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As the millennial celebrations of 1896 approached, the nation’s demand for representation channelled the conception of a unique Parliament building. The Palace of Westminster in part inspired the design, but a well-known Hungarian architect, Imre Steindl, laid out the plans in their entirety. The building stretches 268 meters in its length, along the Danube embankment. Ornamented with white neo-gothic turrets and arches, it forms the most outstanding landmark of the Pest side horizon. Statues of Hungarian monarchs and military commanders decorate the outer walls. The unique interior design includes huge halls, over 12,5 miles of corridors, a 96-meter high central dome, and 691 rooms. When the Parliament is not in session, all these can be visited (cameras are allowed); tours are offered in English, French, German, Russian, Hebrew, Japanese, Italian and Spanish.

“The nation lacks a home.” – stated Mihály Vörösmarty, an outstanding Hungarian poet, somewhat bitterly in 1846. True, the sons of Árpád governed the country and enacted laws, from wherever they happened to be at the time. For centuries, a narrow steam of society: high priests, baronets, noblemen and aristocratic citizens claimed to constitute “the nation”, meeting in council and passing judgement as they went. In the Era of Enlightment, however, historical changes lifted millions from submission to disposition, giving mandate to a great number of people. And this nation needed a home, a place to build up a government they can call their own. In contrast with the royal palace, built in lofty heights above the rest of the city, the new parliament was to be built on the flat side of the Danube, on the same level with the city itself, as an expression and symbol of the newly born democracy. Following some years of struggle and turbulence, Imre Steindl’s building design won the tender of 1882. Relying on the technical innovations of that time, he combined assorted stylistic elements to create an eclectic building, which mirrors history. The exterior leans toward the English school of Gothic Revival, somewhat resembling the Palace of Westminster in London; interior design, however, includes a great number of Renaissance and Baroque elements. The groundbreaking took place in 1885, and an average of thousand people worked consecutively for thirteen years to complete the building. It was a huge project, which greatly boosted the local industrial enterprises of the time, as the principle of working primarily with Hungarian material and Hungarian craftsmen was followed all the way through. Total cost was projected to be around 18,5 million of the era’s currency, korona, but it ended up at 38 million. Around 176 000 cord ground was moved, 40 million bricks were laid, more than half a million ornamental stones were carved.

The building
The building is 268 meter long, 123 meter wide in the middle, 96 meter high with the dome. It occupies 18 000 square meters, with 473 000 cord cubic capacity. Just the base itself, consisting of 2-5 meter thick solid concrete, was constructed over three and a half months. The facade includes 90 statues, while the interior walls are decorated with 152 statues, county’s and city’s coat of arms, and local flower motives. Around 40 kilogram of 22-23 carat gold was used for decorations. The building has 27 doors, 29 staircases, and 13 elevators. In addition to planetary, conference and session rooms, it includes over 200 offices. The symmetrical arrangement of the building is designed to serve a double chamber system, similar to the Capitol in Washington. The huge dome hall in the middle was designed for joined sessions. This part of the building was the first to be completed, hosting the parliament millennial section of 1896. 16 statues of Hungarian kings and rulers, along with their coat of arms, ornate the walls: St. István, St. László, Kálmán Könyves, András the 2nd, Béla the 4th, Lajos Nagy, János Hunyadi and Mátyás Hunyadi, kings of Hungary, followed by Transylvanian monarchs: István Báthori, István Bocskai, Gábor Bethlen and György Rákóczi the first; and three Habsburg rulers: III. Károly the 3rd, Terézia Mária and Lipót the 2nd. As Hungary resorted to a single chamber system at the end of 1944, the northern conference room (once serving the upper chamber) is often used for international conferences. The southern conference room came to host the chamber of deputies. With excellent acoustics, the 25 meters long, 23 meters wide, and 17 meters high room originally seated 438 deputies, while an inner circle of velvet chairs seated the ministers. The pulpit seated the president and the notaries. Wall paintings depict historical events, statues represent allegoric figures of honoured virtues. The Parliament also includes an extensive library of around half-a-million books and documents, handled by a modern information system. The huge reading-room is situated on the lower floor. (From: budapest-parliament.com)

Best of Budapest Parliament

  • The Hungarian Coronation Regalia is the most prized treasure, it includes the Holy Crown, the orb, the sceptre and a Renaissance sword.
  • Other notable attractions are the numbered cigar-holders, that line the window sills outside the debate chambers. Smoking politicians left their cigars in the holders, when they went in to vote. When they returned they could easily find their cigars, if they remembered the number of the holder.
  • the ceiling frescoes by Károly Lotz
  • the impressive Grand Staircase sweeping from the main entrance to the Dome Hall
  • the imposing Dome Hall and 16 statues of Hungarian leaders in it
  • Hunters’ Hall is one of the fascinating rooms surrounding the Dome Hall from the Danube side, stunning frescoes adorn its walls
  • beautiful painted glass windows by Miksa Róth

(From: budapest-tourist-guide.com)

Thus far, I have only visited the exterior of the building. Tours of the interior are arranged three times daily for ticket holders. The ticket office opens each day at 8am to sell the tickets for that particular day. When approaching the building, one can not help but notice the size of the structure. Upon closer inspection (though you can only get so close) you will notice intricately carved statuary and attention to detail. The building is surrounded on three sides by a sidewalk, various gardens (some watered by hose and sprinkler) and a concrete square. The remaining side is framed by a busy road that runs along the Danube. Guards are positioned around the building.


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