Budapest Funicular railway is one of the most popular programs in Budapest, Hungary. The Funicular Railway offers a beautiful nostalgic ride with one of the most unique city panoramic views in the world: you can see the Chain Bridge arching the River Danube, the opulent Four Seasons Gresham Palace on Roosevelt square the distant green of Margaret Island in Budapest, etc. It is the second funicular built in the whole world (1868-70), and it is the only one that has coaches that look like a three-step staircase. The third unique thing is that you will see (or even walk over) little metal bridges that are arching over the funicular itself. Great for taking photos too!
Operating hours: 7:30 to 22:00 every day (except for maintenance Mondays – every odd week: 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th etc. AND also closed between April 2 & 6 in the spring general maintenance)
Length & time: 1.9 km (1.18 miles) and 7 minutes
Tickets: regular tickets and passes are not valid for the Funicular. You need to buy a separate ticket for about 3 euros/ 4 USD/ 700 HUF.
Alternatives: Of course, you can also take nice walks up the hill (about 15-25 minutes on foot depending on your fitness and urgency – it is about 50 m/ 16.4 ft difference in sea level) or take other means of public transport like the number 16 bus (also has a stop right at the funicular) on Adam Clark square or the so called Castle bus (Várbusz) a minibus leaving from Moszkva tér.
The Funicular railway (or Sikló say: shik-loah in Hungarian) is a kind of cable railway a bit similar to the Angel Flight in Los Angeles, the Montmartre funicular in Paris, or the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh. The funicular connects the foot of the Castle hill (river level, Adam Clark square) with the top in Castle District (it is between the Alexander Palace and the the Royal Palace) taking you on a 48% steep. It is fun, beautiful, romantic and family-friendly. These days we are so much used to traveling by cars that it is refreshing to travel back in time and use a fantastically restored 19th century funicular – with a Number 1 city view.
Budapest Funicular was built between 1868 and 1870 as the second Funicular railway in the world. It was originally steam-powered (now it runs on electricity). The idea of a funicular – then very much in need due to the opening of the Tunnel in 1855 as well as the horse-driven tram over the Chain Bridge – came from Ödön Széchenyi, the son of the ‘Greatest Hungarian’ István Széchenyi (Hungarians thankfully honor this great politician for many of his great deeds). The work was carried out under the supervision of Henrik Wohlfarth engineer. The coaches were made in the Viennese Spiering Factory, while the steam engine came from the Viennese factory of Theodor Schultz.
Up until 1928 it was the only public transport to the Royal Palace and the Castle top as such. In 1928, however, the first castle buses appeared. Fortunately, tourists loved the funicular so much by that time that its traffic has not declined due to modernization. The real tragedy came in 1944: bombardments, broken cables and coaches. Budapest Funicular was destroyed in the WW2.
In 1948 and 49, the governing powers of the capital did not see much in the shattered funicular, so instead of envisioning its revival, they let the remains of the funicular taken away, reused etc. So Budapest had no Sikló (Funicular) for more than forty decades.
In 1986 it was beautifully reconstructed. Since then approx. 800,000 tourists take the funicular for a nostalgic joy ride every year. (The locals are in a hurry so they won’t take the pricey and slowish funicular for regular rides). Budapest Funicular is now part of the Unesco World Heritage. And as I have heard, this is basically the one and only property of Budapest Public Transportation Co. which is actually profitable. Maybe we should have a Budapest yellow submarine and other fun rides too.
But back to the funicular: as you can see in the photo, there is one thing that sets the Budapest Funicular apart from other funiculars all around the world: the footbridges over the railway. See the foot bridges and an upcoming funicular in this video made by a Dutch tourist (pyromax1):
And here’s the funicular from the outside (by GanzAlex):
Source: the official website of BKV (Budapest Public Transportation) on the Budapest Funicular history of BKV (in Hungarian)