Magyar Magyar

Budapest – Roofs of a thousand colours

Matthias ChurchBudapestGreater Budapest

Budapest's buildings are not only beautiful at eye level. Both in Buda and Pest, there are many buildings that impress visitors with their colourful Zsolnay roof tiles. 

When you see these colourful rooftops you might think that it would be nice to fly over them like a bird and see them in their entirety. Fortunately, in an age of drones, this is now possible. But the best way to see them is to visit the gleaming roofs of buildings all over the city in person and marvel at the colourful Zsolnay tiles. 

From family-run manufactory to worldwide brand

Founded in Pécs in 1850, the Zsolnay factory has grown from a small, family-run manufactory to a luxury brand known the world over. Their tableware is held in just as high esteem as their building ceramics – including the colourful roof tiles. Bearing a variety of symbols, Zsolnay roof tiles started to be used all over the city on neo-Gothic, eclectic and Art Nouveau buildings, and during the renovation of historic buildings at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. 

The shining roof tiles of Buda

The most famous Zsolnay roof is that on Matthias Church, which had its tiles replaced during the renovation led by Frigyes Schulek at the end of the 19th century. One of the most famous landmarks of the Castle District, this church has nearly 150,000 colourful roof tiles that are admired by thousands of tourists every day. But let this not be the end of our tour of the Castle District. The neo-Gothic building of the Hungarian National Archives in Bécsi kapu tér also features the same dazzling patterns visible on the Matthias Church. 


The roof of the Reformed Church at the foot of Várhegy, on Szilágyi Dezső Square, also glistens with Zsolnay tiles. The neo-Gothic church, just like the Hungarian National Archives, is the work of Samu Pecz, who previously worked with Frigyes Schulek on the reconstruction of Matthias Church: it is no wonder that many similarities can be found between the two. 


The BME library building at the foot of the Gellért Hill belongs to the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. The building was also designed by Samu Pecz, who was a professor at the university.

The colours of the Pest side

The roof of the library building offers the most beautiful view from the Pest side of the Danube. And once you've crossed the river, it's worth admiring the roof tiles of the Fővám Square Market Hall, a popular shopping destination for tourists, diplomats and royalty visiting Budapest. 


One of the most spectacular buildings on Üllői út, the Museum of Applied Arts, which is covered in green and yellow Zsolnay tiles, proved divisive among the public at the time of its completion. Many called it the 'palace of the Maharajah' – perhaps knowing, perhaps not, that Ödön Lechner, the building's designer, and Vilmos Zsolnay had been in London studying oriental ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum shortly before the tender for the building was launched. In addition to the hexagonal tiles and brilliant colours, the ridge tiles of the sawtooth roof are also worth a look.


In the city centre's Hold utca, one of Ödön Lechner's most imaginative creations, the Post Office Savings Bank, also boasts a unique roof. The yellow, blue and brown folk art pattern is complemented by rooster-shaped tiles on the roof, while snake-shaped ones coil around the corner towers. The curved roof over the entrance is topped by bull heads, known from the bull's-head cup of the Golden Treasure of Nagyszentmiklós. The glazed beehives on the roof level refer to the function of the building (bees symbolise frugality). 


Walking through the City Park Zoo, you will also find Zsolnay tiles on the Elephant House, which was designed by Kornél Neuschloss. Turning onto Stefánia út in the 14th District, you'll notice the bluish roof of Hungary's oldest research institute, the Geological Institute. Venturing a little further out of the city centre, you'll see the dazzling roof ornaments of the Church of St. László in Kőbánya, which was consecrated in 1899. At 83 metres tall, the Church boasts the second largest tower in Budapest. If you look closely, you can also spot the same finials that can be seen on the roof of the Museum of Applied Arts.