Szent Istvan Bazilika, The Largest Church in Hungary
St. Stephen’s Basilica, the largest church in Budapest, is dedicated to Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen.
About 8 500 people can get in the beautiful Neoclassical cathedral at the same time.
Apart from its vastness, the Basilica offers some unique attractions:
- It houses Hungary’s most sacred treasure, St. Stephen’s mummified right hand, the Szent Jobb (Holy Right Hand),
- Go up the cupola and take in the view of whole Budapest from above!
- Several musical programs are organised in the church throughout the year.
The spacious St. Stephen Square offers plenty terraced cafes and bistros to people watch by a cup of coffee.
Location: Szt. István tér, district V., M3 (blue line) metro Arany János utca station
Open for tourists: Mon-Fri: 9.00-17.00, Sat: 9.00-13.00, Sun: 13.00-17.00
Admission: free (except the lookout in the cupola, that can be visited from spring to autumn, you can enquire at Tel. (+36 1) 311 0839 about exact opening hours before visiting it).
Visiting St. Stephen’s Basilica
Phone: (+36 1) 338 2151 and (+36 30) 703 6599
- Monday-Saturday: 10.00-15.00
The guided tour includes:
- Chapel and the floodlit Holy Right of St. Stephen
- Panorama view from the cupola (only between 1st April-31st October)
- 1 600 HUF for an adult (without going up the cupola: 1 100 HUF)
- 1 200 HUF for pensioners and students (without going up the cupola: 900 HUF)
- guided tour in English, and French (prior request is necessary): 2 000 HUF (without visiting the cupola: 1 500 HUF). Note: foreign-language tours are held for a gorup of min. 10 persons.
The look-out in the cupola can be visited between 1st April-31st October.TIP: Hotel Central Basilica is a fine 3-star Hotel in Budapest City Centre. A great choice if you want to be close to all the sights, restaurants and nightclubs.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral has the great acoustics that you can experience on on an organ concert performed by one of Hungary’s most talented pipe organ players Kolos Kováts.
Price of the Concert:
- 1st cat: 30 EUR, 2nd cat: 26 EUR, 3rd cat: 19 EUR
- Students: 1st cat: 28 EUR, 2nd cat: 24 EUR, 3rd cat: 17 EUR
It took more than 5 decades and 3 architects to build Budapest’s Basilica. Several misfortunate events delayed the works.
József Hild made the designs in 1845 but because of the 1848/49 Revolution and War of Independence works started only in 1851.
After the death of Hild, Miklós Ybl, designer of the Opera House took over overseeing the construction.
In 1868 the dome collapsed, luckily nobody died. Ybl drew up new plans and building started again almost from scratch. He couldn’t see his work completed, since he died in 1891.
József Krauser finished St Stephen’s Basilica in 1906. According to the rumor, at the consecration mass Emperor Francis Joseph kept looking upwards afraid of another collapse of the dome.
The building suffered heavy damages during the bombings in World War II. Reconstructions have only started in the 1980-ies and were finished just recently.
St. Stephen’s Basilica in Numbers
Hungary’s second largest church can take in 8 500 people. It occupies 4 147 square metres.
- Length of the chancel: 86 m,
- Width: 55 m,
- Height of the Towers: 86 m
- Total height of the building: 96 m exactly the same as Budapest Parliament.
The largest bell of the country tolls in the right tower. It weighs 9 tons.
The cathedral has a couple of marvelous stained glass windows designed by Miksa Róth like the one on the photo.
József Hild designed a large neoclassical church similar to the basilica in Esztergom.
The ground plan forms a Greek cross.
Because of the vicinity of the Danube huge foundations had to be constructed that resulted in an underground cellar almost as large as the subsurface building.
Many art treasures and precious documents survived down there the second world war.
After Hild’s death, Ybl reworked the plans creating a neo-Renaissance style church.
You can recognise Ybl’s work at the main facade and the wall along Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út.
