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Hidden Budapest – The Abandoned Párizsi Udvar

One of the thrills of travel is that wide-eyed gasp that inevitably follows after stumbling across something spectacular.  I’ve felt this in the past walking into cathedrals, gazing down into valleys, or taking in the beautiful commotion of a market.  Quite unexpectedly, I experienced this pure amazement while in Budapest.  After stepping curiously through a dark doorway, I discovered the haunting elegance of an abandoned, century old shopping gallery, known as Párizsi Udvar.  Exploring this unbelievable ghost was as close to time-traveling as it gets.

Párizsi Udvar long corridor

A view down the abandoned Parisi Udvar (or Párizsi Udvar) shopping gallery

Budapest in 1900 was a flourishing metropolis of artists, writers, and political thinkers.  Their exquisite architecture, a fascinating mix of Neo-Gothic, neo-Renaissance, Art Nouveau and Oriental elements, created Budapest’s beautiful and unique look.  While these artistic wonders were neglected during the later half of the century, they are now being successfully renovated.  The Parisi Udvar (or Párizsi Udvar in modern Hungarian) has so far escaped restoration and is an evocative treasure from the past.

Side view of the Parisi Udvar / Párizsi Udvar building

Side view of the Brudern-ház which contains the Párizsi Udvar shopping corridor

From the outside, the Brudern-ház building is one of several elegant late 19th century buildings surrounding the Elizabeth Bridge in Pest.  Inside however is a massive, covered indoor shopping gallery arranged in a long “L” shape. The building was designed by Henrik Schmahl, a student of Budapest’s greatest architect Miklós Ybl, and fits seamlessly into an oddly shaped city plot.  The building was completed in 1913 and originally housed shops and offices.  Following World War II, the upper floors were converted into apartments.  The tenants and shops began leaving the building in the 1970’s and 1980’s because the structure wasn’t being kept up.  Today where there are only a couple stores remaining in the exterior, street facing commercial spaces.

Doorway and elevator just inside Decorative the Párizsi Udvar gallery

Doorway and elevator under the metal and glass ceiling at the L-bend in the Párizsi Udvar gallery

While the exterior of the building is lovely but muted, the covered shopping gallery inside is beautifully decorated with a mix of Neo-Gothic and Moorish elements.  There is a glass and metal dome shortly after you enter at the “L”-bend, and then a much larger full glass dome halfway down the long hallway.

Incredible ceiling just inside Doorway and elevator just inside Párizsi Udvar

The incredible glass and metal ceiling just inside the doorway.

View down the corridor, Párizsi Udvar

View down the long corridor. Part of the glass dome is visible halfway down.  At the far end, the small dome area is drenched in sunlight.

Central glass ceiling inside Párizsi Udvar

Central glass ceiling inside Párizsi Udvar

The enclosed boulevard is eerily quiet and dimly lit by sky lights and a couple spotlights.  I ran into a local office worker smoking and texting under the glass dome who quickly left after seeing me, but otherwise it was completely empty mid-day.  The building deafens all the busy street noise along Lajos Kossuth street outside.  You can hear your own footsteps on the tiled floor echoing off the massive vaults.

Decorative elements under the central dome, Párizsi Udvar

Decorative elements under the central dome, Párizsi Udvar

An empty display case and empty shop

An empty display case and an empty shop with peeling wall paint.

Looking back toward the open street entrance

Under glass dome, looking toward the closed street entrance.

All things considered, I thought the interior was in good shape.  Although they were covered with a layer of ancient grime, you could still see the red marble, brown wood, yellow tile, green mosaic, and gold painted elements.  The neo-Gothic tracery along the upper windows still seemed intact  The pressed metal decorative columns were only a little dinged up.  Some of the ceiling glass seemed yellowed, but maybe they just needed to be washed?

Metal column details

Metal column details

What appears to be an old phone booth

What appears to be an old phone booth under the metal and glass dome.

The entrance to the Párizsi Udvar is not at all obvious.  As you can see below, you enter through a small open door in a large gate located a few meters from the entrance to the Ferenciek tere metro station.  If I hadn’t stopped to check my map, then I might have missed that there was an odd door into a hidden, cavernous architectural space.

Inconspicuous street entrance into Párizsi Udvar.

Inconspicuous street entrance into Párizsi Udvar.

While wandering the shopping boulevard, I kept thinking, “Someone needs to take care of this place.  Someone should restore this.”  As you can  see (maybe) in the picture above, the black banner states that the property has been recently purchased by a developer and is going to be converted into a luxury hotel with high-end shops.

Glass dome, Párizsi Udvar

Looking up into the glass dome, Párizsi Udvar

Budapest is rich with restored architectural beauties.  (Really, really rich as I’ll show you soon.)  But Budapest doesn’t have many architectural ghost anymore.  While I’m happy the Párizsi Udvar is getting the care it deserves, I will miss that thrilling moment when I stumbled into a magnificent, lost place with dusty decorations and patched up glass windows.  I can only hope it retains that magic in its future renovated state.  But just to be safe and to get the full effect of discovering something spectacular, you better go see the Párizsi Udvar now.

exterior front, Párizsi Udvar

Exterior front, Párizsi Udvar

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. What an exquisite discovery! It’s incredible that with all that glass, it’s all just open to passersby. I’m not surprised Hungary has been called the new Hollywood of Europe: http://content.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2003733,00.html
    I can well imagine a film or music video shoot taking place in Parisi Udvar shopping arcade.

    Like

    March 26, 2015
    • Oh absolutely, Hungary is gorgeous! I can definitely understand more and more movies being filmed there. The Andrassy Street is Budapest has been used for several movies as a stand in for Paris and Munich because it has such beautiful mansions and looks elegantly continental. I was so happy to find that the door to Parisi Udvar was open!

      Like

      March 28, 2015
  2. What an amazing find! I have been wishing to tour more of central/Eastern Europe while these places still exist. I guess economic depression/recession has been the champion of preservation! Hope to see more soon!

    Like

    March 27, 2015
    • I’ve been traveling around the Mediterranean mostly which was part of why I wanted to visit Hungary. It’s definitely beautiful and worth exploring soon! Parisi Udvar was actually an exception. While the last five years have been tough on all of Europe, many buildings have been renovated since Hungary’s entry into the EU and more are in the process of being renovated. There will be plenty of great things to see; it’s the ruins that are disappearing! Even Budapest’s famous “ruin pubs” are being embraced by hipsters and cleaned up.

      Liked by 1 person

      March 28, 2015
      • We have mostly been around the Adriatic, although I did see he Mediterranean on my last trip… My husband’s Italian family extends down into what is now Croatia. There is a mix of history and culture that I love, but I am craving more! Crossing fingers for 2016 – have to save up after last year. Budapest is definitely on my list!

        Like

        March 28, 2015
  3. Heather Hall #

    What an incredible find – I’m sure I would have gasped upon entry! I sure hope the developers keep all those splendid old details! I’m impressed they aren’t covered with graffiti.

    Like

    April 21, 2015
    • I know, isn’t it gorgeous! The developers have a lot to work with. I found very little graffiti in Budapest, so I think that’s why it hasn’t been tagged.

      Like

      May 3, 2015
  4. jack #

    Yes the Parisi Udvar is exactly the way you stated. Please fix it up but I love going through this almost abandoned building and seeing “ghosts”. It is a gem not seen on tourist brochures and that makes it so much more special.

    Like

    June 14, 2015

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