Andrassy Avenue, the iconic boulevard of Budapest

Often called as the Champs Elysées of Budapest, Andrássy Avenue counts to be the most elegant street in the capital. This is not only by chance, maybe Budapest would have not developed in this way, if Count Gyula Andrássy, later the primeminister of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarch had not spent years of immigration in Paris after the revolution and freedom fight of 1848/49. The era was the golden-age of the French capital, and its cityscape was built during those years. Count Andrássy had plenty of occasions to merit inspiration! After returning home, he established the Council of Public Projects in Budapest and he became its president. The Council determined the cityscape and started to work. What we see on the streets of Budapest – mainly Pest – today, is the creation of thousands of talented architects, who built not only the Operahouse, the Saxlehner and Dreschler Palace, the Hungarian Parliament, the Saint Stephen Basilica, the Millenium Underground and the Museum of Fine Arts – just to mention the more notable ones –, but many „noname” buildings and palaces as well. Just look the Grand Boulvard, which was built also around the turn of the 19th/20th century, for more than 4 km no „modern” house can be seen! It is unbelievable and unique in the world, and considering historicism in architecture, combining neo-Baroque and neo-Renaissance styles in buildings, Budapest is on the first place.

On old maps of Budapest one can see, before Andrássy Avenue was planned, the Király Street, leading towards the City Park had been the main axis of the city. The main purpose of building Andrássy Avenue was, that Király Street had become extremely rushed, because of the jams it was impossible for the citizens to go by carriages, even walking was sometimes hard. There was a rightful demand for building a new street, and if, why not an elegant avenue!
When opening in 1883, the street was first called Sugár avenue (Radial sreet), in 1886 was renamed for Andrássy street, under the communist era was called Sztalin street (1950), and during the Uprise of 1956 renamed to Magyar Ifjúság street (Hungarian Street of Youth). In 1957 became Népköztársaság street (People’s Republic), and finally got back the name of the builder, Count Andrássy again in 1990. Walking along the the beautiful boulevard is a chance to peer into the city’s architectural, musical and literary history. The literary world of the coffee house is well-represented by the Művész,and, the Eckermann – formerly the Három Holló (Three Ravens) coffees later one is a dirty dive frequented by poet Endre Ady.

The famous Japanese Coffee – named because of its decorative oriental walltiles – is a bookstore today, while the old Reitter Coffee in the Dreschler Palace is closed, just as the Savoy on the Octogon. Beside the Operahouse, we find other musical institutes, the Old Music Academy (Franz Liszt Museum today), the Zoltán Kodály Museum (previously the Andrássy Garden), and the New Academy of Music (new? Already 110 old!) nearby the „Broadway of Budapest”, the Nagymező street. The Nagymező street gives home to numerous theatres, cabaret (here was the Orfeum of the city), the Puppet Theater, and to the House of the Hungarian Photographers, located in an enchanting secession style building. One of the most fascinating buildings of the Andrássy Avenue is the Párizsi Nagyáruház (Parisian Grand Department Store) opened in 1911, with an imposing Art Nouveau facade. This seven-story building, built in 1882, was formerly the Teréz Town Casino, and when textile magnate Sámuel Goldberger bought the premises he kept the ballroom, the Lotz Room, which still exists. The roof terrace – today the most popular roofbar of Budapest, 360 Bar – even had a skating rink in the winter.
Octogon, closing the first third of the avenue, once on the path of a deep stream, has also been through a series of names. Called Octogon, originally after its shape, the square in 1936 it was named after Mussolini, and from 1950 called 7th November square, after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Kodály körönd is possibly the most stunning, atmospheric circle in Budapest, once upon a time the circle was the border between the most elegant villas, i.e. the high society, and the ordinary houses of the ordinary (still not poor, and not even middle class!) citizen. Four statues grace each corners of this park, two of which them was still presented to the city by Franz Joseph I. One can not sense it, but the avenue is widening, as we walk into the direction of the Heroe’s Square. It is only 33 m wide in the centre, and in its first third there are no service lanes, neither double alley of sycamor trees, which appear only after passing the Octogon. The builders intended to create the illusion, that we are proceeding from the city rush into the nature. The regulations of building houses served this puporse too: from Kodály körönd to the Heroe’s Square there were front yards prescribed, and separated villas framed the avenue. The size of green areas is growing constantly, as we get closer to the City Park. The services lanes once upon a time were used for riding, and the street was open only for carriages, fiacres, spring carriages and walking locals. Even the noise was tried to be controlled: to swallow the noise arised by the horseshoes, the avenue originally was covered by netly arranged wooden cubics. On Andrássy street locates the Hungarian Operahouse, the sgrafittos-decorated University of Arts, and Budapest’s House of Terror too.

The Andrássy avenue was opened in 1872, and – lined with spectacular neo-renaissance mansions and townhouses featuring fine facades and interiors – was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. Under Andrássy street runs the continent’s first metro, the Millenium Underground, opened in 1896, also part of UNESCO World Heritage.

Photos: I G, flickr.com; Dimitris Kamaras, flick.com; taver, flick.com; Costel Slincu, flickr.com; hillman54 on flickr.com

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Ildiko

Ildiko

Ildiko is our lead tourguide, author of our content and tour itineraries. If you have any questions please do feel free to reach out: hello@budapestdaytrips.com

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