Walk Description

Budapest’s Golden Age saw an unprecedented coming together of wealthy upper-class barons and aristocrats to shape what is known as the Palace District. Over the course of the 19th and early 20th century these barons of Budapest laid roots in the heart of Pest’s 8th district, leaving a legacy that speaks to a time of competition between the great European capitals.

After being crowned the twin capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867, the city was invaded with politicians, aristocrats, and entrepreneurs eager to develop the capital. Striving to compete with the aristocratic homes located in Vienna, the great noble families of Budapest set about constructing palaces that display a Baroque opulence and splendor. During our walking seminar we will explore these architectural masterpieces, some requiring special reservation for entry, and examine the unique set of social and economic circumstances that made this boom possible.

Though much of the period’s architecture was destroyed during World War II, the area behind the Hungarian National Museum remains well preserved and provides plentiful examples for us to explore. Today many of these buildings have been restored and taken over by public and private institutions, making some accessible only by private request. We will first examine the history of the area, known as Józsefváros, and its development from an outlying agricultural zone to the epicenter of Budapest’s economic, political, and cultural boom. The greatest families of the era, from the Eszterházy to the Festetics and Károlyi all built structures that speak to the atmosphere of the 19th century. Detailed stucco work, carved woodwork, and rich interior furnishings recall concurrent movements internationally, including the great building boom in New York City defined by the Rockefellers. Some palaces that may be included are the Károlyi-Csekonics Palace, Festetics Palace, and Wenckheim Palace

The spaces visited will also allow us to understand Budapest’s embracing of this period in time, with a look at how the buildings are now being reused for a variety of purposes, all part of the overall gentrification of the 8th district. With many of these palaces now housing public institutions, we will have the chance to view spaces not ordinarily accessible to the public. Well off most tourist paths, the neighborhood has undergone a revolution in recent years, making it one of the most vibrant quarters of Budapest.

These luxurious interiors and rich exteriors will allow us to explore themes of politics, upper class daily life and leisure activities, taking us inside the homes of Hungary's most well-known aristocrats. At the end of our time together we will come away with a deeper sense of Budapest at the end of the 18th century and its place in the competition to become one of Europe's great capital cities.


Duration: 2.5 hours
Category: History
Venues: Károlyi-Csekonics Palace, Festetics Palace, Metropolitan Library (Wenckheim Palace)
Incidentals: Entry tickets- Ft500.00
  • Be_thumb

    Eniko Bekes

    Enikő holds an MA in classical philology and art history from the University ELTE, Budapest, and another in medieval studies from the Central European University. She received her PhD in Neo-Latin studies from the University of Szeged with a doctoral dissertation written on the intellectual historical analysis of Galeotto Marzio’s De doctrina promiscua, a treatise about medical astrology and astronomy from the end of the fifteenth century. She is a research fellow at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in the Institute for Literary Studies. Her main field of interest is Humanism in Italy and Hungary, Neo-Latin literature, and Renaissance portraiture and physiognomy. She is also a member of the International Association for Neo-Latin Studies, and has worked as a scholarly guide in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

  • Edina_deme_thumb

    Edina Deme

    Edina currently works as the Deputy Head of the Museum Education Department at the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest. Since 2006 she has served as a museum educator and has run the volunteer guide program. Through her work with the museum she gives lectures on art history, trains volunteer guides, and regularly conducts museum tours for the general public and museum professionals. A native of Hungary, Edina has lived in several countries, including Austria, Scotland, and the United States. She holds two MA degrees, one in history and the other in cultural history. As part of her scholarly work she has published articles on Hungarian history and museum education, and has been writing and editing educational publications in Hungarian and English, including exhibition, family, and audio guides.