Walking Tour: Andrássy út & Heroes’ Square
- Start Deák Ferenc tér
- End City Park
- Length 2.6km; two hours (or longer)
This easy walk starts at Deák Ferenc tér where three of the four metro lines meet and follows attractive Andrássy út, Budapest's wide boulevard built in time for the 1896 millennium celebrations, to Heroes’ Sq (Hősök tere).
Andrássy út splits away from Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út about 200m north of Deák Ferenc tér. On the left you will see Krausz Palace at No 12; it houses Miniversum Model Train Museum (www.miniversum.hu/en) and there's an attractive fountain in the courtyard. A little further along is the Hungarian State Opera House, its facade among the most beautiful in Budapest and its acoustics deemed near-perfect by opera lovers. In the niche at the left of the carriage entrance is a statue of Ferenc Erkel, the father of Hungarian opera; a statue of composer Ferenc Liszt stands in the one at the right. At 1st-floor level are statues of the muses of opera, while those of the great composers Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Mozart are at 2nd-floor level.
Opposite the opera, Dreschler Palace was designed by art nouveau master builder Ödön Lechner in 1882. It once housed the Hungarian State Ballet Institute but has stood eerily empty since the late 1990s. 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. For something even more magical, walk down Dalszínház utca to the New Theatre, a Secessionist gem from 1909 embellished with monkey faces, globes and geometric designs that look like an early version of art deco, and a music hall when it originally opened.
The old-world cafe Művész Kávéház is one block up; its shady terrace is a good place for people-watching, coffee and cake. The next cross street is Nagymező utca, Budapest's 'Broadway’, with a number of theatres, such as the Budapest Operetta at No 17, known for its over-the-top, campy performances, and the restored Thália.
Two blocks up, Andrássy út meets the Big Ring Rd at Oktogon, a busy intersection. Look out for the building at Teréz körút 13, an exact replica of the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Two blocks beyond, the word 'terror' is written in sunlight on the former secret-police building, now home to the House of Terror, a high-tech museum that showcases the horrors of Hungary's post-WWII history. Many activists were taken here for interrogation and torture, before and after WWII. A plaque on the outside reads in part: ‘We cannot forget the horror of terror, and the victims will always be remembered.’
Along the next two blocks you’ll pass some very grand buildings: at No 69 the Old Kunsthalle – Academy of Fine Arts, somewhat resembling the Palazzo Bevilacqua in Verona, containing the Budapest Puppet Theatre, a favourite with kids, in the basement; the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, founded in 1871; and the headquarters of MÁV, the national railway.
The next square (or circle) is Kodály körönd, one of the most beautiful in the city, with the facades of some of the four neo-Renaissance town houses being given a facelift.
The last stretch of Andrássy út and the surrounding neighbourhoods are packed with grand old mansions that are among the most desirable addresses in the city. Short detours to the north and the south of the boulevard will reward you with some stunning architecture.
Andrássy út ends at Heroes’ Square, just west of City Park. The square is defined by the Millenary Monument (Ezeréves emlékmű). Beneath the tall column and under a stone slab is an empty coffin representing the unknown insurgents of the 1956 Uprising. The Archangel Gabriel stands on top of the column; according to legend, he came to King Stephen in a dream and offered him the crown. The statues and reliefs in and on the colonnades are of rulers and statesmen. The four allegorical figures atop are (from left to right): Work & Prosperity, War, Peace and Knowledge & Glory.
To the north of the monument is the Museum of Fine Arts and its rich collection of old masters. The building was commissioned by parliament for the 1896 millenary celebration of the Hungarian tribes arriving in present-day Hungary. To the south is the ornate Palace of Art, which also opened in 1896.