicate openings, metal shades, and the horizontal windows of the top floor. Location.

#61 - Körszálló Hotel Budapest (1964-67)

körszallo budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

A number of beautiful late-modern buildings emerged in the 1960s after the state lifted restrictions on architecture. One of the best examples is the Körszálló by György Szrogh, a 64-meter (210 ft) tall circular hotel towering over the Buda hills. Even if you aren't a guest, you can try asking the receptionists to let you up to the top floor to enjoy the sweeping views. Location.

#62 - Electrical Distribution Station of Dob Street (1965)

dob utca trafo erno lestyan
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Red bricks wrap around the reinforced concrete structure of this strangely beautiful electrical substation designed by Ernő Léstyán and located in the heart of Budapest's District 7. Horizontal windows and a vertical wooden beam soften the monotony of the immense brick walls. A friend recently discouraged me from trying to explain the building. "You look at it and you either love it or you don't." Location.

#63 - Hilton Budapest (1973-76)

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Even if you find its 1970s curtain walls uninspiring, the Hilton in the Castle Hill has a number of unique features. For example, integrated into this five-star hotel are the remains of both a 13th-century Dominican church — with a playful modern spire — and an 18th-century high school that once stood here. And the views are startling. Location.

#64 - Funeral Chapel at Farkasréti Cemetery (1975)

makovecz farkasreti temeto
The funeral chapel at Budapest’s Farkasréti Cemetery (1975) consists of repeating planks of beech wood that form the shape of a human rib cage. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

The timber interior of the Farkasréti Cemetery's funeral chapel is one of the two main Budapest works of visionary architect Imre Makovecz. The design is subtle, intense, and symbolic: Repeating planks of beech wood form the shape of a human rib cage, with the stand holding the coffin placed where the heart is. Location.

#65 - All Saints Roman Catholic Church (1975-77)

Budapesti Farkasréti Mindenszentek Plébánia
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

In 1975, this was the first Budapest church permitted to be built by the Communist regime (the previous one was in 1948). But since the state provided no money, the congregation had to rely on social workers for labor and the absolute cheapest materials. Architect István Szabó, also working for free, designed all of the interior details and the furnishings himself. And yet the powerfully expressive shapes and the immense craftsmanship give the building an enduring appeal. Location.

#66 - Prefab Residential High-Rises (1960-70s)

prefab high rise budapest communist era
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

In the 1960s and ‘70s, hundreds of thousands of residential apartments made of precast concrete slabs sprung up in Budapest to address the city's critical housing shortage. These high-rise blocks came with district heating and hot running water, amenities previously unavailable to many of the residents. But there was a price to pay: entire neighborhoods had to be wiped out to make space for these gray, lifeless, uniform boxes, which today account for almost 30 percent of Budapest's apartment stock. Location.

#67 - Sculptural walls on Gellért Hill (1975-81)

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Philosophers' Garden is a cherished hideaway on Gellért Hill with some of the best views of Budapest. Carved into the park here are the Brutalist sculptural walls of a water storage facility that hides beneath the surface. These pale slabs of mystical geometric shapes, designed by architect György Vadász, have become as much part of Gellért Hill as the better-known statues on the hilltop. Location.

Postmodernism (1980s to the early aughts)

Postmodernism in architecture is a fluid concept but it generally refers to buildings exhibiting more local context, wall ornaments, and historical references than the plain modern boxes that preceeded them. While the majority of Budapest's postmodern buildings are absent the bombastic shapes and radical eclecticism that tend to grab people's attention, the selections below feature the most characteristic buildings of this style.

#68 - Liget hotel (1990)

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

From overblown cornices to a motley collection of historical shapes, building materials, and color combinations, the popular postmodern repertoire prominently features on József Finta's 140-room hotel across the busy street from the Museum of Fine Arts. A delicate bronze statue of a siren floats above the cantilevered ground-floor arcade. Location.

#69 - "Makovecz House" (1993)

Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Imre Makovecz, the renowned Hungarian architect, designed this four-story extension atop a 19th century Renaissance Revival building hidden in a Budapest side street. Take a deep breath: Vertically repeating blank pediments are flanked by two curved towers laced with Gothic-arched windows that are split by delicate light-blue columns. Notwithstanding the spectacle — it's impossible not to stop and try to make sense of it all — the building feels more self-serving than sensitive to its surrounding. Location.

#70 - Church of Hungarian Saints (1994-96)

szentek temploma budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

This collection of church buildings by architect Ferenc Török was supposed to be the Vatican’s pavilion for the 1996 World's Fair in Budapest but the event was canceled (today it's a functioning Roman Catholic parish church). Török skillfully juxtaposes and deconstructs various forms of Christian architecture: the underground chamber of funeral urns relates to the Roman catacombs, the circular dome to the early Christian places or worship, and the thick stone wall to the fortified medieval churches. Location.

#71 - Hungarian Police Headquarters (1995-97)


The Hungarian Police Headquarters, colloquially known as the “Cops' Palace,” is the main work of József Finta, a prolific and protean Budapest architect from this period. This beautifully proportioned, 58,000 sqm giant masterfully evokes a host of associations by passersby, including a sphynx that fixes its vigilant gaze toward the city center. The deconstructed building also features subtle hat-tips to the works of other architects. Location.

#72 - Lehet Market (2000-02)

lehet market budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Love it or hate it, you'll likely get a kick out of this intentionally kitsch Budapest market hall designed by László Rajk. The boat-shaped building is packed with radically overblown historical shapes and loud colors, likely to call to mind the hustle and bustle of the busy marketplace inside. If you decide to visit, go on a Saturday morning when the place is liveliest. Location.

