Budapest is full of beautiful churches, mostly Catholic and Protestant churches built in Neo-Baroque or Classicist style, and dozens of synagogues all over the city. Of the many historical churches, there is a handful of outstanding churches that attract thousands of tourists in Budapest, Hungary. Take a look at our brief sampling of the top Budapest churches, and why they are worth a visit.
Biggest & Most Gilded Church in Budapest
Basilica – St Stephen’s Basilica Budapest – simply called the “Bazilika” by locals, the huge impressive Catholic cathedral in Budapest boasts 8,500 seats. Beautiful organ concerts 3 times a week. The Basilica built between 1851 and 1906 has a rich, gilded Neo-Baroque interior countered by a cooler and more modest neo-classical exterior. The Basilica is the home of the mummified hand of the Hungarians’ first king, St Istvan, as well as the venue of great organ and choir concerts all year round. Budapest Christmas Market at the Basilica is a winter attraction not to be missed. The organ concerts take place almost every Monday, Thursday and Friday in the evenings.
Entry is free of charge.
The location of the church is in downtown Budapest, on St Stephen Square (Szent Istvan ter)
The Synagogue in Budapest
Synagogue – Great Synagogue in Dohany Street Budapest – “the Synagogue” is the 2nd biggest synagogue in the world with about 3,000 seats, no wonder that it is the Synagogue that first comes to mind when talking about Budapest synagogues (Budapest has dozens of synagogues!). The beautiful building built between 1854 and 1859 has a Moorish exterior, and interior with amazing geometrical patterns and a unique atmosphere. The Great Synagogue is the venue of concerts (e.g. during the Jewish Summer Festival),. The building is the centre of the ‘Jewish Quarter’ in Budapest including Dohany Street Central Synagogue, the Jewish Museum, the Holocaust memorial tree, the Heroes’ Temple, and the graveyard (victims of the Ghetto).
Entry is with tickets only (approx. HUF 2,250).
The location of the church is in downtown Budapest, near Astoria Square
The One of a Kind Church in Budapest
Church of Our Lady – Matthias Church – the church is simply called Matthias Church (Matyas Templom) by locals after the Hungarian king Matthias Hunyadi. Since the 16th century, it has been the Coronation Church of Hungary. Matthias Church is one of the few churches that actually surprise visitors with its special atmosphere due to its historical wall decor. If you love chamber music, try to get a ticket for a concert in Matthias Church. It is the best church to visit if you want to see something that you can find only in Budapest. The church is located in the Buda Castle District, near the Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda Castle Hill of Budapest. Wonderful concerts make a special music treat to classical music lovers. The copies of the Hungarian Crown Jewels are kept in the cellar of Matthias Church (originals in the Hungarian Parliament)
Entry is with tickets only (approx. HUF 1,000)
The location of the church is in the Buda Castle, off the city centre.
The Quirky Church in Budapest
Rock Church – also known as Cave Church Budapest – built in the caves under the Gellert Hill near Gellert Spa. Cave Church is an actual church of the Hungarian Pauline Order (Pálos rend), which was built in 1926 expanding the natural cave system of Gellert Hill. One of the hidden gems in Budapest. Do explore it if you are staying 3 days or more in Budapest, or if you prefer attractions off the beaten track. There are some nice artifacts in the church whose walls are actual rocks.
Entry is donation based.
The location of the church is slightly off city centre of Budapest, easy to get to by Tram 47 or Tram 49, stop at Hotel Gellert.
The Concert Church in Budapest
St Michael Church Budapest – the Inner City St Michael Church in Budapest is outstanding with its original historical Baroque altar, and superb classical concerts. If you love church concerts like we do, you will have a beautiful time in an elevating atmosphere. Entry is free, concert tickets are not free. Location: downtown Budapest, on Vaci Street.
Entry is free / donation based (except for concerts, which are not free, but affordable)
The Memorial Synagogue in Budapest
Pava Street Synagogue is the home of the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest, which is one of the top Jewish attractions in the Hungarian capital. Founded in 2004, the museum richly documents the Holocaust history in Hungary, serving as a memorial to the approx. 500,000 Jewish victims in Hungary. The Synagogue turned Memorial is a short walk from the biggest Botanical Garden in Budapest called Fuveszkert. The Synagogue itself is not especially remarkable regarding Budapest synagogues, but the Holocaust Memorial Center is. The National Memorial Day of the Hungarian Victims of the Holocaust is a whole day program series every year on April 16. Entry: with museum tickets (closed on Mondays).
The location: off the city centre of Budapest, District IX, but easy to get to from Mester Street tram station on the Grand Boulevard (Tram 4 or Tram 6 stops at Mester Street, then it’s a short walk).
