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Hungary’s most iconic building: the magnificent House of Parliament

Parliament
Budapest
Greater Budapest

What pops into your mind first when hearing the words iconic Hungarian building? We’ll bet you anything it’s the House of Parliament on the banks of the Danube. The building has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987 as part of the Banks of the Danube.

The Hungarian House of Parliament in a nutshell

We don’t want to bore you with the history of the Parliament, but a few things simply can’t be ignored without a mention.

 

First, let’s set things straight: the word “parliament” actually refers to the body that assembles in the House of Parliament. Although many call this fascinating building the Parliament, the correct name is actually the House of Parliament. Building this impressive edifice took 17 years, from 1885 to 1902, based on the design by the architect Imre Steindl. Unfortunately, the designer himself did not live to see the inauguration, since he died five weeks before. A vital stipulation for the construction project was that only Hungarian raw materials could be used for building the Hungarian Parliament and that it must involve Hungarian craftsmen and manufacturers, right up to the flora indigenous to the Carpathian Basin used for decoration. These terms were fulfilled, with only the gigantic granite columns imported from abroad. (An interesting point to note: only 12 of these columns have ever been made in the world – eight are in the House of Parliament, while the other four are in Britain.) Some of the figures are astonishing: roughly 40 million bricks were used for the construction, while about 40 kilograms of 22-23 carat gold embellish the Parliament. The floor area of the building is 18,000 square metres; 90 stone statues adorn the facade and there are around 162 more figures inside. The red carpet inside is almost 3 km long; you can enter through a total of 27 gates, and 365 towers of varying sizes, one for each day of the year, rise from the Hungarian Parliament.

 

As for the style and size of the House, the floor plan is Baroque, the facade draws on the Gothic style and the ceiling bears traits of the Renaissance. The wing parallel to the Danube is 268 metres long and the building is 123 metres at its widest point. The tower of the cupola is 96 metres tall. As each and every section of the House of Parliament was constructed based on a meticulous plan, the design of the building is not accidental either: each part carries important political and historical messages. The prominent cupola in the middle refers to the unity of the legislature on the one hand, and was also the site of the joint sittings of the lower house and the upper house, as the Hungarian National Assembly was originally a bicameral system. On both sides of the cupola are the lower and upper house chambers, which are exactly the same design, symbolically suggesting that the two houses had equal rights.

 

What will you see when you visit the Hungarian Parliament?

How do you know that visiting the Parliament in Hungary’s capital is a good idea? Well, the 700,000 visitors who do so each year can’t be wrong! Trained, multilingual guides will accompany you throughout this roughly 50-minute, experience-packed tour, during which you can admire one of the largest “parliaments” in the world. Here's the route you will take:

 

  • The City Side Staircase XVII

This gold-plated corridor, enriched with decorative paintings and lined with statues and colourful glass windows, leads to the magnificent main floor.

  • The Chamber of Peers

Today, the old Chamber of Peers is a conference venue. The hall, which boasts excellent acoustics and a multilevel gallery, is decorated with panels made of Slavonian oak and densely trimmed with gold. The main wall displays painted coats of arms of Hungary's royal families.

 

  • The Lounge of the Chamber of Peers

Besides Europe’s largest hand-knotted carpet, the Lounge is adorned with statues evoking old Hungarian ethnic groups and trades. The latter were made at the Zsolnay porcelain factory in Pécs, an outstanding player in the history of Hungarian industry, having won many a world exhibition award.

 

  • The Dome Hall

The Hungarian Holy Crown and the Coronation Insignia have been kept safe in the Dome Hall 24 hours a day since 2000. The statues of Hungarian rulers on golden pedestals under canopies of gold are on display here.

 

  • The Grand Stairway

The last station on the tour of the House of Parliament, yet with so many lavish sights. On the ceiling, admire the artistic works of Károly Lotz, one of the defining figures of Hungarian wall and portrait painting, and the dazzlingly ornate glass windows of the glass painter and mosaic artist Miksa Róth on both sides of the hall. And it is also home to those eight granite columns.

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