The Chain Bridge of Budapest remains one of the world’s most iconic bridges. It appears proud, beautiful, ludicrously robust and practical, and yet utterly romantic all at the same time. Perhaps some of these characteristics reflect the time of its conception: the era of the Hapsburgs. Whatever adjectives it encourages in the mind, it’s clear that it stands as a testament to the engineering genius of the past. But for the visitor today….
There are a number of delightful bridges in Budapest, but this is the oldest, and as you walk towards it, no other bridge in Budapest tells you so emphatically that you have arrived in the heart of the city. And no other bridge ‘demands that you walk across it’, quite as much as this memorable bridge. It’s perhaps no overstatement, but a visit to Budapest that doesn’t include a stroll over the Chain Bridge, might be seen, to some, as an act of gross negligence. Seriously, if you travel all the way to Budapest, this is one bridge that you mustn’t miss.
A Time Before A Fixed Bridge
But it wasn’t always so. It’s hard to imagine a time when Buda and Pest were separated as two different towns hugging the banks of the Danube. (This part of Danube, that once formed a northern border of the Ancient Roman Empire.) But as the centuries passed, it became clear that the river was dividing the potential formation of a new and wonderful city.
An Idealistic Hero of Hungary
Then came one outstandingly forward-thinking aristocrat who began to dream of building a bridge and joining the two parts of this ‘future city’ forever. The man was Count István Széchenyi. But for Széchenyi, not just any bridge would do. He began searching for the design and the engineer who could build what he had in mind, and he found both in Victorian Britain. He brought both design and engineer over to Hungary to make his dream a reality, and in doing so, ensured that his legacy has remained with us ever since.
Chain Bridge Today
The bridge connects routes that cut through the heart of the city. It links up with a tunnel that goes beneath the Buda Castle, and also to a funicular railway that takes you right up to that castle. On the opposite end of the bridge, in Pest, there is the Gresham Palace, and the nearby Basilica of Saint Stephen: Szent István’s Bazilika. Also, on either side of the bridge, there is an embankment that is a joy to walk, and which gives some of the best views of the city and leads to many tourist attractions.
A Bridge for All Seasons
As a resident of Budapest, I’ve crossed Chain Bridge in all seasons. I’ve seen its decorative lions loom out at me from a thick, icy fog; I’ve crossed over in sleet and snow that came at me horizontally. I’ve crossed the bridge in early-morning springtime, and, months later, I’ve walked back again, on a dreamy summer night. No matter what the season, no matter what the circumstances, the magic never wanes.