Andrassy Avenue Walking Tour, Budapest

Andrassy Avenue Walking Tour (Self Guided), Budapest

Dating back to 1870 and recognized as a World Heritage site, Andrássy Avenue is a long, wide boulevard named after Prime Minister Gyula Andrássy (served 1867–71) that connects Budapest's downtown with the City Park. The entire stretch is lined with cafés, restaurants, luxury shops, as well as cultural institutions, elegant neo-Renaissance apartment blocks, mansions, and embassies with harmonious stone facades, all making for an eclectic mix of the new and old.

Begin your exploration near the beautiful Danube river and Erzsébet Square with a visit to one of downtown Budapest’s landmark buildings – St. Stephen’s Basilica. The relics, the small museum, the organ and the city views from the top make it a must-see even for non-religious people.

Among other key sights are the State Opera House (drop in whenever the box office is open to admire the ostentatious lobby); the fully restored Lotz Hall housing an excellent café with tinkling-piano ambience and reasonable prices; the House of Terror Museum, which powerfully documents previous terror regimes; and the Museum of Asiatic Arts with more than 30,000 pieces originating from South East Asia, Japan, China, India, etc.

If you like the “Broadway Quarter” near the Opera House, you’ll find a similar energy in Franz Liszt Square, ideal for meetings, short strolls, good coffee, lunch, or dinner.

Take this self-guided walk to explore Budapest’s most famous boulevard, soak in the atmosphere of Budapest’s city center, and end with Heroes’ Square and the City Park at your fingertips!
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Andrassy Avenue Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Andrassy Avenue Walking Tour
Guide Location: Hungary » Budapest (See other walking tours in Budapest)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: kane
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • St. Stephen's Basilica
  • Hungarian State Opera House
  • Pest Broadway
  • Café Párisi – Lotz Hall
  • Franz Liszt Square
  • Oktogon
  • House of Terror
  • Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts
  • Heroes' Square
St. Stephen's Basilica

1) St. Stephen's Basilica (must see)

Overlooking the eponymous square in Budapest, the Saint Stephen's Basilica is dedicated to King István, the first monarch of Hungary, who brought Christianity to the country. The mummified fist of the king, now aged over 1,000 years, is kept right here in the church, as a relic encased in a glass box, and is an object of regular pilgrimage from all over Hungary (although one can easily miss it, if not aware). Also interred in the church is Hungary's legendary soccer player, Ferenc Puskás, considered to be one of the best footballers of all time.

For many Hungarians this is the most important religious site, much as it is a key local attraction for tourists, not the least because of its size – the building can hold up to 8,500 people at a time and stands 96 meters high, being the 3rd tallest structure in the country, at par with the Hungarian Parliament, holding the legally allowed height record for Budapest.

To create this Neo-Classical basilica took three architects, including Hungary's finest, Miklós Ybl. Adorned with a bust of Saint István, right above the doorway, the facade of the building features a huge arched portal with Ionian columns, flanked on both sides with huge belfries. Topping the right tower is the heaviest and largest bell in the country, weighing nine tonnes!

Except for certain parts of the building, such as the treasury and the dome, the basilica is free to enter. Access to the dome, either by stairs or elevator, costs a small fee but allows visitors one of the best panoramas of Budapest. The interior of the church represents a mass of marble and gold plating with elaborately decorated chapels, mosaics, ceiling and wall frescoes, stained glass windows, plus a multitude of statues (including that of Saint István himself adorning the ornate main altar) and paintings by renowned Hungarian artists.

Apart from the altar, another distinctive feature of the church is a massive pipe organ to hear which play is a truly awe-inspiring experience. So, if you're a music fan, whenever you get a chance, try to attend an organ concert here – highly recommended.

The basilica's facade overlooks the grand Saint Stephen's Square, a great place to enjoy coffee at open-air cafes.
Hungarian State Opera House

2) Hungarian State Opera House

Set at the heart of Pest, on Andrassy Avenue, the Hungarian State Opera was officially opened to the public in 1884. Designed by Miklós Ybl, a key figure of 19th-century Hungarian architecture, this grand and elegant edifice represents a blend of Baroque, Renaissance and Revival styles and took nearly a decade to build, skillfully planted into the ensemble of affluent mansions nearby.

