Fascinating History, Spectacular Architecture
Budapest is a city that is literally linked together by reminders of its rich history. Peaceful Buda and lively Pest, otherwise separated by the beautiful Danube River, are united by eight magnificent bridges. Each bridge bears its own unique story that reveals a glimpse into Budapest’s fascinating past, and each structure provides a different view to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding city.
Start your exploration of Budapest’s bridges with the most famous bridge in the city: the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Lánchíd). The Chain Bridge spans the Danube between Clark Ádám tér in Buda and Roosevelt tér in Pest, and was the first to permanently connect Buda and Pest. At the time of its construction, the bridge was considered to be one of the wonders of the world. The road is hanging on iron chains – hence its name, and is held by the two classicist piers.
Prior to the Chain Bridge’s construction, there was a pontoon bridge across the river which enabled passage from spring to autumn. During winter, the river would freeze and only then was crossing possible. This was not a reliable link from Buda to Pest, as abrupt changes in the weather meant that sometimes people would get stuck on either side after crossing. In 1820, Count István Széchenyi was forced to wait a week to get to his father’s funeral for this reason. The experience led him to decide that a permanent bridge had to be built, and he became a major advocate of the project, eventually founding a society to finance and build the bridge.
The second bridge to be built was Margaret Bridge (Margit híd), an iron structure with many pieces that were actually manufactured in France and transported to Budapest by train. Built between 1872 and 1876, this bridge leads across to Margaret Island, a popular tourist destination and a hotspot after sunset.
In 1944, during World War II, an explosion destroyed the eastern span of the Margaret Bridge, killing about 600 civilians and 40 German soldiers. Much of the original steel structure has been lifted from the river and incorporated when rebuilding.
You can also reach Margaret Island by taking the Árpád Bridge (Árpád híd), recognized as the second longest bridge of Budapest. Though its construction began in 1939, it was not completed until 1950 due to World War II. Originally named as Stalin Bridge, it was later changed to Árpád, in honor of the leader of the Hungarian settlers in 896.
You’ll want to set aside some time to appreciate the beauty of the Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd), the most elegant bridge in Budapest. Connecting March 15 tér in Pest with Döbrentei tér in Buda, this original decorative suspension bridge was built between 1897 and 1903. Once recognized as having the longest span in the world, its damage sustained in World War II left the bridge beyond repair. A new bridge was reconstructed between 1960 and 1994, standing as the only bridge in Budapest that could not be rebuilt in its original form. The bridge was named in honor of Queen Elisabeth (wife of Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph), who loved Hungary far more than Austria. You can see her bronze statue by the bridge's Buda side in a small garden.
You’ll know you’ve found Liberty Bridge (Szabadság híd) when you see the 'Turul' bird, the mythical bird of Hungary, on top of each of the bridge’s pillars. Also known as the shortest bridge in Budapest, the Liberty Bridge spans the Danube between Gellért tér and Fővám tér, and was built between 1894 and 1896. Opened in the year of the Millennium, this bridge was officially completed when Emperor Franz Joseph inserted the last silver rivet into its iron structure.
Put on your dancing shoes and take the Petőfi Bridge (Petőfi híd) to find Budapest’s hippest pubs and hangouts – several popular open-air bars are located directly at its Buda pillars. Built between 1933 and 1947, it connects the southern end of Pest’s Grand Boulevard with the campuses of the Budapest University of Technology in Buda. The bridge was originally named after Miklós Horthy, the self-appointed regent for the exiled King Karl IV from 1919 until 1944, but was later renamed in honor of a great Hungarian poet.
Art and theatre buffs are likely to discover the Rákóczi Bridge (Rákóczi híd, formerly known as Lágymányosi híd), as its end in Pest is the site of the new Hungarian National Theatre and the Palace of Art. Inaugurated in 1995, this is also the second newest bridge in Budapest. Its unique lighting system uses mirrors located on its red columns to disperse the light evenly on the roadway.
The newest bridge in Budapest, the Megyeri Bridge (Megyeri híd), is also the longest. Arcing over the Danube River at the northernmost point of the capital, it represents Hungary’s first cable-stayed river bridge, and functions as part of Budapest’s MO Highway.
Did you know? There are four Bridge Masters in Budapest and each master is in charge of two bridges.
The architecture of the bridges themselves can be admired from panoramic viewpoints like Gellért Hill or Castle Hill, or by embarking on a scenic river cruise along the Danube. Once you’ve seen the spanning structures that connect the city, explore the rest of Budapest’s stunning architecture and fascinating history - visit our Budapest Attractions pages for ideas on where to start.
Photos by Márk Mervai