József nádor Square
Highlights: 19th-century urban architecture in Pest; walk out onto the Chain Bridge.
Metro: Deák ferenc tér
This itinerary begins at József nádor tér, the square right behind the café Gerbeaud on Vörösmarty tér. In the centre of this noisy, traffic-filled square lies a small park containing the mighty statue of the archduke Joseph, who ruled Hungary for half a century. Also on József nádor tér note the Gross House, built in the neoclassical style in 1824. Next door, a shop specialising in world-famous Herend Porcelain has recently opened its doors. The Derra House on the north side of the square, originally built for a rich Greek merchant, is also of architectural interest. Now turn left down J. Attila utca, the street that runs past the finely-restored façade of the Derra House, to arrive at Roosevelt tér, a square laid out as a park, which leads on to the Chain Bridge.
On your right here stands the finest Art Nouveau building in the whole of Budapest with the very un-Hungarian name: the Gresham Palace. The London banking and insurance company of the same name moved in this building, designed by Zsigmond Quitter, in 1906. The owner had himself immortalised in a larger-than-life bust. On sunny afternoons the façade lights up and the whole building is surrounded by a kind of golden aura. Unfortunately, the magnificent iron gates and the domes hall are the only real reminders of its former splendour.
The Academy of Sciences on the northern side of the square, founded in the middle of the last century, has had an altogether happier history, as is clear from its well-preserved exterior. However, the internationally-acclaimed President of the Academy, who secured its independence from the part of politics in 1990, decided to throw in the towel because of the disappointing economic situation in Hungary and accepted the offer of a chair at Harvard.
The Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd) has connected the twin cities of Buda and Pest since 1860. If you walk across it to the other side of the Danube you can either take the Siklo funicular up to the castle and visit the sights you skipped on Day One (the castle and its museums) or take a stroll along the highly panoramic promenade beside the river. Turning left will bring you to the Hotel Gellert, and to the right lies the district of Vizivaros or Water City, which is explored in more detail in the next optional itinerary, The Danube and Kiraly.