Although nowhere near the world's major concert halls in terms of size, the Hungarian Opera House is definitely one of the most beautiful. Flanking the building's main entrance, inside the niches, are the statues of Ferenc Erkel, author of the Hungarian National Anthem, and Ferenc Liszt, the most acclaimed Hungarian composer and reputedly one of the best pianists of his time. On the balustrade, surrounding the roof, are the 16 statues of Europe's greatest composers, such as Beethoven, Mozart, Verdi, Bizet, Puccini and Tchaikovsky. On the inside, the building is just as grand as it is on the outside, replete with marble columns and staircases, vaulted ceilings and lavish gold plating, complete with a rich chandelier weighing several tons(!), and ornate frescoes depicting scenes from the Greek mythology, not to mention the wealth of finest oil paintings and sculptures to be found in Budapest added to the decoration.

The acoustics here are said to be among the best in the world, ranked #3 in Europe after La Scala in Milan and Palais Garnier in Paris.

If you can't get a ticket or if opera isn't one of your things yet, consider taking a guided tour, run three times a day, to get a sense of what the high-society life in Budapest was like back in its heyday in the late 19th century. The tour will take you to the private balconies, smoking room, royal private staircase, and the bar area lavishly clad in crystal and Croatian marble.

Otherwise, if you're an opera fan, try to book yourself a ticket – if lucky, you just might succeed. The tickets are surprisingly not as pricey as you may think, but still, be prepared to dress up to the nines as it is a rather glamorous affair, after all.

Combine with the nearby Mai Manó House of Photography, if only to have a look at the building from the outside.

Editor's note:
The building is being renovated until 2020, therefore Opera House performances temporarily take place at the Erkel Theatre. However, the Opera Shop and certain parts of the building can be visited even during renovation.
Pest Broadway

3) Pest Broadway

Often described as “Champs-Élysées and Broadway rolled into one”, the intersection of Nagymező Street and Andrassy Avenue in Budapest, commonly known as Pest Broadway, is historically renowned for its association with theaters and music. Situated close to the Budapest Opera House, the area is home to the Moulin Rouge nightclub, the Mai Manó House of Photography, the Ernst Gallery, and many other artistically influenced companies the presence of which makes it a cultural center of the city.

Among them are some traditional theaters, like the Thália and Radnóti and the Operetta Theatre, found at the nearby Nagymező Street. A place called Mikroszkóp is famous for its stand-up comedy, attesting to which is a statue of Hungary's most celebrated stand-up comedian, Géza Hofi, placed out front. The surrounding streets, leading toward the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music, are quite big on the night entertainment. If you care to stroll down a bit in that direction, you will spot many cute sculptures and monuments along the way, as well.

There is a rich choice of fine dining on Pest Broadway too, including gourmet restaurants, quaint cafes and bars dotting the streets and largely contributing to the area's overall popularity with the locals and tourists alike.
Café Párisi – Lotz Hall

4) Café Párisi – Lotz Hall

One of the jewels of Budapest's illustrious Belle Époque, the 19th-century Lotz Hall – originally a casino – was extensively renovated and transformed into the Art Nouveau-style Paris Department Store (the sign "Párisi Nagy Áruház" is still visible on the façade) at the onset of the 20th century.

With its frescos by Károly Lotz, huge mirrors, golden ornaments and sparkling chandeliers, this opulent hall on Andrássy Avenue now houses the French-style Café Párisi, a magnet for both locals and tourists to spend a quiet hour imbibing the atmosphere whilst drinking coffee or tea, having a slice of cake, and being serenaded by a stunning grand piano. You pay a small premium on the beverages/cakes but the setting makes it worth it.
Franz Liszt Square

5) Franz Liszt Square

Anchored by the Academy of Music, the Franz List Square is ideal for meetings, short strolls, a great coffee, lunch, or dinner. Popular with locals and tourists alike, especially on summer evenings, this leafy, relaxed pedestrian area is surrounded by restaurants and cafés like the famous Menza (known for its traditional Hungarian favorites and nice wine), the bright, wood-floored Café Vian (praised for its perfect food and service, plus live music), Seasons Bistro (one of Budapest's best kept secrets), Incognito (good for drinks and chill), Korhely faloda és daloda (known to make meat-eaters extremely pleased), etc.