Ionic columns and statues of the twelve apostles adorn the outside walls.
You can really experience the vastness of St. Stephen’s basilica from the inside. Walk around and view the works of famous contemporary artists who decorated the interior of the chancel.
They dedicated most of their works to St. Stephen (975-1038), Hungary’s first king. He converted the nomad Hungarian
tribes into Christianity, thus managed to found a strong state between Western and Eastern European empires of the era.
Although it’s a bit dark inside, you can still admire the marvellous frescoes, statues and mosaics.
- Main Altar: statue of St. Stephen carved out from Carrara marble by Alajos Stróbl, Gabriel archangel holds the Holy Crown above the head of the king.
- The 96 m high Dome stands out from the mass of office buildings and apartments in Pest. Four pillars hold the massive structure. A fresco of God the Father dominates the center of the cupola.
- The Patrona Hungariae Altar by Gyula Benczúr depicts St Stephen offering the Hungarian Crown to the Virgin Mary and asking her to be a patron of Hungary.
- The Holy Right of St. Stephen: You can see the most precious treasure of Hungary, the mummified right fist of King Stephen in a small chapel to the left of the Main Altar. The relic is kept in an ornate glass cabinet. Insert a 100 Ft coin and the cabinet lights up.
On 20th August the Holy Right is carried around the Basilica in a procession.
More Interior Photos
Between 1st April-31st October you can admire one of the city’s best panoramic views from the right tower. An elevator takes you up until halfway; from there you have to climb up on stairs.
You’ll climb out into the inside of the dome in a wrought iron construction, and you’ll get to the space between the outside and inside of the dome. Quite an exciting adventure, but the view will compensate you for the trouble. Tickets: full price: 500 HUF, students, retirees: 400 HUF.
You can find numerous attractions in the neighbourhood since district V. is the inner city of Budapest, the centre of business and administration.
The spacious Szt. István Square, where the basilica stands, is great for a walk.
Two fountains stand on the square dedicated to St. Stephen and to his wife Gizella.
The square is flanked by benches and terraced cafes. You can have a nice meal or coffee in one of the numerous fine cafes and restaurants.
TIP: Gelarto Rosa Ice Cream Parlor
In summer, taste the delicious Italian-style ice cream at Gelarto Rosa just a few steps from the Basilica:
A rose is formed artfully from the ice cream making the cool summer dessert pleasing to both the eye and the taste buds. Besides gelato, they have macarons, bonbons, chocolate, cakes, waffles, coffee and hot chocolate.
You can enjoy the desserts in the small terrace facing the Basilica.
You’ll find some really great places to have a good meal and drink near the Basilica. Szt. István tér and the nearby streets (Sas utca, Hercegprimás utca. Október 6. utca, Zrínyi utca) are chock full of restaurants and cafes:
Borkonyha (WineKitchen) – a Michelin star owner in Budapest
Address: Sas utca 3., district V.
Tel: (+36 1) 266 0835
Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 12.00 – 24.00, closed on Sundays and holidays
A relatively young player on the city’s restaurant scene yet they have already won a Michelin star in spring 2014. Borkonyha is an unpretentious place with fresh, seasonal offers and an outstanding wine list (out of which 200 are available by the glass).
The combination of a comforting, welcoming bistro feeling, friendly yet professional service and the exceptional quality of food, fine Hungarian wines make the place one of our (and many others’) favorites in the city centre.
The bread snacks that are brought to your table to nibble on while you wait for your meal are freshly baked and very tasty especially with the fluffy, creamy butter.
The daily offer is written on a chalk board and are made of fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Prices are reasonable regarding the value and experience you receive for your money. From the “Starters” list try the Trout from Szilvásvárad (the best trout place in the country located in the Northeast corner of Hungary) served with sun-dried tomatoes, shallots and red wine (2250 HUF).
Two soups are on the current menu (a light cream soup from Jerusalem artichoke, 1750 HUF) and a beef broth with beef tongue (1350 HUF).
