Statues in Budapest Are Top Attractions Too
Budapest has many surprises for you: for example this East European city is littered with beautiful statues dedicated to different historical figures or famous characters. As you walk around the city you will find many sculptures. I cannot show you all the interesting statues, however I wouldn't like you to miss the experience, so I choose some really interesting pieces.
Hungarians has their own Statue of Liberty, an impressive fourteen-metre-high woman holding a palm leaf in her hands. The Freedom Memorial, has a prominent position on Gellért Hill in central Budapest on the western side of the Danube River. It originally comemorated the Soviet liberation from NAzi German rule. (In 1944 German troops invaded Hungary; 9 months later on 29 December 1944, the Soviets completed the encirclement of Budapest and the siege of Budapest was one of the longest and bloodiest battles in the entire war.)
The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of hope and joy and can be seen from all parts of Budapest which is why the statue has not been removed after the fall of the socialism.
The sculptor, Zsigmond Kisfaludy-Strobl spotted its model on the street, the girl, Erzsébet who was waiting for the tram. She was afraid at first, but the artist gave her his business card. Erzsébet’s girlfriend convinced her to accept the offer. Posing for a statue wasn't easy at all: she had to cut off her long, beautiful hair off and had to stand in the same posture for weeks, each time holding the palm-branch in the wind for 20 minutes.
Two smaller statues are also present around the base, but the original monument consisted of two more pieces: two statues of soldiers that have since been removed from the site.
How can you get to the Statue of Liberty? Using the hop on hop off buses, there are a few to choose from and they take you right there. Or you can cross the Liberty Bridge and walk up the stairs and pathways until the Freedom Memorial.
Liberty Statue, Budapest
The rocky Gellert Hill, that was named after the martyr bishop who was executed here by the pagans, has another important sculpture: the Statue of Gellert.
The hill is 235 metres high and rises above the river about 130 metres. Just like the Castle District it is part of the UNESCO World heritage sites. The statue of Saint Gellert guards the city from the hillside. Underneath the memorial there is a waterfall illuminated in the summer nights.
In the eleventh century, Gellért, the Benedictine Abbot of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice was on his way to Palestine on a pilgrimage when he was detained by King Stephen, the ruler of Hungary who asked Gellert to stay here and tutor his son Imre. And he asked to help convert the pagan Hungarians to Christianity. Gellért remained in the country under the protection of the king.
But a few years after King Stephen's death, insurgents who wanted a return to paganism captured Gellért in Buda. According to legend, he was sent to his demise in a barrel pierced with nails and rolled down this hill. The hill was later named Gellért in honor of this brave man.
This splendid Art Nouveau fountain is one of the most beautiful sculptures in Budapest. The Fountain is in the Buda Castle on the Hunyadi Court, featuring King Matthias in a royal hunting scene with a hidden love story.
Following the Mongol Invasion in 1241, King Bela IV wanted to establish a well-defendable royal centre. On a rocky height rising above a crossing place across the Danube he founded Buda, which over the centuries was to become the residence of the kings and the capital of the country.
In the 13th century the Anjou dynasty built a Gothic palace and later in the 15th century King Matthias had it reconstructed in Italian Renessaince style. From the Turkish occupation of Buda in 1541 the palace began to fall into ruin and by the time the town was liberated in 1686 it had been almost fully destroyed.
In the 18th century the Habsburgs rebuilt the ruins into a new palace to be constantly added to until the end of the 19th century. This new palace had over 1000 richly decorated suits and a gigantic ballroom. But during the WWII the building suffered serious damages; in the '60s the palace was rebuilt but the splendid interior, the frontal ornaments and window, and the old dome were destroyed. The building now houses The National Gallery, The National Szécheny Library and the Budapest History Museum.
Behind the Gallery by the northern wall of the Sigismund Chapel, in the Hunyadi udvar (courtyard) is Mátyásákút or Matthia Well from 1904 showing the famous Hungarian Renessaince king, Matthias, the builder of the Royal Palace of Buda as a huntsman. On the left Szép Ilonka can be seen, a beautiful girl of low birth who fell in love with the king, not knowing who he was.
According to legend, King Matthias Hunyadi, the fairest king of the country, went hunting - he often disguised himself to see the true affairs of the Hungarian Kingdom. During the adventure, he met a girl called Szép Ilonka (in English: Beautiful Helen). They fell in love, but when the girl found out that the man was the king himself, she realised that their love could never come complete and she died from a broken heart.