Franz Liszt's statue in the center of the square captures both the essence of the famous composer and the size of his hands, which alludes to his skill on the piano. which allude to his skill on the piano. Unveiled in 1986, it is the work of prize-winning sculptor László Marton, who also sculpted the Little Princess statue on the Danube promenade. Other artworks in the square include a bronze statue to Hungarian poet Endre Ady and a very unusual work dedicated to Sir Georg Solti, a Hungarian-born conductor and a long-serving music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

On the corner of Andrassy ut 45, there is also a place called the Irok Boltja ("Writer's Bookshop"), where you can find some of the best literary events in Budapest. It is definitely a meeting place for famous and not so famous writers, people who love to read, and even just the curious.

6) Oktogon

One of the busiest junctions in Budapest, the eight-sided Oktogon once rejoiced in the name of Mussolini Square, while under the communist regime it was called November 7 Square after the date of the Bolshevik revolution. Now kids called it the "American Square" as it is surrounded by fast-food chains (McDonald's, TGI Fridays, Starbucks, and the world's largest Burger King), some of which are even open 24/7. Add to these the taxis and buses running non-stop along the Nagykörút through to the wee hours, and you've got yourself a square (and intersection) that hardly ever sleeps.

While here, you may wonder why the Batthyány Mansion (Teréz körút 13) is adorned with wrought iron rings and looks somewhat familiar from architecture books. Apparently, the building is a proportionally reduced copy of the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, with some details being modified – but even so, "stumbling" upon it is an interesting experience.

Walking on Andrassy Avenue from Oktogon to Heroes' Square is always a pleasure. On this route, many beautiful buildings can be seen, and the atmosphere of Budapest's city center can certainly be felt.

If you plan on having a good burger to a medium price, but guaranteed quality, Bamba Marha Burger Bar (11:30am–10pm) is your place to be!
House of Terror

7) House of Terror (must see)

A building that chilled hearts during much of the 20th century, the so-called House of Terror stands out against the more traditional buildings on Andrassy Avenue with its black passé partout, granite sidewalks, and blade-colored walls.

It is actually a museum proper, detailing some of the gruesome activities of the German occupation and what followed under the Russian-backed communist government. In like fashion, it is also a memorial to the many who died under the city's "double occupation" or were victims of torture and detention, providing some insight and understanding of the plight of the ordinary Hungarian folk.

The whole experience is atmospheric with music, lighting and video contributing to the ambiance. Most of the information in the museum is in the form of testimonial videos from survivors of the different regimes, coupled with original photos and newsreels/propaganda videos rather than objects (though there are a few around), so it is rather "good value" in terms of how much content one gets for the money. Moreover, each room has a box full of A4 papers in English and Hungarian with a background in what the room relates to (though not necessarily what visitors are looking at exactly).
Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts

8) Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts

Located near the end of Andrassy Avenue, in the six-room mansion of former 19th-century optician, great traveler, and Asian artifact collector Ferenc Hopp, this museum is a charming place for Oriental art, based on various private collections and donations. It always houses temporary exhibits with different items from all around Asia – including Japanese, Chinese or Indian artifacts – as well as delightful souvenirs. Coat check with lockers, cozy collection rooms, and a marvelous (free to visit) little oriental garden with a lovely moon gate all make this a great little stop if you happen to be strolling by.
Heroes' Square

9) Heroes' Square (must see)

Heroes' Square is easy to get to, and unforgettable once you've seen it. Located in front of the City Park, at the end of Andrassy Avenue, the monument was built in 1896 to commemorate the millennial anniversary of the arrival of the people of Hungary to the Carpathian Basin. By design, it consists of two semi-circles, which have the symbols for War and Peace, Knowledge and Glory, and Wealth and Labor affixed. The place is decorated with the statues of famous kings, governors, and celebrated characters from Hungarian history, as well as little reliefs depicting the most pinnacle moment of their lives.

The centerpiece of the memorial is the 36-meter high statue of the Archangel Gabriel holding a crown in his right hand and the double cross of Christianity in the other. The base of the column is surrounded by seven equestrian statues of ferocious-looking warriors, which depict the Magyar chieftains of the Hungarian tribes, the most notable being Árpád, whose descendants started the Hungarian royal line.

In front of the Millennium, Column stands the Monument of National Heroes, a cenotaph also referred to as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in tribute to Hungary's nameless heroes of war.

The sheer size of everything means one cannot fail to be impressed! Flanked by two important buildings – the Museum of Fine Arts on the left and the Palace of Art (Kunsthalle) on the right – this is, in fact, one of Budapest's most visited sights.

You can easily combine your visit with a stroll to Vajdahunyad Castle, the peaceful park across the road, and the Széchenyi bath building.

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