More Churches in Budapest
There are many more churches in Budapest, smaller and bigger, simple or richly decorated that could be on your list of things to do in Budapest if you love to visit churches. If you are on a short Budapest stay (e.g. on a 1 day Budapest visit, or a 3 day long weekend), chances are that you will have lots of activities and sights to see, and might not be able to venture into other churches. However, if you are on a longer Hungarian vacation, and would like to make visiting churches a special highlight on your agenda, you may wish to see more of the Budapest churches, especially the ones that are in the city centre, or are closely located to other Budapest attractions.
First Church in Pest / Budapest
Inner City Parish Church by the white bridge called Elisabeth Bridge in Budapest: the oldest church in the town of Pest (later united with Buda to become BudaPest) was erected here in the 12th century, at that time in Romanesque style. The original church was destroyed in the Tatar invasion, so in the 14th century, the ruins of the church were reused in the newly built Gothic style church. During the 16th century, the Ottoman Turks invaded Hungary turning many churches into mosques (including Matthias Church in the Buda Castle). The Inner City church of the city was converted into a mosque too, and in 1723 a major city fire caused huge damages to the building.
This was the history of most historical churches in present day Budapest, whether the church was built on the Buda or Pest side. Therefore, most churches in Budapest were rebuilt in the dominant style of the age of the 18th century: Baroque style.
The interior of the Inner City Church, and most churches in Budapest, is consequently an amalgamation of various styles of the stormy centuries in Hungary: there is a Gothic chapel, a neo-Gothic pulpit carved from wood, the walls are showing 15th century Italian frescoes, a beautiful organ (wood carvings), but the high altar is a recent addition from the 20th century. The church holds a relic of St Ladislaus, a medieval Hungarian King.
The name of the church in Hungarian is Belvarosi Nagyboldogasszony Foplebania, which is shortened as Belvarosi Plebania (Inner City Parish Church)
Inner City Franciscan Church Budapest
The Franciscan Church in Budapest is very much in the city centre, just off the Vaci Utca shopping street on Ferenciek Tere (Franciscan Square). The 13th century monastery and church, which used to be on the site where the Inner City Franciscan Church is today, has hardly any traces.
The centuries of invasions and fires have preserved little from the early Romanesque or Gothic ages. The current Baroque church dates back to the 18th century. Some of its frescoes are the works of Karoly Lotz, the outstanding Baroque painter of the century. The main altar is also Baroque.
The Inner City Franciscan Church features occasional church concerts that can be visited for free of charge.
Neo-Gothic Church Budapest – Like the Parliament
The St Elisabeth Parish Church is located on Roses Square (Rozsak Tere), so many locals only call it the Roses Square Church. This Roman Catholic church was named after the Hungarian saint, St Elisabeth, a member of the first ruling house of the Hungarian Kingdom, the House of Arpad. The beautiful and impressive Neo-Gothic church with its 2,600 seats, was built by the same person as the Hungarian Parliament building, by Imre Steindl. The church building was between 1895 and 1901, around the same time as the Parliament construction works. As the church was damaged in WW2, and then neglected during the Communist regime for decades, it was high time to reconstruct the building: the restoration works had recently taken place in 2004-2007.
The church is a short walk from Keleti Train Station, one of the major railway stations in Budapest.
Reformist Church Budapest Kalvin Square
Another impressive building is the Reformist Church on the inner city Kalvin Square in Budapest, which is quite simple just by looking at, being a Reformist Church, but its interior has some beautiful surprises, like the painted windows made by Miksa Roth depicting the outstanding figures of the Hungarian and international Reformist movement (John Kalvin, Stephen Bocskai, Transsylvanian Prince, or Gabriel Bethlen – similarly to Bocskai – leader of the anti Habsburg revolt).
The Reformist Church in Budapest (often called the Kalvin Square Church) was in fact the first reformist church in the city built between 1816 and 1830 (before Buda and Pest united into BudaPest). Though the church was originally designed to have two frontal towers, there was eventually built only one tower supported by the bases of the two planned towers. The organ of the church dates back to the 1830’s.
One of the biggest donations of the church came from an Anglican countess, the British wife of the Hungarian Count Zichy Emmanuel: Countess Charlotte Strachan Mrs Zichy Emmanuel. Her statue and grave is in the crypt of the church.
Serbian Orthodox Church Budapest
There are two beautiful orthodox churches in Budapest which are worth a look at if your Budapest visit schedule allows. One of them is the lesser known Orthodox Church in Szerb Street Budapest: The building was erected by the Serbians fleeing from the Ottoman Turkish troops invading Hungary from the south in the 16th and 17th centuries. The church you see today was built in 1733, designed by Andreas Mayerhoffer, a member of the Mayerhoffer builder family who made several Baroque beauties in Hungary, including the Peterffy Palace in Budapest (today the home of the Hundred Year Old Restaurant), the Grassalkovich Castle in Godollo (a favourite place of Queen Elisabeth of Hungary, aka Sissi), the Rudnyanszky Castle in Nagyteteny (today Castle Museum, belongs to the Budapest History Museum), or the Greek Orthodox Church in Szentendre (Blagovesztenszka Church)
The other Orthodox Church is on Petofi Square with amazing iconography. This is the centre of the Hungarian Orthodox community, and the church is more of a still functioning historical Serbian Church, than a Budapest attraction.
