The Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd)
The Chain Bridge is a real Hungarian icon. It is the symbol of the city, and can be found on a 200-forint coin. In case you are wondering why it’s called a chain bridge when there are no chains, it is actually not the vertical parts, but the two long continuous arcs that are the chains.
These are more like giant-sized bicycle chains, but they really do move and shift, running over metal shoulders inside the two towers, and are fixed to huge anchors in chain chambers far below the hill and deep underground in Pest.
What is so special about the chain bridge?
Well, apart from being simply very elegant and attractive, it is interesting from many points of view: It was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Budapest, built way back in 1839 -43, and was at that time, the longest suspension bridge in Europe, commissioned by Count István Széchenyi, one of the country’s great statesmen, who saw a need to draw the communities on either side of the river together for progress’ sake.
A more personal impetus is said to have been that when his father passed away in the dead of winter the Count could not make the ferry crossing due to extended bad weather, and missed the funeral. It has a british connection too, It was designed by an Englishman named William Tierney Clark, and the chief engineer was a Scotsman also named Clark. This one, Adam Clark, a great engineer (he also built the tunnel to the west), was quite a character and had the square at the Buda side of the bridge named after him. The construction lasted a decade and its vast expense was offset by a toll, which even applied to the aristocracy! (quite an affront, at the time apparently) This toll was abolished for the newly rebuilt bridge after World War II.
The Lion Story
Perhaps the most well-known story is that of the Lion statues. Apparently the sculptor who designed them forgot to add tongues, and when this was pointed out, he was so ashamed, that he jumped into the Danube to drown himself. It is a popular story, but not true, and the artist himself, one János Marschalkó (who lived to a ripe old age, some 29 years after the bridge was completed ) became fed up of hearing it, and is said to have retorted something along the lines of “They do indeed have tongues! It’s just that they are inside their mouths, for they are not hounds panting in the sun, with their tongues lolling out!” (It is true that you cannot see them at all from street level, though)
Chain Bridge Info
Address: Széchenyi Lánchíd, Budapest 1011, Map ref: 47.498946, 19.043667,
Opening hours: public bridge, open all the time
Cost: no charge
Find this on: Absolute Walking Tour, Evening stroll, (Segway tour, Bike tour and evening bike tour)