The stunning fountain shows the royal hunting scene with the bronze figure of King Matthias holding a crossbow in his hand, standing near a dead deer. At his feet there are three hunting dogs, his gamekeeper and his shield bearer.
To the left you can see the seated figure of Galeotto Marzio, the Italian court historian of the king. Galeotto Marzio was the first who wrote the legend of Szép Ilonka. On the right side of the composition you can see the figure of the girl feeding a young deer.
The satute of Queen Elisabeth decorates Döbrentei Square. Elisabeth was the beloved – and unhappy - wife of Emperor Franz Joseph. The kind hearted Empress loved Hungary and its people; she spent many happy years in the country.
She loved it far more than Austria. She fell in love with Hungary and the Hungarians and the queen learned Hungarian and spoke it fluently. Elisabeth – or Sisi as Franz Joseph called her - liked to be in the company of Hungarians and surrounded herself with Hungarian servants. The castle in Gödöllő was her favorite summer residence.
Several sites in Hungary were named after her: two of Budapest's districts, the amazing white Elisabeth Bridge, a huge square in the heart of the city etc.
Her bronze statue can be seen in a small and noisy garden by the Buda at the side of the Elisabeth Bridge surrounded by busy ways. The statue was erected in 1932 and was designed by the famous sculptor György Zala. It commemorates the assassination of the Empress by Italian anarchist Luigi Luccheni on September 10th, 1898. Did you know? This statue once stood on the other side of the city but was moved in 1947 and brought this location in 1985.
The Girls on Dunakorzó (Danube Promenade)
A spectacular panorama can be enjoyed from Dunakorzó, the promenade of the river Danube between Elisabeth Bridge and Chain Bridge. In the second half of the 19th century - during the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy - they built a row of hotels here including the Carlton, the Bristol, the Hungária or the Ritz with a promenade called Korzó.
One of the most popular attractions is the statuette sitting in a fence called Little Princess (in Hungarian: Kiskirálylány) The sculptor modeled it after his own daughter who often played wearing a princess costume and a crown made out of newspaper by her father. A copy of the same statue stands in Tokyo too – donated by the artist – in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre's concert hall.
The other pice is the statue of a girl with her dog on Dunakorzó and is located exactly at the Vigadó square. You can spot it easily, she is sitting on a bench in the middle of the promenad. "Another one of those quirky statues that I love. Budapest seems to have this lovely tradition of statues at unexpected places - ordinary people, many times... frozen in place" - writes a visitor on TripAdvisor.
Near the Hungarian Parliament Building you can find an impressive composition. Leaving the Kossuth ter towards the southest stands the statue of the former Prime minister Imre Nagy, the martyr of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
The monument erected in 1996 to render homage to the president of the reformist government that defied the Soviet Union in 1956. The revolution was crushed and Imre Nagy was executed in 1958.
UPDATE IN 2019: The statue of former Hungarian leader Imre Nagy has been removed from its original location on a little bridge overlooking Vértanúk tere and Parliament beyond. According to reports, after restoration, this bespectacled bronze figure will be relocated next summer to Jászai Mari tér.
The Weirdest Statue of Budapest is Columbo’s
According to Hungarian urban legends Peter Falk is a great-grandson of Miksa Falk, the well-known Hungarian politician, journalist and author of the 19th century. In 2014 the Mayor of the V District in Budapest installed a bronz statue depicting the actor Peter Falk as the famous American TV detective, Columbo. And the street where this statue has been placed has been named after Miksa Falk.
As the Atlas Obscura writes this interesting story: „Peter Falk is known to have had Hungarian roots on one side of his family, although it has never been linked to Miksa Falk’s family. Some have also questioned the timing of the statue’s installation given that Peter Falk passed away in 2011, meaning that it is unlikely to commemorate his passing either.”
Upon leaving the Hungarian Agricultural Museum or Vajdahunyad Castle, take a look at Miklós Ligeti's statue opposite the main entrance, entitled Anonymous, depicting the so-called unknown chronicler of the Hungarians. This artwork is one of the most popular statues of Budapest.
According to the statue's inscription he may have been a clerk in the 12th century court of King Béla III. Signing himself as P. dictus magister or Master P., he most notably penned the Latin Gesta Hungarorum, the first known written account of Hungarian history. His real identity is still unknown therefore the sculptor has given him a hood that hides his face.
But take a look at his pen, do you soon spot its shiny tip? Bloggers, writers, students and turists stroke it for inspiration; legend says that if you rub his pen, you will become a good writer.