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Exploring District V: Budapest’s inner city

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  • Gretchen Kessler

2/17/2021 2:09 PM

District V is located in the very heart of Budapest, housing such landmarks as the Parliament, Basilica and Chain Bridge, as well as some of the world’s most luxurious hotels. In a district so full of remarkable architecture and history, we explored it with camera in hand. Explore it with us now in our new video!

District V sits on the eastern banks of the Danube, situated between Elizabeth Bridge to the south and Margaret Bridge to the north. The Hungarian Parliament building, a gem on the Budapest skyline, is perfectly symmetrical. In fact, only half is actually used for governance… the other is purely for guided tours, conferences and ceremonies. It has 691 rooms, and reaches a height of 96 metres. This was deliberate, as its construction coincided with the Hungarian millennial celebrations of 1896.

The main façade overlooks the Danube, with statues featuring Hungarian and Transylvanian rulers and famous military figures.

Nearby is the haunting Shoes on the Danube memorial, which honours the Jews who were massacred during World War II. Victims were ordered to remove their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away.

On the other side of Parliament is another reminder of dark times. Old bullet holes have been marked with bronze balls on the façade of the Ministry of Agriculture building. On October 25 1956, Soviet troops and state secret police opened fire on a crowd of several thousand protesters in the square here, killing and wounding innocent civilians.

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

Running along the banks of the Danube is the number 2 tram, considered to be the most scenic route in Budapest. Along it is the Chain Bridge which connects to Buda from Széchenyi István tér. It was here in 1906 that the Gresham Life Assurance company erected the eye-catching Gresham Palace, which was transformed into a luxury hotel in 2001. Inside are intricate mosaic floors, shimmering chandeliers, and mosaics and stained glass in the Art Nouveau style.

Other five-star hotels include the Marriott, Kempinski and InterContinental. All are a stone’s throw from Budapest’s Fashion Street, which attracts visitors ready to spend top dollar on the latest fashions, and recently renovated showcase square Vörösmarty tér. Here, the internationally-renowned Gerbeaud confectionery can also be spotted.

The tree-lined Danube promenade meanders with the river, running past the Pesti Vigadó, a historic hall where Franz Liszt played a charity concert after the Budapest Flood of 1838. 

Riverfront promenade.

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

Facade of the Pesti Vigadó.

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

Not far from here is one of Budapest’s most iconic statues, the Little Princess. The artist, László Marton, was inspired by his eldest daughter, who played at princess with a crown made from newspaper and a cloak fashioned out of a bathrobe.

Away from the waterfront, the narrow streets of the inner city lead to St Stephen's Basilica, a Roman Catholic masterpiece and 96 metres high, the same as Parliament. The Basilica is rich in fine arts, with sculptures of the 12 Apostles adorning the exterior and resplendent mosaics and glass paintings inside.

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

The Fat Policeman, or Uncle Karl, is a fun bronze statue which keeps a watchful eye on the Basilica. His belly is rubbed to a shine – as legend states doing so will keep you from gaining weight!

Another prominent square is Szabadság tér, now a park, with many significant landmarks, such as the Stock Exchange Palace, which once housed the Hungarian National Television company. Today, the building is completely empty, and visitors can only admire the exterior. An old Soviet heroic monument still bears its iconic star, a reminder of the past. Not far away is the former Postal Savings Bank, an architectural treasure created by Art Nouveau master Ödön Lechner.

Full of inspiring architecture, unique sculptures, historic buildings and engaging attractions, District V is undoubtedly one of the most explored parts of Budapest. For visitors and locals alike, it offers some of the very best that Budapest has to see and do.

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

Photo: Gretchen Kessler - We Love Budapest

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