Spanning the River Danube between Pest and Buda, Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd in Hungarian) is the oldest and most iconic bridge in the city.
Follow Captain Ulysses on a tour of this symbol of the Hungarian capital!
💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
Are you looking for a hotel in Budapest? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in Budapest? Advice & recommendations
Planning your trip to Budapest? Take a look the Captain’s detailed article on the best things to do: A Guide to Budapest
Brief history of the Corinth Canal
Before the 18th century
Until the 18 th century, Buda and Pest, located on both sides of the Danube, were two distinct cities – they merged with Óbuda in 1873 and were given the name Budapest – and were not connected by any bridge.
A few options existed to travel between Pest and Buda, none of which were ideal:
- the ferry, but the weather often made the crossing impossible (Danube floods, frost, etc.)
- a removable bridge made of boats placed end to end, but the weather was often a problem as well
- waiting until the Danube froze to cross on foot
So the situation was far from ideal!
The construction of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
At the beginning of the 18 th century, Count István Széchenyi (nicknamed “the greatest of Hungarians”) decided to build a permanent bridge to connect the neighboring cities of Pest and Buda. History has it that a family tragedy inspired the construction of the bridge: the unfortunate count was unable to cross the Danube to be with his father before he passed away …
Count Széchenyi spared no effort to bring his project to life. He traveled to England to meet famous civil engineers William Tierney Clark and Thomas Telford, to whom he submitted his project.
In the end, the construction of the bridge was entrusted to William Tierney Clark. Construction works began in 1839 under the supervision of Scottish engineer Adam Clark (who was not related to William Tierney Clark!)
Building the bridge took 10 years and fascinated the entire community of European civil engineers: the Széchenyi Chain Bridge was one of the most ambitious projects of its time.
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge was finally inaugurated in 1849.
🦁 The legend of the lions of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge 🦁
At the entrance to the bridge, on each side, two lion statues stand guard. According to legend, when the statues were revealed to the general public, sculptor János Marschalkó became the laughing stock of all Budapest… According to the inhabitants, he had forgotten to sculpt the lions’ tongues. Desperate, the artist is said to have thrown himself into the Danube from the bridge …
Where does the truth lie? No one knows. Let just say this: the statues do have a tongue (though, not very noticeable)!
The Széchenyi Bridge in the 20th and 21st centuries
On January 18, 1945, German troops destroyed all of Budapest’s bridges, including the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. The bridge was rebuilt as soon as the war ended and reopened on its hundredth anniversary: November 20, 1949.
Today, the Chain Bridge has become an emblem of Budapest. Since 2009, 200 Hungarian forints coins have an effigy of the bridge on the obverse.
Brief description of the Budapest Chain Bridge
Budapest’s Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a chain suspension bridge. The bridge is 375 metres (1,230 ft) and 14.8 metres (49 ft) wide, with a centre span of 202 metres. The centre span rests on two towers, connected to the banks of the river by enormous chains.
The bridge is made of iron and stone, and decorated with bas-reliefs representing the Hungarian and the Széchenyi coats of arms. The entrance to the bridge is watched over by gigantic statues of lions designed by sculptor János Marschalkó.
The view on the Chain Bridge from the banks of the river is particularly spectacular at night, when the bridge is illuminated.
🤩 The view on the Chain Bridge from the River Danube 🤩
As an accomplished sailor, Captain Ulysses can only encourage you to set sail whenever you have the chance! And the good news is: Budapest is perfect for cruises!
Captain recommends 2 cruises in particular:
Getting to the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
The closest subway station is Vörösmarty tér. All the trams running along the River Danube also stop at the bridge,as well as hop-on hop-off bus tours.
👉 Find out more here.
In the 18 th century, people crossing the bridge had to pay toll, but it is now completely free 😊
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in advance!
👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ suggestions!
🛏️ Accommodation: if you’re looking for an accommodation in Budapest, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Expedia. You’ll find a wide choice of hotels, hostels and apartments in the Hungarian capital. The Captain recommends in particular:
– tight budget: Avenue Hostel
– intermediate budget: Agape Apartments
– to treat yourself: Hotel Moments Budapest
🎟️ Activities: as for booking visits and tourist activities, Captain Ulysses recommends three websites: GetYourGuide, Tiqets and Civitatis. Guided tours, cruises, skip-the-line tickets, tourist activities… there’s plenty to choose from!
🎫 Citypass: If you are staying in Budapest for several days, you might want to consider investing in the Budapest Card. It includes free public transport, free entrance to the Lukacs Spa, two guided tours, free entrance to 17 museums, as well as numerous discounts.
🚐 Transfers: Budapest airport is located about twenty kilometers from the city. If you want to take a load off your mind, you can book a private transfer into Budapest’s city centre from the airport. A car will be waiting to take you to your accommodation in the city. Find out more: airport transfer.
🚌Transport in Budapest: Budapest’s public transport system is well-developped and quite easy to navigate: metro, bus, tram and even ferry. If you wish, you can also opt for a hop-on hop-off bus tour which stops at all the top tourist attractions in Rome (audio guide included). Otherwise, there’s always the good old local ways of getting around the city: in a russian jeep or a Trabant.
✈️ Flights: Captain Ulysses highly recommends booking your flights on Skyscanner. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.