A Traveler’s Guide to the Hungarian Parliament Building

There may be no Budapest sight more iconic or more well-known than the Hungarian Parliament building (also called the Országház). Its impressive dome and towering neo-gothic spires have impressed countless visitors--locals and tourists alike.

So, how can you visit Parliament? How much are tickets? What will you even see when you're inside?

Read on to learn how to visit this postcard-perfect tourist destination.

How to Get to Parliament

Although it's on the riverside away from other centers of tourist activity and your vacation rental home in Gellért Hill, Parliament is very accessible. Metro 2 delivers you straight to Kossuth Lajos Tér, as does Tram #2.

Although public transportation can drop you off directly at Parliament, we suggest walking there if you have the time: the 5th district is one of the prettiest parts of Budapest, dotted with grand buildings, riverside views, and leafy parks.

A Brief History of Parliament

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Parliament was a labor of love from the start.

Imre Steindl's design, rooted in the Gothic Revival Style, was chosen by a committee after a country-wide competition. In a delightful turn of events, the two runners-up of the competition were still built in Kossuth Lajos Square.

If you look across from Parliament, you'll see the grand buildings which house the Ministry of Agriculture and the Museum of Ethnography. built in 1896, after Buda, Pest, and Obuda were unified. The construction of Parliament took 17 years, from 1885-1902.

The soaring Gothic spirals are some of the most eye-catching elements, but the design blends in Renaissance and Baroque details as well.

One of Steindl's essential conditions of construction was that Hungarian artisans and materials be used throughout. You can appreciate their handiwork in the thousands of frescos, sculptures, and ironwork that you'll find throughout the building. Unfortunately, Steindl died five weeks before the building's completion.

In 1987, the impressive edifice became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserving Steindl's legacy for many generations to come.

About Kossuth Lajos Square

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Kossuth Lajos Square is often overlooked as people pass through it in order to start their Parliament tour, however, the square has huge historical significance. The site of multiple uprisings and revolutions against both the Hapsburg Empire and the occupying Soviets, Kossuth Square has been the site of much bloodshed.

Visit the underground installations for a closer look at this history.

How to Visit Parliament

Although the grand staircase at the front of Parliament looks inviting, don't try to go up! You'll likely get a few stern words from the soldiers on guard! A guided tour is necessary, and the tourist's entrance to Parliament is via the visitors center on the right side of the building.

How much does it cost to visit Parliament?

Tickets to visit Parliament in Budapest range from 1500 HUF (~3.70€) to 8400 HUF (~20€). EU citizens receive a discount on tickets, so be sure to bring your ID if this applies to you.

How long are tours of Parliament?

Tours last around 45 minutes. The first tour starts at 8:15, and the last tour starts at 3:15. Tours are offered in different languages such as German, French, Spanish, Hungarian, and English. The tours consistently sell out, so make sure to buy tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

Did you know that you can visit Parliament for free?

On some national holidays, such as March 15th, August 20th, or October 23rd, an abbreviated tour of Parliament is offered for free. However, be prepared to wait in a long line for hours. If you want to see all Parliament has to offer, we suggest booking an official tour.

What Will You See in Parliament?

Everything is opulent in Parliament, from the main staircase to the dome hall to the upper house of the national assembly. Other unmissable sights are:

The Holy Crown

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One of the main attractions is the Holy Crown of Hungary, or the Crown of St. Stephen. Shown on the Hungarian crest and currency, this crown is an invaluable part of Hungarian history and nationhood. Crowning over 50 kings since the 12th century, the Byzantine crown is crafted from gold and decorated with precious stones, pearls, and pictures. Some take the tour of Parliament solely for the purpose of viewing Hungary’s crown jewels and this priceless artifact.

The Chamber of Peers

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Parliament is, after all, a meeting place for politicians. Understandably, the Chamber of Peers is a sight to see. The multilevel gallery is crafted from oak panels and ornate gold trim.

Best Places to Take a Photo of Parliament

Don't make this common tourist mistake if you want the perfect Parliament photo opp! It's tempting to arrive at Kossuth Lajos Square and get so excited by its beauty that you take a picture right in the middle. However, from this angle, you can barely see Parliament's impressive dome and spires. Some better angles to take photos of Parliament are:

  • When facing the river, move to the left arm of Parliament. From this diagonal angle, you get the full beauty of the dome, as well as the blooming flower beds in front of the building.
  • Circle around to the back of Parliament and descend the stairs that take you to the riverbank. From here, you can pose on the dramatic staircase and have the building's impressive dome behind you.
  • Take the metro one stop across the river to Batthyány Square. Don't miss this photo-op if you're on the Buda side. From here you get an unobstructed view of the entirety of Parliament, making your pictures look like something straight out of a postcard.
  • Take a river cruise. Not only is sailing up and down the Danube a perfect way to take in the sights, but it'll afford you an up-close look at Parliament from the river. We suggest taking an evening sightseeing cruise so that you can view the building all lit up!

What is Close to Parliament?

Add on to your visit to Parliament by taking in some of the surrounding sights. Budapest is quite a walkable city, so it's easy to fill out your itinerary!

Shoes on the Danube

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Not far from Parliament, on the banks of the Danube, you'll find 60 pairs of 1940s-era shoes belonging to men, women, and children. They're sitting at the river's side, spread out and neglected, as if they'd been kicked off by their owners and left behind.

The shoes are a poignant Holocaust memorial to Hungarian Jews who, during the winter of 1944-45, were marched to the Danube River, told to remove their shoes, and were unceremoniously shot by the terrorizing Arrow Cross Party.

Continue down the river and you’ll soon meet the famous Chain Bridge, on which you can cross over into Buda and continue your time in the city. Do note that the Chain Bridge is currently under construction and will most likely reopen in 2023, although a section of this bridge might be walkable by late 2022.

Margaret Bridge and Margaret Island

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This urban oasis is one of the most popular places to spend a sunny afternoon in Budapest. A large, pedestrianized space, Margaret Island is full of leafy walkways, bars and coffee stands, and wide open fields. It's a perfect place for a leisurely walk or a tandem bike ride. To access this island, walk or take a tram over the decorated Margaret Bridge (which also provides a perfect view of Parliament).

Plan Your Trip to Visit Parliament

Visiting the House of Parliament should be at the top of your list of Budapest sightseeing. Book your tickets ahead and make the most of your visit to this must-see jewel of Europe.

I’m sure you’ll fall in love with the city the moment you arrive but a visit to the picturesque Parliament will be the icing on top of the cake!