A Guide to Visiting the Budapest Chain Bridge
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Read About More Things to Do in Budapest Near the Chain Bridge
Introduction to the Budapest Chain Bridge
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd) is a Budapest icon. The first bridge to connect Buda and Pest, walking across the bridge is one of the most popular things to do in Budapest!
On the Pest side of the river, the Chain Bridge ends at Széchenyi Square, with the magnificent Gresham Palace (home to the Four Seasons Hotel) and Hungarian Academy of Sciences at its foot.
On the Buda Side, the Chain Bridge ends at Clark Adam Tér, where you can catch the funicular up to Castle Hill. Clark Adam Tér is named after Adam Clark, the Scottish civil engineer who spent a decade overseeing the bridge’s construction. He also built the adjoining tunnel, which goes under Buda Castle.
History & Facts About the Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge is the first permanent bridge to span the Danube in Budapest. Construction took almost 10 years, from 1840 to 1849. Remarkably, it continued throughout the Hungarian Revolution of 1848-1849.
The bridge was inspired and funded by Count Széchenyi, for whom it’s named. During a particularly tough winter, the temporary pre-cursor to the Chain Bridge couldn’t be used due to ice. Széchenyi decided a permanent solution was in order.
In 1836, the Hungarian Parliament agreed to the bridge, and Széchenyi set about raising funds from some of the nobility. Gyorgy Sina (Georgios Sinas), a Viennese banker, funded a large chunk of it. Today you can see the Sina Coat of Arms on the foot of the bridge.
The bridge was inaugurated in 1849, following the end of the revolution.
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Book Your Budapest Hotel in Advance
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Skip the Line in Budapest
Budapest is getting busier by the year, meaning you should expect to wait in line at the most popular attractions, especially in high season. If you only have a short vacation, consider getting a Skip-the-Line ticket for the most popular attractions: The Great Synagogue, Széchenyi Thermal Baths, and the Parliament. If you want to visit the interior of the Parliament, you have to pre-book. You can either use an international tour aggregator like Get Your Guide or use the Hungarian website Jegymester.hu.
Book Your Budapest Tour
Why use an aggregator instead of going direct? Personally, we like to compare the different tours available for each attraction, as well as read reviews. Both Get Your Guide and Viator let us see multiple, similar tours, and compare prices and past reviews before making a booking.
Getting from Budapest Airport to the City Center
Budapest’s public transportation system is generally excellent, and this extends to the airport. For a detailed post about getting from Budapest Airport to the City Center via public transit, shared shuttle, or airport taxi, read our guide here.
If you’re arriving late at night, coming in on a long-haul and expect to be exhausted, or would rather have the peace of mind of a private transfer, you can book one here.
Buy Travel Insurance (Just in Case)
We can’t actually recommend a travel insurance provider. Apparently it’s against the law.
However, we can say this: we know several people who racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses during separate, life-or-death situations while traveling. They were both insured by Allianz, they both received life-saving care, and they both made a successful claim.
No one wants to need travel insurance, but you’ll certainly be glad you have it if something goes wrong. And if something does go wrong in Budapest, we personally go to FirstMed for our healthcare. Staff and doctors speak English.
Make Restaurant Reservations in Advance
If you visit Budapest in winter, you’ll probably be okay if you don’t make restaurant reservations, although we’d still recommend you reserve in advance Thursday to Saturday evenings where possible.
In summer, things fill up pretty quickly, although capacity at many restaurants increases when the city’s terraces open, usually sometime in May. It’s worth noting Budapest’s restaurants are all non-smoking inside, but get quite smoky on the terraces.
Architecture and Decoration of the Budapest Chain Bridge
While you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, the way the Chain Bridge looks is what makes it one of the top attractions in Budapest.
The Chain Bridge’s design comes from English civil engineer, William Tierney Clark.
Clark hailed from Bristol, and was responsible for some of the world’s first suspension bridges. He designed the original Hammersmith Bridge in London. It was the first suspension bridge to cross the Thames.
He also designed Marlow Bridge, a suspension bridge that crosses the Thames between Marlow and Bisham, in the UK. The Marlow Bridge ended up as a smaller version of the Chain Bridge, as Clark used it as a model for Budapest’s famous bridge. They do look remarkably similar!