#73 - Hungarian National Theater (2000-02)

hungarian national theater budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Local architects have little love for Hungary's national theater, calling the building everything from kitsch apocalypse to a total failure. While it's true that the building has shortcomings both inside (poor acoustics, confined spaces) and out (cluttered ornaments that are difficult to make sense of), this is nonetheless among the few large-scale postmodern buildings in Budapest and hence worth a visit. In fact, a Danube promenade with beautiful vistas leads to the building from downtown. Location.

#74 - Orczy Fórum (1994-2006)

orczy forum keves gyorgy budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Orczy Fórum is a massive real estate development within Budapest's outer District 8, a low-income neighborhood. With hundreds of apartments, vast office spaces, and even a private chapel, the cluster of postmodern (neo-realist) buildings brings to mind Louis Kahn's and Aldo Rossi's cerebral architecture and is a shining light in this badly neglected area. Orczy Fórum is the brainchild György Kévés, one of Hungary's most talented and versatile architects. Location.


Large-scale contemporary buildings in Budapest are fewer than you might expect. Deep-pocketed private developers are rare, and the state-funded mega-projects tend to focus on the refurbishment of historical buildings rather than new constructions. The buildings below are some of the exceptions and well worth a visit.

#75 - Hattyúház (1998)

Photo: Wikipedia

Hungary’s influential organic architecture movement helmed by Imre Makovecz produced most of its buildings outside of Budapest. A rare exception is Hattyúház at the foot of Castle Hill, designed by Ervin Nagy, Makovecz’s student and later partner. The massive commercial building’s dreamy, ambiguous stone and wooden shapes manage to both integrate into its locality and also draw attention to itself. Location.

#76 - Restored bldg. on the Castle Hill #3 (1999-2000)

peter reimholz budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Four decades after the initial reconstructions took place in the war-ravaged Castle Hill, a leading architect of the next generation, Péter Reimholz, got a chance to demonstrate his approach to restoring a medieval ruin. Instead of delineating old from new, he designed a clever brick building that blends into and evokes its historical surrounding but also references the current day with modern materials and playful shapes. Location

#77 - Müpa Budapest (2002-05)

müpa budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Müpa is a massive cultural center perched on the Danube's bank. The warm limestone exterior supported by slender piloties encloses floor-to-ceiling windows that permit plenty of light. Inside, the transition of materials is gracious: from wood to metal to glass to stone. Designed by Gábor Zoboki, the building is home to the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, and also the National Concert Hall, known for its high-quality acoustics. Location.

#78 - CET Building (2006-11)

cet building budapest 2
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

The CET Building is a cultural and commercial center consisting of two restored warehouses and a whale-shaped high-tech structure inserted in between (CET stands for Central European Time, and it also means "whale" in Hungarian). The building, lined with riverfront bars, is one of the few with direct access to the Danube. Location.

#79 - Budapest Music Center (2013)

budapest music center

This creatively remodeled pre-war building is a hallowed ground for fans of music in Budapest. The former interior courtyard has transformed into a concert hall, the basement is home to the popular Opus Jazz Club, while the upstairs apartments have been turned into a music library and guest apartments (composer György Kurtág lives in one of them). This cultural hub is the brainchild of musician and music publisher László Gőz, whose daughter was one of the building's architects. Location.

#80 - M4 Subway Stations (2004-14)

budapest subway line 4 fovam ter
The recently completed Fővám tér subway station in Budapest. Photo: Tas Tóbiás

The new stations of Budapest's metro line #4 show contemporary Hungarian architecture at its best. Each platform's design pays respect to its above-ground surrounding or to the station's moniker. The Fővám tér and Szent Gellért tér stations won the prestigious Architizer A+ Award in 2014. Location.

#81 - Central European University Building (2014-16)

ceu building budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

The playfully indented stone and glass facade of the prestigious Central European University, designed by the Irish O'Donnell + Tuomey, beautifully blends into the 1820s downtown street view while asserting its presence. The inside, which is open for all to see, features expensive-but-understated details, unexpected color combinations, and some of the original walls. Location.

#82 - National Dance Theater & Széllkapu Park (2019-20)

nemzeti tancszinhaz budapest millenaris zoboki
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

The National Dance Theater, designed by Gábor Zoboki's practice, anchors the pristine Millenáris Park on the Buda side. Split only by a large window pane, the separation of inside and out is blurred as the blond wooden slats overflow to the dynamically protruding roof. Behind the attention-grabbing, amorphous roof hides one of the high-tech performance halls. Once here, roam around the greenery of the adjoining Széllkapu park. Location.

#83 - House of Music (2019-21)

house of music budapest
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

Renowned Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto designed the House of Music, a multi-purpose venue for performances, exhibitions, and lectures. The slender columns and glass surfaces infuse a sense of lightness while the punctured roof calls attention to itself without trying to dominate the park surrounding it. Notwithstanding the merits, its location inside Budapest's City Park has sparked fierce debate due to the loss of precious green space. Location.

#84 - Museum of Ethnography (2017-22)

museum of ethnography budapest 2
Photo: Tas Tóbiás

The recently completed Museum of Ethnography by Marcel Ferencz is a true spectacle: two enormous roof gardens spring forth from the ground, swooping up to tower over and front Budapest's City Park. A metal cladding decorated with folk motifs wraps around the building. A memorial for the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 stands in between, in place of the square where state-mandated parades were held during the Communist period. Location.

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