Insider’s Guide: Heroes’ Square in Budapest

  • 10 Jul 2023 1:53 PM
Insider’s Guide: Heroes’ Square in Budapest
Of Budapest’s many landmarks, few make a statement as bold as Heroes’ Square, Hősök tere to Hungarians, bookending Andrássy út before the greenery of City Park.

In our continuing series of in-depth profiles of the city’s most prominent, revered and lesser-known sights, we pay a visit to the nation’s great pantheon.

What is Heroes’ Square in Budapest?

Flanked by two stately galleries, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Műcsarnok Palace of Art, Heroes’ Square features facing colonnades of Corinthian columns are lined with statues of medieval kings, political leaders and statesmen, centrepieced by a 36-metre-high column of the Archangel Gabriel holding the Crown of St Stephen and the Apostolic Cross.

Top tips for Heroes’ Square in Budapest

You can follow the history of Hungary by checking the figures that run from the far left to the far right along the twin colonnades at the back of Heroes’ Square. These begin with St Stephen, founder of the nation in 1000, continue to Béla IV who rebuilt Buda Castle after its devastation by the Mongol hordes, move over to the great Renaissance king Matthias Corvinus and culminate with revolutionary statesman Lajos Kossuth, who had not long been buried when the square was being landscaped.

Why was Heroes’ Square created?

Heroes’ Square was designed to showcase the great millennial celebrations of 1896, marking 1,000 years of Hungarians conquering this part of the Carpathian Basin. Many of the events took place in City Park just behind it, while the yellow metro, the first underground line on Continental Europe, was laid beneath Andrássy út in order for people to reach the main site quickly.

Since then, many seminal events have been held here, most notably the 1989 reburial of 1956 hero Imre Nagy, an important milestone in the collapse of Communism in Hungary.

When was Heroes’ Square created?

While the square was created for the Hungarian millennial celebrations of 1896, nearly all of the statues were added later, some dating to as recently as 1955. This is because five of them were Habsburg monarchs, replaced after World War I, reinstated by authoritarian leader Miklós Horthy between the wars, and then removed once more after World War II.

The architect who created the square, Albert Schickedanz, also built the Műcsarnok in 1895 and the Museum of Fine Arts by 1906.

Where in Budapest is Heroes’ Square?

Heroes’ Square forms both a grandiose entrance to City Park behind it and a stately bookend to showcase boulevard, Andrássy út. As you walk towards it from Oktogon, you see the tall column of the Archangel Gabriel beckoning ahead. Villas and embassies line each side of the road on your way there.

Heroes’ Square has its own stop on the yellow metro line M1, Hősök tere, allowing to ride all the way there from Vörösmarty tér near the Danube in a matter of minutes.

What else should I know about Heroes’ Square?

The Museum of Fine Arts was recently renovated, at the same time that its permanent collection was partly interchanged with the one at the National Gallery. You still find classic European art from 1250 to 1800, including works by Raphael, El Greco and Titian, but now you also find their Hungarian counterparts from 1600 to 1800, Baroque brought to the forefront.

The Műcsarnok Palace of Art shows modern and contemporary works in a regularly changing agenda of temporary exhibitions – it has no permanent collection.

Why visit Heroes’ Square in Budapest?

As well as to visit one or both of the heavyweight art galleries on each side of the square, Heroes’ Square is high up the list of any sightseeing tour of Budapest thanks to its grandiose, historic undertones.

You may also visit for a particular event – in September, the square is given over to hussars and their horses, entertaining crowds as part of the annual National Gallop.

Words by Peterjon Cresswell for
Peterjon has been researching the byways of Budapest for 30 years, extending his expertise across Europe to produce guidebooks for Time Out and his own website

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