Budapest has several beloved old and new bridges connecting Buda and Pest, which are situated on opposite sides of the Danube to the west and east. Buda is on the west of the river and Pest on the east of the river. Apart from the highway bridges on the outskirts of the city there are eight bridges in the centre. “Hid” means bridge.
Make a wish. According to a popular superstition if you make a wish while paddling under a bridge that wish will come true. Well here are your eight chances on our tour:
NORTHERN RAILWAY BRIDGE
Ujpesti vasuti hid is the northernmost is the first bridge that we paddle under.
Arpad hid is situated at the northern end of Margaret Island it is the northernmost public bridge of the capital and the longest one as well spanning 928 meters (“m”). It is a relatively modern structure with a width of 35.3 m and a branch leading to Margaret Island. Its construction started in 1939 but due to World War II it was suspended for five years and ended only in 1950, Between 1970 and 1984 they widened the bridge to its current size by enlarging the piers and basically building two new bridges on both sides of the old one.
This is the second bridge over the Danube in Budapest. The 637.5 m long and 25 m wide bridge was designed and built between 1872 and 1876 by French engineers and their construction company. It is unusual for any bridge that it turns at an angle of 150 degrees in the middle, after leading up to Margaret Island, to continue along the line of the Ring Road. The short extension to connect Margaret Island was hastily inserted into the original plan but not built until two decades later due to lack of funds.
The Chain Bridge (Szechenyi lanchid) might be Budapest’s most renowned landmark, the one that you can see on most pictures and postcards promoting the capital. The first permanent bridge across the Danube in Budapest was opened in 1849. At the time its center span of 202 m was one of the largest in the world. The remarkable structure was designed by the English engineer William Clark in 1839, after Count Istvan Szechenyi’s initiative in the same year. The construction that lasted for seven years was supervised locally by Scottish engineer Adam Clark. Its cast iron ornaments and structure still radiates the calm dignity of the era and is the true monument to industrial achievements of the 19th century Europe. The pairs of lions at each of the bridgeheads were added in 1852. Sadly the bridge was exploded by the retreating German army during World War II (as were all the other bridges in Budapest) but was carefully reconstructed afterwards.
The original Erzsebet hid, which was named after Queen Elisabeth, the popular queen and empress of Austria-Hungary, was a chain bridge construction that was completed in 1903. At the time its single span of 290 m was the longest of its kind among road bridges in the word. In 1945 as other bridges in Budapest it was blown up by the Germans and as the government could not afford to construct an entirely new bridge they used the foundation of the old one to erect the new Elisabeth Bridge between 1961 and 1964. The original chain construction was replaced by a cable bridge method making it the only bridge in Budapest which was not rebuilt in its original form. The currently standing slender white cable bridge’s novelty design unfortunately was not without weaknesses so the tram traffic and its heavy tracks had to be removed from the bridge in 1973 after signs of cracks appeared in the structure.
The Szabadsag hid was built between 1894 and 1896 and opened as part of the millennium celebrations in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph. The last silver rivet on the Pest abutment was inserted into the iron structure by the Emperor himself, and the bridge originally bore his name until 1918 when Hungary became a republic. Although radically different in structure, the bridge imitates the general outline of a chain-type bridge, which was considered an aesthetically preferable form at the time of construction. The 333.6 m long and 20.1 m wide bridge was designed by a foreign architect team under Hungarian guidance. On the top of the four pillars bronze statues of Turul birds (a mystical symbol in Hungarian history) are perching to enhance the oveall attractiveness of the massive green iron and steel structure. On the Pest side you can still see the two toll booths reminiscent of the era when even pedestrians intending to cross the bridge needed to pay for it.
Towards the end of the 19th century when the Ring Road of Pest was formed Budapest desperately needed a new bridge between the south end of the Ring and Buda. It became Petofi Bridge which was built during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Because of tight funding it has little decoration and is merely functional. When it was completed in 1937 they named it after Miklos Horthy, the governor of Hungary but after World War II, when the 514 m long and 25.6 m wide structure was rebuilt its name changed to Petofi after the great Hungarian poet Sandor Petofi.
It was built right next to the Southern Railway Bridge using its enlarged piers. It is the southernmost and newest public bridge in the capital that was opened in 1995 and named after south Buda district of Lagymanyos but then later renamed Rakoczi Bridge. Its most interesting feature is the unique lighting system as the stong light beams are placed at the bottom of the towers aiming at the mirrors on top that are reflecting the light in various directions illuminating the road evenly.