St Stephen’s Basilica (Szt Istvan Bazilika) is one of the top ten attractions in Budapest not only for its size and beauty, but also for its beautiful concerts featuring the massive organ or the cathedral. St Stephen’s Basilica is the biggest church in Budapest, Hungary with its capacity of 8,500.
The towers of the St Istvan Basilica reach high to the sky, which make the cathedral one of the highest points on the Pest (say: pesht) side of Budapest, as Fodor’s travel guide puts it “the basilica’s dome and the dome of Parliament are by far the most visible in the Pest skyline.”
Buda is the hilly and Pest is the flat side, so it’s not a Guinness record to stand out on a flat area, but the basilica is still very impressive as it towers over half of the city.
“The basilica is rather dark and gloomy inside, but take a trip to the top of the dome, which can be reached by lift and 146 steps and offers one of the best views in the city.” (Lonely Planet)
Besides being the topmost point on the Pest side of Budapest, Szent Istvan Bazilika must hold the record for the number of years spent on building a Hungarian church: it took almost half a century to finish it, from 1851 till 1905. As you have guessed, wrong calculations, and simply the lifespan of architects delayed the completion.
The Basilica in Budapest is the venue of very nice classical concerts throughout the year, including high-end concerts as part of the popular Budapest Spring Festival. Here you can see all the current concerts in the Basilica (unfortunately it is only available in Hungarian, but you will probably understand the dates and maybe recognize the name of composers, choirs, etc.)
Address: Hercegprimas ut 7. Budapest H-1051 (5th district)
Getting there: the Basilica is in the very centre of the city so you cannot miss it. The easiest way to get there is by taking the metro: Arany Janos street metro station (Blue line) or Bajcsy-Zsilinszky ut metro station (Yellow line)
Basilica Mon-Fri 9am-5:15pm, Sat 9am-1pm, Sun 1pm-5pm
Services: 8am, 10am, 12pm, 6pm, 7:30pm
Treasury Mon-Sun 9am-5pm
Holy Right (mummified hand relic), i.e. Szent Jobb Chapel: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 1pm-5pm
Basilica Panorama Tower Mon-Sun 10am-6pm
Guided tours are offered by the Basilica itself. The tours can be booked in advance on phone: (00-36)-1-338-21-51 , or (00-36)-30-703-65-99): Mon-Fri 10am-3pm
Admission Fees, prices:
Basilica: free admission
Panorama tower 500 HUF
Treasury 400 HUF
Guided tour: 2000 HUF / person (including entrance to the Panorama Tower)
Video tour of St Stephenás Basilica by Budapest Torusim
Highlights in St Stephen’s Basilica
The mummified hand: no, it’s not a lost chapter in the Harry Potter series or a prop in a Stephen King’s novel. The actual mummified right hand of the first Hungarian king, King St Stephen I (reigned from 1000 to 1038), or simply St Istvan is on display at the Basilica. Learn more about the Holy Relic of King St Stephen.
Before St Stephen, the great reformer and missionary king, died, he held up his right hand, and asked the Blessed Virgin Mary to accept to be the queen of Hungarians, and perhaps she did. Just imagine, before King Stephen I, all Hungarians lived in tribes and were pagans, so the king was anxious to ensure the newly found nation’s survival in a much developed medieval European political landscape.
What can you do with the Holy Right Hand of Saint Stephen?
The relic is in the Szent Jobb Chapel, and by pushing the button it can be lit up for about 2 minutes and you can take a look at the wonderful neo-Gothic case of the relic, the reliquary. The thought of staring at a mummified shrunken hand adorned with royal jewellery might be a bit macabre, but the actual sight is not. At least its story may put the Hand into a different light. Read more about the history of the Holy Right.
The opening hours of the Szent Jobb Chapel are: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm (10am-4pm during winter time). Now the logical question is if light does any good for the preservation of a relic. Ask the guide how they have solved that the illumination does not degrade the Szent Jobb.
The sanctuary’s centerpiece in St Stephen’s Basilica is made from 150 various kinds of marble. Apparently, 149 of them are from Hungary and the 150th one, the very white marble was quarried in Carrara, Italy.
Read more about the history of St Stephen’s Basilica Budapest
Reviews of St Stephen’s Basilica
“This is a lovely building and if you are so inclined, you can climb to the top and get the best views in town” (tourist feedback on Lonely Planet)