The Church Under Matthias Church Budapest
In the photos of Matthias Church by the Fisherman’s Bastion, you can often see a beautiful and colorful church on the level of the river Danube at the riverbank. Tourists often wonder what is this church, so rarely mentioned by Budapest travel guide books. The colorful church stands on Szilagyi Dezso Square, and is one of the biggest Reformist churches in the city of Budapest.
The walls of the church were made of red bricks, while the tiles of the church are wonderful warm colour shades of reddish brown and orange. The Szilagyi Dezso Square Reformist Church was built from 1893 to 1896 based on the plans of Samu Pecz, providing a home for the reformists of the town of Buda (before Buda and Pest united in the 1870s, it was only the Reformist Church on Kalvin Square that welcomed reformist believers).
The beautiful roof of the church was quite at a risk with the original roof builder, as he tried to save time by hanging some of the tiles rather than nailing down each. Luckily, the home of the architect was nearby, and he spotted the sly roof builder at hastily placing the tiles via his binoculars. The roof builder flabbergasted to learn that he got fired, and had no clue how he was caught red handed.
While most churches in Hungary lost their bronze bells during the world wars, the steel bells of the Reformist Church escaped the military bell harvest. One notable wedding in the church took place in the 1940s: Istvan Horthy de Nagybanya, the eldest son of Hungarian Regent Admiral Miklos Horthy got married in this church with Countess Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai. 2 years later he died in an airplane accident in Russia.
Orthodox Synagogue Budapest
The Orthodox Synagogue in Budapest is located in the Jewish Quarter in Kazinczy Street. It was built in the 1910s in Art Nouveau style based on the plans of the Loffler Brothers. At the end of the 19th century the Hungarian Jewish community split into three groups, which necessitated various synagogues. Between 1928 and the 1940s there was a mikveh in the building. These days there is only one functional mikveh in Budapest, also in Kazinczy Street, opened in 2004 (overseen by four rabbis).
During the last years of WW2, the site of the synagogue was part of the Budapest Ghetto, and the building was heavily damaged. The orthodox synagogue is less known and visited than the Great Synagogue in Budapest, but is part of the Jewish Heritage tours.
The Hungarian Orthodox Jews claimed independence as early as 1868, thus becoming independent of Progressive and Conservative Judaism, it was party as a result of the synthesis of the religious practices of the Ashkenazi Jews who immigrated to Budapest from Germany and Moravia, and of the Hassidic Jews, who came from Poland and Galicia. Some of the Holocaust survivors of the Orthodox Judaism in Hungary re-settled in Budapest and other Hungarian-speaking towns in Hungary or in the neighbouring countries, like Slovakia, Romania (Transylvania), etc. Although the 1940s saw an increase in the number of Orthodox congregations, in 1956 the lost revolution made many emigrate to escape from the Communist rule. The religious persecution and constant harassment of the Hungarian Communist and Socialist system was quite efficient in driving religious people away or press them down.
Teleki Square Shtiebel Budapest: Apartment Synagogue
Sephardic rituals are observed on the Teleki Square Shul in the Orthodox Jewish Prayer House. The shtiebel community is mostly of emigrants from Poland and Russia (musicians, craftsmen, shoe makers, tradesmen, etc.) who kept their faith and customs amidst differing cultures.
Although in 1956 there were five shtiebels in Budapest, these days the only communal Jewish prayer house is on Teleki Square. Teleki Square is not a well kept part of Budapest
The founder of the shul came from Chortkiv, Ukraine with poor Hasid). Despite the strengthening right wing in Hungary (with Jobbik Party now representing Hungary in the EU), the Hungarian Jewish community is alive, and strengthening. In 2012 there were about 50 men sitting one side, and 30 women on the other side in the community.
Address: 22 Teleki Square Budapest. Gabor Mayer keeps the shul going in memory of the legacy of his father’s friends. They are seeking for relatives of the Tschortkower Klojz, if you happen to know anyone, do contact them please.
English Speaking Service in Budapest with Holy Communion: Evangelical Church
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Budapest by the City Park is a beautiful Neo-Gothic building with a moving glass mosaic of Jesus with the children (made by Miksa Roth glass mosaic artist, who worked on many of the top Budapest attractions for many decades).
The building was designed by Samu Pecz, built between 1909 and 1911.
The English speaking service is every Sunday at 9:30 am at the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Budapest-Fasor (address: 17 Városligeti fasor Street, 1071 Budapest, District VII). The liturgy, Sermon: The Rev. Scott Ryll. If you are a Lutheran expat living in Budapest, or just a tourist who wishes to take the Holy Communion, you are more than welcome.
Please contact the church about upcoming English speaking services.