Andrassy Cultural Boulevard
The Budapest Cultural Boulevard is a "virtual" promenade, stretching from the Castle District in Buda all the way to the City Park in Pest. Walking this route is a good way to become acquainted with the city; and the "sights" are seen in their natural context. The stroller is surrounded by "culture" -- by elegant palaces, museums, theatres; but also encounters (for instance) the quintessential cafes and cream-cake shops for which Central Europe has long been famous. Some of the most interesting cultural and historical locations of the Hungarian capital (recognised as a World Heritage Site) lie along this route.
For now, we'll explore just the section which lies on the elegant Andrassy Avenue (Andrássy út), in Pest -- we've called this the "Andrassy Cultural Boulevard". This division is in fact a suitable one, since -- most unusually -- Andrassy Avenue was actually planned, in the 19th century, as a unified "architectural experience". Today, in a very different world, we can experience the results and (if appropriate) offer our belated appreciation. It is a wide, straight road; but there are numerous "sights" within the space of just a couple of kilometres, and you're unlikely to get bored if you spend time strolling here.
Andrassy Avenue begins near the centre of Pest, on the "Small Ring-Road" at the northern corner of Erzsébet tér (square); this is the sizeable formal-garden area which is (a bit confusingly) "joined on to" Deák tér.
Here it may be worth taking a moment for a brief history lesson, to put these names in context. In the 19th century, Hungary was struggling for independence from Austrian rule. The Empress Elisabeth (Erzsébet, in Hungarian), wife of the well-known 19th/early 20th-century Austrian Emperor Franz-Joseph, though German-born, was totally besotted with all things Hungarian; and today, numerous place-names in her honour are part of her enduring reward. Deák and Andrássy were leading 19th-century Hungarian politicians who were (with others) at long last successful in inserting the hyphenated part in the phrase, "Austro-Hungarian Empire". Given this background, the spatial proximity of these three names in the city centre is full of symbolism to Hungarians, then as now. Andrassy Avenue, built soon after this major political upheaval, may be regarded as a statement of the new-found Hungarian self-confidence of that time.
Returning to practical matters: Deák square is a good reference-point for the newcomer, since it is the station where all the three Metro lines cross. We may note that line no. 1 (yellow) runs the whole length of Andrassy Avenue -- and thus is useful if, for instance, you want to divide your exploration into two or more sessions! Here, it is worth highlighting an imaginative visitor-information scheme -- unique to line 1, unfortunately. Each station on the line has been fitted with a set of display-panels at the end of the platform, which show historical photos of the particular vicinity, together with interesting background information (-- in English!)
At the start of the Avenue where it joins Erzsebet ter, on the left corner we see a prominent and suitably monumental building (at present largely concealed by scaffolding) which carries a marble plaque with a long text concerning Count Andrassy. On the other side of the road, almost opposite is the Postal Museum, a worthwhile place to visit. This has a small but interesting collection of various exhibits -- not just postage-stamps. And, apart from the exhibits, the palatial building-interior is a memorable experience in itself!
A few steps further along, on the left side, we find the Renaissance-style Hungarian State Opera-House; rich decorations emphasise the building's representative function and add up to create a suitably imposing effect. Some consider this to be one of the most magnificent buildings in Budapest; and say that only the Paris opera-house can compare to it.
Facing the Opera, on the other side, is an impressive (but less ornate) building which until recently used to house the Ballet School. According to the plan, it will soon be converted into a five-star luxury hotel.
This part of the Avenue has a number of eating-establishments catering for opera- and theatre-goers. There are also elegant shops selling luxury goods: crystal-ware, Herend porcelain, jewellery, designer watches, as well as shoes, fashion clothing, and so forth.
Proceeding further, the next big cross-street houses several theatres including (in one direction) the "Operetta" theatre with its "Moulin Rouge" night-club, as well as (in the other) the Ernst Museum for contemporary art.
One block more and we reach a broad leafy square appropriately dedicated to Franz Liszt (Liszt Ferenc tér), where a short way down one can glimpse the monumental building housing the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. Liszt's last home in Budapest was in a side street a little further on; he lived there from 1881 until his death. Near the corner of that street, housed on the first floor of the Old Music Academy building, the Liszt Memorial Museum preserves some of the composer's original musical instruments, furniture, books, music-scores, and various personal objects.
To get there, however, we must negotiate the busy junction called the "Oktogon", where the "Large Ring-Road" crosses our route. From here on, the gilded column marking our destination at Heroes Square is clearly visible in the distance.
Soon after the street-junction, on the left we are confronted with the (somewhat controversial) "House of Terror" museum; in this one-time headquarters of the secret-police, numerous displays recount the misdeeds of the former communist regime.
Further along, after crossing the small circular park named after the Hungarian composer Kodály, on the right we may pause to note the Ferenc Hopp East-Asia Museum, which is home to extensive collections of Chinese and Japanese art-objects, together with others representative of Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Islamic cultures.
Here there are no more shops; this part of Andrassy Avenue is lined with palatial villas built for the upper middle class families of the 19th century. Visually indeed, the street-landscape is not too drastically changed from that time. Today however there are few private homes: many of the villas are now the diplomatic embassies of various countries. In one exceptional case, contemporary arts now find a home in the recently refurbished KOGArt House, which is home to regularly changing exhibitions and cultural events. The new exhibition-gallery has its own cafeteria-restaurant.
Arriving at our destination, the top end of Andrassy Avenue runs into Heroes Square (Hösök tér) with, beyond that, the large City Park (Városliget); the park houses a number of public establishments including the Zoo, two major museums (one in a romantic "mediaeval" castle!), and the Szechenyi Thermal Baths; as well as a venue used for various "popular" events (pop-concerts, commercial "shows"/exhibitions, weekend flea-market).
For now however, we can finish by briefly introducing the two "palaces of art" whose classical porticos face each other on either side of this spectacular square: the Museum of Fine Arts on the left, and the Arts Exhibition Hall on the right. Besides various special exhibitions put on each year, the Museum has permanent displays of Egyptian and other objects from the classical world, as well as the works of old masters of the Spanish and Italian schools and, among others, the post-impressionist Gauguin. The Exhibition Hall in contrast has no permanent collections, but instead offers a kaleidoscopic programme of prestigious visiting exhibitions (mostly international), with the focus on contemporary art.
Our apartments are located in the downtown Budapest, The most known sights of the town you can find around our apartments.
In the immediate neighborhood of the
- Andrassy Cultural Boulevard
- Liszt Ferenc square (many sidewalk cafes)
- Hungarian State Opera, Operetta, moolin rough
- Millenium metro (Octogon station. Yellow line M1)
- Nyugati Pu. (Western Railway Station and metro station. Blue line M3)
- Westend City Center ( the largest shopping center of Central Europe)