Within the often changing borders of Hungary during its history, fine arts developed in strong interaction with European art, and although they always reflected European tendencies, they retained a strong character of their own.
Beside the Hungarian architecture many foreign culture and religion represents itself throughout the country. For example the largest synagogue in Europe is the Great Synagogue in Budapest, the Széchenyi Medicinal Bath is the largest medicinal bath in Europe, one of the largest basilicas in Europe is the Esztergom Basilica, the second largest territorial abbey in the world is the Pannonhalma Archabbey, and the largest Early Christian Necropolis outside Italy is in Pécs.
The Aquincum HÉV urban railway station on the way to Szentendre is named after the ancient capital of the Roman province of Pannonia Inferior. Extensive remains of this garrison town can still be seen even today, including two amphitheatres, an aqueduct and the Roman baths, where there is now an outdoor bathing complex. Outside Budapest, the tombs in Pécs are a rare example of early Christianity outside Rome itself.
When the Hungarian Christian state was founded by Szent István in 1,000, a host Romanesque churches, cathedrals and fortresses sprang up. Very little remains today, but Romanesque relics can be observed in parts of the Esztergom Castle. The most celebrated complete buildings are the abbey churches of Ják near Sopron and Bélapátfalva north of Eger.
Some burgher houses in the Castle District and parts of the Buda Palace and Mátyás Church bear the gothic hallmark. Several parish churches have incorporated Gothic remains and the Calvinist church in Nyírbátor to the east is one of the largest in the region. The few remaining medieval castles, including those in Diósgyor and Siklós, all have Gothic elements.
The Renaissance movement was initially brought to Hungary by King Mátyás's Italian wife and can be seen in the remains of the Visegrád Palace and in the castle in Sárospatak in north eastern Hungary.
Little remains of the 150-year Turkish occupation of Hungary except the beautiful Rudas, Király and Rác baths in Budapest, and the main parish church in Pécs, a converted mosque.
Baroque was the dominant architectural style during the economic boom under Maria Theresia, whose legacy includes the stately palaces of Fertod, Keszthely and Gödöllo, as well as numerous churches scattered all over Hungary.
Following the floods of 1838, when many of buildings in District V were washed away, the area was largely redeveloped in the classicist style. A little further from the city centre, the National Museum is a powerful and attractive display of huge Roman-style columns at their most impressive.
The good times at the end of the 19th century and just before the First World War brought a boom in the construction industry, and a number of past styles were revisited. The Parliament is typically Gothic, but with a Renaissance dome, and a stroll down Andrássy út reveals buildings shamelessly combining Renaissance and Baroque elements.
The celebrated Art Nouveau style (sometimes referred to a Secessionist, in line with the Viennese and Germanic look) was pioneered by just a handful of prolific architects at the same time as Eclectic building was all the rage. All the same, it left an indelible mark on the Budapest cityscape. If you can afford it, stay at the restored Four Seasons Gresham Palace to enjoy it in all its pomp and glory, or visit the Museum of Applied Arts or the Geological Institute by Városliget to see the majolica tiles made especially in the Zsolnay factory in Pécs.
Hungarians had a major hand in Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus movement in Weimar, helping spread its principles of design and architecture all over Europe and America after 1933. Some returned to Hungary to build prominent villas in the Buda hills, and the simple but beautiful Városmajor church in the park behind Moszkva tér.
Thankfully, the influence of Russian rule didn't quite extend to architecture – Hungary was largely spared the concrete behemoths of socialist realism. Nonetheless, traces of it can be found, the most obvious being the Fehér Ház (White House), the former government building between the Parliament and Margit híd, the Moszkva tér metro station or the former bus station near Deák tér. But to really see Socialist Realism, you need to visit spaciously laid-out steel town of Dunaújváros further downstream.