Construction of the Chain Bridge in Budapest
Construction was supervised by the Scottish civil engineer, Adam Clark. When the bridge was built, it was a feat of engineering for the time; it was the 4th-longest bridge in the world.
Clark Adam Ter, the square on the Buda side of the Chain Bridge, honours Clark for his role in the bridge’s construction – and its survival through the Hungarian revolution. From here, you catch the funicular up to Castle Hill, where you’ll find some of Budapest’s best things to do, including Buda Castle, Sandor Palace, Fishermans Bastion and Matthias Church.
The Chain Bridge in Hungarian History
Clark not only played a significant role in getting the bridge built; he also navigated a few situations in which the bridge would have almost surely been destroyed without him.
Specifically, he saved the bridge twice during the Hungarian Revolution, before the bridge even had the chance to open.
On the first occasion, he received intel that the Austrian Habsburg Army was planning to blow-up the bridge to disrupt the Hungarian revolutionaries from crossing the river between Pest and Buda. Clark flooded the bridge’s anchoring chambers to increase stability, and destroyed the pumps, ensuring they’d stay flooded. While the Austrians tried to blow the bridge, only 3 of the 4 canisters detonated and the bridge survived relatively unscathed.
Then, in June of the same year (1849), he heard the Hungarians planned to demolish the bridge, this time to prevent the Austrians from getting from Buda to Pest. Clark met with the commander, and they agreed to disassemble the bridge’s platform. Pieces were taken down and set adrift on the Danube. It was done in a way they could gather them back together at a later date, to reassemble the bridge.
Clark also helped Kossuth Lajos’ army retreat across the Chain Bridge in late 1848, about a year before the bridge was opened. Despite being incomplete and untested, up to 70,000 men and 300 pieces of artillery crossed the bridge during this retreat.
Updates and Refurbishments to the Chain Bridge
To date, the Chain Bridge has undergone two renovations. From 1913 to 1915 and from 1947 to 1949. During the first refurbishment, the bridge’s width was expanded from 14 meters (45.9 feet) to 14.8 meters (48.6 feet) due to increased traffic demands.
The second renovation was due to World War II. The Chain Bridge was by and large destroyed during the war, along with several other bridges in Budapest.
The Chain Bridge is slated to undergo a third refurbishment soon. The date seems to keep changing, but you’d best enjoy the bridge while you still can! Once the refurbishment starts, estimates say it will be closed for several years.
Some Interesting Facts About the Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge was designed in sections in the UK. The sections were then shipped to Budapest for assembly.
The bridge is 16 meters (52.5 feet) wide and 375 meters (1,230.31 feet) long.
One striking feature of the bridge is the lion statues at each end, along with Hungary’s coat of arms. The stone lions were carved by sculptor János Marschalkó, who didn’t include the Lions’ tongue.
The Buda end of the bridge holds the Széchenyi and Sina coats of arms, cast by András Gál. Another stone sculpture carved by Miklós Borsos, the oval-shaped milestone “0”, can be found here as well.
How to Get to the Chain Bridge
If you’re starting in the Castle District, you can ride the Castle Hill Funicular, or Sikló, to Clark Adam Square. A one-way ticket costs 900 HUF for adult passengers and 550 HUF for child passengers. A round trip ticket costs 1500 HUF for adult passengers and 1000 HUF for child passengers. This ride will bring you to the Buda side of the bridge.
If you’re starting in Pest, it’s an easy walk to the Chain Bridge from other major landmarks, such as the Hungarian Parliament Building, Elizabeth Square, or St. Stephen’s Basilica.
Where to See Nice Views of the Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge is lovely to walk over, but it’s also an attractions that’s lovely from afar. If you want to get some great photos of the Chain Bridge, we suggest the following three spots:
The Castle District terminal of the Castle Hill Funicular provides a lovely view looking down on Clark Adam Square and the Chain Bridge.
Gellert Hill / The Citadel provides a beautiful view of the Danube and both sides of the city. The Chain Bridge features prominently in this view.
The river banks of the Danube – either looking north or south!
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