Few cities in the world have such a close relationship with a river as Budapest does with the Danube. Since Budapest is two cities in one, Buda and Pest, and they’re both separated by this great river, the only way to get from one part to the other is by crossing the many bridges in the city, each with its own bit of history.
The river Danube is the second largest river in Europe after the river Volga, travelling a total of 1777 miles (2860km) through various countries in Central and Eastern Europe, starting in Germany and ending up in the Black Sea in Romanian territory. Throughout its course, the river has a big part to play in the cities and towns it goes through, and no better example than Budapest. The river divides the city in two and, as such, the parts of Buda and Pest could not be more different from one another. To get from one side to the other, a total of eight bridges cross the river and each has its own story to tell.
Starting at the most northern point in the city, Megyeri Bridge is one of the newest ones in the city and it’s Hungary’s first ever cable-stayed bridge, a spectacular work of architecture that serves as a motorway to cars with two lanes going in each direction. It’s 1.8km long (6100ft) and it cost $300m to build. Its views are truly spectacular, not to be missed if you’re travelling to or from the Hungarian capital by car.
Further south, crossing the most northern side of Margaret Island is Árpád Bridge. This bridge is actually the second longest bridge in Budapest at 981m, (3200ft), and it gets its name from the Grand Prince Árpád, the second Grand Prince of the Magyars back in the 9th century. Construction began in 1939 but wasn’t finished until 1950, and was named Stalin Bridge due to the Soviet occupation of Hungary, but the name change only lasted eight years.
If Árpád Bridge crosses the north of Margaret Island, Margaret Bridge is right at the most southern part of the homonymous island. This is the second oldest bridge in the city and it’s perhaps the easiest bridge to recognise from the air because it’s not straight, having a 35º angle shape that goes over the tip of the island. Built in 1872 by the French architect Ernest Goüin, it crosses the Danube a total of 637m (2100ft).
The next one further down is perhaps the most famous one in the city, the Chain Bridge. This is the oldest (built in 1849), most beautiful and popular bridge in Budapest, and it gets its name from the ‘chains’ that hang and connect the two main pillars on the bridge. The bridge is best visited at night, when it’s all lit up, an amazing view especially with the Hungarian Parliament in the Background.
Buda Castle stands in between, on mainland, the Chain Bridge and Elizabeth Bridge, a bridge named after Empress Elizabeth, finished in 1903. Like all Budapest bridges, it was destroyed in WW2 but it was reconstructed once again in 1964 with a much more modern structure. However, its minimalist design today is quite different from the old one, although its white colour and elegancy make it still a very attractive piece of architecture.
Further down is Liberty Bridge, a simple bridge of light green colour that reminisces of the great bridges in England built during the Industrial Revolution. Built between 1894 and 1896, this bridge is the shortest one in Budapest, running only 334m (1100ft). There are bronze statues on top of the masts that are located on the bridge in the shape of a Turul bird, a Hungarian icon.
Petőfi Bridge was until a few years ago the southernmost public bridge in the city and it was named after the famous Hungarian poet Sándor Petőfi. It held that aforementioned title until the construction of Lágymányosi Bridge, the newest bridge in the city, with a unique lighting system, that connects the developing southern parts of Buda and Pest, with the National Theatre at the Pest end.