Hungary

Hungary is a crossroads at the centre of the continent, what was once known as Mitteleuropa and it fuses old Europe and new. There is a Central European solidity to its food, buildings and culture, but the more exotic, and undeniably romantic, founding myth of the nomadic, warrior Magyars from the Central Asian steppe is also key to Hungarians’ fiery national pride. 

Hungary is most renowned for it's Tokaji aszú wine, but as the wine industry of the region probably dates back to the Celts and the country has 22 wine regions, the selection of Hungarian wines is definitely worth a thorough exploration.

Budapest City Park

Városliget, Budapest's City Park, is a favorite destination for locals and visitors thanks to its many attractions including a zoo, several museums, a castle, medicinal baths and even an amusement park. Completed in 1896, in time for a variety of celebrations marking one thousand years of Hungarian history, this 1.2-square-km (302 acre) park has everything you need for an enjoyable day, from a pretty pond to a number of interesting historic sites.

Today the park is an idyllic spot for a summer picnic under the shade of gigantic sycamore trees or around the lake. Városliget is a one-stop destination for kids: Budapest Zoo, a permanent circus, the transport museum and Budapest Amusement Park provide a day’s worth of entertainment. The agricultural museum in Vajdahunyad Castle and a brace of art museums are also found within the park’s boundaries as well as the gorgeous neo-Baroque Széchenyi thermal baths. 

There’s a flea market here on Sunday morning and visitors don’t even have to leave the park to eat; there’s a choice of decent restaurants, including Budapest’s famous (and expensive) gourmet choice, Gundel.

Vajdahunyad Castle

Another centre piece of Városliget is the rather bizarre Vajdahunyad Castle, originally built of cardboard and wood in honour of the millennium. The structure was built in a variety of architectural styles ranging from Romanesque to Gothic, intended to represent each century since the arrival of the Magyars. It was so popular that it was rebuilt in brick.

What makes this castle so unusual is its combination of architectural styles. If you're visiting Vajdahunyad, a glance from one side may determine that the structure is Gothic. A walk around the castle may give one the impression that this is a Baroque building. You can from one place even see Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Romanesque architecture, all in one glance. 

The architecture also contains parts of buildings from various time periods and as a result displays different architectural styles such as Renaissance and Baroque, Gothic and Romanesque.  The Castle is truly a must see, whether it be for the different styles and eras of architecture which have been beautifully put together, the rich history of the castle and the agriculture museum or for the breath taking sites of its surroundings.

Heroes' Square

The park's main entrance is through Heroes' Square, one of Hungary's World Heritage sites.On the square, you'll find the Millennium Monument, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Műcsarnok, all worth a visit. The latter is considered to be the finest exhibition hall in Hungary.

 

The millennial monument was built in 1896 to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the arrival of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin. The monument consists of two semi-circles on the top of which the symbols of War and Peace, Work and Welfare, Knowledge and Glory can be seen. 

When the monument was originally constructed, Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and thus the last five spaces for statues on the left of the colonnade were reserved for members of the ruling Habsburg dynasty. The Habsburg emperors were replaced with Hungarian freedom fighters when the monument was rebuilt after World War II.

In the middle of Heroes' square stands a 36 metres high Corinthian column with the statue of Archangel Gabriel on the top, the symbol of the Roman Catholic religion. At the pedestal the equestrian statues commemorate Árpád and the seven chieftains of the Hungarian tribes, who settled their people in the present territory of Hungary. His descendants formed the Hungarian royal dynasty.

Matthias church

Matthias Church is a Roman Catholic church located in Budapest, Hungary, in front of the Fisherman's Bastion at the heart of Buda's Castle District. Matthias Church, with the bright colour of its tiled roof and its fantastic Neo-Gothic ornamentation, is one of the stand-out attractions of Castle Hill. Most of it dates from the late 19th century, but parts of the church are much older than that. It's named the Matthias Church because King Matthias I married Beatrice of Naples here in 1474. 

On the exterior of the church, check out the unusual diamond-patterned tiles of the roof and the Matthias Tower, which bears the king's crest animal, a raven with a gold ring in its beak. Also look out for the medieval columns on the bottom of the Béla Tower, with their studious monks and devilish animals.

