The Hungarian Parliament Building (Hungarian: Országház, pronounced [ˈorsaːkhaːz], which translates to House of the Country or House of the Nation), also known as the Parliament of Budapest for being located in that city, is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings, a notable landmark of Hungary and a popular tourist destination of Budapest. It lies in Lajos Kossuth Square, on the bank of the Danube. It is currently the largest building in Hungary and still the highest building in Budapest.
Budapest was united from three cities in 1873 and seven years later the Diet resolved to establish a new, representative Parliament Building, expressing the sovereignty of the nation. The building was planned to face the river. An international competition was held, and Imre Steindl emerged as the victor; the plans of two other competitors were later also realized in the form of the Ethnographic Museum and the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture, both of which face the Parliament Building. Construction from the winning plan was started in 1885 and the building was inaugurated on the 1000th anniversary of the country in 1896, and completed in 1904. (The architect of the building went blind before its completion.)
About one thousand people were involved in construction, during which 40 million bricks, half a million precious stones and 40 kilograms (88 lb) of gold were used. Since World War II the legislature became unicameral and today the government uses only a small portion of the building. During the communist regime a red star perched on the top of the dome, but was removed in 1990. Mátyás Szűrös declared the Hungarian Republic from the balcony facing Kossuth Lajos Square on 23 October 1989.
The Parliament Building is in the Gothic Revival style; it has a symmetrical façade and a central dome. The dome is Renaissance Revival architecture. Also from inside the parliament is symmetrical and thus has two absolutely identical parliament halls out of which one is used for the politics, the other one is used for guided tours. It is 268 m (879 ft) long and 123 m (404 ft) wide. Its interior includes 10 courtyards, 13 passenger and freight elevators, 27 gates, 29 staircases and 691 rooms (including more than 200 offices). With its height of 96 m (315 ft), it is one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest, along with Saint Stephen’s Basilica. The number 96 refers to the nation’s millennium, 1896, and the conquest of the later Kingdom of Hungary in 896.
The main façade overlooks the River Danube, but the official main entrance is from the square on the east side of the building. Inside and outside, there are altogether 242 sculptures on the walls.
The façade displays statues of Hungarian rulers, Transylvanian leaders and famous military figures. The coats of arms of kings and dukes are depicted over the windows. The east stairs is flanked by two lions.
When entering the Parliament, visitors can walk up great ornamental stairs, see frescoes on the ceiling and pass by the bust of the creator, Imre Steindl, in a wall niche. Other statues include those of Árpád, Stephen I and John Hunyadi.
One of the famous parts of the building is the hexadecagonal (sixteen-sided) central hall, with huge chambers adjoining it: the Lower House and the Upper House. The modern National Assembly is unicameral and meets in the Lower House, while the Upper House is used as a conference and meeting room. The Holy Crown of Hungary, which is also depicted in the coat of arms of Hungary, has been displayed in the central hall since 2000.
Further features include the stained glass and glass mosaics by Miksa Róth.
Due to its extensive surface and its detailed handiwork, the building is almost always under renovation.
Accessibility and neighbourhood
The Parliament is accessible with Line 2 of the Budapest Metro and with tram line 2, from the Kossuth Lajos Square station. At the east front of the building is a memorial to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, as well as the imposing Kossuth Memorial and the equestrian statue of Francis II Rákóczi. A seated statue of Attila József as described in his poem By the Danube occupies a site on the south lawn. Martyrs’ Square (Vértanúk tere) is immediately adjacent to Kossuth Square, with a statue of Imre Nagy.