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Hungary: Széchenyi Chain Bridge

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Széchenyi Chain Bridge | Hungary | Europe

[Visited: November 2010 and before]

On an early morning in November, the weather outside was surprisingly beautiful and I was outside before sunrise. While descending from Gellért Hill, I had great views over the Danube below me, Margaret Island in the distance, and the many bridges spanning the river and connecting Buda on the western side of the river with Pest in the east. It was easy to see how different the bridges were. Some classical and sturdy, some modern and elegant. Somehow, though, there was one bridge that, from this distance, seemed self-confident and proud. This was Széchenyi chain bridge, and I was on my way to walk back to Pest using it. After a pleasant stroll on the banks of the Danube and warmed by the strong sun, the bridge was always closer and the views better. I found rusty iron bars in the quay below me, and used them to descend to the waters of the Danube for an even better view from below.

Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): View of Széchenyi chain bridge from the Buda side

Once I reached the entrance to the bridge on Clark Adam square, I was ready to cross it, but not before a brief look at the tunnel leading from the other side of the square to the neighbourhoods lying west of Castle Hill. Adam Clark, the engineer who overlooked the construction of the bridge, also constructed the tunnel which supposedly has exactly the same length as the bridge itself. Some even say that when it rains, the bridge can be tucked inside the tunnel for protection. But it was a clear day and I turned around to walk east, towards Pest. My eyes were first drawn to the statues of two lions guarding the entrance of the bridge. They were actually added after the official opening of the bridge and are copies of the lions on Trafalgar Square in London. An anecdote wants us to believe that when the sculptor, Marschalko János, was confronted with the fact that the lions don't have tongues, he was so struck by grief at this omission that he jumped off the bridge. Lions are a recurrent theme on Széchenyi bridge, and one could be forgiven to dub the bridge Lion's Bridge.

Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): Entrance of Széchenyi bridge with lions

However, the bridge is named after count István Széchenyi who got stuck on the Pest side of the city in 1820 and had to cross the river to get to Vienna where his father had died. It was winter and the only connection, a pontoon bridge, was not in use. Széchenyi vowed that he would provide a permanent connection between Buda and Pest and thus unite the city forever. He ended up hiring the Scotsman William Clark, and, under the supervision of Adam Clark, the bridge was finally opened in 1849. At the time, it was one of the longest such bridges in the world. Ever since, it has been used by armies, it was partly destroyed and rebuilt during and after World War II, and by linking the two sides of the Hungarian capital, it contributed to the development of the economy of the Central European country and symbolically linked East and West in the heart of Europe. But apart from this all, the bridge is not less than a monument, and a beauty as such. While I walked east, I stopped regularly to have a closer look at the lanterns, at the sculptures, at the impressive steel cables between the two stone pillars. Moreover, the views from both sides of the city, and the Danube in between, is great from the walkways on this bridge. Széchenyi chain suspension bridge is certainly one of the many highlights of the Hungarian capital city.

Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): Lateral view of Széchenyi chain bridge with lanterns and cables
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): Steel cable connecting one of the towers with the bridge with lantern
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): Arch of one of the stone pillars of Széchenyi chain bridge with steel cables and a lantern
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): View of Széchenyi chain bridge spanning the Danube from Gellért-hegy
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): Lion and lantern at the Pest side of Széchenyi chain bridge
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): Looking up a lantern and the metal construction of Széchenyi chain bridge
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): View of Buda from Széchenyi chain bridge
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): View from below Széchenyi chain bridge with lantern
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): Lion of Széchenyi chain bridge with Matthias church in the background
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): Metal construction and lantern of Széchenyi chain bridge
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): One of the lions of the Széchenyi chain bridge seen from below
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): View of a cable leading to one of the stone pillars of Széchenyi chain bridge
Picture of Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Hungary): View of Széchenyi towards Buda

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