Main dishes are varied and inventive: quail and pigeon breast (5650 HUF), mangalica pork variations (3750 HUF), Angus beef fillet (7150 HUF), leg of rabbit, Ox cheek with juniper, roasted pear and parsnip (3350 HUF), daily freshwater fish catch in dill foam (3950 HUF).
Address: Sas utca 4., district V.
Opening hours: every day: 12.00-24.00
A first-class Hungarian restaurant serving tasty local dishes in an elegant setting. True to the name (aszú is the famous Hungarian dessert wine made in the Tokaj region) they have an extensive wine list with some unique bottles (not all are available by the glass).
Address: Szent István tér 2., district V.
Open: Mon-Wed: 7.30-23.30, Thurs-Fri-Sat: 7.30-23.00, Sun: 7.30-23.30
Akademia Italia is a new Italian-style restaurant, cafe and deli shop in a spacious two-storey building next to the Basilica.
Great pizzas, freshly made pastas, risotto and the typical Italian desserts many love: tiramisu, profiterol, panna cotta.
Excellent place for breakfast – you can fuel up with a cup of really good coffee and a pastry (or omelette) before a exploring the city.
Address: Sas utca 17., district V.
Tel: +36 1 311 0053
Open: Mon-Sat: 10.00-22.00
One of the city’s best restaurants with a cosy café-like atmosphere. The chef prepares traditional Hungarian dishes using modern cooking techniques to create a bit lighter variation of the notably heavy national cuisine.
Oliva Étterem & Pizzeria
Address: Lázár utca 1., district V.
Open: Mon-Sun: 12.00-24.00
A friendly, Mediterranean-style place in a small street behind the Basilica. There’s a daily menu (soup + main dish) for 1 280 HUF. The menu offers an ample choice of pastas, pizzas and salads.
Faszaládé – Grilled Sausages, Quality Street Food
Address: Október 6. utca 9., district V.
Open: Mon-Wed: 9.00-23.00, Thurs-Sat: 9.00-24.00, Sun: 9.00-23.00
Tasty street food places are opening in the Hungarian capital at a fast rate. The latest one is Faszaládé (a pun on the Hungarian word szafaládé: a kind of sausage similar to saveloy).
Besides uniquely seasoned sausages (pork with pistachio, lemon pork), daily soup is also offered (790 HUF).
Első Pesti Rétesház (First Strudel House of Pest)
Address: Október 6. utca 22., district V.
Open: everyday 9.00-23.00 (closed on 24th-25th December)
Besides tasting a variety of strudel pastries (with cottage cheese, fruit, ground poppy seed or cabbage filling, price: 360 HUF), you can have lunch or dine at the Rétesház.
They have a 3-course daily menu for 1 550 HUF (available from 12.00 till 14.00).
You can of course dine a la carte, sampling the menu that includes Hungarian as well as international dishes.
The terrace is a nice spot to watch life going on the busy Október 6. Street.
Don’t miss the strudels, a unique Hungarian delicacy both in sweet and savory variations.
The sprawling plaza in at the foot of the Basilica gives home to several events each year including the JuniBor Wine Festival in August, the Sweet Days Festival in September and the Advent Festival & Fair starting at end of November.
TIP: Advent Festival & Fair on Szt. István Square, 25. November- 2016 – 02. January 2017
Opening Hours: Mon-Thurs: 11:30 – 20:00, Fri: 11:30 – 22:00, Sat: 10:00 – 22:00, Sun: 10:00 – 20:00, December 24.: 10:00 – 14:00, December 25. & 26.: closed, December 31.: 10:00 – 22:00
The religious venue, the tall Christmas tree, the giant Advent wreath and a ice skating rink (free for children under 14) lend an enchanting atmosphere to the city’s 2nd biggest season event, the biggest being the Christmas Fair & Winter Festival at Vörösmarty Sqr.
Light mapping show, a varied program offer, lots of local food and drinks make this a must-see program in the festive season.