Don't just admire Budapest's most iconic structure from afar. Step inside and seek out these must-sees.
Treasures inside the Hungarian Parliament Building. The Buda side of Hungary’s capital may well be home to the fairy-tale Baroque architecture on Castle Hill, but Pest’s banks are famously inhabited by the imposing sprawl of the Hungarian Parliament Building – the third largest parliament in the world. By day, the grand Gothic Revival façade dominates the city’s skyline as the country’s largest building, while at night, it’s lit up and beautifully mirrored in the Danube’s glassy surface. Don’t just admire its exterior, though – pop inside for equally jaw-dropping splendour. Here are the most beautiful details to look out for when visiting.
The Grand Staircase
Visitors are always impressed by the entrance of the Hungarian Parliament Building – its steps flanked by huge bronze lions beneath fluttering flags – but just wait until you get inside. The broad sweep of the grand staircase is all extravagant gold details, regal red carpets and soaring vaulted ceilings emblazoned with stunning frescoes. It’s said that 40kg of 22-carat gold and approximately 500,000 precious gems were used to decorate the building’s 691 rooms and 29 staircases, to truly dazzling effect.
The Dome Hall
Having scaled the opulent grand staircase, enter the Gothic Renaissance enchantment of the Dome Hall, dated to 1896 – shortly before the parliament opened for business. A circular hall that sits directly beneath the parliament’s iconic dome, with stained-glass windows, gilded columns and mosaiced floors providing a feast for the eyes. Glance up for the prize-winner, a 16-pointed star flagged with Hungary’s coats of arms through the ages, from the 13th century’s double cross to the current incarnation, which has been in place since World War I.
The Holy Crown
One of Hungarian Parliament Building’s most precious treasures is the crown jewels, and the pride of this glittering collection is the Szent Korona or Holy Crown on display in the Dome Hall. The intricate Byzantine-enamelled and jewel-encrusted gold headpiece is more than two millennia old, and has crowned more than 50 Hungarian kings, the last being Charles IV in 1916. Having been pilfered and lost over the years, the crown and its accompanying jewels spent a 33-year term in America’s Fort Knox for protection, but they’re now the star of the show in the Dome Hall.
Home to powerful works of art, the Parliament’s Upper House is graced by Mihály Munkácsy’s monumental painting, The Conquest. Depicting the 896 CE Magyar Conquest in which Hungarians entered the Carpathian Basin, it was originally on display in Paris before moving to the parliament. The building’s ceiling features three stunning frescoes by Károly Lotz illustrating a thousand years of the rule of Hungarian law.
Old Upper House Hall
The final stop on a tour of the Hungarian Parliament Building is the Old Upper House Hall. Once the Upper House’s chamber, the Hall radiates 19th-century opulence. Breathe in the scent of timeworn oak while admiring paintings of royalty and murals that recall key moments in Hungarian history.