The church has a breath taking interior with colours inspired by orientalism and romantic historicism. Its mystically exotic atmosphere paired with its Neo-Gothic features differentiates it from any other church. Most of the exterior of Matthias Church was added around 1896 in a Gothic style. The interior is decorated with works by two outstanding 19th-century Hungarian painters, Károly Lotz and Bertalan Székely. The wall left of the entrance represents the Renaissance, while the wall across from the entrance has Eastern motifs to represent Ottoman rule. On the left side of the church is the tomb of St. Imre, son of King St. Istvan and heir to the throne.

Dohany Street Synagogue

The Dohány Street Synagogue, also known as The Great Synagogue or Tabakgasse Synagogue, is a historical building in Erzsébetváros, the 7th district of Budapest, Hungary. It is the largest synagogue in Europe and one of the largest in the world. The Dohány Street Synagogue (Dohány utcai Zsinagóga) was built in 1859 in Moorish Revival Style. It seats 3000. 

This complex is not only a place of worship, but also hosts the Hungarian Jewish Museum. It lies in Dohány street, right off the Small Boulevard, as an entrance to the Jewish district. Dohány street carries serious Holocaust connotations, it was the border of the Budapest Ghetto during WWII and even today still remains the centre of the Jewish community in Hungary.

The memorial represents a steel weeping willow with names of the victims engraved on the leaves. There are also blank leaves dedicated to the unknown Jews, who died in World War II.

 

The interior of the synagogue is breath taking.  Rows and rows of pews and two floors of balconies provide seating for up to three thousand worshippers at a time.  The high vaulted ceiling rivals that of any Hungarian church.  The synagogue’s organ, possibly the largest in any Jewish house of worship anywhere in the world, has been played by musical giants such as Liszt and Saint-Saens.  The ark, located beneath the synagogue’s great dome, is massive, and decorated and crowned in gold leaf.  The current condition of the synagogue, which was heavily damaged in the war, is the result of extensive restorations that were completed in the 1990s.

Kecskemet

The Town Hall of Kecskemet was built in the nineteenth century, in 1893. The building was designed by Ödön Lechner and Gyula Pártos. With an impressive appearance, located in downtown, the city hall is decorated with Turkish and Hungarian folklore elements and represents the beginning of the national romantic movement. 

From the architectural point of view, the building is included in the transition from Renaissance to Baroque, with elements of both styles. Because of this, it has been criticized in the era of the followers of classicism. Bertalan Székely, who painted and decorated the interior of the Matthias Church in Budapest, is the one who decorated the main lobby of  the City Hall in Kecskemet.

Begin your sightseeing tour anywhere around the main square and you're in for a surprise: the buildings spread out around this impressive city centre practically offer a crash-course in Art Nouveau architecture and churches of almost every religion present in the country.

Cifra Palota (Ornamental Palace)

 

Walk across Szabadság tér to catch a glimpse of probably the most famous construction: the building that looks like a huge gingerbread house dates from 1902 and houses the Kecskemét Gallery. The „wavy" walls and colourful rooftop tiles are all very characteristic of Secession style architecture.

The Great Church

The construction of the Great Church of Kecskemet was started in 1774 according to the plans of Gáspár Oswald, but was completed only in 1806. The church is located on the Great Square. From the entrance you will see the group of statues depicting Jesus that handing Saint Peter the keys of heaven. Valuable and interesting sculptures are located in the niches of the interior walls. The altar is very impressive and it is painted by the Hungarian artist Ferenc Falkoner. The church tower can be visited from June to August and the view over the city is truly unforgettable.

From the entrance your eye will be caught by the group of statues depicting Jesus that handing Saint Peter the keys of heaven. The sculptures located in the niches of the interior walls representing Saint Stephen, King Lasislaus and Saints Peter and Paul are very interesting and have a great value.

The Calvinist Church

An important tourist landmark in the city of Kecskemet is the Calvinist Church. Located at the northeast from the Szabadság Square, the church has a specific late romantic style. It was built in Baroque style in the late seventeenth century and was the only stone church in the region during the Ottoman rule. 

Originally had two shrines and had no tower. Because of the war, it passed through several stages of reconstruction and expansion, the last being in 1819 when the roof was decorated with tiles.