Erzsebet bridge from above
Erzsebet bridge from above

Erzsébet Bridge: A Stormy Past

The origin story of a majestic bridge and its namegiver.


A Beautiful, Tragic Empress

Erzsébet Bridge takes its name from the much-adored Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria, the empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Elisabeth, or ‘Sissi’, as she was affectionately known, was a genuine favorite of the people of Hungary.  Acknowledged all over Europe as being a great beauty, she was tragically assassinated in 1898. The bridge that had the privilege of bearing her name, was suitably alluring and worthy of her memory, but then it too became the victim of a violent act. In World War 2, as with the other bridges in Budapest, the original Erzsébet Bridge was destroyed.  However, unlike the other bridges, the original structure of Erzsébet Bridge was now totally beyond repair.

The old Erzsebet bridge
The original Erzsebet bridge

A Controversial Rebuilding

The bridge that we see today was erected in place of the original in the 1960s, but it proved instantly controversial: for many it was too minimalistic and too modern.  Yes, it still bore the name of ‘Erzsébet’, but it lacked the aesthetic grace that was associated with her.  But not everyone agreed.  Talking to people of Budapest today, many view Erzsébet Bridge as being a neat and clean acceptance of modern functionality.  Whatever anyone’s point of view on the design of Erzsébet Bridge, no one can deny that this bridge now stands out in its own right.

Blueprint of Erzsebet bridge
Blueprint of Erzsebet bridge

A Bustling Bridge

But it has to also be admitted that Erzsébet Bridge is a central point of a very busy transport route that sweeps across the Danube. There are no places for trams on this bridge, and perhaps because of this, cars and buses roar across it, seemingly eager to get the journey over and done with as soon as possible. Of all of the bridges in central Budapest, Erzsébet Bridge is probably the one that feels the least pedestrian-friendly.

Erzsebet bridge during a busy day
Erzsebet bridge during a busy day

The Erzsébet Bridge With A View

But still, it has its charm, and seen from a boat as you approach and pass underneath, it’s easy on the eye. The same is true for those approaching the bridge as they walk along the embankment.  Or, from another angle, at around sunset, you can approach the bridge from Astoria, facing the ‘Square of the Franciscans’, (Ferenciek tere), and if the conditions are favorable, catch a wonderful view of the skyline turning red.

Shot of Erzsebet bridge from Pest
Shot of Erzsebet bridge from Pest

Also, nearby to the bridge, on the Pest side, it leads to some beautiful embankments and also the classy and elegant Váci utca. On the opposite side in Buda, the bridge takes you quite close to the Rácz Thermal Baths and also the Rudas Thermal Baths. All-in-all, Erzsébet Bridge probably won’t be your number one choice of bridges of Budapest that ‘must be walked across’, but it’s worth considering that the view from the middle the structure can be just as stunning as from some of the other bridges. Some other famous bridges of Budapest: Margit híd (Margaret Bridge), Szabadság híd (Liberty Bridge), Széchenyi “Lánchíd” (Széchenyi “Chain Bridge Budapest”)

An unusual view of Erzsebet bridge
An unusual view of Erzsebet bridge

The bridges of Budapest are marvelous. If you want to learn more about these amazing structures, read our article about the topic.

Chain bridge Budapest – the amazing construction that you have to visit if you are in the city!

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