Budapest’s Art Nouveau

Budapest’s Art Nouveau

Art-Nouveau-2At the turn of the 20th century, roughly between 1880 and 1914, Art Nouveau was the fashioniable and cutting­edge new aesthetic for architecture, applied arts and fine art all over Europe. Hungary developed its own spin on the movement called “Hungarian Secession” (in Habsburg Austria, Art Nouveau was called Secession). This tour of Budapest’s distinctive and elegant Art Nouveau construction will take you along the finest examples of this specific style, among them buildings designed by the founding father of Hungarian Secession Ödön Lechner, also known as the Gaudi of Hungary.

Art-Nouveau-3In fact, Art Nouveau became so popular in Budapest (and in many provincial towns in Hungary, as well) so it is impossible to see all Art Nouveau buildings in one day. This introductory tour takes you along some of the Art Nouveau highlights in downtown Pest, the two most important buildings of which are no doubt the Palace of the Royal Post, designed by Lechner – a very frivolous and Gaudi­like design –, and the Gresham Palace, today the number one luxury hotel in Budapest but at the time built by the founder of the London Stock Exchange Lord Gresham as an office space and a series of luxury apartments for Hungarian nobility. Fortunately, both buildings allow visitors into the entrance hall, so we cannot only admire the wonderful details on the outside, but also enjoy a short peek at the interior during our discussion of Art Nouveau design elements.

Other stops on this walk include a flower shop which still has its original interior, a department store, several bank offices and a small but exquisite Art Nouveau museum/ coffee house – a wonderful private initiative. You’ll examine a series of ceramics from the renowned Zsolnay factory in Pécs, a town in the south of Hungary. The extensive use of such ceramics on the exterior of the buildings (the roof and the façade) as well as in the interior, is one of the most typical features of Hungarian Art Nouveau. These decorations only became possible after Zsolnay made some groundbreaking inventions for which he came to be known all over the Hapsburg Empire (the roof of the Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna is also made of Zsolnay tiles).

Art-Nouveau-4Another routine Hungarian Art Nouveau feature is the use of Asian motifs and elements in decoration, a reference to the supposed eastern origins of the Hungarian nation, although we also discuss the European­wide Orientalism that influenced Art Nouveau. Some elements of the tour are dependent on the day of the week: On weekends we cannot enter the Hungarian National Bank which has some very fine examples of Zsolnay porcelain, while the orthodox synagogue with its exquisite Art Nouveau interior is closed on Saturdays. But we can adapt the tour, also to your specific wishes, and if you like we can of course also offer you a more extensive tour, which also comprises some of the other Art Nouveau jewels in Budapest such as the Gellért Bath Hotel, the Museum of Applied Arts and the Geology Museum.

ZoltanZoltán Csipke was born and raised in Los Angeles. After starting his PhD in History at the University of Liverpool in 2006, he moved to Budapest in 2007 for his research, where he has lived ever since. Zoltán’s research focused specifically on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and collective memory, with a wider interest in the Cold War. He formerly lectured at Eötvös Loránd University and the Balassi Institute, having also been a senior editor at the All Hungary Media Group, where he focused on Hungarian politics and Budapest nightlife. He can frequently be found wandering the streets of Budapest with his camera as he indulges in his hobby of cityscape photography or providing impromptu history lessons at a table with friends in one of the city’s cafés or ruin pubs.
RunaRuna Hellinga is a freelance journalist, writing for Dutch newspapers. She came to Hungary in 1989 when communism was just collapsing and the century’s most exciting political, economical and social changes were unfolding. From 1994, she spent a number of years in South Africa, covering the end of Apartheid in that country for the Dutch press. In 1998 she returned to Hungary as a freelancer, and has been living in the country ever since, first in Budapest and the last couple of years in the small Baroque town of Vác. In 2008 she wrote a book about Budapest, covering the city’s history and culture, but also the social and political developments from the times of the Romans until today. Together with her husband Henk Hirs (also a journalist) she organizes themed tours, covering subjects from Jugendstil architecture and the remnants of the Turkish occupation to the communist past. As a correspondent, she can also offer a lot of insight in recent Hungarian political and cultural developments. On request, she also organizes tours around special subjects like Hungarian literature or current social issues.
HenkHenk Hirs is a Dutch radio and newspaper journalist who first came to Hungary in the summer of 1989, when the country was in the midst of pulling down the Iron Curtain. He has been reporting on its many ups and downs ever since,getting to know the people, their turbulent history, their various cultures and their impossible language in the process. Between 2006 and 2010, he was editor in chief of Business Hungary, the monthly magazine of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary. After living in Budapest for many years, in 2008 he moved with his wife, Runa (also a distinguished journalist), to the lovely little Baroque town of Vác close to the Hungarian capital. Suddenly, he got to know “the other Hungary” of gracious suburban town life. He has published several books on the country, among them a tourist guide which he updates yearly. He is also the co-author of various Dutch-language blogs on current events and tourism developments.
CsabaCsaba Tibor Tóth born and raised in Szeged, acquired a distinguished interest in the history of his country quite early on, finishing his BA studies in 2010 at the University of Szeged, with a double major in history and cultural anthropology. On the cultural anthropology track, he finished a thesis on the beginnings of Hungarian Jewish Folklore in the 1890’s, then he expanded on with this topic at Central European University, where he achieved a MA with Honors in 2011. In order to study Jewish history and culture in a broader context, Csaba went through a second Masters program at the University of Southampton, UK in 2012. He currently works at Budapest’s Holocaust Memorial Center in as a guide and educator, while regularly blogging in Hungarian about the country’s history and daily politics.
  • Reserve Your Walk

    For walks within 48 hours, please e-mail a request to: [email protected]
    or phone: (+420) 777 036 515

    To order a private tour for your group of up to 10, click Reserve Private Walk

 

Starting Location:
Information Center to the right of the Hungarian Parliament (under the square).
Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér,
1055 Hungary

 

Groups of over 10 should contact us at [email protected] in order to get a special rate for their party.

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