Budapest is one of the unknown treasures of Art Nouveau. It is a style of art, architecture and applied art that was in fashion during the Belle Époque. Art Noveau conquered the hearts of forward thinking people during the late 1800´s until the First World War. It was thought to be pretty daring and bold style that irritated many of its critics with nude women and decorative nature motifs. A sexy swirl was characteristic for the style. Art Nouveau is also known as Jugend style.
“The economical deployment of new building matter such as glass and iron led to transparency and lightness of construction. However, the growing concern at the end of the 1900´s was that one day architecture would disintegrate into nothing with the increased flimsiness of the buildings. The result was a kind of hybrid architecture which on the one hand was modern and practical, but on the other ornamentally decorated and heavily “made-up”, as a favorite criticism put it”, writes Gabrielle Fahr-Becker in her book about Art Nouveau.
The architect did not only design the building but also all the decorations inside the house: furniture, ceilings, glass doors, balconies and staircases. The style was very “total” because the architect took care of all the details.
The best known gems of Budapest
It took 100 million euros to restore the beauty of the Gresham Palace but I think that the money was well spent. Today it serves as luxury hotel managed by Four Seasons Hotels. The building is an example of past world´s craftsmanship. The stained glass windows shine in multiple colors like jewels in queen Elisabet´s crown. The entrance is full of light and air thanks to glass and iron structure of the building. There is small, intricate details hidden in every corner. The hotel is sophisticated and it speak volumes about the wealth and power of Gresham Life Insurance Company that once owned the building. One of the finest details of the building is the iron gates with peacock decorations.
The house museum of Hungarian Art Noveau, Bedõ Ház, is a place to go if you are a fan of the style. The museum holds a unique collection of Art Noveau items from furniture to jewelry. The house contains a lot to see, so be prepared to spend at least couple of hours there. Even the Art Noveau Café is furnished appropriately for the theme. The gift shop sales replicas of Art Noveau tiles and some jewelry but the most unexpected thing is that some of the genuine furniture in the basement is for sale. So if you are looking for heavier souvenirs, pop in.
Philanthia flower and gift shop dates back in the year 1905. It is located on Váci utca 9. The shop is a window to a land of fairies and fantasy. One visitor describes her visit in Philanthia: “In every corner of the store you will hear a story of the values from the past, the love of flowers and Christmas, and the success of the present. In every season you will have part of the detailed Christmas fairytale world, you can step in Santa’s magic house, which smells like gingerbread cookies; and you can also take a look how the Santa’s helpers arrange the Christmas trees. You can laugh like a child, because here the long forgotten holiday traditions come alive.”
The Budapest Zoo & Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest zoos in the world, having been open to the public since 1866. The Budapest Zoo is home to a number of noteworthy Art Nouveau buildings: the main entrance, the Elephant House, the Bird House and the Palm House. On the other hand the age of the zoo has its limitations: The conditions in which the animals live in are not according to the modern state of the art. Some of the animals were cramped in or chained in too small area and it made me feel sad when I visited there in April 2013.
The best way to experience the beauty of the buildings in Budapest is to participate in a guided walking tour. There is plenty of service providers that you can find from the net.