Andrássy Avenue is one of the main attractions of Budapest, the arterial road of Terézváros, and also the most polished avenue in Budapest. It is our “Champs-Élysées”, a boulevard full of high-end boutiques, embassies and villas.
The avenue connects downtown Pest to the City Park and together with the Millennium Underground underneath it and the Heroes’ Square, it became World Heritage Site in 2002.
The Avenue was named after Count Gyula Andrássy.
Budapest would have not developed this way if he had not spent years of exile in Paris after the 1848-49 Revolution.
Mr.Andrássy had the inspiration that Budapest should be developed the same way as Paris.
He started the city development plan and established the Council of Public Projects in Budapest. The Council put special emphasis on details as well, for example they designed accented architectural element, a dome or tower if a street ended in a building.
What you see on the streets of Budapest today is the work of thousands of talented architects.
Before its construction the main road leading to the City Park was Király street that soon became packed of people who were not able to go by carriages because of the crowds.
Andrássy Avenue was one of the most successful achievement of the city development programs.
The avenue was finished by 1885 and became fashionable immediately.
Between 1860 to 1905 Budapest managed to build 12 square kilometer unified cityscape which is unique in the world.
During the Monarchy era (1867-1918) at least 20% of the construction costs of new houses had to be spent on decoration by law.
As a result, you can see chubby angels, Roman Gods and Greek mythology beings on the facades. Walls are often decorated with wild and domestic animals, flower vines, portraits craved in stone, wood, metal or glass. Wrought iron and stone balconies, wooden doors with their fancy knockers are also common.
Andrássy Avenue has 132 buildings and only 5 of them are modern. In other, richer countries demolished old and ruined houses and built a new one. Hungary was so poor after the WW2 that there were no chance to build new buildings. After the Revolution of 1948-49 the huge lack of housing and apartment sharing did not make demolishing possible. New houses were built only on empty plots.
Strange how these tragedies helped to protect our cityscape.
Today the whole avenue is under the protection of UNESCO World Heritage, so it is forbidden to make even a tiny change in the façades.
The avenue itself has remained relatively unchanged through the years since its opening in 1876, it has gone through several name changes:
During the Soviet occupation (1950), it was renamed to “Sztálin út” (Stalin Road), while during the unsuccessful uprising against the Soviets in 1956, it was called “Hungarian Youth’ Street“, but it was a short lived period. Then it became Népköztársaság út (“People’s Republic Avenue“). It gained back its original name in 1990, after the collapse of the communist regime.
Sections of the Andrássy Avenue
The Avenue has three parts.
These sections differ in their built-up density, their width and length.
The first section lays between Erzsébet Square and Oktogon. The length of this section is 844 meters, its width is 34 meters. The 3-4 storied buildings are built attached to each other.
The 563 meter long middle section is between Oktogon and Kodály Circus. From here the width of the road is 45,5 meters. Here the buildings are lower and as the width permits, it has a promenade on both sides with tree-lines.
The last section is between Kodály Circus and Heroes’ Square. There are detached villas and palaces here. As we get closer to the City Park the size of green areas are growing constantly.
The most interesting buildings of Andrássy Avenue
Today, the section of the avenue between Erzsébet Square and Oktogon is home to several international high-fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, etc.
Coming from Deák Ferenc Square, the first building on the left hand side, is the building of Fonciére Insurance Company (Fonciére Palace), and was built by Adolf Feszty’s plans.
On the other side of the road (Andrássy Avenue 3) stands a beautiful neo-Renaissance palace: Saxlehner Palace. It was once the Postal Museum, now it is unfortunately a private property so we can’t visit its inside.
The most important attraction of the Avenue is the Neo-renaissance Opera House.
It was designed by Miklós Ybl, one of the most respected architects in Hungary.
The Opera House is currently under reconstruction!
Right opposite the Opera House stands Dreschler House, a 3-storey palace built in 1883. It functioned as the Hungarian Ballet Institute. Today it stands empty, but there are plans to convert it into a luxury hotel.
It was due to begin a new life as a five-star hotel, but a scandal surrounding the foreign company who purchased it torpedoed the deal.
The old-world cafe Művész Kávéház is just one block further; its shady terrace is a good place for people-watching with a coffee in your hands.
The building under Andrássy Avenue 39 has been the center of bourgeois life in this part of the city. Dance evenings, balls, fancy dinners, a casino all kept the locals entertained.
The frescoes of its ballroom was painted by Károly Lotz (he painted the walls of Matthias Church, too).
The building was altered in 1911 and became the high-end Paris Department Store. The building received its Art Nouveau façade during this reconstruction.
It was the most elegant store in Budapest, a unique shopping destination.
Unfortunately it was abandoned for years, and was brought back to life when it became a huge book shop. In 2017 the shop suddenly closed and for almost two years it wasn’t possible to enter the building.
Fortunately it reopened at the end of 2018 and now it is housing the French-style Café Párisi.
The building is now under heritage protection and the Lotz Hall’s painting give a magnificent backdrop for the coffeehouse.
Sandwiches, Hungarian desserts and salads are served every day between 9am-9pm.
If you continue your walk towards Heroes’s Square, Nagymező street crosses the avenue. It is sometimes called as the Broadway of Pest because of the theaters, the Operetta and the Moulin Rouge nightclub in the street.
One of the most interesting building in Nagymező street is Mai Manó House.
The house, that is currently home to the House of Hungarian Photographers, was built in 1894. Its first owner was Manó May, a family and children photographer. Its front is richly decorated with reliefs, sculptures and Zsolnay tiles.
Before you reach Oktogon, you will see a green area on the right: Liszt Ferenc Square (Franz Liszt Square) which was named after the world famous Hungarian composer. The square is famous for its restaurants and cafes.
House of Terror
After you passed Oktogon, walk on the left side of the Avenue. Soon you will arrive to the House of Terror a high-tech museum that was founded to commemorate tortured and murdered Hungarians.
It has a unique black ledge frame that draws attention to the building. When it is sunny, the word “terror” appears to be written on the walls by the sun.
There are also two symbols on the frame, an “arrow” that symbolizes the Arrow Cross party that had their national headquarters here, and a “star”, that is the symbol of communism.
The 4-metre high piece of wall in front of the building is an original section of the wall that divided East and West Berlin until it was demolished in 1989. The rusty chains represent the Iron Curtain.
A plaque on the outside reads in part: ‘We cannot forget the horror of terror, and the victims will always be remembered.’
During the winter of 1944, hundreds of Jews were tortured in the cellar of this building. After the Soviets liberated Budapest from the Nazis – without any intention of leaving – the Political Police moved in the house from February 1945.
A labyrinth of prison was created by the joining of the cellars of buildings.
People, who were declared as “enemies of the communist state” were tortured to death here. There were about 200,000 “network personnel” who were working in correspondence with the state security services. From these informers only 1,000 – 1,500 agents have been identified. It continues to haunt the Hungarian society.
Before the State Security Police moved out in 1956 the house was renovated to erase all traces of its dark past.
The museum was awarded the “Hungarian Museum of the Year” in 2004. It is a must see for every visitor of Budapest as it helps to understand our recent history.
Hungarian University of Fine Arts
69-71 Andrássy Avenue is the building of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts.
It is an exact replica of an Italian Palace. The date on its facade – 1971 – is the date when the construction of the avenue began. Inside, even the ceiling is made of marble and richly decorated with wall paintings.
Kodály Circus is a beautiful round square that divides Andrássy Avenue. Four apartment palace stands in every corner of it, each has a small garden and a sculpture in front.
As you leave Kodály Circus, you will see beautiful villas with front gardens that have foreign flags displayed. These are embassies of Malta, Republic of Korea, Bulgaria, Turkey, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Russia.
1896 was the year of the Millennium, the 1000th anniversary of the conquest by Hungarians and this square was chosen as the location to host the remembrance celebrations and to site a statue park that displays the entire history of Hungary.
This 36 meter high column is in the centre of the square with Archangel Gabriel standing at its top with the Holy Crown in his right, and the patriarchal cross in his left hand.
On its base there is seven equestrian sculptures of the founding fathers.
In front of these statues is the memorial of the unknown heroes of the WWI where mourning families are able to pay respects symbolically. It is not an actual grave. A wreath is placed on it on national days and on the day of remembrance which is the last Sunday of May.
The semi-circular colonnades with bronze statues display the most outstanding rulers and statesmen of Hungary. Of course there was a heated debate about which persons should be immortalized here.
Originally there were 5 statues that displayed Habsburg leaders but they were replaced by leading figures of the Hungarian fight for independence – against the Habsburgs.
The four allegorical figures atop are (from left to right): Work & Prosperity, War, Peace and Knowledge & Glory.
Műcsarnok (Hall of Art)
The Hall that hosts a variety of different exhibitions today, was opened in 1896 and once housed the best-known arts of Hungarian sculptors and artists.
Museum of Fine Arts
It stands opposite the Műcsarnok and was built between 1898-1906.
Its stairs lead to the portico with wight tall Corinthian Pillars.
Priceless artworks (statues, paintings and artifacts) are on display in its inside.
Its renovation ended during the spring of 2018.
Have you visited Andrássy Avenue? Did you like it? Or are you just planning your trip to Budapest? Have you tried to peek in the courtyards?
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